I Love My Church’s Mission Focus

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In the past 5 + years, I’ve watched our missions leave footprints all over the world. We’ve helped construct a Christian camp in New Hampshire. We have taken the gospel to Cuba. We have built homes and helped start Bible studies in Kenya. We have hosted vacation Bible schools for children in Honduras.  We have shared the gospel with unreached people who’ve never heard of Jesus in India. We have helped expand agricultural missions in Haiti.  In dozens of places in our community, state, nation, and around the world, we have taken the light of the world into the darkness.

Right under our own roof, we see that our kids hear the gospel in Sunday school, AWANA, evangelistic services and outreach.  That same message of Jesus travels just down the road to a local elementary school where we partner with Child Evangelism Fellowship in an after school club to take Jesus there. On our campus, we hosted the Mexican Embassy to work with Mexican citizens living in the southeast US.  Volunteers from Mud Creek took a “mission trip to Mexico” on our church property sharing Jesus with these Mexican citizens.

Some go. Others send. Many pray. A couple of our most active missions goers are a group of retired ladies who’ve nicknamed themselves “The Golden Girls.” They have gone on nearly every trip to Honduras and a recent one to Montana. Another group of our ladies at church makes pillow case dresses, shorts, aprons, and other handcrafted and sewn items that have been sprinkled all over the globe with our teams.  Countless others give small and large amounts to these missions endeavors and  those traveling on these trips. Why? Why all this going? Why all this sending?

My church gets Acts 1:8.

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.”

My church gets Luke 10:1.

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.

My church gets Matthew 9:37-38.

37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

We go on missions because Jesus sends. We give to missions because Jesus loves. We pray for missions because Jesus cares. My church gets this right.  And that’s one reason I love my church!

Other Posts in This Series:

Post 1: Do You Know Why I Love My Church?

Post 2: I Love My Church’s Generosity

I Love My Church’s Generosity

Just because a church or a Christian keeps Jesus at center stage doesn’t mean they won’t face problems or have difficulties. Keeping Jesus in focus will not guarantee that other areas will be all right.  But—I’ve seen this repeated so often in churches and individuals—when Jesus is out of place, many other pieces will be out of place as well.  Getting Jesus wrong guarantees other parts will be wrong. The Scriptures identify Jesus as the cornerstone for a reason (1 Peter 2:7-8).

In these next few posts, I believe the traits I’ve come to love about my church have become prominent characteristics because we strive to keep Jesus front and center.  One of the surest ways to see into the heart of a person, organization, or church is to measure their giving. Lives changed by Jesus breath out generosity with the certainty of a breeze at the beach on a summer afternoon or a sharp wind on a mountain top on a winters’ morning.

That truth is built into the very language of the Scriptures, and we see it revealed in the word grace in the New Testament. In many places, the words giving or gift in our English translations are translated from the word grace in the Greek language. When Jesus graciously gives mercy, forgiveness, salvation and provisions, he then lives these same traits out through those who have been changed by them!

That’s why I love my church’s generosity so much. I’ve seen my church give generously for just about every drive, offering, or need we share before the congregation. In 2016, fires ravaged the Lake Lure, NC area. We collected and dispersed thousands of bottles of water and other necessities. In 2017, we took up a record missions offering of more than $171,000. Each year, our church family adopts hundreds of less fortunate children in our area for Christmas. We’ve hit a record number of Operation Christmas Child boxes in 2017 (over 630), breaking our record we set the year before. Water and toiletries have made their way from us to Florida for hurricane relief this fall. Sunday school classes have supported church plants and Bible translators.  In my own small group in recent days, families gave and hosted a two day yard sale for one of our own. The husband and father is facing a blood disease requiring ongoing treatment.  So many came and gave and bought and helped—generously.

Others have given generously in private. A church member not long ago handed me a significant sum of money and instructed, “Please see this gets to a family in need.” Another offered to give to a specific cause but only if he could give it discreetly through the church without anyone knowing.  I could go on and on.

I am so grateful to worship with others who get Paul’s words,

6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7

Sow bountifully, reap bountifully. Yes. My church gets this right. And that’s one reason I love my church!

Other posts in this series:

Do You Know Why I Love My Church?

Do You Know Why I Love My Church?

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“No church is perfect!” I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard that statement. My whole life has been in and around church. I grew up in a pastor’s home, serve on the pastoral staff at Mud Creek Baptist Church, and teach at a Bible college training church leaders. Sometimes, that soft dismissal is a nice way of us defending our imperfections. Others use the phrase to cast shade toward another body of believers. By the way–and regardless of why it’s used–the statement is more than true. Every church is imperfect because every church is made up of imperfect people. But that’s not what I’m writing about.

I’ve grown to deeply love my church, even though it’s not perfect. And over the next few weeks, I want to tell you why. In today’s post, I want to start with the most important. From my perspective, we get the big thing right: the gospel takes center stage. In Pastor Greg’s sermons, our curriculum tracks, our local, national or international missions, or even our song selections, Jesus is the focus, and his good news of great mercy extended to sinners gets the lion’s share of our attention.

Just recently, I listened to my wife share in our small group about a mission trip to India (I will share more about our missions in a few weeks). With tears streaming her cheeks, she said, “It’s the first time in my life I’ve ever talked to people about Jesus who’ve never heard his name before.” In the room, you could feel the surprise and sadness as we grappled with these great privileges–we know Jesus and we worship him freely.  I personally tried to imagine not knowing about Jesus. I can’t.  

At my church, you can hear his voice every time the Word is read. You can see his joy when we sing together of his greatness. You can sense his power when a sinner repents and receives Christ. Jesus. Everything should be about him. My church gets this right. And that’s one reason I love my church!

 

Grieve. Pray. Long!

Yesterday morning a gunman, for yet unknown reasons, massacred and wounded dozens in a small Baptist Church near San Antonio, TX.  My mind and emotions have swirled with unanswered questions and stinging emotions. How could this happen? Why would someone do such a thing? Did something snap? What are the survivors facing? How will they handle the loss? I saw a brief snapshot of the pastor. He tragically lost his teenage daughter to this horrific act of evil. How will he face today? Tomorrow? My mind jumps back only a few weeks to Las Vegas. Then a few years to Charleston. Other shootings. Acts of unconscionable violence. Moments of grave injustice.  For me, as a Christian, the full effects of sin’s grip on the human heart appear all too visible.  

I grieve. I pray. I weep.

But I also long. I long for the moment when the King, the Judge, the Savior returns to right all wrongs. I long for the day When grave injustice, senseless violence, and unmitigated hate will be once and for all cast away. As C.S. Lewis so beautifully pictured the Christ-figure Aslan in the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardobe,

Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight, At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more, When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death, And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.

One day. Yes, one Day! Today I grieve. Today I pray. But today, I long! Come soon Lord Jesus!

When Do You Pray?

A few weeks ago, I shared with you some prayer habits and practices that I have begun using in my own prayer life. As I’ve listened in on those in the prayer study I have been leading, a number of the practices that they use have challenged me. I was also encouraged to read the feedback here on my blog and social media posts as well.  One commented that he found imagining the presence of God helpful during his prayer time.  Another mentioned that he frequently prayed through the Old Testament tabernacle and the A.C.T.S. (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication) method of praying.  A former student where I teach at Fruitland Baptist Bible College shared how the Book of Common Prayer has been helpful to him and his wife in their prayer time.  Some have committed to pray early in the day, while others have worked on the discipline of “praying continuously” (1 Thess. 5:17).  A few shared how the Scriptures themselves have been integral in shaping and revitalizing their prayer lives.

In each of these comments and reflections, I was truly encouraged to note how God has made us unique even in our seeking Him through prayer.  Not coincidentally, a day after posting “How Do You Pray?,” I read a powerful take on Spurgeon’s prayer life that echoed the diverse ways we can come to God in prayer.

If my study of prayer and reflection on the numerous comments are teaching me anything about strengthening my prayer life, it’s driving home these two observations:

1. The certain wrong way to pray is not to pray.

2. We can pray to God using a variety of habits, patterns, and tools.

These thoughts lead us into the heart of this post. When do you pray? The “how” of praying must the “when.” For myself, I have begun trying to pray three specific times daily: when I get up in the morning, as I drive to work, and before I go to bed. Some of these prayers (and prayer times) are shorter than others. Martin Luther suggested praying at least twice a day: in the morning and before bed (Martin Luther, “A Simple way to Pray,” referenced in Tim Keller, Prayer, p. 89).  We know from Scriptures that Daniel prayed three times a day.

When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.

Daniel 6:10

That closing phrase of Daniel 6:10, “As he had done previously,” speaks volumes.  For Daniel, these times of prayer had become habitual and ingrained.  Like well worn paths, the routine times of prayer had shaped Daniel’s prayer life and forged his character into one of dependence upon God, faithfulness in the midst of evil and temptation, and resilient obedience regardless of the consequence.

As I continue to reflect on the lessons I am learning on prayer from the Scriptures and others, I’m interested to hear from you again.  When do you pray?

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