Our lives, like Israelites, influenced by spiritual markers

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“When your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever” (Joshua 4:6-7).

I’ve been hunting since I was in diapers, literally. My father would carry me through the fields on his shoulders, set me on the ground when his dogs pointed a covey of quail, shoot the covey, and pick me back up.

Though I’ve been hunting for nearly half a century, I could still take you the very place I was standing and describe the entire affair of every successful hunt. If you are a hunter this doesn’t surprise you because you know that in those moments every sense is heightened, your awareness is elevated, and the experience is saved on the hard drive of your brain.

Even more so, the Lord wanted the same to be true for the Israelites as He led them across the Jordan river and into the Promised Land. They must never forget how God had freed them from slavery in Egypt, led them through the wilderness, stopped the flow of the Jordan river, and seen them safely into the Promise Land. A monument of stones would mark the place where they crossed but memories must mark their hearts, and the stories they would tell would mark the hearts of their children.

What are some of the wonderful things God has done for you in the past that you can recall?  What are some of those monumental events in the life of your church? Do you share those stories with your children? Your grandchildren?

Stories of how God has worked fill the history of our state convention. From our founding in 1837 to our role in developing the Cooperative Program, to the new churches being planted this year, the stories go on and on. I believe another story is about to unfold that will be one that Kentucky Baptists will remember for years to come. I want to invite you to be a part of it.

Hope for the Mountains is a one-day evangelistic event scheduled for Nov. 11 at the Eastern Kentucky Exposition Center in Pikeville. Hope for the Mountains will feature evangelist Jon Reed, the Jason Lovins Band and other special guests as we seek to reach the lost. Kentucky Baptist churches from all over the state are encouraged to attend, bring their unreached and unchurched friends, and to serve in various capacities during the event.

You will find all the information at www.kybaptist.org/hope. Please check it out and help us bring the hope of Jesus to the mountains.

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The Sky is Speaking

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The Psalmist wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (19:1).

Watching my children milk the fun from the quickly fading days of summer have brought memories to my mind. I recall when I was a kid, just after dark, all the other kids in the neighborhood meeting in the middle of the street in front of our house. A ritual would determine who was “IT,” and then every other kid in the neighborhood would scatter to their hiding places, hoping not to be the first found. We lived on a steep hill in our little mountain town, with a neighbor behind us, who lived further up the steep hill. Our neighbor was a big man who didn’t seem terribly fond of kids and was known to yell at you if he caught you in his yard. If I could make it up to his yard and lie down in the grass, the only way to find me was to climb the hill in the dark and risk our neighbor’s wrath.

Few ever did.

That left me lying on my back, staring at the stars in the sky … for a long time. But that was okay. Staring into the vastness of the night sky filled me with a sense of awe.

I’ve felt the same feeling staring out at the vastness of the ocean on a clear day when you can see all the way to the horizon but know that, for thousands of miles beyond that horizon, there is nothing but ocean. I recall having that same kind of feeling when my son was born. How tiny and helpless he was, yet this perfect little boy, whom God was trusting to me. Awe.

To be in awe of the One who created everything that is awe-inspiring, everything that is awesome, makes sense. But somehow, we often miss it. We see the majesty of the stars but miss the majesty of the One who cast them into the universe. We see the vastness of oceans but miss the vast glory of the One who calls from deep to deep. We see the beauty and miracle of new life in the face of a newborn but miss the Imago Dei, that she is formed in the image of God and to the glory of God.

Let’s not be captivated by lesser glory and miss the greater glory. We won’t have to look far to see it. And we won’t have to look far to see someone with whom to share it. To God be the glory!

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Qualifications of a great director of missions

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Over the course of the past year, I have had the privilege of serving with a team commissioned by a group called the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders. The conference, referred to as SBCAL, is a fraternity of Directors of Missions and others who serve in associations across the SBC. The team was asked to study the role of Director of Missions and offer any helpful suggestions for associations to strengthen their work. While the full report is available online and addresses subjects such as associational leader qualifications and proficiencies, as well as suggested job titles, and a few other matters, I want to share some of the findings here.

First, the report lists foundational proficiencies for those who lead association work. The list is as follows:

  • Called to Associational Leadership

Leading an association is fundamentally different than leading a church or other ministry, but it requires no less a calling to a specific position. Leading a collaborative system requires someone desiring to build coalitions and rely on sometimes diffused leadership systems, rather than employing more directive leadership styles at times.

  • Person of Character

The Bible is clear – leaders are held to a higher standard; therefore, the heart of associational leaders must be set on Christ in order that their behavior might be above reproach.

  • Spiritually Mature

It should go without mention that Christian leaders must be followers of Christ. But associational leaders must sometimes serve in emotionally charged environments where spiritual matters can be confused with personal preferences, and it takes considerable discernment and wisdom to assist churches in particularly trying times.

  • Commitment to Learning

Leading requires learning and continuing in leadership means continuing to learn. Associational leaders should have a lifelong combination of formal and informal education combined with the passion of a seeker and an explorer.

  • A Leader of Leaders

From the basic functions of a manager to the entrepreneurial skills of non-profit leaders such as donor cultivation and team building, associational leaders need an array of leadership tools at their disposal.

  • Trustworthy

For associational leaders to be most effective, churches must trust them. There will be times when the church must be vulnerable and expose their weaknesses, but they will not do that if they suspect such vulnerability might be taken advantage of, or that the associational leader is not trustworthy. As patients with a doctor, the patients trust a doctor to do no harm based on trust.

The report also listed relational proficiencies such as:

  • Emotionally Intelligent (EQ)

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the ability to recognize and understand emotions in oneself and in others, the ability to use this awareness to manage one’s behavior and relationships, and understand the effect one’s emotions have on others.

  • Active Listener

Associational leaders are sometimes the only safe place available to pastors, but the ability to listen will play out in environments beyond counseling settings. Pastors often have no sounding board for ideas or out-of-the-box strategies, and active listening from associational leaders can often be a welcome source of help.

The associational leader should also strive to be a supportive coach, be authentically vulnerable, and a vocal encourager.

As for strategic proficiencies, the associational leader strives to be a vision caster, strategist, consultant, leadership multiplier, good communicator, and have a good contextual understanding.

Our Directors of Missions in Kentucky are great partners in the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s work of helping churches reach Kentucky and the world for Christ. As I consider the lists above and the other parts of the full report, I’m thankful for those who serve our associations in Kentucky, their calling, and the qualities of leadership they exhibit.

Posted in Baptist Associations, Leader Training | Comments closed

Ten things I’ve learned from those who have NOT fallen in ministry

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“Dad, how will people know you haven’t done something like that?” asked my 19-year-old daughter as we discussed the growing list of resignations and terminations in Baptist life.

“Because he’s still above the ground,” quipped my wife, Michelle, as only a 20-year veteran middle school teacher can.

Later, Michelle took a more serious tone when she asked, “What have you learned from those who haven’t fallen?” Good question, Mrs. Chitwood.

Here are some things I’ve learned from more than 2,000 Kentucky Baptist pastors faithfully serving their churches and families, and tens of thousands of others faithfully leading in our Southern Baptist churches and entities, who haven’t fallen:

  1. They haven’t fallen YET. Any naïveté about a mentor not having feet of clay was shattered before I turned 30 when the man who shaped me as a student and preached my ordination left his wife and married a student. Only those who are in the grave are no longer vulnerable to sin and its consequences.
  2. They walk with God. I’ve long counseled those under my supervision that 90% of the difficult conversations I might have to have with them would never be necessary if they simply walk with God. It’s the best safeguard from moral failure.
  3. Those who haven’t fallen guard their lives. They police their relationships, the company they choose to keep, their patterns of speech and behavior, and their thoughts.
  4. They have an Ephesians 5 approach to their marriage. The man who loves his wife to the death of self and understands the mystery of covenant marriage wherein the two are one flesh creates the opportunity for emotional and physical intimacy that protects his own life.
  5. They know that, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” Proverbs 10:19. Some call them “prophetic,” others label them “equal opportunity offenders,” but the bombastic, shock-factor leaders and preachers often prove themselves more self-contradicting than prophetic, more adept at tearing down than building up, and more likely to be on the sidelines than in the game in the last quarter.
  6. Those who haven’t fallen remember. They remember their wedding vows, they remember their children, they remember all those people and churches who invested in them, pray for them, and love them. They remember those whose hearts they’d never want to break. They remember their Savior and their desire to honor him and bring no reproach on his gospel.
  7. They fight. They fight the prowling enemy of 1Peter 5 and they fight the enemy in the mirror, knowing that no one has greater capacity to wreck them than themselves.
  8. They retreat. They retreat from work and the world to rest and refuel. They retreat from battles that have become more about pride than anything else. And they retreat from temptations and caustic people and situations.
  9. They deny. They deny themselves sinful pleasures, excessive luxuries, lame excuses, and compromising accommodations.
  10. They fear. In wisdom, they fear God, fear their own capacity for sin, and they fear moral failure.

On behalf of wives, sons, daughters, parents, churches, and our Lord, let me say to those who have NOT fallen, “Thank you. We honor you. Keep fighting the fight. Don’t let us down.”

Posted in Churches, Culture, Denominational Life, Family, Health, Pastor, Personal Reflections, Southern Baptist Convention | Comments closed

KY Baptists ‘impact’ 2018 laws on abortion, adoption and more

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The combined efforts of Kentucky Baptists’ legislative agent, Tom Troth, our news service, Kentucky Today, and our state chaplain, Steve Weaver, have created an elevated platform from which to impact state government for the sake of Christ. Here’s a quick review of some of the more significant pieces of legislation passed during the 2018 General Assembly:

1) A bill passed banning an especially barbaric abortion procedure scientifically known as dilatation and evacuation. In English, that means abortionists dismember the unborn baby and bring it out of the womb piece by piece. The procedure was used 537 times in Kentucky in 2016 alone.

2) In a major victory for abused and neglected children, House Bill 1 passed unanimously in the Senate and received only one no vote in House. Now signed into law, this legislation reduces wait times for adoption, creates greater accountability for the Cabinet, removes some of the bureaucracy of the system, and increases pay for social workers, as well as other provisions.

3) Casino supporters thought the financial climate was in their favor for getting an expanded gambling bill through the Legislature. With the pension system for state workers and teachers nearing the point of insolvency, gambling interests made the argument that casinos could bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to help fund pensions. Not only would the end result of funds in all likelihood been far less than that, the thinking is in error because the pro-gambling folks didn’t factor in the hundreds of millions of dollars state government would be out for government programs to help families broken by gambling addictions and to help children from those families. Thankfully, none of the proposals gained traction.

4) Medical marijuana proponents also used the argument that taxes from legal sales could help solve the state’s financial problems. Lawmakers wisely saw through that argument and stood their ground. Our KBC Public Affairs Committee has taken the stand that the Food and Drug Administration, not politicians, should be the ones to determine which drugs are legal and permissible.

5) At the 2017 Annual meeting, KBC messengers passed a resolution in support of a constitutional amendment which would enshrine in our state Constitution the rights of victims of crime: 1) to notice of proceedings, 2) to be present, 3) to be heard, 4) to have proceedings free from delay, and 5) to protection from the accused. Marsy’s law was passed early in the session and will appear on the ballot in November. If ratified by the voters, it will become a new section of our Kentucky Constitution.

6) Legislation was enacted to permit prisoners in county jails to participate in religious charitable community-based service projects, such as Habitat for Humanity, if authorized and supervised by the county jailer.

7) Legislation passed that would allow private home school sports teams to participate in public school athletics under certain conditions.

8) On the human/child trafficking front, legislation was passed to make it clear that sex offenders are prohibited from using the internet to gather information or communicate with or about minor children and to prohibit the distribution of sexually exploitive images of children via the internet or otherwise. Laws like these are required to keep up with those who prey on kids in this digital age.

Once again, Kentucky Baptists are making a difference.

Posted in Abortion, Culture, Education, Foster care, Government, Kentucky Today | Comments closed