Turnaround Denominations

By Clint Cook

In his 2010 book entitled Breakout Churches, Thom Rainer studied churches that had gone from declining attendance to unprecedented growth.  What Thom and his research team discovered was a statistical approach to identifying key patterns and characteristics common in churches that experience turnarounds.  I certainly enjoyed reading this insightful book.

Reflecting upon this issue, I started looking at our General Baptist network of churches.  When looking closely at our denomination, one would discover that even though we are making great strides in church planting and international missions, we still find ourselves facing areas of decline.  This is a very disheartening observation, but as Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, recommends, we church leaders must confront brutal facts so that we can push forward to advance the Great Commission.

So what would it take to turn around an entire denomination?  How can we realize unprecedented growth, resulting in more and more people hearing the message of Christ?

First, I believe it requires very focused prayer. Summit Clint Prayer If there is one thing we can discover from the Bible it is that God chose to work only as God’s people prayed.  Today, He has chosen to limit his work until pastors, church leaders, and church members pray.  Many verses come to mind to support this, but perhaps it is said best in 2 Chronicles 7:14:

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Second, I believe it would require church leaders to have a “holy discontent”, a dissatisfaction with the status quo in their church.  As Rainer writes, “It is a sin to be good if God calls you to be great!”  This is especially true living in a world with so many who need to hear the Gospel!  As a pastor, I understand and believe in the need to provide care for church members; but as Jesus reminds us, we must also be passionate about reaching those who do not yet believe the gospel.  This requires church leaders who will exhibit bold faith and a willingness to take risks.  I know there is criticism with this idea, and that we must not be “numbers-driven,” but we cannot forget that behind every number is a soul, and every person won to Christ is therefore a number in God’s Kingdom.  Jim Garlow, pastor and speaker, has said that in any organization someone needs to stay focused on the numbers.

Third, I believe it would require pastors and church leaders to humble themselves and be willing to be trained and coached.  Church work in the 21st century has to be approached differently and in a more strategic and efficient manner.  This is more true today than perhaps at any other time in the history of the church.  I can personally testify to the benefits of receiving coaching and the impact it has had on the church I have pastored for 29 years.  I have also been privileged to coach more than 100 p 18-19 workshopchurches over the past five years and am amazed to hear their inspiring stories.  Many of these churches were plateaued or declining, but are now experiencing growth with conversions and baptisms.  Their ability to embrace and implement new concepts with a renewed passion to reach their communities has caused me to have hope for more and more General Baptist churches to have similar results.  This is also the reasoning behind the decision to change our national meeting from the G.A. (three-day business session) to the Summit, which is a training environment where we receive encouragement through worship as well as training and resources that can automatically be implemented into our churches.

General Baptists are at a critical crossroads.  We must do something now to turnaround our denomination.  Pastors and church leaders, it is of great importance that you take the time to pray diligently and resolve to be trained and coached so you may fully attain God’s purpose for your church.  Church member, it is essential that you pray and support your church leadership and present a strong, united front to Satan.

Over the next few weeks I will break down the changes, vision, and determination essential to becoming a turnaround denomination.

Family Does Matter

By Franklin Dumond

The concept of family continues to change in our secular culture. Despite the rapidly changing dimensions of nuclear family, however, a genuine sense of family continues to characterize our Christian gatherings. Bill Gaither wrote a description a generation ago that continues to be descriptive of local churches and other gatherings of like-minded believers: “You will notice we say brother and sister around here, it’s because we are family and these folks are so dear.”

During our recent international General Baptist gathering, the Mission & Ministry Summit, the sense of family could be felt everywhere. I saw it in at least four variations.

1. There was the atmosphere of a family reunion during hallway chats, shared meals, and photos exchanged by folks who had not seen each other recently and were now able to get reacquainted. During our new afternoon break in the exhibit hall and our reception in honor of our missionaries, even more of this family reunion atmosphere was present.

2. There was the discovery of new friends and acquaintances that added to the family connection. With several hundred church leaders present it was obvious that not everyone knew everyone else, but it is always amazing to find that we have so much in common—once we get acquainted.Summit Crowd Prayer

Since I travel throughout the denomination I am acquainted with several folks. It was my delight to introduce two of our pastors to one another late one evening. They were standing on either end of the lobby and as I walked by I realized “They are both originally from Canada and probably don’t know they form a Canadian caucus among General Baptists!” What a surprise to learn that they had both immigrated to the United States in the same year and had both become naturalized citizens in the South.

3. Family also shows itself in the shared tasks that require cooperation. As I lookedour GB family comes together to complete tasks around the exhibit hall before the Summit began I saw a group of folks organizing one of the T-shirt tables. Sitting on the floor, working at a table, or reaching into boxes I saw folks from several states sharing the load. Then, just next to Executive Director Clint Cook sat Jemima Prakash from India. She was just as busy folding and organizing T-shirts as everyone else was. Isn’t it incredible that our General Baptist family is international in scope?

The worship team that lead our main sessions showed that same sense of family cooperation. Musicians from four different churches each brought their gifts and talents and worked together to lead us in praise.

On Tuesday evening we joined as one large family to pray a blessing over our Summit Clint Prayermissionaries and church planters. These folks assembled at the front while we all crowded around them. I looked out at the crowd and noticed that joining in our prayers for these missionaries was Dr. David Cummings. He was our guest speaker from Australia, but on Tuesday evening he became part of the family as we prayed for God’s blessings on our missionary spokesmen.

I loved the way Moderator Elect Josh Carpenter summarized his experience in 1999. He attended the old General Association meetings that year for the first time. There, he admitted, he found a connection to the larger family of General Baptists.

Cousins of mine recently showed up at the family reunion. As one of them reported, “I baked my casserole and hurried to the meeting place.” She went on to say, “There sure seemed to be a different crowd this year and one of the ladies kept quizzing me about the family.” Finally she discovered she had the right place and had baked the proper casserole but had come one month early. She concluded her story with a quick laugh as she summarized the event by saying, “No wonder they asked so many questions!” Among General Baptists there is a common connection that binds us together—even if we arrive at the wrong time!

In an increasingly secular culture there will always be many dimensions to family, but among General Baptists there remains a deep sense of family. We remain connected by that core theology that Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man. Aren’t you glad he has included you in the family?

The Journey

By Patti Thornton

The journey to El Paso, Texas was almost as long as the flight to the Philippines, and seating space in the two cars that burned up the road between small town Missouri and the desert city was about as spacious as a standard airline seat.  But the comparison ends there; we didn’t have to pull the shades to fool our bodies into nighttime rest, and we slept overnight in a horizontal position with real pillows and a shower shared by just a few in a roadside hotel.

Still, it was a long drive.  It was fascinating to watch the landscape change from the green, rolling hills of southwest Missouri, to the endless flat-ness of Oklahoma, to the sandy, stark brown-ness of southern Texas.  And every town we passed through was home to a myriad of churches.

On Monday, we crossed the United States border.

mexico 1Geographically speaking, El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico are no different.  With the exception of meticulously watered landscapes of affluent homes and businesses in Texas, sightings of green in the brownish-grays of sand, dirt and concrete are rare.  Honestly, there is very little change in culture as you cross the Rio Grande from a mostly Hispanic population in an American state to that of Mexico.

But there IS a difference.  The further we drove into Mexico, the more obvious it became; both economically and spiritually.  The Bible Belt’s church on every corner was replaced by Tienditas (small convenience stores) as the subdivisions of the United States gave way to the “colonias” of Mexico.

Pastor Pedro and Elida Quezada have been trekking across the border almost daily for years.  With hearts swollen huge with love for a people of few resources, opportunities, or churches, they have been watching the ripe sheaves of harvest wave in the wind of a swollen field, desperate for harvesters. the people of Juarez make the journey to a small stucco house for worship

Not only does Pastor Pedro successfully pastor a packed house of dedicated workers at Agua Viva General Baptist Church in Juarez, but  this church has planted another ministry further into the city that meets in a borrowed stucco home smaller than most of your garages.  There, in the midst of a colony of such homes where no other church exists, residents (mostly children and women) follow the sounds of worship music to activities in the front sand yard as if the Pied Piper had beckoned them.  And there, ministry happens.

Stumbling over language barriers, our small team of seven (bolstered by two when Sid and Wilbur joined us as driving, packing, hauling, praying, fixing companions extraordinaire) was privileged to worship, play, craft, dispense school supplies and snacks, and huddle closely together as a sudden storm chased all 80 or so of us inside the small house.

Our team was unique in its makeup.  Of the seven of us, only one had never traveled outside the U.S. With three former missionaries and two repeat MVP teamers along, there was plenty of experience to go around.  And that experience validates our excitement for the ministry potential in Mexico.the long journey to Juarez was well worth the time and effort for the WM MVP team

There are many opportunities for you to partner in this ministry that crosses geographical borders, as well as other burgeoning ministries within our denomination that speak to the  relevance of Hispanic ministry in these times.  Start listening as the Holy Spirit calls harvesters to gather.

If you would like to know more about the many ways that you can partner with General Baptist mission efforts in Mexico and all around the globe, visit www.generalbaptist.com or call 573-785-7746.

Let’s GO!

By Clint Cook

I recently had a phone conversation with Carl Nichols (the chair of the National Missions Advisory Team) to receive an update on our upcoming Church Planter Assessment, which is essentially a boot camp for prospective church planters.  It was exciting to hear about our current prospects and how God is already making a way for us to accomplish the GO Project.

Carl Nichols discusses the new church planting initiative (GO Project) at the 2014 Summit.The GO Project is our National Missions five-year initiative to start 15 new churches. While this seems like an aggressive goal for General Baptists, we have to have vision and faith as leaders to achieve our objective.  However, we must also realize our limitations. God is the one who must call up men and women, husbands and wives, to take on these assignments.  Not only must the GO Project have the call of God upon it, our National Missions Department must determine if a prospective planter’s gifting is a good fit for church planting and the demands that will be placed upon them, or if they may be better suited for other types of ministry.  If we do not align ourselves to His plan, the 15 churches will not be accomplished.

In Acts 16:9, we find the outline for church planting, “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”  God issued the call to GO, He had gifted and equipped the burdened individuals with the specific skills and talents needed to plant a new church, and He revealed the location of where He wanted the new church to be started.  That’s the Lord’s part.

We are not all church planters, but all of us still have a part. As in Matthew 9:38, we are to “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send our laborers into his harvest.”  As individual General Baptists, our responsibility is to pray.  We must pray that God issues the call to prospective candidates and that they respond to His call, pray that He fine-tunes their gifts for church planting, and pray that He reveals the location of the church plant.  Unless all of these criteria are met, the GO Project is merely a collection of words on paper.

These are exciting days to be partnering with God to fulfill the Great Commission in our generation. God will surely do His part, and we must be faithful to do our part by responding as Isaiah did in Isaiah 6:8-9, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here I am! Send me.’ And he said Go.”

Let’s GO!

What I Learned from Walt Disney

By Brandon Petty

I can still remember the first time I watched Disney Channel.  I was a young boy and visiting my aunt’s house. It was like Christmas, watching cartoons like Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse Club. Remember that one? M-I-C-K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E! Mickey Mouse! (Donald Duck), Mickey Mouse!  That one might show my age a little bit, but I loved watching it.  To me, Disney Channel had this magical feeling when you would sit down and watch it.  We didn’t have the channel at my house, so whenever I was able to watch it, I felt as if I was a part of the magic.

A few weeks ago my family and I were able to go to Disney World for the first time.  My wife had visited in high school, but for me and my girls, this was the first time.  We were blessed by generous friends with five days of park passes to Disney World.  This was definitely a dream come true for me as well as my kids.  I had no idea what to expect, but what I experienced made me think about what I could learn from Disney and how it applies to the church. Here are a few things that I learned:

A Vision Embraced by Others Will Never Die

Walt envisioned Disney World but never got to see it.It’s amazing to think that Disney World was built after Walt Disney died. Most of what we see in Disney’s mainstream success today is the result of a dream that Disney never got to see in person.  But he envisioned it way before it ever happened.  One of the men who helped design Magic Kingdom is quoted as saying; “It’s too bad that Walt never got to see this.”   To which someone replied, “He did…that’s why it’s here.”

A powerful dream and vision that is embraced and lived out by others can never die.  Think of the vision that Jesus had for the church. Upon His death and resurrection only 150 people called themselves believers.  Now there are millions of believers all over the world!  That is the reason we encourage every GC owner at our church to own the vision.  It’s yours, too!  This church is not about my agenda.  It’s about a vision that was given by God and intended for others to live out and fight for with all of our being.  The most wasteful thing we can do with our lives is living them out without ever giving ourselves over to a vision that’s larger than us.

Be Excellent in the Details

My mind was blown at the details inside each theme park.  Every single employee, from the security guards to the tram workers, called each kid a “prince” or “princess”.  Every single employee.  Each employee had the title “cast member.”  And a person dressed up as a character never stepped out of that character, even if they Characters at Disney World never break out of their role.were talking to an adult.  We even played an interactive Perry the Platypus spy game in which our kids were handed actual cell phones and we had to complete a mission in Epcot.  At each meeting spot, a different element of the park would come to life by pressing a button on this phone…it was incredibly creative!  From the thoughtfully shaded areas for waiting in lines, to the parades, fireworks, and character meet and greets, our walk in the humidity was worth it.

What if every single week, we served people in our church with that kind of attention to detail?  What if we served people with that kind of joy and passion?  From the parking lot to our kids’ ministry, we should come ready to make it the highlight of every single person’s week.  It’s easy for us to get caught up in the weekly routine of doing what we do on a Sunday, but we only do it once a week.  These people do it every single day.  As a church that has the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us, we should be even more excellent than Disney.  After all, we have so much more to offer than a child’s theme park.  We have the greatest hope on the face of the planet!

No One Wants to Leave

Orlando, Florida has intense humidity in the summer.  Every single day by four or five o’clock, rain would come in a downpour.  And every single day, people bought ponchos, used umbrellas, or simply walked around soaked.  Rides would shut down temporarily, and yet people waited.  No one wanted to leave.

Some people may wake up on a rainy Sunday and re-think the whole church thing.  But what if the church worshiped, served, and loved with such passion and energy that people never wanted to miss it or leave?  I think of moments in Scripture where believers wouldn’t let prison, persecution, or trials keep them from coming together to worship God and serve others.  They even met in underground cemeteries to hide from such persecution because they never wanted to miss an opportunity to worship and fellowship.  I want to be that kind of church.

Exhausted, but Worth It

If you’ve ever been to Disney World, especially for multiple days in a row, then you know one thing is true: you will be exhausted!  The walking, sweating, carrying your kids when they’re tired of walking, waiting in long lines, running to your fast pass lines, and did I mention SWEATING?  But we kept going back.  We got up early and stayed late.  We would be sore, stinky, and sleepy and yet we stayed longer.  Yet we kept going because at the end of the day, it was fun and worth it.

How many of us quit the church the moment we get tired?  The moment that things get tough in our lives, the church is the first thing The Disney castle is a symbol of the vision of Walt Disney.that gets crossed off of our list.  We quit serving, giving, and attending worship services.  We throw out terms like “burned out,” but our calendars are still full of other “stuff.”  I long for a church of believers that keep going no matter how tired we get, because we realize IT IS WORTH IT.  It’s worth our time, energy, sweat, emotion, investment, and frustrations.  It’s all worth it.  I can’t look at the image of our Savior nailed to an old, wooden cross and tell Him, “Sorry, I’m tired from doing too much stuff.” I just can’t.  I read about the saints before us who gave their lives so that we could live out their faith today.  What we do matters WAY more than what Disney is doing or will ever do.  I want to be able to keep going in those times of doubt and frustration, because at the end of the day it will be fun and definitely worth it.

I absolutely loved seeing my kids enjoy the vacation of a lifetime. I was grateful for the generous gift that made it possible.  But all of that pales in comparison to how much I love Jesus and His church. As we left Magic Kingdom on our last night, they began playing the music to When You Wish Upon a Star. I stood there looking up at that grand castle. I thought about how amazing it is to experience a dead man’s dream and how hard he worked to see it continue after his death. But we’ve been handed a dream by the only man to ever conquer death. His dream lives on just as He lives.

I pray that we could all take a lesson from the Walt Disney experience. But most of all, I pray we catch a much larger vision for a much greater purpose.

Older Now But Not Old

By Franklin Dumond

I’m older now. It seems to have happened all too rapidly, but I now show every minute of my 39+ years. I’m older now and I can look past 44 years of ministry to memories of that first summer of church camp ministry. As a teenaged college student, they trusted me with Flannel graphs are old and outdated nowelementary school children.

I used the cutting edge tool of flannel graph technology to share the gospel. Those colorful backgrounds and the pre-printed cut outs of biblical characters did the work, and about two dozen students responded to the Good News.

I’m older now but the gospel is not old and outdated. I saw it again this summer at our National Youth Conference. More than 1,000 teens and their sponsors listened to Brandon Petty share the gospel. He used the cutting edge technology of multi-media, on-stage props, and a working microphone to share the message of who Jesus is and how everyone can be connected to Him. Hundreds of teens responded with new or renewed commitments to surrender to Jesus Christ. Nearly 50 of them made a first time profession of faith!

I’m not sure what cutting edge techniques will arrive next to advance the cause of the gospel. The printing press, religious art, Camp Meetings, bus routes, radio broadcasts, television programs and movies have all been cutting edge tools used at one time or another to advance the cause of Christ.

Now a new wave of digital communication and social media advances the cause. Despite the varieties of tools that will develop, however, the message of “one Savior crucified, risen and coming again” will always remain true. Elmer Towns says it so well:

“Methods are many, principles are few.

Methods may change but principles never do”

The message of a General Atonement—Jesus Christ by the grace of God tasted death for every man—has not and will not change. Aren’t you glad that it does not become old and outdated?

Thriving or Surviving

By Tim Reese

The song Thrive by Casting Crowns includes the lyrics:Casting Crowns wrote 'Thrive'

“We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives
It’s time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive”

In life and ministry I have often found myself just surviving when overwhelmed by life’s demands, a need for personal spiritual growth, family responsibilities, ministry needs, and a changing workplace environment.

All too often it seems as if I am just trying to survive-to balance all life’s demands, to keep my head above water.  When I heard this song I could not help but think of my own life and wonder why I do not feel like I am thriving. Are we really made to thrive?  As I wrestled with this for a few days, God began revealing to me that we are! In 1 Peter 2:16 God says “Live as people who are free…as servants of God”.

Thrive: to grow or develop well.

We need to keep the definition of thrive in mind. It is not a feeling or status in our culture but rather a status with God. When we look at Jesus’ life, we can see that He thrived and did not try to just get by. We cannot say that we have more on our plate than He had. With family turmoil, social turmoil, and the knowledge on the upcoming sacrifice for the world’s sins, He really did have the world on His shoulders.

So how do we thrive? Here are three suggestions.

1.  Listen to God and others. For me this is a learned task that I am still learning. A lot of stress in this life can be decreased if we would listen to God and those around us. This helps us work through life situations by not trying to take on problems by ourselves, but by praying and listening for God’s direction. All too often we talk at God and not with Him. We also need to listen to those around us. For example: when my wife has a problem I feel the need to fix it. (Often without listening to her actual needs, I am already ahead of her and assessing the problem that I think she needs “fixed”.) Jesus says in John 18:37 “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” An important part to thriving and not just surviving is to hear what it is that God wants us to say or do in all situations.  We also need to be listening to those around us to see what they need and how we need to respond to them. Whether that is with our spouse, kids, co-workers or fellow brothers or sisters in Christ, we must listen.

2. List your priorities. A way to reduce anxiety and to thrive is to prioritize our life. What’s most important? “The Enemy of the best is the good. ” -Jerry Rice. As pastors and leaders within the Church it is easy to become so busy with many “good” things that we become God's Word makes it plain that we are to thriveoverwhelmed and miss out on God’s best calling for our lives.

Listening to God’s Word shows us what should be our first and second priorities in Matthew 22:37 & 39 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” God says that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. If we are not loving ourselves and are neglecting our needs and our family’s needs because we are so busy loving everyone else then that is neglecting what scripture teaches on how we are to lead our lives. When we put those two highest on our list of priorities then we will be in a mindset to follow God’s perfect direction in all other areas of our lives. Thus, being able to grow (thrive) in Him.

3. Live life accordingly. In order to thrive, or to grow and develop well, we must live both in God’s promises and in His perfect will.  We see just as God promised Joshua that He would not leave or forsake him, so we can trust that He will also be with us! We are NOT alone and we need to cherish and trust that promise. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:31 that whatever we do, do all to the glory of God.  In all situations in our lives if we are going to thrive, then our aim must be to glorify our Creator and Savior! Without that we are not going to grow and mature as God desires.  He has plans for all of us. The question is:  Are we listening for God’s guidance in those plans? Are we making God’s plans a priority?  And are we living out those plans?

When we look at the world’s definitions of thriving, (big house, nice car, good paying job) we will always fall short and be discontent with our lives. The world’s definition is a moving target.  When John D. Rockefeller was asked the question, “How much money is enough?” his response was, “Just a little bit more. ” This will be our answer as well if we are living by the world’s definition of thrive.  As Christians, we will be frustrated with God because in our eyes we aren’t thriving like we think we should. In reality, God reveals how He wants us to thrive in 1 Peter 2:2 “Like newborn infants, long for the spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation”. God wants us to be with Him! How much more thriving could we need?  God created us to be in a thriving relationship with Him. Are you trying to just survive this life on your own or thrive in an intimate relationship with your Savior?

Originally from central Illinois Tim Reese came to Christ at White River Youth Camp after moving to Southwest Missouri. He and his wife have served in youth ministry at Nixa General Baptist Church since 2011.

8 Ways to Help Your Church Maintain a Missional Focus (Part 2)

By John M Galyen

Since its inception, the church has been focused on outward expansion.  We seek to win people to Christ, not just to have bigger churches or more volunteers for ministry, but because we serve a missionary God who is in the sending business.  God sent his Son to redeem us and provide a relationship with himself.  Now he sends the Church to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to a world in desperate need of a Savior.

The local church is charged with the responsibility of spreading the gospel both locally and globally.  For many churches and church leaders this may seem like an impossible task.  How can a small church is Arkansas, or Missouri, or Kentucky reach the world with the gospel?  Obviously, no church can single-handedly reach the world, but we each have a part to play in God’s plan to redeem every nation, tribe, and tongue.  As a pastor, I want to make sure my church is engaged in local ministry, but I also want to lead them to give to, pray for, and go to all nations because this is what we are called to do.  Last week, I outlined 4 ways that church leaders can help their congregation stay focused on the true mission of the church.  This week, I will go over 4 other ways to keep missions in the forefront of your church’s mind.

5. Read Scripture in Different Languages

Another important part of worship is Scripture reading.  In his book, Worship Matters, author Bob Kauflin suggests a creative way to use Scripture readings to emphasize God’s mission:  Have someone read Scripture in a different language.  This helps remind people that there are believers all across the globe who are worshiping the same God we serve.  If you have a member who can read Spanish, or French, or Russian, invite them to do a reading and then have someone else read the same passage in English.  Though few people in the service may understand the foreign language, they will appreciate the creative reminder that God is not limited in the ways we are and that someday a great crowd will gather around the heavenly throne to proclaim God’s praise in every language.

6. Flags or Banners

Flags or banners can be used to visually remind the church of its missional focus.  The church I serve is planning to hang flags for each country that a member of our congregation has visited on a mission trip.  Over the past couple of years, we have had teams or individuals serve in eight different countries.  We will spend a whole service hanging these flags and reminding the congregation of our missionary missionstask as we point them to the God who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”  The flags are not mere trophies celebrating our achievements, but are intended to remind our people of the unfinished task of reaching the world, and to encourage them to pray that the good news will spread widely through these particular nations.  Such a display will not only remind the congregation of their calling, but will also let visitors know that yours is a local church with a global vision.

7.Guest Speakers

Inviting special guests, such as stateside missionaries, is another way to promote a missional focus in your church.  This takes a bit of planning and promotion, but General Baptist missionaries love to visit local churches to share about their work.  During the summer, many missionaries come home to attend the Summit, meaning your church has the incredible opportunity to hear from an active missionary fresh off the field.  Missionaries usually need more notice than you average guest speaker, so consider contacting the International Missions department (www.generalbaptist.com or 573-785-7746) early in the summer to see what missionaries are available to speak to your church while they are home.  Have them share about their work and challenge your church to get more involved with GB missions.

Four young women from our church went on the Women’s Ministries mission trip to India last October.  When they share with our church about GB work in this faraway land, our church responded by voting to financially support the Vemulas.  Recently, Jessey and Brittany Vemula were able to join us on a Sunday morning to share about what God is doing in India.  Again, our church responded by increasing their support for the Vemula’s ministry.  Hearing from an actual missionary on the field is very powerful.  Give you people that change so they can get a glimpse of what God is doing around the world and how they can join Him.

8.  Budgeting & Special Offerings

Your church’s budget reflects your priorities.  Read that sentence again.  Sobering, isn’t it?  Churches spend a lot of money each year on Sunday School literature, media presentations, activities, and local outreach.  None of those things are bad.  But in order for our budgets to be biblically balanced, we need to spend our resources reaching people both locally and globally.  That may mean leading your church to participate in Unified Giving or the annual Ed Steven’s Day Offering.  Ideally, each GB church will do both.  You can teach the kids (and adults) in your church about missions by designating your VBS offering to the annual GBIM project (this year’s project is a new van for Faith Home).  Whatever your level of giving, make sure your church is supporting mission causes that are focused on sharing the gospel and planting churches in unreached areas of the world.  When you give to missions, you are not just donating; you are investing in someone’s eternity.

This list is by no means exhaustive.  I encourage you to think of other ways you could lead your church to maintain a missional focus.  What is more important is that each General Baptist church establishes and maintains a commitment to spreading the gospel at home and abroad.  Our calling to spread the gospel is not an either/or proposition.  We cannot choose whether to reach people at home or around the world.  Every church is called to do whatever it can, by God’s grace, to take the whole gospel to the whole world.

John is the pastor of Leigh’s Chapel General Baptist Church in Greenville, Kentucky, where he has served for the past 8 years.  He is married, and has four sons.  For more information about General Baptist International and National work, visit www.generalbaptist.com or call 573-785-7746. 

8 Ways to Help Your Church Maintain a Missional Focus (Part 1)

By John M Galyen

Since its inception, the church has been focused on outward expansion.  We seek to win people to Christ, not just to have bigger churches or more volunteers for ministry, but because we serve a missionary God who is in the sending business.  God sent his Son to redeem us and provide a relationship with himself.  Now he sends the Church to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to a world in desperate need of a Savior.

The local church must maintain a missional focus, for both local and global missions.The local church is charged with the responsibility of spreading the gospel both locally and globally.  For many churches and church leaders this may seem like an impossible task.  How can a small church is Arkansas, or Missouri, or Kentucky reach the world with the gospel?  Obviously, no church can single-handedly reach the world, but we each have a part to play in God’s plan to redeem every nation, tribe, and tongue.  As a pastor, I want to make sure my church is engaged in local ministry, but I also want to lead them to give to, pray for, and go to all nations because this is what we are called to do.  There are at least eight ways church leaders can encourage their churches to maintain this missional focus.

1. Preaching

Pastors have a tremendous opportunity to influence their church’s understanding of missions.  You might consider having an annual “Missions Day” at your church where the entire service, including the sermon, is focused on informing and challenging the congregation to live a missional life.  If you are the pastor, either prepare a message that speaks to the Church’s calling to share the gospel, or invite a GBIM staff member to come talk to your church about how they can get involved in international missions.

2. Promote Mission Opportunities

When is the last time you publicized General Baptist mission opportunities in your church?  General Baptists provide numerous opportunities for mission involvement throughout the year.  The Mission Volunteer Program (MVP) plans trips to countries like Mexico, Honduras, the Philippines, and India, among others.  You can learn about these opportunities from the weekly Leadership Team emails, The Messenger, or by contacting GBIM.  Promoting these trips provides church members with valuable information, but also gives them the sense that they can become personally involved in what General Baptists are doing around the world.

3. Testimonies

As people from your church take advantage of these MVP opportunities, you will want to provide them the chance to share their experiences.  One of the greatest advertisements for missions in the local church is a testimony from someone who has “been there and done that.”  Hearing from a fellow church member who just got back from a trip where she worked in a clinic and shared gospel with people in another context can be a very impactful way to remind people of our Great Commission calling.  A testimony service is also a great way to glorify God and let the church know what the team members did while on the mission field.  It can be a fantastic way to remind the church that missions are an important part of your church culture.

4. Prayer

Prayer is an important part of our worship.  As we gather from Sunday to Sunday, one way to help people stay focused on the Church’s mission is to include a time of prayer that focuses on a person, country, or people group that needs to hear the good news.  You could spend a little time doing this each Sunday, or set aside a special prayer time monthly or quarterly.  If your church is sponsoring a GB missionary, do more than just mail in your check.  Take time to pray from them and the work God has called them to do.  You can even make your people aware of Operation World or joshuaproject.net so they can pray for foreign nations during their personal quiet time.

John is the pastor of Leigh’s Chapel in Greenville, Kentucky, where he has served for the past 8 years.  Check back on Thursday for Part 2 of his article on the Church’s mission. 

California

By Carl Nichols

Recently, a General Baptist team including Clint Cook, Gene Koker, and I traveled to the great state of California to meet with and encourage our churches there.  I had the opportunity to meet some very dear friends and partners in the gospel.  We started out in Modesto and spent a day discussing church planting with Jim Julian.  Jim’s heart for God and people is incredible, and I cannot wait to see what happens as a result of our time together.pastors in California sharing a message bilingually

We managed to squeeze in a bit of site seeing on the great Pacific Coast Highway as we traveled south to Los Angeles.  It was only 11 hours later that we arrived in L.A. for a series of meetings the following day.  Did I mention it was ELEVEN HOURS?

Upon arrival in Los Angeles, we spent the day with Bruce Conran and Rene Rodriguez, along with nearly a dozen Hispanic, Filipino, and Korean pastors from south L.A.  I must admit that there are some cool things happening there and I wanted to share a few of them with you:

  • El Instituto Biblio de Asociacion Sheffield (The Sheffield Association Bible Institute), led by Rene Rodriguez, is training individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary for ministry
  • Seven churches have started out of the Bible Institute in the past few years
  • Hundreds of lives are being changed in our churches there, and nearly all of them are led by part-time or volunteer pastors
  • The next generation of leaders from these families point to a great future

When I began leading National Mission as part of the advisory team, we made it a priority to have a better understanding of what is happening in California.  Now we are making a commitment to ensure that the pastors who put in countless hours a week for the gospel know that they have our full support and prayers.  I would also appreciate YOUR prayers for our brothers and sisters in the gospel in California, and for the work they are doing for the kingdom.