Everyone wants to be a part of a winning team! That includes churches--we want to know that what we are doing is making a positive impact, not only on our own lives, but also in our communities. The question is: How do you know your team is winning? That is an easy answer for a basketball team or soccer team. It is more difficult for a church.
First, a church must figure out what God has given them to do. What does God want as a result of your church being in your community? When I ask that question of many people, I often get a blank look. Their response tells me that they have seldom asked that question. It is obvious from reading scripture, and especially the first few chapters of The Revelation, that God expects something from the activity of our churches. Sure, we are to glorify God in all we do. But, what activites does God want us to do to glorify Him? Make disciples? Win the lost and develop the saved? Participate in mission action? You have to decide the answers to those kinds of questions.
Once you have an answer to what God wants you to do, then you have to ask: How are we doing? What can you point to that gives evidence that you are succedding in your work? God wants us to accomplish something for the Kingdom. He wants us to be fruitful. What are your accomplishing? If you are doing well in your work and your church is giving glory to God, then you need to CELEBRATE what God is doing in your church.
If your church is not product in its Kingdom work, then you have a final question to answer: What are you going to change to attempt to accomplish God's assignment? That is the difficulty. Change. Everyone wants to be in their comfort zone. Everyone wants things to stay the same. Change means we need to do something that we currently are not doing. We will have to put time and money into a new direction in order to be obedient to the Lord and partner with Him in His work.
If you need guidance in developing a strategy for Kingdom work, please let me know. I can help or we can get someone else to assist you through the planning process.
One of these days we will all have an accountability meeting with the Lord. We all want to hear Him say, "Well Done." What do you think God would say today if He had to bring your church in accountability? What would He say about your life? Would He say "Well Done"? We only get one chance to get it right. When we meet the Lord, it will be too late to make changes then. Let's decide NOW what God wants from us and set out to get that job done, for HIs glory!
We are encouraging all of our churches to increase their participation in mission action. Southern Baptists have historically been strong supporters of all kinds of mission projects. So in 2014 we will be informing you of various missions projects. Here are a few to get started:
African Vision of Hope—supporting seminary students in Zambia:
African Vision of Hope was started several years ago by Bob and Judi Bertels, members of FBC Maryville. The ministry has grown tremendously over the past 10 years. The Lord is working through this ministry to further the cause of Christ in Zambia, Africa. Part of the ministry supports students (pastors) at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Lusaka, Zambia. AVOH is looking for partners to help with the support for the training of pastors. Education in Zambia is a great challenge. Only 19% of the population get a high school level education. Only 20% of people are employed! So, it is a great challenge for pastors to get training. For less than $2,000 per year your church (or an individual) could support a pastor and his family and provide the cost of training for a full year!! Might your church consider sponsoring a seminary student? For more information, call 618/288-7695 or 888/988-7695 or visit their website at www.africanvisionofhope.org. Giving can easily be made through GBA or you can give directly to AVOH
New Project Started
We have been talking with IBSA for several months about a new project to reach unchurched people in our association. Approximately 85% of the population within the area of Gateway Baptist Association do not have a personal relationship with the Lord. That is over 300,k000 people. You may remember several year ago we identified about 20 communities that do not have any intentional effort to reach people in those communities -- as far as we know, there is nothing happening in those communities connect to our churches. Greg Gomez is working with the North American Mission Board, Illinois Baptist State Association, and GBA to try to start some relational Bible study groups in these communities. In addition to these "unchurched" communities, we have larger population areas that do not have as many Baptist churches as needed. Below find a rough estimate of the ration of community population to Baptist churches in the community:
Alton: 9,000 people per One Baptist church Collinsville: 13,000 to One Wood River: 11,000 to One Bethalto: 12,000 to One Godfrey: 17,000 to One Maryville: 7,500 to One
Those are huge numbers and reflect the lostness within our communities. We are looking for some church members who will open up their home in some of these areas in order to begin relational Bible study/discipleship small groups in an attempt to reduce the lostness of the community. If you know of someone who will help with this evangelistic process, please let us know. We need homes, we need people to lead small Bible study groups, we need people to pray for the project, we need churches to adopt one of these areas as a local missions project to reach people for Christ. We will provide the training and help you get started. Please call the association for more information. Greg or I will be happy to meet with you to explain details.
In January, I informed the Administrative Team that I plan to retire effective June 30, 2014. By that time, I will have been with GBA for over 10 years. We have made some major advances in that time, but GBA has a lot more potential to unleash in the next few years. I do sense that the Lord is giving me release from being DOM here at Gateway. I am sure He will lead you to call someone with the skills that will help our churches move up to the next level of ministry.
By approval of the Administrative Team, we will undergo an assessment process in April, led by IBSA and other DOM's in the state. It will be a very similar assessment to the one we completed several years ago. The assessment will identify the needs of churches in our association. Then, the search committee can seek a person with the skills to help churches meet those needs. I will be praying for you as you go through that process of calling a new DOM.
Evangelism Training Available
Would you like some ideas on how to better share your faith? Dr. Larry would be happy to come to your church for a one-night 1 1/2 hour class on basic evangelism. If you are interested, please contact the GBA office at 254-3953.