Jim's Journal June 2020
Back in March of this year, when the COVID-19 pandemic had just began some forecast it was going to be like a blizzard, but it has turned out to be more like a long winter. This pandemic is not going away quickly. While we have been spared in our region (compared to others), there are still challenges before us in the local church. We have had to adjust many important structures in our lives, including the way we have done church (now online as well as onsite).
While our mission remains the same, we must be aware of how the pandemic has impacted our culture. Amid many deaths and growing fears, we are seeing racial tensions escalate, with both the political and theological polarization widening.
The combination of these things has created a challenge that I have not seen in my sixty years of life and 43 in ministry. It has clarified for me that if our agenda/mission is anything other than glorifying Christ by fulfilling the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, we WILL get derailed into matters that divide us rather than unite us. Those commands bring us together. I want to encourage our churches and leaders to DOUBLE DOWN on focusing on our mission of winning the lost and showing a lost world how the love of Christ can change someone’s heart and the trajectory of their lives.
Did you know that 77% of Christians surrender to Jesus before the age of 18 and 95% before the age of 30? NOW IS THE TIME TO REACH PEOPLE WITH THE GOSPEL!
One of the takeaways for me thus far has been considering how each local church can be more decentralized, such as meeting in smaller groups, focusing on reaching neighborhoods (street by street) and releasing more people into mission. While we have all sought to leverage technology, we cannot replace the need for relationship. That is BEST addressed in small groups, Sunday School classes, or house churches (as Living Church in our Association does).
A second takeaway is that we must learn to LISTEN to God (His Word) AND to those who are hurting in our culture/communities. The pandemic has revealed a lot of cultural anger and many idols. We can make an idol of many things, including our existing structures/buildings, etc... What am I saying? I’m saying we have to consider NEW WAYS to reach people who are lost and far from God and evaluate how well our current structures are working. If they aren’t working, then change is needed as a lost and dying world is going to hell on our watch. We are at a crucial juncture where we could either step into a great spiritual awakening or continue to watch our current systems and structures of mission built on paradigms that are aging and expiring lead to further loss of ground to the enemy (Southern Baptist baptism numbers continue on a downward trend as we simply are not reaching lost people in a meaningful way).
We have an opportunity through prayer and brokenness to confess that our man-made systems aren’t working and put all our idols on the altar and allow the Holy Spirit to engage a NEW NORMAL WITH NEW WINESKINS. We will NOT find the way forward by concentrating on salvaging our reviving old structures. We need instead to evaluate them honestly and take necessary steps toward meaningful change that indicates our wholehearted desire to accomplish the GREAT COMMISSION and practice the GREAT COMMANDMENT. We need to turn our energies to discerning what the shape of mission is to be in the changed world in which we live and find wineskins that can hold the new wine of God’s Spirit.
I look forward to exploring that with you...TOGETHER, because WE ARE BETTER TOGETHER. ONE IN SPIRIT and ONE IN MISSION.
It is a joy to serve alongside you.
During the summer the NKBA is inviting churches to engage their Jerusalem like never before and BLESS NKY! That is:
B: BEGIN IN PRAYER Start by prayer walking in your community and join BlessEveryHome.com and pray for your neighbors by name. Pray through the news or as you check social media.
L: LISTEN TO PEOPLE AND THEIR HEARTS, HURTS, and HANGUPS and LISTEN TO GOD IN HIS WORD.
E: EAT with someone. Have a cookout…a study in your yard or in your driveway and invite a neighbor to join you. GO WITH YOUR STRENGTHS BAPTISTS! Eating is a deeply intimate act and it is a great place to build relationships with people. Leverage this season to REACH PEOPLE WHO ARE LOST AND FAR FROM GOD.
S: SERVE SOMEBODY. As you LISTEN and become aware of needs in your community, join in finding a way to meet that need, whether it is food, babysitting, mowing a yard, running an errand, give a senior a lift to and from an appointment…ask God daily for DIVINE APPOINTMENTS and HE will guide you.
S:SHARE YOUR STORY! This is something all followers of Christ can do…tell others what Christ means to you and how He has changed your life. It’s YOUR STORY! DO NOT KEEP IT TO YOURSELF!
We are asking churches to use the HASHTAG: #BLESSNKY on their social media and post it each time you or your church have an opportunity to BLESSNKY this summer. Let’s celebrate what God will do!