A Prayer for the International Mission Board

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The International Mission Board is celebrated by Southern Baptists as the largest overseas missionary sending organization in the history of evangelicalism. As they leave everything familiar behind and set out to share the gospel among the nations, IMB missionaries are our denominational heroes. And rightly so. The risks and sacrifices faced by these faithful souls have often proved to be ultimate, with many of our beloved missionaries becoming martyrs for our Lord.

To support the work of these soldiers for Christ, Southern Baptists sacrificially give more than $200 million each year through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the IMB’s portion of the Cooperative Program. Individual SBC churches, associations, and state conventions provide additional resources to the IMB through special overseas partnerships and projects, as well as promotional efforts, to ensure that our missionaries have what they need to fulfill their mission. In addition to financial resources, Southern Baptists spend countless hours in prayer for our missionaries, their work, and the indigenous believers and churches who labor alongside them to make disciples.

Last week, David Platt announced his plans to leave the presidency of the IMB and again commit himself to the pastorate. Platt, who has served just over 3 years in the role, followed Tom Elliff, whose tenure as president was roughly the same. With such an enduring and significant investment, Southern Baptists have much at stake in the ongoing transitions of the IMB. While new strategies and structures hold much promise, the loss of an executive leader leaves no one to shepherd the lengthy process of transitioning a huge, international organization. As the IMB trustees begin searching for a fourth president in less than a decade, tenured missionaries with whom I have spoken are trying not to be discouraged but wondering what the future holds.

Kentucky Baptists love and believe in the IMB. And we thank God for the way He has used giving and going Southern Baptists from across the nation to shine the light of Christ to the ends of the earth. Let’s pray for God’s hand to guide our IMB trustees as they do their work, asking specifically that what Luke observed of the work of the early church would be true of the work of the IMB and of Southern Baptists today. Luke writes:

“Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:32-33).


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Pastors: They are there in good times and bad

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We waited and waited. For hours. Hundreds of families were packed into the middle school cafeteria hoping to hear the name of their teenager called, anxious to see them and know they were okay. Besides those families, the first responders and school staff were there. And one other group was welcomed into North Marshall Middle School on Tuesday: the pastors.

A sleepy farming community had been jolted awake by sirens, frantic teenagers running out onto Highway 68, and, tragically, the sounds of gunfire in the hallways of the local high school from which they fled. I was in the area visiting with a local pastor when my phone buzzed. A state official quickly informed me of the unfolding tragedy and hung up to make his next call.

I shared the news with the pastor and heard the pain in his voice as he replied, “I have kids in that school.” “Family?” I asked. “No, my church kids.” As his voice began to shake, I knew that, to him, there was no distinction. Those kids are his family. “I’ll take you there,” I said.

We arrived at the school board office adjacent to the Marshall County High only to see another pastor had made it there first. “What do you know?” I asked. “I’m being told the kids still in the school will be bused to North Marshall Middle where they can be picked up by their parents.” We were off again.

The staff at North Marshall Middle School was working diligently to see that only those who had kids coming to the school were allowed in but when one of the ladies saw a Bible in the hands of the pastor with me she said, “If you are ministers and can talk to these families, please go in right now.” So we did. Within a few minutes, other pastors arrived.

Like shepherds looking for missing sheep they walked through the gathering crowd hoping to spot the familiar faces of those who sat in their sanctuaries each Sunday. And when they did, there were hugs and tears. And there was gratitude.

Why were the pastors there at time like that? Because they are supposed to be there. Because they are always there in those sacred moments when lives are forever changed.

They are there when new life is welcomed into the world. They are there when vows are exchanged and two lives become one. They are there when the eternal vow is made, a life committed to Christ through the waters of baptism. They are welcomed alongside the sickbed and the deathbed. Their voice speaks words of hope and comfort even at the graveside. Why wouldn’t they be there when a frantic mother waits, hoping to receive word that her daughter wasn’t the girl that was killed at school that morning? They were there.

But not all of them. Some of them were already at the hospitals, having learned that one of the “their” kids was hurt and on an ambulance.

One of them was driving to Nashville. He had heard the terrifying news that one of “his” kids was being flown to Vanderbilt. Dropping everything, he raced to the hospital. Upon seeing him enter the hospital counseling room, the grieving father could only say, “Pastor, he’s in a better place.” And while they wept and wept, their pastor was there. Why? Because he’s their pastor.

Posted in Culture, Denominational Life, Family, Pastor | Comments closed

We work together better as a ‘Team of Teams’

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Was it just the churches where I served as pastor or is it the case in most churches that getting the music ministry and the children’s ministry on the same page can be a struggle?

Was it only in my churches that the Sunday School director and the youth ministry leaders, at times, seemed to have uniquely different and conflicting views of Sunday School in the youth department?

Maybe I was the only pastor who dealt with this, but it seemed that the deacons and personnel committee didn’t always see eye to eye on church staffing issues and the women’s ministry and the WMU could, at times, be on a different page.

And yet, everyone was a member of the same church and working toward the same ultimate goal of sharing the gospel with the lost in our community.

In Philippians 1:27, Paul writes, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” Paul strongly desires for the members of the church to work together.

In John 17, Jesus prays for his church, “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Jesus’ prayer shows us that the unity of the church is a testimony to the world of his identity as the Messiah and to the truth of the gospel.

I recently read the book Team of Teams. The lead author, Stanley McChrystal, is a retired four-star general whose last assignment was as the commander of all American and coalition forces in Afghanistan. McChrystal writes about how the deadliest, best trained, and most well-equipped fighting force in the history of war was struggling to defeat a group of poorly trained and scarcely resourced insurgents known as Al Qaeda in Iraq. Each branch of the U.S. military had highly-specialized and tremendously effective teams, but each of those teams functioned in its own strict command and control system. Those systems left them too siloed and too slow to react in the complex environment of urban warfare, terror cells, and the enemy’s ability to instantly communicate across a vast grid of online networks.

Here is McChrystal’s assessment of the situation:

“On its own, each team exhibited horizontal bonds of trust and a common sense of purpose … meaningful relationships between teams were nonexistent … to each unit, the piece of the war that really mattered was the piece inside their box on the org chart; they were fighting their own fights in their own silos.”

What it took for the U.S. military to succeed against Al Qaeda in Iraq was a transformation of those independent teams into what McChrystal calls a “Team of teams,” where everyone kept the mission first and committed to work together to accomplish it.

That struck a chord with me as I thought about our work in churches and our work at KBC. The local church with her various ministries and the churches of Kentucky, all working together, are an amazing Team of Teams. We are seeking to accomplish the ultimate mission of sharing the gospel with a lost and dying world. Kentucky Baptists, as we continue to work hard to work together, I am confident God will continue to use us to see that the mission is accomplished!

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2018 will be an exciting year for Kentucky Baptists churches

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As Kentucky Baptists begin our 181st year of cooperative mission work we are humbled and grateful to steward a Kingdom effort that has spanned the better part of two centuries. Only God could number those who will gather to sing praises unto the Lamb of Glory because of the testimony and generosity of Kentucky Baptists. Might His name be forever praised!

Looking toward another exciting year of ministry, one of the highlights of 2018 will be taking the KBC annual meeting to Pikeville. Our KBC staff team will be working with Directors of Missions and associations of churches on Crossover evangelistic events and an outreach visitation campaign. Plans are being laid for an evangelistic crusade at the convention center on Sunday evening, Nov. 11. We’ll invite 200 pastors from across the state to serve as decision counselors and incorporate local churches in the effort. This will be a big deal. We will also be encouraging local church revivals in the region. Our prayer is that this time next year our Baptist churches in the mountains will have been encouraged and blessed by the efforts and that many will have come to know Christ.

As we begin the process of budgeting for this year, I recall a Sunday School lesson I once heard taught on tithing. The teacher humbly and honestly admitted he wasn’t there yet but was working his way up to tithing. He was a successful businessman from a wealthy family. A few years later, while visiting a homebound saint in a small, dilapidated house, and leaving with a tithing envelope in my hand, I was taught a better lesson. That full tithe was given from a meager social security check and even more meager pension still paid by her dead husband’s employer. Her gift to the Lord directly impacted what groceries could be found in the kitchen pantry. And that envelope helped me understand the careful stewardship required by those who manage the resources of the Lord’s churches.

From the resources churches give through the Cooperative Program, we continue to see Kentucky Baptists reach new heights in their mission work. With ministries like Sunrise and University of the Cumberlands literally tripling the number of people they serve, with 50 church plants currently being funded, KBC Disaster Relief volunteers helping in Jesus name from Kentucky to Cape Town, and the calendar filled with church revitalization and evangelistic training events, God’s blessing upon the work is unquestionable. The convention has also significantly increased its commitment to fund missions and ministry outside of Kentucky, forwarding more money than ever before to support our International Mission Board missionaries, the church planting work of the North American Mission Board, and approximately 20,000 seminary students honing their skills to serve the Church.

These are just a few of the highlights of all the ways God is using KBC churches in our cooperative missions giving and going. It continues to be a good day to be a Kentucky Baptist!



Posted in Church Planting, Churches, Cooperative Program, Crossings, Disaster Relief, International Mission Board, Kentucky Baptist Convention, Missions, North American Mission Board, Personal Reflections, Stewardship, Sunrise Children's Services, University of the Cumberlands | Comments closed

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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