Reflections on my Latest Trip to Trinidad & Tobago 2013, Part I

2013-01-19 08.17.52My plane touched down at the Denver International Airport around 11:15 pm Wednesday night—effectively bringing to a close my latest missions trip to Trinidad & Tobago.  This, my ninth trip, was for the purposes of conducting a conference called “Naked and Not Ashamed: Sex, the Body, and the Glory of God.”  We went through all of the Scriptures on Friday-Saturday night, the 18th-19th of January.  We had a great time looking at Genesis, the wisdom literature, Matthew 5 and 19, and then what Paul had to say on the matter.  After that was a Q&A by those in attendance.  Praying God uses that time to bring people closer to Christ and to bring them closer to the design God has for their marriage or future marriages.

I’d like to offer some reflections on the trip in at least a three-part series.  Today I offer Part I.

First, all cultures struggle with pursuing their desires over God’s design for marriage.  With the Carnival season in full swing in Trinidad (which makes Mardi Gras in New Orleans look like a birthday party for your five-year-old), a lot of flesh and a lot of sexual promiscuousness takes place.  People travel in from all over the world to take part.  But even outside of Carnival, many relationships and many marriages in Trinidad, like in the US, are outside of God’s design and the general atmosphere of wondering if the relationships are worth it.  If nothing else, I hoped that showing them God’s design, then from hearing from men and women who have been married a good amount of time doing it God’s way will plant a seed for not only Christian marriages, but the gospel as well.

Secondly, all cultures struggle with racial tensions.  While I was there, the big news was that the Tobago Hall of Assembly was having their elections.  The two parties (the PNM—the People’s National Movement) and the somewhat-fledgling TOP (Tobago Organization for the People) were hoping to obtain the 12 seats for the 12 Tobago districts.  The PNM had 8, and the TOP had 4. 

The TOP were, the words of the Trinbagonians, “whitewashed.”  The PNM now holds all 12.  Why?  Among other issues, racial fears.  While we Americans look at the skins of Trinidadians and Tobagoans and seek them as all dark-skinned (true), most either come from African-American descent or East Indian descent.  One politician running for the PNM said that if the TOP won, they would be shipping Indians from Calcutta to Tobago.  Even though later he retracted that statement, it put enough fear in the Tobagoans to ouster the remaining TOP assemblymen. 

One commonality?  Given that Trinidad & Tobago has been under the Spanish, British, and French flags (all Europeans who had enslaved the people when they colonized them), there is a general undercurrent of dislike and distrust from many with European descent—including Americans.  While I have never had any issue with anyone there—and Roddie Taylor, the host pastor, is one of my dearest friends—the undercurrent is still there, deep-seeded from decades and centuries of experiences.  Even the Bible I use is deemed my some in Trinidad the “white man’s Bible that was used to enslave their people long ago.”  So may God continue to use His Word to break down the barriers of racial tensions so we can be united under the banner of the gospel (Ephesians 2:11-22; Galatians 3:28). 

(Part II forthcoming)

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We Are Where We Are, No Matter Where We Want to Be: Key #1 for Missional Living

Recently, a friend told me of a time when, just after they moved up from Texas to Colorado, they went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner.  Texas, as you can imagine, has some incredible Mexican eateries that were truly authentic. 

So they ordered an appetizer of some sort—giving the specific name (I wish I could recall it) and expecting what they would receive in Texas.  Yet, the waitress brought out something else by that same name.  The husband told her, “That’s not what we ordered.  That’s a chalupa.”  “No, sir.  That is what you ordered.”  After two or three rounds of this, the husband finally expressed rather firmly, “Well, that’s not what this is in Texas.”  To which the waitress replied, “Honey, you’re not in Texas anymore.” 

All of us as believers need to heed what Ed Stetzer once said at a Comeback Churches conference in 2008:  “We need to be ministering our actual churches rather than the churches in our heads.”  Every one of us brings our own backgrounds and ideas into churches and subtly (or not) interject them into the lives of others in that church.  No wonder the apostle Paul speaks so much about unity—it doesn’t come naturally, but only by the Holy Spirit of God and by each member seeking that same Spirit of Christ.

So to ministers, I say:  Be missionaries and live missionally not as you would from where you used to live or as you are pretending your church to be.  Minister in the community you live in among the church members you live with, dealing out the unchanging gospel in that contextual setting.  Preach the Word without compromise, and love the people that are actually around you—not the ones you only wish were around you. 

And to Christian church members, I say the following: 

  • If you still live in the place of your upbringing, ask God to make you uncomfortable for the gospel.  We know the ebbs and flows of the culture in which we live—after all, we may have lived there for 30, 40, 50+ years.  Ask God to do what he did to the apostle Paul, to given you a burden for your “kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3)—or in your case, your kinsmen according to your lifelong culture.  Don’t assume anything about their spiritual beliefs.  Begin conversations even with those you have known your whole life and with whom you have attended church! 
  • If you have moved to a place from your homeland, you will understand the ‘culture shock.’  You will be like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz: “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”  No!  And while we do bring that culture and that upbringing with us, we cannot expect those in our new home to share every bit of our ideologies imbedded to us from our former home.  Missional living means you’re living on-mission for Christ where you are, not where you used to be.  Have a missionary’s mindset.  Don’t try and fit a square peg (the residents of your new place of residence) into a round hole (your sense of what a place and people should be like).  We meet them where they are to be used of God to take them where they need to be. 

Daily, I have to remind myself after almost six month here in Centennial, Colorado, “I live in Colorado.  Not Virginia, not Florida, not Kentucky—Colorado!”  So with this knowledge in my mind, and the gospel not only in my mind, but in my heart and in my mouth, then it’s “there by the grace of God go I!”

And I am content knowing that God has put me where He wants me to be (Philippians 4:10-19). 

So be it!  Amen! And praise God!

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Lottie Moon International Missions Emphasis 2011: His Heart, His Hands, His Voice

Tomorrow begins the Week of Prayer for International Missions as called for by the SBC’s International Mission Board (IMB).  Many churches are being very creative in how they raise funds for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.  This past Friday night, Arapahoe Road Baptist Church’s senior adults held an auction of homemade donated items that did really well and was for a great cause.  (What have some of your churches done to raise money for missions?)

Below are some statistics given by IMB to give us an idea of what Southern Baptists are doing—but also the work that’s ahead to reach all the unreached people groups for Christ.  (For more Fast Facts, click here.)


Field personnel under appointment (11/16/11): 4,887

   Career/apprentices:  4,254

   2-yr. ISC/Journeymen/Masters: 633

Field personnel appointed 2010: 381

   Career/associates/apprentices: 215

   2-yr. ISC/Journeymen/Masters: 166

Student volunteers 2010: 4,100

Overseas baptisms 2010*: 360,879

Overseas churches 2010*: 163,756

Overseas church membership 2010*: 3.1 million

New churches 2010*: 29,237

People groups engaged**: 763

Unreached People Groups not Engaged**: 3,629

World population 2010**: 6.8 billion


The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) goal for Christmas 2010 is $175 million.

LMCO receipts for Christmas 2010 was $145.6 million.

*data from 2010 Annual Statistical Report, reflecting status end of 2009
**data from Global Status of Evangelical Christianity August 2011


These statistics bring home the fact that much work needs to be done in reaching the unreached people groups of the world.  It’s more than simply making a one-week trip, but it’s about making an investment.

I’m grateful to the International Missions Board for their dedication to promoting, rallying, equipping, and sending missionaries to the nations.  But the main weapon God uses and will use in reaching the unreached is our local churches.  No longer can American Christians simply throw money at the issue (as much as that is needed to fund those who are called), but we need to rally and rise up to reach the nations.

The Nations are our Neighbors

Today, I had the chance to meet with nine others at a church member’s house to hear Wes Tucker who has a passion to reach Muslim college students for Christ.  He goes up and down the range in Colorado, making good inroads at Colorado State University, and hopes to make inroads in area colleges here. 

Over and over, it kept coming up that the nations are our neighbors due to the great influx of international students coming to study here. 

At my previous church (Boone’s Creek Baptist Church in Lexington, KY), J.D. Payne came to speak at our Neighbors to the Nations Sunday on how the nations are our neighbors.  He notes: “The United States is the world’s largest migrant receiving nation–absorbing 20% of the world’s annual international migrants.”  I recommend you going and reading up on his presentations about this issue.  Maybe God will stir your hearts to be neighbors to the nations among us. 

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Christ’s Last Command Is Our First Priority

Some of you (should you wish to admit) watched the royal wedding this past Friday. I confess, I did watch some of it in the morning, then my wife, my girls and I watched the follow-up (since the girls didn’t have a chance to see any of it live). In our democracy where our leaders are elected by the majority of the population, England’s system of government seems like a bit of fairy tale and a bit of antiquity. The separation of royalty and commoner is understood and accepted. And with all this, two billion people around the world tuned in. Why?

All of us, to one degree or another, are intrigued by the crowning of a king or a would-be king. Some say that Duke William (28) has been photographed more times in his life than anyone else because this man will one day, should he live any amount of time, be king. With Queen Elizabeth being 85 years old and her mother living until she was 101, she may well outlive Prince Charles (62). William could be the next king! And this enchants so very many.

Yet, for the Christian, there is a king who is reigning and will reign physically on earth at some point in the future—and this intrigues and enchants us. As we begin the book of Acts, we see that a new phase of the Kingdom of God. Jesus came to preach early in his earthly ministry that they should “repent, for the Kingdom of God has come” (Mark 1:15). Progressively, God’s rule is being established more and more, and with Christ’s coming, God’s fullness of his Kingdom has come with the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:4).

P.G. Mathew once preached,

The greatest need of the modern world is to have the gospel proclaimed in the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the final command the Lord Jesus Christ gave to his disciples before he ascended into heaven was that they should declare the kingdom of God to all nations. Yet today’s Christians are almost silent in terms of declaring God’s praises. Oh, they may vigorously praise God within the walls of a church, but most refrain from proclaiming the gospel to the world outside of the church.[1]

The book of Acts put into motion that “greatest need” in having “the gospel proclaimed in the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit. Luke wrote two books found in the New Testament: one bears his name (the Gospel of Luke) and the other is the book of Acts. As a historian and physician, Luke gave some great detail as to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in Luke; and here he gets into the first generation of the early church.

Consider too how much of Luke’s writings take up: ¼ of the NT. At the end of Luke, Jesus gave the marching orders: “You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:48-49).

Luke notes that this is “all that Jesus began to do and teach.” In other words, what Jesus did in Luke during his earthly ministry was just the beginning. Now he would leave them but continue to work in them through the Spirit! Jesus spent 40 days with his disciples. While they may have thought this was the end, it was really just the beginning. A Christ-centered church is one with confident, Spirit-filled, Spirit-led disciples serving as ambassadors of King Jesus.

1. A Christ-centered church is filled with confident followers of Christ.

Christians are of all people on the planet the most confident. By confidence, I do not mean arrogant. Arrogance is egotistical, proud, big-headed. Confidence is one who is sure, certain, and convinced about their position. How did this happen?

In Acts 1:1-5, we see that Jesus presented Himself to His disciples. They were to be confident in the fact that Christ chose them. He commissioned the apostles, giving them marching orders. They were his cabinet. He filled them in on two particular items.

First, he gave them proofs about his resurrection. At the end of Luke, we read how they saw him along with the wounds of his hands and feet. They touched his wounds. And they heard him. This was a completely sensory experience. Stott expands on this, “Such an objective experience of the risen Lord was an indispensable qualification of an apostle, which explains why Paul could be one and James and why there have been no comparable apostles since and can be none today.”[2]

Yet as far as the rest, what was the result. Some believed. Some “still disbelieved for joy and were marveling” (Luke 24:41). Some outright doubted (Matthew 28:16). But the fact is, Jesus gave them proofs. The evidence is there. And they needed to be there with him, so they could that confidence that their Lord really lives so they could take that elsewhere.

As an aside, I believe it also gives evidence to the brutality of the cross. They knew about crucifixions, but they also knew about death: no one defeats death, especially a crucifixion. The carnage that the crucifixion of Jesus was to such a degree that, as Isaiah prophesied, he was unrecognizable (Isaiah 52:14). They needed this time with Jesus so the Spirit could have their minds renewed to the fact that He is alive. He really did defeat death. And thus, he defeated sin.

Secondly, he spoke about the Kingdom of God. What does this mean? Go back to Luke 24:24-27, 44: He shared with the disciples on Emmaus Road and the other disciples later “everything written about” him in the Moses, Prophets, and Psalms. Not only was Jesus telling them about what they were to do, He spent a great deal telling them about who He was.

Over the last 100+ years, we have been bathed in this notion that we should focus on what we should do. Charles Sheldon wrote a book entitled “In His Steps” and that book was where we first saw the question, “What would Jesus do?” We hear church trumpet that they are not about doctrine (too divisive) but about service. Being clear and precise about doctrine is scoffed upon. So we find ourselves looking through the Scriptures to find a nugget about what we should do, that we do not want to dig into doctrinal issues about the nature and work that’s already been accomplished through Christ.

We know what Jesus spoke on the Emmaus Road and to the disciples—it’s fleshed out in the rest of the NT in beautiful ways, showing the continuity of the OT with the NT. The KOG is unlocked and girded by the gospel of Jesus Christ. They were to be ‘witnesses,’ ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). They were not there to draft a new constitution, to run His people their own way. They were ambassadors, sent to one country as representatives of another.

2. A Christ-centered church is a Spirit-empowered people.

In Acts 1:4-5, Luke writes,

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4-5).

In the OT, God the Father made a promise that he would keep in the NT: sending the Holy Spirit. Here, Luke goes back to what John the Baptist preached: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3:16)—that is, for Christians there would be empowerment, and with that Spirit comes the fire of judgment when the Word that the Spirit inspired comes forth.

Yet, God promised in Joel 2:28-32

And it shall come to pass afterward,

That I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,

Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

Your old men shall dream dreams,

And your young men shall see visions.

Even on the male and female servants

In those days I will pour out my Spirit.

And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.

This has been so often attributed to the very end times, but this place during Jesus’ crucifixion. And with “great and awesome day of the Lord” which is the resurrection, the Spirit is poured out once Jesus’ earthly ministry is finished.

In Ezekiel 36:25-27, we read:

25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

God even sent the Spirit at times in the OT, very evident in the book of Judges. The judges were the leaders of God’s people who were empowered by the Spirit for the purpose of conquest, judgment, and deliverance/rescue.

This foreshadows the Spirit’s work now. It would not simply be selective to a few leaders or a few people, but would pour out on all disciples, Jew and Gentile (Isaiah 32:15).

3. Christ-centered Christ has Spirit-led people.

[6] So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” [7] He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. [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” (Acts 1:6-8).

Jesus not only broke through their perceptions about the effects of the crucifixion and death itself, but he also broke through their mindsets regarding the nature of His kingdom. This would not be a political kingdom based in this world, per se. This restoration of the Kingdom to Israel would not be accomplished by pushing out Roman rule. The Kingdom has a wider reach than that. In fact, the borders of Israel (the people of God in Abraham) would be extended to include both Jew and Gentile.

They will receive a new Kingdom, but do so through not through a political kingdom but a spiritual one. It would not come through nationalism (racial descendants of Israel) but through an expansion of the witness to where the True Israel would be the church, not simply racial descendants of Abraham. After all, Paul said in Galatians 6:16:

[14] But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. [15] For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. [16] And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God (Galatians 6:14-16 ESV).

What is the ‘Israel of God’? Paul uses this term to describe the church, not simply a national entity. This is a spiritual entity brought about through Father Abraham who would make a great nation—not a nation based on race, but a nation based on grace through faith. The true Israel are all those who have received the coming Messiah, who have been grafted into that beautiful olive shoot to feast on the marrow of God’s grace (read Romans 11:11-24).

Plus, they thought this would be an immediate overthrow and instituting of a new order. Not so in that manner. Christ has claimed the victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:56-57) and has already proclaimed that victory to this world and even in the nether regions of the world (1 Peter 3:18-21). But during this interim between the resurrection/ascension and His return, Zion is marching forth as we His body, His temple of the Holy of Holies (the Holy Spirit) presses on.

God has made it clear that those who follow the apostles teaching (Acts 2:42), that is, followers of Christ are sent as ambassadors to testify as witnesses in a foreign country that Christ has won the victory over sin, atoning for sin and providing freedom through repentance and forgiveness. These ambassadors (us) are not around to draw up a new way of doing things—they are delivering the message entrusted to them by one who commissioned them.

One pastor from California shared his experience about visiting an embassy in a war-torn country. As he walked about this embassy, he noticed that this American embassy looked very … American. And there is a reason for that: that embassy by international law is considered American territory. This is why when in 1980 when those 52 hostages were taken by the Iranians from that embassy, the travesty was that they in essence invaded American soil, though they were surrounded by a foreign country with different ideals.

In essence, this church of Jesus Christ is, as one author put it, an embassy of grace. Although the church is surrounded by a foreign people with different ideals, we do not belong here nor do we operate by the way the world works. This is an embassy of grace established by Christ Himself, and we are His ambassadors to this war-torn world that is moaning and groaning for reconciliation to the way it was created (Romans 8:18-25).

In closing, dear friends, do you understand that if you are a follower of Christ then you are an ambassador of the Lord Jesus? As Christians, Acts 2:42 shows what the church should be and do: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and the prayers.” Are we devoted to the laws, commands, promises, and precepts outlined in Scripture and fulfilled by the One who purchased us with His precious blood? Are we making disciples who find their identity in the One sent to save them from their sin and, ultimately, will follow the Word of Christ?

If you have not trusted in Christ this morning, please know what the King of kings is up to—arming and equipping witnesses for conquest! As we go through Acts, you will notice that the majority of ‘sermons’ in here are making announcements about what Christ has already done. You cannot live by WWJD? You need to ponder, What has Jesus already done? And why did He need to do it? They preached the Word that is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. The Word cuts and kills. The Word brings life. What is the Word doing this morning?

[1]P. G. Mathew, The Mandate from the Master. Accessed 26 April 2011; available at http://gracevalley.org/sermon_trans/1998/Mandate_of_Master.html [on-line]; Internet.

[2]John Stott, Acts, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990), 35.

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What Fuels the Great Commission

What a beautiful, Great Commission month April was at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church! Our team arrived back from Trinidad as we spread God’s glory to the nations—and four came to know Jesus Christ and countless others had the seeds of the gospel planted in their hearts, both young and old.

The Hazard missions team helped with the Easter Egg Hunt that saw 300+ children come through—and were a key part of 103 coming to the first preview service at Summit Community Church on Sunday, April 17thand five came to know Jesus there. Mark called, excited that they just scheduled that church’s very first baptism.

Our Eggs-traordinary Easter Egg Hunt was a tremendous success. Even with the horrendous rain, over 40 children (and lots of adults) had a great time with the inside Easter Egg Hunt. We had tons of children visitors, three of whom did not have a church home! This is why we had this hunt—to reach children (and their families) for Jesus.

Are you seeing a pattern here? Our vision of reaching our neighbors and the nations is coming into clear view. This was not a vision that I or others at our church concocted—Christ gave it to us. We are simply ambassadors, not out to write out a new way of doing things, but simply conveying the marching orders of the one who sent us.

What Fuels the Great Commission

As David Sills said at our Neighbors to the Nations Sunday back in September, “Jesus’ last command is of first importance.” The word ‘gospel’ comes from the Greek word euangelion (you can see the word ‘evangel’ in there) which in a military term. It’s the sending of good news from the commander to the battlefield telling of how the war was over, declaring victory over the opponent. This gives us confidence in sharing the good news with family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and the nations—it’s a message of victory, given by the authority of Christ Himself.

When thinking about the Great Commission, we often start at Matthew 28:19: “Go, and make disciples . . . .” Yet, the Great Commission begins in the previous verse, where Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (28:18). Christ births, institutes, plants, and sends His church to minister as a missions hub, a launching point to tell the Good News of the victory He’s won! No wonder all authority was given by the Father to His Son. Only He conquered that which was unconquerable—sin and death—and only He provided atonement for that sin.

When Jesus tells to, as we go, to make disciples, this is not simply garnering decisions. We must resist feeling satisfied in folks ‘walking the aisle’ or filling (or as the case may be, staying) in our pews and recognize the joy and beauty as followers of Christ in coming alongside new believers and making disciples—those who sit at the feet of Jesus and His Word and learn about who God is, what He has done, and what He aims to do through us! There’s a joy in connecting with others, growing in Him, and serving Him! How do we make disciples?

We help others find their identity in Christ. “… baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.” To be baptized means to be immersed. Christ did not die on the cross for Him to be just an add-on to our house. Jesus takes up our old foundation and lays a new one through the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:19-22)—that is, the Word of God! He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last (Isaiah 44:6-8; Revelation 1:17), and thus He must be our First and Last. And given all He accomplished for us, why wouldn’t we want Him to be?

We help others follow the Word of Christ. “… teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.” Remember, Christ said this. We teach them to observe everything. Oftentimes, we are tempted to pick and choose that which we teach, either due to the fear of man, or due to the fact that that passage just seems so hard. After all, some say, how can we reach people with such hard teachings? We know the commands about adding to or taking away from God’s Word. We are commanded to teach everything Christ commanded us. The Word of God is that lamp to our feet, and we are to hide its words in our heart so we may not sin against God (Psalm 119:11, 105). All we are doing is conveying orders as ambassadors from our Commander. We don’t determine which ones to convey and which ones we don’t. The world needs to hear the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:24) and we are to preach it “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2).

We help others to know that our Commander is with us on the field. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). How? Jesus promised to send the Spirit to help us, come alongside us, convict us, empower us to witness—so we would not be orphans in this world (read John 14-16 about the Spirit’s ministry). We are not left on our own to do business on our own, living for Jesus by our own power, drawing on the world’s ways to do to God’s work! He is with us!

Starting this month, we will continue on with Luke’s second volume, known to us as the book of Acts. Your Bibles may entitled this book “The Acts of the Apostles,” but they are really the Acts of the Holy Spirit. All through this book, you will see a people who lived beyond their means, who never knew what was coming, Through the Spirit, they lived beyond their means, and never knew what was coming next, but were doggedly clinging to God’s Word, regardless of what men had to say. All they had to rely on was Jesus and His body, the Church! They stayed obedient to what was clear—and God took care of that which wasn’t. I can’t wait for this journey!

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Ten Commandments for Short-Term Missions Trips

With our church heading on a short-term missions trip to Trinidad in April, plus two day missions trips to Hazard in February and April, I came across Trevin Wax’s post on the “Ten Commandments for Short-Term Missions Trips.”  So helpful!

  1. Thou shalt always remember that the primary function of a short-term team is to learn, and not to help.
  2. Thou shalt always defer to the long-term missionaries, even when thou dost not agree with them.
  3. Thou shalt surely leave all they agendas at home before thou arrivest on the mission field.
  4. Thou shalt be prepared to spend large amounts of time doing nothing, for thus verily is the way of the mission field.
  5. Thou shalt be careful to obey in all details, the security rules and advice of the project which thou visitest.
  6. Thou shalt be both attentive and accurate in the communication with the mission base before they visit.
  7. Thou shalt be careful to pay for all the expenses of thy visit.
  8. Thou shalt take great care in thy giving and spending, lest thou appearest to be filthy rich.
  9. Thou shalt be careful to respect the doctrinal and theological views of the project which thou visitest.
  10. Thou shalt surely keep thy word in regards to follow-up activities.

(from Paul Cull, leader of Projeto Casa Esperanza in Brazil)

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Reflections on our Neighbors to the Nations Sunday 2010

What an incredible day we had yesterday at our Neighbors to the Nations Sunday 2010!  I can’t wait for NTTN 2011!!  I would like to quickly reflect on each of the talks.

Rev. Jeremy Haskins, Associate Pastor, Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, Lexington, KY (mp3)

Jeremy spoke during our regular Sunday School hour and really helped our folks crystallize how adoption is the gospel—how God rescues us as orphans to a position where we have all the rights and privileges as sons.  He spoke of his own experience in adopting two children from Ethiopia.  You will find yourself inspired and rejoicing in God’s great act of adopting love.  He preached from Ephesians 3:1-14.  Unfortunately, only a portion of his sermon was recorded—but there is enough in these 16 minutes to give you a great flavor of the entire 30 minute sermon.


Dr. David Sills, Professor, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY (mp3)

Dr. Sills drew from his experiences as pastor, missionary in Ecuador, and seminary professor to sound the alarm for how we as Christians may be missing the point of the Great Commission.  He cautions us that we must avoid ‘fly-by evangelism’ that merely shares the gospel, gives out a Bible, puts a cross on a building and calls it a church.  Yet, few see the need to stick around and disciple.  As a result, much false doctrine is tolerated out of ignorance of the Scriptures and a lack of knowledge in how to study the Bible. 

You can read more about Dr. Sills’ thoughts on this in his book Reaching and Teaching


Rev. Kevin Whitt, Harvest Community Church, Eminence, KY (mp3 coming up soon)

Kevin shared how he planted a church in Henry County, Kentucky.  The church grew from 10 to 120 within three years.  Yet he confessed that he was simply gathering a crowd, not growing a healthy, biblical church. Even though he was asked to speak all over the state of Kentucky, he felt something was missing. So after reading his Bible, he switched to expository preaching and to ruling elders.  He then spoke of how he ‘grew’ the church from 120 to 40.  He cast his lot with building a church around the offense of the gospel and making much of Jesus and His Word.  Preaching from Acts 18, he showed how churches should evangelize, empower and equip for the glory of God.


We already have two of the three speakers scheduled for Neighbors to the Nations Sunday 2011:  Dr. J.D. Payne from Southern Seminary and soon-to-be Dr. Mark Combs from Salem Baptist Church, Salem, KY.  This will be held on Sunday, September 11, 2011 (Lord willing). 

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Neighbors to the Nations 2010 Interview: Kevin Whitt

The last installment of our Neighbors to the Nations 2010 interview series is one with Kevin Whitt, lead pastor at Harvest Community Church in Eminence, Kentucky.  I first met Kevin in 1996 when he came to Pleasureville (Ky.) Baptist Church in view of a call as Minister of Youth.  He and I developed a close friendship and have remained close friends over the years.

In 1999, Kevin planted Harvest Community Church.  He would be the first to tell you that he really planted two churches in one location.  But I’ll let him tell you that story.

I appreciate Kevin taking time out to do this interview.  He will speak on Sunday night, September 12 at 7:00 p.m.

GBTG:  When did you surrender to Christ? To His service?

Kevin Whitt:  Some experience the grace of God like a deluge; that one transitional moment when God brings about regeneration in an otherwise unsuspecting persons life. For me, the grace of God was experienced like a steady falling of rain throughout my early years. Through godly parents and biblical preaching I heard and responded to Christ through faith as a child. God’s faithful work of salvation has been steadily moving me forward throughout all these years and I continue to see God’s kindness in this journey of sanctification.

1b. I was seventeen years young when I sensed a call, a God given desire to the ministry of preaching/teaching. Although there have been a variety of outlets for that calling; my passion and joy, continues to serve Christ and His Kingdom through the local church.

GBTG:  How long have you been at Harvest Community? What made you decide to plant a church in Henry County, given all the churches that are presently there?

Kevin Whitt:  I have been at Harvest Community Church for 10.5 years. There had not been a Southern Baptist Church planted in Henry County since the 1890’s and there was a growing population of people that were unchurched or who had a superficial relationship with the church.

GBTG:  What is distinctive about your church from other churches in Henry County?

Kevin Whitt:  We desire to build the church around the centrality of the Gospel in all aspects of our ministry, including Biblical expositional preaching/teaching. Our steady diet of Biblical intake is verse by verse teaching through books of the Bible. Even though we have a long ways to go in the following area; we teach parents, especially Christian Fathers, that they are the ones who are responsible to train their children in the ways of God and much of our present energies are centered on equipping dads and moms to fulfill the role that God has given them.

GBTG:  I understand you have four children–one of which you just adopted from Ethiopia! What brought you to the place where you wanted to adopt?

Kevin Whitt:  The ongoing work of the Gospel is what brought us to this point. Even before we got married, my wife and I knew that we wanted to adopt. My grandmother and her twin brother were adopted as children, but for us it was much more than a nice thing to do. It was the outworking of our own adoption in Jesus Christ. To us, there is no clearer picture of God’s work of grace, than adopting children who are unwanted and forgotten. Just as the Bible teaches; "This is true religion….". I am truly an advocate for adoption; every Christian should be involved with adoption in some manner; if that’s through adopting children of your own, giving financially to help someone else adopt, or giving of time and resources to orphanages or Christian adoption groups; we all can play an important role.

GBTG:  What can we expect from your talk at the NTTN 2010?

Kevin Whitt:  You can expect God to be made much of. Everything we do, including church planting is all about His glory. We will see how God, sovereignly chooses to use messed up people like us, to accomplish and fulfill His purpose of building a church for himself. If you think that church planting is for the "professional", then you need to come explore the scriptures and see how each of us, as Christians, are called to a ministry of reproduction through proclaiming the unchanging Gospel message. I believe that every Christian should be directly or indirectly involved with planting churches through their own local congregation.

Please take a look at his church website at http://www.harvestcommunity.com and his family blog at http://www.whittfamilyblog.com

Thanks again, Kevin. 

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Kevin Ezell Nominated for President of the NAMB

image As a Southern Baptist and a short-time member of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, I am thrilled to hear about Dr. Kevin Ezell’s nomination for president of the North American Mission Board.  This nomination will be brought before the trustees on Tuesday, September 14. 

Ed Stetzer gives a significant accounting of his work in a wonderful article, complete with a short interview with Ezell

In his time there, Highview has grown to have six campuses in two states and three counties. It is also exciting to see their commitment to missions, from the city of Louisville to around the world. Of special interest, given his nomination to NAMB, is their commitment to church planting. They partner with church planters across the nation, and have recently been close partners with six church plants stretching from Atlanta to New York City to Boise, Idaho. The church takes several National Church Planting Trips every year so that their members can support and assist church planters around the country.

I played piano at Highview for five months in-between pastoral ministry positions in the first half of 2002.  I grew to respect Ezell greatly with his then-innovative model of “one church, two locations.”  His vision for church planting, all the while keeping a stability of leadership over those churches while keeping the balance of allowing them to minister in their respective contexts—it was a sight to behold.  He took over a troublesome situation in 1996 and fourteen years later the church is flourishing and transforming a city for the name of Christ. 

May we continue to pray for the NAMB as well as Dr. Ezell.  I believe that this is a great time for Southern Baptists and God’s great name will be exalted through this.

What think ye?

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Neighbors to the Nations 2010 Interview : Dr. David Sills

dAVID sILLS We are pleased to also have Dr. David Sills of Southern Seminary come to our Neighbors to the Nations Sunday 2010 at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church.  Even though he is currently in Ecuador teaching and traveling around that beautiful country.  He asked me to pass along a prayer request for strength and safety.  (Feel free to read up more on Dr. Sills’ resume at the NTTN site. 

GBTG:  When did you come to know Christ? When did you sense a calling into His ministry?

Dr. Sills: Although I grew up in a very active Southern Baptist family where my mom was organist and my dad was a deacon, my profession of faith as a child was simply something that I thought good boys were supposed to do and I was not truly saved. Mary and I had been married for five years and were expecting our first child when I began to sense God drawing me out of a very sinful lifestyle I was living to conviction, contrition, repentance, and faith in Christ. This happened in the context of some very traumatic events in my life that brought me face to face with the brevity of life.

As we began to attend a small Baptist church in our community, we sat under the teaching of an interim pastor named Tom Nettles. He baptized us together on Jan 1, 1984. Almost immediately, I felt a yearning to commit the rest of my life to service for God and was convicted that I had squandered so much of it. We grew rapidly in our faith and were like sponges for any biblical teaching we could find. I began to teach Sunday School to young adults and serve in pulpit supply for area churches. Very quickly, I discovered that God was giving me both a passion for studying and preaching His Word and an ability to communicate it in a way that He was blessing in the lives of the hearers.

I had been in business for years and never completed college, so upon believing that God was so calling me into the ministry, I returned to college and earned a degree in Biblical Studies with a minor in Christian Ministry. I accepted a call as pastor of a small rural church just before my senior year and pastored this church until I graduated from seminary.

GBTG:  How long have you been serving at Southern Seminary? Where are some areas you see God at work?

Dr. Sills: We were asked by SBTS to begin praying about returning to the United States from Ecuador to teach in the area of missions and cultural anthropology in 2002. We accepted the call and I began in Louisville January 2003. I have seen God work in remarkable ways in my 7 1/2 years there. I am always encouraged to see students who are convinced that missions is not for them go through the stages of taking required missions classes and get interested, then go on mission trips, then apply with an agency, and then wind up on the mission field in fruitful ministries. I have also seen devastating tragedies such as the tsunami, hurricane Katrina, and the earthquake in Haiti and been encouraged to see our seminary students and faculty respond with human and financial resources. I see God stirring the hearts of students, pastors, and indeed our entire convention to pray through the missionary call on their own lives to see how God will use them. And I believe that God is raising up many thousands who will be responding to missions service.

GBTG:  I understand you served on mission in Ecuador. How did God bring about this calling into missions? In what areas did you serve?

Dr. Sills: As new Christians, Mary and I began to go on summer short term mission trips with our church and little by little sensed God directing us to that area of ministry. During a trip to Ambato, Ecuador in the summer of 1989, we felt that Ambato was where He would have us to serve and the missionaries there sensed the same fit. We returned home, sold our home in two weeks, and moved to seminary to pursue the education needed for service. We were appointed with the IMB to Ecuador in April 1991, I graduated in May 1991, and we left for missionary orientation in June 1991. During our years on the field, we returned to the USA while I earned a couple of doctoral degrees at Reformed Theological Seminary. After graduation, I returned to Ecuador and was President of the Ecuadorian Baptist Theological Seminary, taught doctrine and biblical studies to Quichua indigenous people, started and pastored churches, and mentored numerous pastors and leaders in Quito.

GBTG:  What can we expect from you from NTTN 2010?

Dr. Sills: I have sensed God’s leadership to share what I believe to be an essential message for the church and the missions world today. This burden has grown out of my travels around the world to teach, counsel missionaries, and preach the gospel. The task of reaching the unreached is immense and we must dedicate ourselves to the task; fully one third of the world’s population has never heard the gospel. However, reaching them is not enough; we must make disciples of them and teach them to obey all that Christ has commanded us. (Matt 28:18-20) My message will focus on being obedient to the Great Commission and what that means for local churches and believers today.

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