Radical – The Book

The WMU vision statement says that WMU challenges Christian believers to understand and be radically involved in the mission of God.  From believing that women had a role in the Great Commission, finding ways to support missionaries when women had little income of their own, to dreaming global sized dreams, WMU has been radical.  WMU has never been satisfied with groups that are self-focused.  Always our purpose has been on finding ways to share the gospel and minister to people in need.

Yet, even with these noble goals, there are times that we become self-satisfied, content with projects that are not difficult. Content with sending items but not going in person.  Sometimes our prayer times are routine rather than truly crying out to God for the salvation of the lost, for unreached people groups, and for our missionaries.  And in far too many churches, we have become apathetic about teaching Great Commission values to our children.  The decline in missions education for preschoolers, children, and youth points to something that is less than radical.

Radical – Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt is a must read.  I purchased it over the weekend and could not put it down.  David verbalized the longings of my heart for a radical faith.  I am weary of business as usual – in my church, in WMU, in my own personal walk of faith.  David has captured in his short book what abandonment to Jesus looks like. 

Many in WMU are already living the radical faith David describes.  I see it in ministries that change lives and in the way I hear some women pray when I am with them.  But I also hear from WMU folks that are discouraged, wanting WMU to be the vibrant, radical avenue for Great Commission living that they long for.

I recommend Radical for personal reflection and even for group study.  After challenging his readers as to what radical looks like, David offers a one-year life experiment with four challenges.  The interesting thing about these challenges is that they are exactly in keeping with what WMU has always taught – study God’s Word, pray, give, go, and be a part of a multiplying congregation.  But sometimes we need to hear it again from another perspective. 

Radical by David Platt, copyright 2010, Multnomah Books.  Available at LifeWay.

Baptist Women’s World Day of Prayer

Having been to Korea and Indonesia this summer, I am mindful of the connection we have with Baptist women around the world.  I support the Baptist Women’s World Day of Prayer because on this one day, Baptist women in seven continental unions are utilizing the same materials and praying together for critical needs.

The 2010 Baptist Women’s World Day of Prayer theme is “In Step with the Spirit,” based on Galatians 5:25, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”  The Baptist Women’s World Day of Prayer is traditionally observed on the first Monday of November, which this year is November 1, 2010. The one-day prayer observance has also expanded to include, in some situations, a weekend prayer retreat, special activities for the entire church, and other opportunities throughout the month of November. The state of women in the world makes it essential for Baptist women to come together for one day or during the entire month of November to pray and give so that our world will be impacted for Christ.

I challenge you to participate in a Day of Prayer Observance at your church or in your association.  In many places of the world, women  walk great distances or travel by bus or other public transportation to participate.  Can we not give an hour for prayer with our Baptist sisters around the world?

For more information, go to www.kywmu.org/dayofprayer.

The Story of WMU

I have been asked to serve on the next national WMU Missionscast Committee. This group will meet in November to set the theme and emphasis for 2012-14. This includes the sesquicentennial celebration of WMU in 2013.  We have been asked to read The Story of WMU,  a history of WMU written by Rosalie Hunt. Let me encourage you to read it. Even though I read A Century to Celebrate in 1988, which is a more detailed history of WMU, I still have found this read to be informative and it takes us to the present in WMU history.

Several key things that I have been reminded of:
– Box work has always been vital to WMU.  In the early years, WMUers sent boxes of supplies to Home Missionaries who were struggling financially. In fact, the value of the boxes raised the average missionary salary by 25%.  We do it now through Christmas in August and ministries such as Operation Christmas Child.
– Before WMU was organized, the issue of the appropriate roles for women in the SBC has always been polarizing.  When Joshua Levering, Annie Armstrong’s cousin, pressed for HMB to hire a woman to help organize women’s groups, opponents objected.  The women did not press the issue but rather prayed. The tension affected giving.  Finally, the women agreed to organize in such a way that they would not interfere with the work of the mission boards. Annie’s sister, Alice, flooded Baptist papers with articles on the history and vision for women’s work for missions. She laid down the bottom line:  the mission boards need money and women’s missions organizations make money. (Let’s never let this fact be lost in the shuffle!)
– WMU leaders opposed denominational debt.  They had no voice in the decisions that were made but felt responsible for resolving the debt problems.
– Fannie E.S. Heck, president from 1892-94 and 1906-15, kept the ideal of sacrificial giving before WMU.  She said: “To have the privilege of giving is much; to have the privilege of giving up is more.”    (A worthy quote as we consider “More for Christ,” a recommendation of the Kentucky Great Commission  Task Force.)
– In 1909, WMU designed a plan for personal missions and social action which was named “personal service.”  Instead of sending out a few dozen women missionaries, WMU decided to “convert itself into a vast company of women who, by their leadership in it, feel called and appointed each in her own community to do such work.”  They acknowledged a spiritual duty to the “poor, neglected, and outcast of their own neighborhood.”
– WMU started community surveys in 1914 to learn about local needs, languages spokes, employment, etc.
– WMU started what we would call Baptist Centers today.  All WMU training school students were required to practice their witness and ministry skills in a “settlement house,” later called a “good will center.”
– WMU started Vacation Bible School in 1914.  The first VBS under Southern Baptist auspices enrolled 102 children, taught by students at the WMU Training School.  VBS became a component of WMU personal service and within five years, 73 WMUs had conducted VBS. Later the Sunday School Board (now LifeWay) appointed its first VBS staff member and the rest is history.  Now VBS is one of our largest Southern Baptist outreach efforts.
– In 1930 WMU leaders proposed a Church School of Missions, which would include men in mission study.  In 1937 WMU began encouraging associations to hold simultaneous Schools of Missions, bringing in missionaries to speak in the churches.  This continues today as On Mission Celebrations.
– WMU does not just support missionaries – we develop them!  In 1922, FMB secretary J.F. Love estimated that twice as many women as men were volunteering for missions.  (This is still true today.)
– WMU began promoting soul winning as a component of personal service in the 1920’s. Personal Service was renamed Community Missions in 1942 to emphasize soul winning. Later this element of WMU work became known as Mission Action.
– It has been noted that the Cooperative Program reflects the logic of Baptists and our missions offerings the heart.  Supporting the Great Commission requires both! WMU has always supported both CP and missions offerings, even though national WMU does not receive any CP funds or funds from the Lottie Moon or Annie Armstrong offerings.  National WMU is self-supporting through the sale of missions magazines, books, and other products.

Last week I led a conference in Maryland called “Women Touching the World.”  The conference subtitle was “taking your women’s group to the next level.”  My conferences were packed with women sitting on the floor.  The presentation was built around four things we want to happen in every women’s group, that women learn, pray, give, and go.  (Sound familiar?!)  I showed Missions Mosaic  and other Women on Mission resources and talked about helping women have great group learning experiences that propel them out into the community, inspiring them to pray and give for missions.  Since this was a joint Women’s Ministry, Pastor’s Wives, and WMU event, many of the participants in the conference were not WMUers, yet they wanted everything I had.  I gave out catalogs and copies of Missions Mosaic.  They were challenged by Project HELP: Human Exploitation and what we need to be doing about this world wide problem.

As I go to participate in Missionscast, I go with the reminders of the tenacity and determination of WMU women for over a hundred years to fulfill the Great Commission.  And I go with the image of women in Maryland who wanted more for themselves and their groups. In reading The Story of WMU, one of the heroes of WMU work that has emerged for me is Kathleen Mallory who was called a “Christian world citizen.”  Her motto was “Fidelity to the Finish.”  She wrote for and edited WMU’s Royal Service magazine.  She traveled widely and spoke often to guide women in their missions commitment.  Kathleen wrote the first full-length Manual of WMU Methods.  And quite frequently, she knelt on the platform where she was speaking to pray. Hundreds of women followed her example and would kneel in prayer together.

Do we have the tenacity and determination of the women who have gone before us? Your answer will determine the future of WMU. Right where you are, would you take a moment to kneel in prayer for WMU, for the spread of the Gospel, for the women around the world who are being exploited at this very moment, and for your own commitment to Christ and His mission.

Partnering in Lynch, Benham, & Cumberland

Lynch+cover+small.jpgConstance (Connie) Meredith and Trish Pelletier have teamed up to produce a great little book about ministry in three Eastern Kentucky communities. Based on the alphabet, this book introduces needs in Appalachia and 12 ministries that are working to help people and share Christ.

Through the pages of the book, Connie has used the alphabet to introduce ways that the reader can help.  The pages contain lists of needed items, ways to volunteer, and contact information for every ministry.  There is a brief description and pictures of each ministry.  In addition, this alphabet book contains tips for planning a mission trip and good advice for mission teams.  Trish has used a quilt theme to illustrate the pages along with pictures that illustrate each letter and ministry.

Ordering information may be found at www.MissionAlphabet.com.  Anyone who is interested in Eastern Kentucky missions will find this to be a great resource.

GCR Challenges for Churches

“Penetrating the Lostness: Embracing a Vision for a Great Commission Resurgence Among Southern Baptists,” includes 31 challenges for local churches and pastors.  The sheer number of challenges is a clear reminder of the importance of the local church in fulfilling the Great Commission and of the pastor in leading the congregation to be on mission.  

I will not list all 31 challenges to churches and pastors here, but let me highlight a few (read the full report at www.pray4gcr.com):
– Become knowledgeable of the mission field of your specific region, identifying the various people groups and developing a strategy to penetrate the lostness in your region.  Be intentional in working with your local association, state convention, and NAMB in pursuing this task.
– Work to cultivate a Great Commission atmosphere that is contagious in your church.
– Strengthen missions education for believers of all ages, working with the Woman’s Missionary Union and other missions education program.  Every believer must be made aware of the global missions challenge.
– Give particular attention to the evangelizing and discipling of children and youth.
– Plan at least one evangelism training course annually for your church members.
– Plan at least one North American or international mission trip a year and/or encourage members to participate in mission trips sponsored by a local association.  (You can contact Teresa Parrett, Missions Mobilization Coordindator for the KBC, for help with this one!  Teresa’s job is to match needs and people.  Email her at [email protected]  Or visit the KBC website for a list of current project requests.)

The 2010 Kentucky State Missions emphasis materials drive home the importance of these challenges beginning right here in our state.  This fall we will answer the question “Why?”  Why state missions?  Why do we do what we do in Kentucky missions?  The answer is that people are lost in our state.  The state missions DVD is in being replicated now and will be mailed to churches this month.  The computer files section includes a document entitled “Lostness Indicators for Kentucky.”  This is a county by county look at the percentage of the county population that are adherents of any faith, percentage that are church members, and the average percentage in church on any given Sunday.  The numbers tell the story of the lostness in our state.

The 2010 state missions prayer guide is built around Romans 10:5-15.  Evangelism is the focus of the every prayer request.  We will preview these materials at World Missions Unlimited, our summer training for WMU and Baptist Men on Mission leaders.  We will have training for the leaders of all age-level organizations as well as for churchwide and associational WMU leaders.  There will also be special interest conferences, including information about Project HELP: Human Exploitation, our new social ministry emphasis.  This project is huge and includes responding to the problems of human trafficking, pornography, media exploitation, bullying, labor exploitation, and land exploitation.

WMU has always been about helping churches fulfill the Great Commission through learning, praying, giving, and going.  Our materials are right on target with the renewed focus on the Great Commission.  Join us!

GCR Challenges for Families

I spent this past weekend at Jonathan Creek helping with our Mother/Daughter Overnight, GA Overnight, and Acteens Splash.  I spent the night in the dorm with the mothers and daughters and taught the Bible study for the GAs and their leaders (and many of the leaders were moms).  I appreciated mothers who invested a weekend with their daughters, modeling the importance of missions.  I appreciated women who gave a weekend to take girls to camp for a time that was fun but also had the serious purpose of helping girls focus on the Great Commission.

The recent Great Commission Task Force Report included challenges to families. The GCR Task Force emphasized the role of the family in teaching missions and had some suggestions for things families could do to instill Great Commission values into the hearts of their children.  I believe these moms who took time to spend time at camp with their daughters are making a difference for the Kingdom and the Great Commission.

Some of the challenges to families:
– Make prayer for and the evangelism and discipleship of children a family priority that begins with parents and is assisted by local churches.
– Develop strategies as a family for praying for, serving, and sharing the Gospel with neighbors, coworkers, and others with whom family members come into regular contact.
– Adopt a different unreached people group each month and pray as a family (1) for IMB missionaries working with the people group, (2) for the conversion, baptism, and discipling of countless individuals within the people group, and (3) for the establishment of biblical churches among the people group.
– Adopt a different North American church plant each month and pray as a family (1) for the church’s leadership team, (2) for the conversion, baptism, and discipling of countless individuals in the church’s region, and (3) for the birthing of future church plants from the church.
– Spend a family vacation participating in a local church or association sponsored mission trip.
– Consider setting up a mission’s saving account for each of your children that would enable them to spend six months to a year in a North American or International Missions context soon after graduating from high school.

WMU wants to partner with families to teach Great Commission values through missions groups such as Mission Friends, Girls in Action, Royal Ambassadors, Children in Action, Acteens, Challengers, and Youth on Mission. When missions teaching begins in the home and is reinforced through opportunities at church, missions becomes a way of life, a lifestyle.  

A great resource for preschool parents is Families on Mission: Ideas for Teaching Your Preschooler to Love, Care and Share.  This book by Angie Quantrell is available from WMU. Another great resource is The Family God Uses: Leaving a Legacy of Influence by Tom and Kim Blackaby. This book challenges families to be involved in missions together, locally and around the world.

The Great Commission begins at home – but it doesn’t end there. I am grateful for the moms and other women who have brought girls to camps and overnights this summer at Cedar Crest (Cedarmore) or Jonathan Creek, spending time and modeling a missions lifestyle with their (our) daughters. Women who invest in girls in the church and community, are spiritual mothers and their influence is felt around the world!

GCR Challenges

The report of the Great Commission Task Force entitled “Penetrating the Lostness: Embracing a Vision for a Great Commission Resurgence” was adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention messengers at our meeting in Orlando.  The report included seven recommendations for the work of Southern Baptists.  These were significant items and will impact our work together in the years to come.

While in Orlando, a friend asked, “How does this report impact WMU?”  My response was that we in WMU would keep doing what we’ve always done, challenging and equipping people to carry out the Great Commission.  But I also told my friend, that I would be drawing attention to the challenges included in the report and how we in WMU can respond.

If you were not in Orlando and have not read the GCR Task Force report, it would be easy to think that the report only speaks to how the national denomination will do things and has nothing to do with me or my church.  While it is true that the SBC “cannot direct individual Christians, local churches, associations, or state conventions to take any particular or specific action,” it is fitting that the GCR report included challenges that speak to all of us.

Challenges for individual Christians:
– Return to God in deep repentance of brokenness over sin,  denying self, and coming to God with complete humility.
– Commit to the total and absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ in every area of your life, understanding that Christ’s lordship is inseparable from all aspects of the believer’s life, including family obligations, business and profession, and recreational or leisure pursuits.
– Devote yourself to a radical pursuit of the Great Commission in the context of obeying the Great Commandments of loving God and loving others.
– Participate in a church sponsored evangelism training class sometime during 2011 and make this a regular component of the discipleship process in your life.
– Develop strategies as an individual for praying for, serving, sharing the Gospel and discipling neighbors, coworkers, and others with whom you come into regular contact.
– Bear witness to the Gospel through personal evangelism, seeing every individual as a sinner in need of salvation that comes through Jesus Christ alone.
– Participate in a North American or international mission trip sponsored by your church or association at least once every four years.
– Grow in giving as a faithful financial steward with at least 10% of your income going to your local church.  However, see 10% as a place to begin in grace giving but not as a place to stop.
– Determine to exercise a greater level of stewardship through estate planning and planned giving, leaving a percentage of your estate to your local church, the Cooperative Program, and to a faithful Baptist entity such as NAMB, IMB, a Baptist college, or our seminaries.
– Give serious consideration to adoption and orphan care as a component of Great Commission living.
– Determine to develop a well-rounded Christian worldview that allows you to clearly articulate both what you believe and why you believe.
– Repent of any and all sin that has prevented you from being fully used by our Lord in fulfilling the Great Commission. This includes sins of idolatry, pride, selfish ambition, hatred, racism, bigotry and other sins of the flesh that dishonor the name of Jesus.

There is a lot in just these challenges.  The report also includes challenges for families, local churches and pastors, associations, etc.  If each of us just chose one and committed to carry it out in the year ahead, we would see great progress in penetrating the lostness of our world.  

For instance, the adoption and orphan care challenge could also be fulfilled through serving as an “In-Home Missionary” with Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children as a foster parent.  KBHC needs the equivalent of at least one foster family per church to be able to really meet the needs in our state.  Few of the children needing foster care are literal orphans, but they are spiritual orphans needing loving families who share Christ.

Your one commitment might be to take a personal evangelism class this year, or write your will and include a tithe to the Lord’s work. It might be to go on a mission trip or develop a list of people who are lost that you will pray for every day.  

Start somewhere.  Choose one. The Great Commission is for all of us.

Missions is More than Collections

I attended a listening session on Monday evening for the Kentucky Great Commission Task Force.  We were gathered to allow anyone who had questions or comments about the work of the Kentucky Task Force to do so. One pastor commented that he wanted his church to learn that missions was more than collecting things.

Right on.  Collections are an important thing for us to do, but they are a first step to missions involvement, like unto the spiritual milk referenced in Hebrews 5:12-14.  If collections are coupled with action and involvement, they are an awesome way to involve people in missions.  But if a collection of items is the limit of our missions involvement, we are missing what God would have each of us to do.

The best collection projects are ones where the church learns about a need, collects the items, then sends a team to deliver them in person and interact with those who are touched through the ministry.  In addition, the best collection projects include prayer for those who will receive the items and continued prayer for the ministry after the items are sent or delivered.  It a team can deliver the items in person, then report back to the church about the ministry and how the items were used, the project will have more meaning. If the report includes how the church can continue to be involved with the ministry, this will take the collection project to the next level.

Certainly there are collection projects where our personal involvement may not be possible, such as the buckets for Haiti or Africa.  But what is possible is for us to be in touch with missionaries or other personnel where the items are being used and report back frequently to our churches.  If we can show pictures, share stories of lives being touched, and continue in prayer for the ministry, then this is a way to make the collection more than just collecting.

Let me share an opportunity where you can collect AND participate.  Tates Creek Baptist Church (TCBC) is having a Community Health Fair on July 30th.  They are collecting hygiene items (travel size) such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, wash cloth, soap, shampoo, deodorant, etc.   Marilyn Creighton, an MSC missionary serving with TCBC, has invited anyone who would like to collect items to do so and bring them to World Missions Unlimited, our state WMU training event at FBC Richmond, on July 16-17.

But Marilyn is also looking for volunteers. First to help with a sports camp, July 12-16.  They will have classes for all ages and are searching for a team to come help lead.  Plans are to hold the sports camp from 6-8:30 p.m. each evening.  Housing and meals will be provided by the church. For the Community Health Fair, medical personnel are needed to assist EKU personnel and student nurses who are heading up the 12 stations at the clinic. The health fair is strictly educational, but help is welcomed.  In addition, various forms of entertainment are needed during the day. If you would like to assist, contact Marilyn Creighton at 859-948-2357 or email: [email protected].

Learn about additional missions opportunities across Kentucky at www.kybaptist.org.  See the box that says “Latest Missions.” Click on anything listed in the box, or click the button at the bottom that says “View all opportunities.”  Also, Teresa Parrett, KBC Missions Mobilization Consultant will be happy to match you with a need.  Her job is to match requests for missions volunteers with people who want to volunteer.  Email Teresa at [email protected]  She would love to hear from you.  She can help you and your church take collecting things for missions to the next level!

Significant Challenges in the Great Commission Task Force Report

Since the release of the report of the Great Commission Task Force this past week, I’ve been in a number of discussions and read many of the comments which have been posted.  While much has been said about the seven recommendations in the report, I have yet to ready any commentary about the challenges which are found on pages 17-26.  The challenges are significant and address individuals, churches, and our SBC agencies and seminaries.  Here are just a few of the challenges:

– Participate in a local church sponsored evangelism training class sometime during 2011 and make this a regular component of the disciples ship process in your life.
– Participate in a North American or international mission trip sponsored by your church or association at least every four years.

– Develop strategies as a family for praying for, serving, and sharing the gospel with neighbors, coworkers, and others with whom family members come into regular contact.
– Adopt a different unreached people group each month and pray as a family for 1) for IMB missionaries working with the people group, 2) for the conversion, baptism and discipling of countless individuals within the people group, and 3) for the establishment of biblical churches among the people group.
Local Churches and Pastors

– Become knowledgeable of the mission field of your specific region, identifying the various people groups and development a strategy to penetrate the lostness in your region.  Be intentional in working with your local association, state convention and NAMB in pursuing this task.
– Strengthen mission education for believers of all ages, working with the Woman’s Missionary Union and other missions education programs. Every believer must be made aware of the global missions challenge.

I encourage you to read the entire report found at: www.pray4gcr.com.  If possible, attend the Southern Baptist Convention meeting, June 15-16, in Orlando where the recommendations to the SBC will be discussed and voted upon.  The seven recommendations have generated much discussion and I will leave those comments to others.  Our own KBC Mission Board has passed a resolution in support of the Cooperative Program and I am absolutely in full support of the resolution and CP.  But I also want Southern Baptists to take note of the challenges in the GCR Task Force report.  Even if none of the Task Force recommendations were passed, if Southern Baptists embraced many of the missions challenges included in the report, we would experience a Great Commission Resurgence!

SALT & Camp

May has always been a favorite month.  As a child, I remember the May Day celebration at my elementary school and getting old enough to participate in the may pole dance.  We each had a streamer and there was a dance to music as we circled the may pole and wove the streamers around it.

For Kentucky WMU, May is our month to provide WMU SALT, State Associational Leadership Training.  On Saturday, May 15, associational WMU leaders are invited to the Kentucky Baptist Building for a day of conferences.  This year, associational leaders will be introduced to our new theme for 2010-12, Unhindered! and will learn about our new Project HELP emphasis on Human Exploitation.  Associational leaders will focus on their roles in their association and how to enhance WMU work in the association and churches.  If you are an associational WMU leader, it’s not too late to register.  The registration fee includes lunch and special resources for you as an associational WMU leader.  Visit the SALT page (www.kywmu.org/salt) on the Kentucky WMU web site for more information and a registration form.

May is also time to get registered for camp.  Kentucky WMU offers Missions Adventure camps at Cedar Crest starting June 14.  We have two GA weeks, two mother/daughter overnights, an Acteens Overnight, and two Express Camps that are coed.  Learn more at www.kywmu.org/camp.  Cedar Crest is located on the grounds of Cedarmore, just outside of Bagdad, Kentucky in Shelby County.

We also offer three overnights at Jonathan Creek in Western Kentucky.  On June 25-26 we will have a Mother/Daughter Overnight, GA Overnight, and Acteens Splash.  It’s a great weekend to bring girls, moms, and leaders together for missions experiences and lots of fun.  Learn more at www.kywmu.org/camp.

Here’s a May missions idea from Eastern Kentucky:  Hold a birthday party for all the Kentucky missionaries in your area.  We have over 120 MSC missionaries serving in our state, in addition to a number of career missionaries.  Find out who serves in your area and have an associational or regional event in their honor.  I will be attending a “Happy Birthday Missionary Party” in Hazard on May 1st.  WMU of Three Forks Baptist Association is hosting this event to honor the missionaries and their families.  This is a great idea and I hope others will do an annual party in their area.

Wishing you lots of May flowers.  Joy