Reaching our Judea

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“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8)

I was recently asked, “What does the Kentucky Baptist Convention do with its part of the Cooperative Program and state missions offering?” While I love to answer that question, because so much is being done in our Judea it’s not a short conversation nor is this a short post!

Currently, fifty new church plants in Kentucky are supported by every church that gives to cooperative missions. While no church, working on its own, could fund and assist 50 new church plants, working together, the impossible becomes possible. Since these church plants, as well as existing KBC churches, represent the most ethnically diverse denomination in our state, cooperative missions present a unique opportunity both for reaching every tribe and tongue and for being a part of gospel-centered racial reconciliation.

Support is also provided for ten fulltime campus missionaries who share the gospel on college and university campuses in Kentucky and help churches develop strategies to reach students on middle school, high school, and university campuses. Working with the campus missionary at Kentucky State University, Millville Baptist Church began sponsoring a women’s Bible study. A female student struggling with same-sex attraction and active in a relationship attended and then met with the campus missionary. Hearing the gospel, she placed her trust in Christ.

Through the support of cooperative missions giving, KBC Disaster Relief teams are trained and ready as first responders to help the hurting in times of crisis by ministering to their physical and spiritual needs. Approximately 900 volunteers were trained this past year and deployed not only in Kentucky but Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Louisiana, Michigan, South Africa, Mozambique, and Zambia.

More than 100 missionaries in the state receive varying levels of support for their work. These missionaries represent Kentucky Baptists as they share the gospel in jails and prisons, serve in pregnancy resource centers, homeless shelters, and meet needs in food and clothing ministries, literacy education, job skills training, and a host of other ways. Cooperative Program dollars help create a vast network of mission endeavors across the state and give churches from Kentucky and throughout the nation the opportunity to know about and get more involved in these Kingdom ministries in our state, resulting every year in tens of thousands of volunteers serving in Kentucky on short-term mission projects.

Every cooperative missions dollar represents the investment a large church makes in small churches or a small church taking advantage of the opportunity to partner with larger churches. This investment means that a team of trained and experienced consultants is available to assist any KBC church in strengthening every aspect of local church ministry, at no cost. For example, we help churches with evangelism training, worship ministry, legal questions, salary and benefits issues, senior adult ministry, Sunday School and discipleship ministry, etc. KBC staff members conducted consultations and presentations to more than 10,000 Kentucky Baptists this past year alone.  KBC helps churches in conflict, trains pastor search committees, provides a resume service for ministers and churches, and helps strengthen marriages of ministry couples through the annual Shepherding event. These are but a few examples, among many, of how churches in Kentucky are investing in other churches through cooperative missions giving.

Cooperative Missions gives Kentucky Baptists a voice in state government. The work of the Public Affairs Committee and the ministry of a Kentucky Baptist chaplain in the state capitol are supported by every church that gives. Churches also benefit from lobbying work on issues like prolife legislation, religious liberty, and other matters of importance to Kentucky Baptists. In just the past few weeks, we have seen new prolife laws enacted that have already saved the lives of unborn children. What a great investment! The Western Recorder and Kentucky Today help keep Kentucky Baptists informed, not only on public affairs and Baptist news, but on all of the news.

When we include the work of KBC entities, all supported by the CP, we see that every cooperating church is involved in orphan care through Sunrise Children’s Services, where Kentucky Baptists touch the lives of more than 1,100 hurting kids. Thousands of students from Kentucky and literally the world over are benefitting from a Christian education through Oneida Baptist Institute, Clear Creek Baptist Bible College and University of the Cumberlands. And thousands more students hear the gospel every summer at camp through Crossings Ministries. Mission education through the WMU and estate planning and investment services through the Kentucky Baptist Foundation are also of great support to KBC churches.

Believe it or not, I’ve left off a long list of ministries and mission work every church is supporting as it gives to cooperative missions in Kentucky. What is the result of this generous and sacrificial giving? Together, Kentucky Baptists are reaching Kentucky and the world for Christ.

Posted in Christian Education, Church Planting, Clear Creek Baptist Bible College, Collegiate Ministries, Cooperative Program, Crossings, Crossings Ministries, Denominational Life, Disaster Relief, Education, Eliza Broadus Offering, Evangelism, Great Commission, Kentucky Baptist Convention, Kentucky Baptist Foundation, Kentucky Legislature, Kentucky Today, Kentucky Woman's Missionary Union, Leader Training, Multiethnic ministry, Pastors Search, Public Affairs, Religious Liberty, Western Recorder | Comments closed

Great Commission Math

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If your church is like the average Southern Baptist church, more than 90 percent of its resources are invested in reaching your community and less than 10 percent goes to reach the rest of the world.  How much should we send to be obedient to the Great Commission?

In Acts 1:8, Jesus declares to His followers, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Based upon that declaration, churches sometimes talk about an “Acts 1:8 Strategy,” whereby we seek to be intentional about sharing the gospel in our town/city (“Jerusalem”), our state (“Judea”), our country (“Samaria”), and overseas (“ends of the earth”).

How much of your church’s resources are invested in gospel work in your Jerusalem? How much of those resources are invested in Great Commission work in the rest of the world? How can you even know?

Try this: From your church’s annual receipts, calculate how much your church gives through the Cooperative Program, special missions offerings, and to help fund mission trips, independent missionaries, mission partnerships, and church plants. Include everything that goes outside of your community. The remaining amount is what your church spends on its Jerusalem. That money is probably budgeted to pay for items like the pastor’s salary, utilities, building repairs, insurance, Sunday School materials, outreach programs, local ministries, etc.

What did you discover? Does your church have an Acts 1:8 budget? If you have doubts, I suggest your church do the following.

First, every church should carefully study what God’s word says about God’s heart for the nations and God’s missionary call on Christ’s church. Scripture is not silent on these subjects. Study will prove that a disregard for missions beyond our own community is nothing short of disobedience. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Jesus also loves all the children of the world.

Second, every church should evaluate how it can be most effective at gospel work beyond local evangelism? How can the church best multiply itself through church planting? How can the church minister to the sick, imprisoned, orphaned, and victims of disaster? How can a church help prepare the next generation of gospel ministers? Depending on the church’s size and strength, some of these ministries can be undertaken by the church on its own but, oftentimes, cooperative missions is the most effective approach and the best stewardship of the church’s resources.

Third, every church should be intentional in praying for God’s leadership in the budgeting process. As we are exhorted to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and assured God will hear and answer our prayers (1 John 5:14), how we use the resources we steward is a matter for prayer.

Our communities need the gospel and so does our state, our nation, and our world. Might God find us faithful in the Great Commission!

Posted in Great Commission, Kentucky Baptist Convention, Southern Baptist Convention | Comments closed

Thoroughness, mindfulness & leading of God’s spirit are keys to filling ministry positions

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The Kentucky Baptist Convention was created by churches, for churches, to help churches reach Kentucky and the world for Christ. One of the ways we help churches is by assisting them in times of pastor/staff transitions. A host of KBC staff members are equipped to train search committees and assist churches in various ways during interim periods, including giving them access to a large database of résumés. If you are a church seeking to fill a new ministry position or a minister seeking God’s direction for your next assignment, don’t hesitate to call on us and learn more about how we can assist you.

I’m often asked if I have any personal advice for search teams. Beyond stressing the need to bathe the entire process in prayer, thankfully, I usually point to a host of good resources available from the KBC. I also share some of the more helpful things I have learned from others and from having a part in several search processes over the past 30 years. Here are a few.

First, don’t overlook what have been termed “the three ‘C’s.” They are character, calling, and chemistry. Make sure the candidates being considered have strong character, give clear evidence of God’s call on their lives, and are the right fit for the church and/or leadership team.

Second, if red flags appear in the interview and investigation process, paint the wall red. Small issues in the interview process often become huge issues later. Good hiring requires search team members to be deeply discerning and brutally honest about what they observe, resisting the urge merely to be persuaded by an individual’s personal charisma or likeability.

Third, put little faith in references you don’t personally know. We can all find something good to say about a friend, and it’s easy enough to leave a long list of concerns unspoken. Moreover, the fear of litigation, especially from former employees, can leave most organizations hesitant to communicate anything – especially anything that could be perceived as negative – about a former employee.

Fourth, the most important question to ask every reference, especially if that reference is a former employer, is: “Would YOU hire this person at YOUR church today if you had an open position?”

Fifth, closely observe the people skills of the candidate. Keep in mind that most ministry roles require working with and leading people. Regardless of how smart, gifted, educated, or theologically sound a person may be, if that person isn’t especially good at working with people, he or she likely will be a bad fit for local church ministry.

Lastly, you CANNOT be too thorough as you explore a candidate. Make no assumptions and leave no questions unasked nor unanswered.

Keeping these things in mind, being patient, and remaining sensitive to the leading of God’s Spirit, a search process can be richly rewarding and result in the kind of outcome for which the church is praying.

Posted in Churches, Pastor, Pastoral Resources, Pastors Search, Transition | Comments closed

A Win for Life!

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Today is an historic day in Kentucky. Over the course of the past four decades, more than 50 million children have been murdered before birth in the United States, many of those children in Kentucky. Yet, in recent years, efforts to protect the unborn have been growing. Ten years ago, when I served as president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, I worked with KBC staff members and the KBC Public Affairs Committee to organize informational meetings across the state to help people better understand the abortion procedure and the need to curb this horrific evil. Before and after that effort, untold millions of prayers were lifted on behalf of the unborn and tireless other efforts have been undertaken to impact the political system in an effort to save the lives of children. Today we see evidence that God has heard our prayers and rewarded our efforts.

Kentucky Baptists have been working, hoping, and praying for this day for a very long time. I thank God for House Speaker Jeff Hoover, Senate President Robert Stivers, Governor Matt Bevin, and every Kentucky lawmaker who courageously used their influence and vote on behalf of the voiceless and vulnerable to see that abortion is now banned in Kentucky after a conceived child is 20 weeks old. The first responsibility of government is to provide security for its citizens and today that promise is being fulfilled to babies who, in most cases, could survive outside of the womb.

A close friend of mine is the adopted father of a happy, healthy three-year-old whose biological mother chose not to have him killed after seeing him in her womb through the technology of an ultrasound. I never think of him without also thinking about the Texas lawmakers who helped give him and untold thousands of other children a better chance of survival by passing ultrasound legislation in that state five years ago. While every Kentucky mother considering an abortion may not make the same decision, she now will at least have the same opportunity and babies will have a better chance at life. At a minimum a required ultrasound will help ensure a mother understands the abortion procedure, its risks and consequences.

Only the God of Heaven knows how many babies’ lives will be saved by the events of this day, by the diligence of God’s people in prayer and in the prolife battle, and the courage of elected officials who stand for life. But while God, in His wisdom, has chosen to use these and other avenues to bring today’s events to pass, God, alone, deserves the glory. He is the giver of life.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:13-16).

Posted in Abortion, Culture, Government, Prolife, Public Affairs, Social Justice | Comments closed

Christmas reminds us of God’s grand promises

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“Thus says the Lord: ‘Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed’” (Isaiah 56:1).

My wife, Michelle, recently asked our 4-year-old foster daughter what she wants for Christmas. Her reply was straightforward: “I want all the toys.” Most 4-year-olds and too many 40-year-olds want ALL the toys. Isaiah 56 doesn’t mention Christmas toys, but it is a chapter packed full of Christmas promises to all kinds of people.

Christmas is a time to be reminded of God’s promises. In Isaiah 56, we see that His promises are for everyone. God makes promises to the Israelites, the foreigners, even to the most lowly, the eunuchs who were slaves with no descendants. Read through the chapter and you will see that God promises salvation and deliverance (v. 1), honor (v. 5), joy and acceptance (v. 7), and a place within His walls, within His family (vv. 5,7,8).

How can God make such grand promises? He purposed to fulfill them in Jesus. While the people of Isaiah’s day had to look forward in faith and hope, today, we are able to look back from our vantage point and see that God fulfilled every promise in Jesus.

Jesus provided for our salvation by giving His life for us. Jesus delivered us when He was delivered up for us. Jesus brought us honor by His dishonor, joy by His sorrow, and acceptance by His rejection. Jesus granted us a place within the walls by being sacrificed “outside of the camp.” Jesus brought us into the family by laying down His rights as the Son to provide for our adoption. God has kept His promises.

Hundreds of years after God speaks in Isaiah, we see His promises to eunuchs coming true in Acts 8 where Peter introduces the Ethiopian eunuch to Jesus when he finds the man reading from Isaiah. The Ethiopian welcomes the good news, puts his trust in Jesus, and is baptized as a symbol of his salvation.

Two thousand years after that, even today, the promises of God are still true and still being kept to any who trust in Jesus. Those promises are for you, for your neighbors, and for the nations. Thank you, Kentucky Baptists, for all you do to ensure that the good news of the promises of God is being heard. As you enjoy those promises and share them with others, Michelle and I pray for you a very Merry Christmas!

Posted in Christmas | Comments closed