Kentucky Baptist churches are ‘doing the impossible’

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I was called into my first pastorate on Halloween in 1993. The vote count was 18 to 6. In preparation for my new role, I called the pastor who preceded me to ask a few questions about the church. He quickly began asking questions of me.

“Where are you pastoring now?” he inquired.

“I’m not pastoring now,” I replied.

“Where have you pastored,” he asked.

“I’ve never been a pastor,” I said.

“How old are you?” he shot back.

“I’m 23,” I said.

I’ll never forget what he said next: “Boy, they’re gonna kill you.”

I’d never officiated over a funeral or a wedding, never been to a deacons meeting, had three bad sermons and didn’t know how to preach them. But if, with God’s help, I’d learned Greek and Hebrew, I figured, with God’s help, I could learn how to be a pastor.

In no time at all, the 18 and the 6 began to come together, and then we had 24. Soon the baptismal waters were stirring, the church was growing, an outreach visitation program and a church nursery were launched, and, in the midst of it all, I was learning how to be a pastor. Together, with God’s help, we began to do the impossible.

One hundred and eighty years ago, Baptist churches in Kentucky set out to the impossible as they set out together to reach Kentucky and the world for Christ. But our Kentucky Baptist forbearers knew the Lord who called them to reach the world had stated clearly, “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27). Working together, with God’s help, Kentucky Baptists began to do the impossible.

One hundred and eighty years later, the Kentucky Baptists are still doing the impossible. It’s not possible for one church to fund 50 church plants across the state. But working together, with God’s help, 2,400 churches are doing the impossible.

It’s not possible for one church to minister to 1,260 abused and neglected kids. But working together, with God’s help, 2,400 churches are doing the impossible.

It’s not possible for one church to share the gospel with nearly 14,000 kids at summer camp. But working together, with God’s help, 2,400 churches are doing the impossible.

It’s not possible for one church to provide an education for kids from elementary school through a doctorate, producing teachers and accountants, musicians and physician assistants, preachers and missionaries. But working together, with God’s help, 2,400 churches are doing the impossible.

It’s certainly not possible for one church to start 1,000 churches in North America, educate 20,000 seminary students at one time, and have 3,600 missionaries in over 100 countries of the world. But working together, with God’s help, the 45,000+ Southern Baptist churches that give through the Cooperative Program are doing the impossible.

Aren’t you thankful that “what is impossible with man is possible with God”? I am as well.

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Up for a challenge? So. Baptists aim for 1M gospel conversations

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The GC (Gospel Conversations) Challenge launched during the Kentucky Baptist Convention annual meeting, in partnership with the North American Mission Board, is an effort to help Kentucky Baptists be more intentional in the sharing the gospel. The GC Challenge invites every church to set a goal for the number of gospel conversations their members will have over the next 12 months and post that goal at gcchallenge.com. As an encouragement to others, you can also post on the website a one-minute video from your smartphone about your most recent gospel conversation.

We are undertaking the GC Challenge in partnership with our sister state conventions and the North American Mission Board, hoping to encourage every Southern Baptist to have more gospel conversations. The goal for all SBC churches combined is 1 million gospel conversations over the next 12 months. While it would not be possible for one church to share the gospel with 1 million people in 12 months, working together, with God’s help, I believe 46,000 churches can do the impossible.

The last time I checked, out of 42 state conventions, Kentucky Baptists’ testimonies describing a recent gospel conversation and posted on the GC Challenge website comprise more than one fourth of all the video testimonies. Will you join us as we spur one another on toward love and good deeds by having your church set a goal for gospel conversations, posting that goal on the GC Challenge website, and possibly even sharing a one-minute video about one of your gospel conversations on the website?

I’m thankful for two deacons from the Baptist church in my little mountain town who went out knocking on doors one night, having gospel conversations. I’m thankful they made it to 210 Provins Street, to a rented house where a single father was raising three boys on his own, and had a gospel conversation with him and then invited him to church. I’m thankful for the young Baptist preacher named Alan Herrod who, a few years later, sat in our living room and had a gospel conversation with my older brother that my younger brother and I listened in on. God used those gospel conversations to save me. And I know God wants to save others.

God did not save us and transfer us to heaven. He has saved us and left us here to share the life-giving gospel with those who are still lost from Him and His family. Like us, they need Jesus. Will you join me and fellow Southern Baptists across this country by being a part of the GC Challenge?

 

 

 

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My favorite question of all time

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I’m occasionally asked, most often by young pastors, “How can I get involved in the KBC?” I love that question. In fact, it is one of the most gratifying and hopeful questions I’m asked. When more people get involved in the cooperative mission work of Kentucky Baptists, more of that mission work gets done. More churches get planted, more orphans get loved, more people take mission trips and, most importantly, more people hear the gospel.

So, how can you get involved, or more involved, in the cooperative mission work of Kentucky Baptists? Here are three simple steps.

First, take advantage of opportunities to learn about the work and find the area that appeals to your gifts and interests. Attend the KBC annual meeting, come as a guest to one of the meetings of the Mission Board, check out the information on the KBC website, sign up for Kentucky Today, subscribe to the Western Recorder, and meet with a member of our KBC team. As you learn more about the ministries and mission work of Kentucky Baptists, you will also learn about events like mission vision tours, training opportunities for Disaster Relief, and how to become a foster parent.

Second, if you are interested in the work “behind the scenes,” then talk to those already involved and let them know you are willing to serve alongside them. Behind the visible work of Kentucky Baptists are a host of committees and boards that plan and oversee the work. The most well known is probably the KBC Mission Board. Most Mission Board members are nominated by their local Baptist association and processed by the KBC Committee on Nominations before being elected by the messengers at the KBC annual meeting. Membership on our KBC entity boards, like the governing boards of Oneida Baptist Institute, Sunrise Children’s Services, Clear Creek Baptist Bible College, etc, begins with the recruiting efforts of the entity president, vetting by the KBC Committee on Nominations, and election by the messengers at the KBC annual meeting. The KBC president and members of the KBC Committee on Committees appoint people to serve on a host of convention committees and in other special roles. The bottom line is that the best way to get involved in the work behind the scenes is to connect with people already involved and share your availability.

Third, sacrificially support the work by praying and giving. Prayers and financial support makes possible the cooperative mission work of Kentucky Baptists. As you lead your church to pray and to give generously through the Cooperative Program, state missions offering, and other special offerings, you become involved in every aspect of the work. You are now helping to love the orphan through Sunrise, helping to equip pastors through our educational institutions, helping minister to the homeless, the prisoner, and the addict. You are providing a hot meal to a storm victim in Puerto Rico, mudding out the  house of a flood victim in Houston, handing out a backpack full of school supplies to a second grader whose father lost his mining job in Prestonsburg, and giving a week’s worth of food to a teenager raising her 3 younger siblings, orphaned by the AIDS epidemic in Johannesburg.

And with all of them, you are sharing Jesus. Who wouldn’t want to be involved in that?

 

Posted in Adoption, Affinity Evangelism, Annual Meeting, Baptisms, Baptist Associations, Baptist Collegiate Ministry, Church Planting, Collegiate Ministries, Cooperative Program, Crossings, Disaster Relief, Evangelism, Foster care, Great Commission, Kentucky Baptist Convention, Mission Board, Missions, Pastor | Leave a comment

Unprepared & scared: Lessons learned after 24 Halloweens

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I was called to the pastorate of Southfork Baptist Church in Owen County on Halloween in 1993. I was a newly married, second year seminary student with a clear sense that it was time I move from supply preacher to undershepherd.

As Michelle and I drove back to the Louisville after the evening service, we talked through managing her teaching schedule that week, my class schedule, and still finding time to pack everything we owned into a U-Haul by Saturday morning in order to meet the church’s request that we be “on the field” by the next Sunday. Actually, the request was that I start my pastoral ministry that Wednesday, but I managed to convince the Pastor Search Committee I needed more than two days to move.

I was excited, nervous, unprepared, more than a little scared, and incredibly humbled that God would allow me to be the pastor of Southfork Baptist Church. The church was posting numbers in the 30s for worship attendance. Whether the number had been five or five hundred, I was called of God to preach and teach His word to them and to shepherd them on His behalf. And I felt the weight of the assignment.

This week I begin my 25th year in vocational ministry. Reflecting upon the 24 years behind me, I realize I still have much to learn but here are some things that are coming clearly into view.

First, the call to ministry is a fragile stewardship. To serve and lead the Lord’s church is the highest calling and heaviest burden I can conceive. It is both an astounding privilege and, at the same time, a hardship that is difficult to express, sometimes feeling like more of an affliction than an assignment. Many who face the challenges and expectations, ride the rollercoaster of emotional highs and lows, and endure the ongoing reality of spiritual warfare, eventually lack the strength or willingness to continue. The minister’s marriage and family are constantly tested by the unavoidable stress and erratic schedule of ministry. The minister is blessed to experience spiritual joys known to few but also carries the sorrows of all who are under his care. It is a fragile stewardship.

Second, vocational ministry is not a job but a way of life. There is no work schedule for trips to the emergency room or answering phone calls or text messages from those who are experiencing a crisis. Much of the work of the church is evenings and weekends, those precious moments when a minister’s working spouse and children may not be in a crisis of their own, but certainly need the time and attention of their husband/father. Striking a balance that doesn’t cause one to be a derelict minister or a derelict husband and father is challenging at best. And it must be a way of life.

Third, the call to ministry comes to those with feet of clay. Disqualifying sin should not be tolerated by the church but no minister will meet a standard of perfection, whether as a preacher, evangelist, administrator, husband, father, or, simply, as a man. As much as a minister needs the grace of God, the church must also extend grace. Could they find a better preacher? Maybe. A pastor with a more charismatic personality? Possibly. A man whose wife was friendlier after church, even though she had to get three kids ready and off to church by herself, then kept the nursery, and will spend Sunday afternoon at home alone with the kids while her husband goes to a funeral visitation before making the deacons’ meeting before church and the Finance Committee meeting after church? Could be. But those willing to extend a little grace will realize that, if they have the man God has called to be their pastor, they have just the man they need.

I’m thankful for the grace God, and the people of God, have extended to me by allowing me to serve as a pastor and now a state missionary. I can’t imagine a more blessed and fulfilling life.

Posted in Family, Personal Reflections | Leave a comment

Pastor’s Appreciation Month

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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.”

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