Pastor Appreciation Month: ‘God, thank you for our pastors’

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Nearly every Sunday I have the privilege of preaching in a different church in Kentucky. The pastor is often present. While a few minutes of interaction before worship and casual discussion over lunch afterward does not provide the opportunity to see deeply into any man’s heart, what I have seen gives me a growing love and appreciation for those who serve as undershepherds of the Good Shepherd.

I see men who love people and have a desire to serve others, men who love the Lord and want desperately to please Him with their lives. I see men of conviction, who would be willing to lose all of their worldly possessions before they would stop “speaking about what they have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). I see men who eagerly proclaim the gospel with the confidence that God will use even their stammering to bring the lost to Himself.

I also see men who carry heavy burdens. They carry the grief and pains of God’s people. They carry the brokenness of children whose parents are divorcing, the unspeakable sorrow of parents who must bury a child, the emotional devastation of a man whose wife has been unfaithful, the fear of a young mother diagnosed with cancer. They help to carry the regrets of a man who looks back on the wasted years of his youth and the concerns of a grandmother for her lost grandchild.

Yes, in prayer, they cast their cares and the cares of their flock upon the Lord (1Peter 5:7), but they do not have the privilege of turning off their love and concern for His sheep when they say “Amen.”

Scripture says, “Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life” (1 Samuel 7:15). While the phrase “all the days of his life” may not seem terribly significant, I contend it is remarkably significant. Carrying the burdens of a pastor and remaining committed and faithful in ministry, over the long haul, can be incredibly challenging. Thank God for those who strive to be faithful all the days of their life!

Let’s pray for our pastors. Let’s find ways to encourage them, to help carry their burdens, and be a blessing to them.

“God, thank you for our pastors. Bless, use, and reward them. And help us to appreciate, love, and encourage them. Bless their families. Protect them and prosper them. Bless their preaching. Give them fresh insight into the deep truths of your word and a passion to share those truths with saints and sinners. Give them the tender heart of a shepherd, the courageous heart of a prophet, and a heart filled with love for you and your people. Amen.”

 

 

Posted in Churches, Denominational Life, Pastor | Leave a comment

Kentucky Baptists doing a great work

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I have the privilege each year to prepare an executive summary of my work at the Kentucky Baptist Convention to a special review committee appointed by the chair of the Administrative Committee of our Mission Board. Because of the nature of my role, I am blessed to be able to include highlights not only my work but the work of our Mission Board staff and the impact of the cooperative mission work of our 2,400 KBC churches and our KBC entities.

While I could lay personal claim to very little of the work, by God’s grace, I am able to be a cheerleader for all of the work. To be the best cheerleader I can be, and to help Kentucky Baptists celebrate everything that we are part of, I want to share a bullet-point format some of the exciting highlights from the executive summary.

·       KBC churches continued their growth pattern in the number of Kentucky Baptists involved in volunteer mission trips at a rate of more than 5,000 per year, with a 2017 total of 117,475.

·       Hundreds of KBC churches increased their CP giving, including 10 churches that increased more than $25,000 each over the prior year. CP totals for the fiscal year 2017-18 were $653,000 ahead of budget and $975,000 ahead of the previous year, resulting in donations exceeding the budget for a third straight year.

·       KBC anticipates the largest number of newly affiliating churches in 12 years during our Annual Meeting.

·       52 church plants are currently in the 3-year funding phase.

·       Exponential growth in the reach and influence of Kentucky Today, amassing more than 500,000 unique readers during the 12-month period, with over 1.5 million page views. Analytics locate readers in 1,000+ communities and 167 countries.

·       KBC lobbied for the successful overhaul of state adoption and foster care laws and significant pro-life legislation.

·       Oneida Baptist Institute continues with major building projects and growing enrollment.

·       Lance Howerton began his new role as president of Crossings Ministries with a record number of 14,500 campers attending during the summer 2018 season.

·       Record growth of Sunrise Children’s Services, currently surpassing 1,300 clients.

·       KBC initiated and completed an organizational restructuring to merge the Business Services Team into the Executive Office Team, resulting in greater efficiency, elimination of positions, and significant savings in personnel-related costs.

·       KBC conducted the first Church Security Conference, with approximately 1,000 in attendance.

·       KBC launched Three Circles “Train the Trainer” initiative to equip KBC pastors and leaders to provide evangelistic training to Kentucky Baptists in personal evangelism.

·       KBC launched “REFOCUS” to provide evangelistic coaching to KBC pastors and leaders.

·       KBC consulted with hundreds of churches and trained thousands of Kentucky Baptists in efforts towards evangelism, church strengthening, and revitalization.

While there’s much more I could share, let me summarize by saying, you’re doing a great work, Kentucky Baptists! Be encouraged and keep it up!

Posted in Adoption, Church Planting, Denominational Life, Kentucky Baptist Convention, Kentucky Legislature | Leave a comment

Meet me in the mountains, Kentucky Baptists

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Kentucky Baptists, we hope to see you in the mountains! The annual meeting of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Kentucky Baptist Pastor’s Conference is less than two months away and I want to encourage you to join in us in Pikeville for a celebration of all God is doing through the cooperative mission efforts of Kentucky Baptist churches.

We will be celebrating Kentucky Baptists commitment to reaching the next generation, evidenced by a record number of hurting kids being ministered to through Sunrise and a record number of students hearing the gospel at Crossings camps. We will celebrate a record number Kentucky Baptists being involved in volunteer mission projects even as we welcome in what we anticipate will be the largest number of newly affiliating KBC churches in the past 12 years. We will rejoice over hundreds of KBC churches increasing their Cooperative Program giving, including 5 churches that increased more than $25,000 over the prior year. And we will thank God for His provision for the work, as is evident by KBC churches giving nearly $1 million more through the CP than you gave the previous year to support 52 church plants, 3600+ overseas missionaries, and so much more!

The annual meeting will take place on November 13th and the Pastor’s Conference will be on November 12th. You don’t want to miss either one!

But you should also plan to come to Pikeville a day or two early. Here’s why. More than two years ago, when we began dreaming about holding the annual meeting in Pikeville, we were hoping the effort would be an encouragement to churches in eastern Kentucky. As we met with pastors, DoMs, and state missionaries, that dream became a plan called Hope for the Mountains, a one-night crusade event to be held on Sunday evening, November 11. We are praying that God will use this event as a time of eternal harvest for those already being evangelized by churches throughout the region.

The Hope for the Mountains crusade will take place at the Eastern Kentucky Exposition Center in Pikeville. Evangelist Jon Reed will preach that evening. And Bubba Stewart and the Jason Lovins Band will provide the music.

For the crusade to be a success, we need your help. First, we need you to pray, asking God’s blessing on this initiative. Second, we need you and your church to get involved as counselors, choir members, ushers, and greeters for the service. All of the information is available for you at www.kybaptist.org/hope. Even if you don’t live in the region and can only show up on the day of the crusade, you can still volunteer to serve in a host of ways.

God is richly blessing the work of Kentucky Baptists. If you are one of us, thank you for supporting that work by giving through the Cooperative Program. And thank you for helping share the good news about that work with the members your church and the other churches in your association. Might God continue to use us, together, to reach Kentucky and the world for Christ!

 

Posted in Annual Meeting, Pastors' Conference | Tagged | Leave a comment

The essence of Christianity in found in the local church

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Several times a year I have the opportunity to preach, bring greetings, or send a video recording of congratulations to Kentucky Baptist Convention churches celebrating significant anniversaries. From church plants hitting the one, two, three, or five-year mark, to legacy churches celebrating anniversaries of 50, 100, 150 or even 200+ years, these significant milestones are a cause of great celebration and thanksgiving. Every church traces its history back to a faithful and dedicated group of people who were determined to obey the Scriptures and continue to ensure that a tangible, visible sign of our Lord is on display through local congregations that are the body of Christ.

 

While the essence of our faith is a personal relationship with Jesus, the essence of Christianity is a redeemed people bound together in Christ and gathered in the sacred fellowship of a local church. The Baptist Faith and Message states, “A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth.” To miss the role of the church, and our place in the church, is to misunderstand Christianity itself.

 

At the Kentucky Baptist Convention, we understand that the church and its work is the highest priority under heaven. And we understand our job is to help the church. That job is captured by our mission statement, which reads, “The Kentucky Baptist Convention: Created by churches, for churches, to help churches reach Kentucky and the world for Christ.”

 

Seeking to live out that mission statement, we not only celebrate significant anniversaries and milestones of our KBC churches, we constantly strive to serve KBC pastors and churches in meaningful ways. If you aren’t aware of the services provided by our staff, here are a few. We offer consulting in: evangelism, age-graded ministries, pastor and staff searches, structuring staff support packages, building programs and fundraising, missions partnership and strategies, community ministries, worship & music, Sunday School & small groups, women’s ministry, audio/video needs, security needs, governing documents and financial management. We also assist in areas like deacon training and disaster relief ministry, and so much more.

 

All of these services are provided free of charge as a benefit for churches that give through the Cooperative Program. When you have a need, let me encourage you to reach out to your KBC staff. Contact information and more about the services and ministries KBC provides can be found on our website at www.kybaptist.org.

 

Posted in Christianity, Churches, Denominational Life | Leave a comment

What your church gets from KBC & the Cooperative Program

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I was recently asked, “What does my church get from being a part of the Kentucky Baptist Convention of churches and giving through the Cooperative Program?” I love that question! Here’s my reply.

First and foremost, your church gets to be obedient to Acts 1:8 and the Great Commission. While your church is busy reaching your community or your “Jerusalem,” every church, according to Jesus in Acts 1:8, is also called to be a witness in your Judea (state), your Samaria (nation), and to the ends of the earth. By working in cooperation with the 2,400 churches of the KBC and the 46,000 churches of the Southern Baptist Convention, your church is being a witness in all these areas. How so?

  • In Kentucky, you currently are funding 52 new KBC church plants.
  • Through the North American Mission Board of the SBC, you are funding over 700 more church plants.
  • You are ministering to orphans and abused and neglected children across our state, by providing for the work of Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, known today as Sunrise Children’s Services. Sunrise is the James 1:27 ministry of the KBC. Currently, Sunrise is ministering to over 1,200 hurting individuals.
  • Your church is sharing the gospel on the campuses of more than 20 colleges and universities in our state through Baptist Campus Ministry.
  • Since KBC supports like-minded homeless ministries, refugee ministries, and human trafficking eradication efforts in our state, your church is supporting those crucial ministries.
  • KBC Disaster Relief volunteers handed out water and shared about Jesus this past weekend in Ashland where a city water main was broken. Last week, KBC Disaster Relief volunteers were repairing wells in South Africa and sharing about Jesus. Because of your faithful support, you are nearly everywhere a major disaster strikes, helping the victims through Disaster Relief.
  • Your church shared the gospel with 14,505 older kids and teens this summer through KBC camps, called Crossings Ministries. Over 700 students made professions of faith in Jesus.
  • You support Oneida Baptist Institute, Clear Creek Baptist Bible College, Kentucky

WMU, six seminaries, 3,600 missionaries overseas, and so much more!

Second, your church gets access to professional consulting that KBC provides free of charge since the Cooperative Program is funding it. In most any ministry area, whether music, youth, children, senior adults, Sunday School, or outreach, KBC consultants stand ready to work with your church to help equip your leaders and strengthen your ministry.

Third, your church’s paid staff have access to the denominational retirement plan and health insurance plans. Eligible ministers and church employees in the Church Retirement Plan have a life insurance type benefit and disability benefit provided through CP funding.

Fourth, your church gets a voice in Frankfort. Through our KBC lobbyist and the work of the KBC Public Affairs Committee, we have seen three pieces of significant pro-life legislation passed and signed into law over the past two year. We have defended religious liberty and helped to overhaul the foster and adoption laws in the state. And we have kept casino gambling and recreational marijuana from becoming plagues on Kentucky. Since KBC has worked in partnership with other groups and elected officials on these issues, your church has been a part of these victories.

I am grateful for every church that is a part of all that God is doing in Kentucky, North America, and around the world through the KBC family of churches.

Posted in Cooperative Program, Kentucky Baptist Convention | Leave a comment