Don’t Be Afraid

As 2019 came to a close, I saw many people encouraging us to identify a “Word for 2020.” If you are not familiar, the idea is essentially the same as New Year Resolutions. Instead of a resolution, the “word of the year” could be a guiding word, maybe even a prayer for the year.

I closed 2019 by reading through the Gospel of Luke. Not intentionally looking for a word, I began to see the recurring phrase, “Do not be afraid” or some synonymous phrase.

According to my reading, we read in Luke . . .

  • To Zechariah, “Do not be afraid, because your prayer has been heard.” (1:13)
  • To Mary, “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.” (1:30)
  • To the Shepherds, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is Messiah, the Lord.” (2:10-11)
  • To Simon, Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid, from now on you will be catching people.” (5:10)
  • To a Synagogue leader with a sick daughter, Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid. Only believe, and she will be saved.” (8:50)
  • To the disciples, Jesus said, “Don’t fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will show you the one to fear: Fear him who has authority to throw people into hell after death. Yes, I say to you, this is the one to fear!” (12:4-5)
  • To the disciples, Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (12:7)
  • To the disciples, Jesus said, “Don’t worry about how you should defend yourselves or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you at the very hour what must be said.” (12:11-12)
  • To the disciples, Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom.” (12:32)

I have thought in recent days how tumultuous 2020 will potentially be. Our nation shows no promise of being able to handle a presidential election with any kind of courtesy or civility toward those who disagree. Christians who ought to set the example of how to hold such discussions are no better at this than unbelievers. (I regret to have to write that sentence.) Now, as 2020 dawns, tensions have boiled over in the Middle East leading some to already predict World War. These national and global crises mean nothing to the personal crises of addiction, divorce, terminal illness, and the like that have greeted some as this New Year dawns.

So, these are the words that I am entering 2020 with in my heart: “Don’t be afraid!” I am not going to be afraid because . . .

The One True God, the God of this universe, hears my prayer.

I, too, have found favor with God. I don’t deserve his favor, but I am doomed without His favor.

The greatest news of all-time has been revealed. We have a Savior, and His name is Jesus!

Jesus has brought not only salvation to me, but now has given me purpose in life by making that salvation known to others. And, along with that purpose in life, He gives me power to “catch people” or to be His witness.

He has the power to heal the sick even those sick unto death.

Even those who seek to kill do not have power over God.

We matter to Him.

He gives us words to say even in the most difficult experiences of life.

He is working to bring about His Kingdom which will have no end and is making us a part of that Kingdom.

I may need to be reminded somewhere along the way in 2020 to not be afraid, but I don’t think there is a better word or few words for us than these: Don’t be afraid!

THEM

I was eating with a friend and the subject of Here for You came up during our conversation. We talked about the creativity and quality of the commercials, the great response to the Super Bowl, Final Four and digital components, and the way we were using the campaign to reach people who have never set foot in a Louisiana Baptist Church. My friend said, “I hope it goes well because I know how important Here for You is to you.” Their sentiments and wishes were greatly appreciated – but as I pondered that comment over the next several days I thought, “Here for You is not about me. It’s not for me. I know where I’m going. I have a relationship with Jesus. Here for You is about them.”

Them. Let that sink in for a few seconds … Here for You is about them

In his book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren begins with this statement, “It’s not about you.”

In our self-focused, narcissistic culture this truth often gets lost. It’s not about us, it’s about them.

As was their practice, the Pharisees were trying to trick Jesus. Whoever drew the short straw that day was tasked with their latest attempt. He confidently approached Jesus and blurted out his question.  “What is the greatest commandment?” Without hesitation Jesus responded “to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength” and before the Pharisee could insert his cleverly-devised follow up question, Jesus continued “and the second one is like it – love your neighbors (them) as you love yourself.”

Think about that for a moment – Jesus listed them (your neighbor) number two, right behind loving God. In politics and sports it’s often “us” versus “them.” But Jesus is clear, the church, “we,” need to make loving and reaching them a priority.

Jesus always kept the focus on THEM!

  • He came to seek and to save that which was lost – i.e. them
  • When He saw them (the crowds) He had compassion on them.
  • For God so loved the world (them) that He gave his only son …
  • Go into all of the world and make disciples of all nations – them.
  • And you will be my witnesses to – them!

Even as He was dying on a cruel Roman cross, He thought about them– “Father forgive them for they do not realize what they are doing.”

Somewhere during this 2,000 plus year journey we’ve subtly, but consistently transitioned our focus from them to us (we):

  • We don’t like the music
  • We don’t agree with a certain decision
  • We don’t like the schedule change
  • We don’t like what the pastor did/didn’t do.
  • We don’t like the temperature in the building

The “we” list is “we-ally long” – pardon the pun.

Don’t misunderstand, we know about them. Them is a topic of frequent dialogue within the walls of the church.

  • We talk about them
  • We research them
  • We’ll occasionally pray for them
  • We’ll even give money every now and then to help reach them

But we rarely go get them– even though Jesus said the fields are full of them.

What’s wrong with them? Or – should the question be what’s wrong with us?

Have we left our first love? Do we not believe Jesus? What keeps us from obeying Jesus? Are we afraid of them?

I’m not sure, but I do know this – Jesus loves them and we’re called to follow His example.

Them is so important that in one of his parables Jesus instructed us not once, not twice, but three different times to go into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in (Luke 14).

Understand this, them is one the reasons you’re still here – why we’re still here. As long as Jesus delays His return, we have the opportunity, the responsibility and the assignment to reach them.

You can begin reaching them by regularly praying for those you pass every day even though you may never meet. You can begin reaching them today by going to HereforYou.org and sharing your favorite Here for You commercial via social media. You can begin to reach them by identifying your “one.”

No matter your age, health, experience, vocation or location, there is something you can do to reach them– and them is counting on us!

“How can they hear unless someone tells them? Romans 10:14

This Christmas let’s offer people something that will last beyond the holidays …

Multiply Your Efforts

Are you looking for online tools and resources to take your ministry further? Download our free brochure to view a variety of tools, including:

  • Social Media (Planning and Scheduling, Training Resources, Full Service Programs)
  • Graphics & Artwork
  • Fonts
  • Website Builders

Want the pre-printed version?

Email Karon.McCartney@LouisianaBaptists.org to make your request.

2019 Annual Meeting Videos

The 2019 Louisiana Baptist Convention was held November 11-12 at the Alexandria Riverfront Center in Alexandria, LA.

Watch below to get caught up on the great things God is doing in our state.

 

Monday Evening

 

Tuesday Morning

 

Tuesday Afternoon

Four Steps to Solving Most Any Relationship Issue

Many New Testament scholars give the educated guess that the book of James is among the earliest, if not the earliest, written New Testament books. If this widely-held thesis is correct, then with James, we have a good look into the issues that the earliest believers in Jesus struggled with in their discipleship. We then observe that we struggle with the same issues. Indeed the sin and struggles of the human heart stretch across generations.

At the risk of oversimplifying the issue, but relying on the word of God, can we solve most every relationship struggle with four steps? Let me be the messenger of some “one another” statements from Brother James.

  1. Don’t criticize one another, brothers and sisters. James 4:11
  2. Brothers and sisters, do not complain about one another. James 5:9
  3. Confess your sins to one another. James 5:16
  4. Pray for one another. James 5:16

Think about a church or a convention of churches where we did not criticize one another or complain about one another, but instead confessed our own sin to one another, and prayed for one another.

Why Plant More Churches?

Recent Question from an honest member of a local church. “What’s the thinking behind the Louisiana Baptist Convention planting all these new churches? Why not just send more people to great churches like mine?” 

Answer: There are Three Major Problems with this kind of thinking as I see it.

  1. The problem of the numbers. How many does your church seat? “1,200”. Let’s say your church fills its building 4 times each week. That’ll be 4,800 people attending church. Praise God! I’ve studied your community, and there are actually 125,000 people that live there, and after much research, liberal estimates show that only 10% of them attend an evangelical church. Another 10% attend Roman Catholic churches based on research and liberal estimates. That still leaves 100,000 people that are not going to church anywhere. Where are we going to put that many people? If all the current evangelical churches in the community filled their facilities twice each Sunday, there would still be no room for the majority of these people.
  1. The problem of the people. I’ve been to your church and I like it. Most of the people look a lot like me and dress like me and the music fits what I like to listen to. I feel very comfortable there. The preaching speaks to me, because I’ve been in church all my life and I like good Bible preaching. However, did you know that there are a lot of those 100,000 people who have never been to church. They don’t know who Noah or Abraham or Moses are, and they would be a little lost just opening a Bible for the first time. They also listen to different kind of music, their lives look a lot different than mine and yours because of race, upbringing, past mistakes, etc. So, we need to start ALL DIFFERENT KINDS OF CHURCHES, FOR ALL DIFFERENT KINDS OF PEOPLE along with making our churches more comfortable for everyone.
  1. Saturation vs. Parish Strategy. Louisiana Baptists and most evangelicals have a saturation strategy of evangelism and church planting. Until EVERY PERSON has had the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel, we keep doing EVERYTHING we can to deliver the gospel and disciple them. And the Evangelical community has found that church planting is one of the most effective means of doing that. Roman Catholics and other liturgical churches have a Parish Strategy, meaning, we’re going to plan to have one church for an area or part of town, and assume that everybody that needs the gospel will respond at or through that church. It doesn’t consider the number of people, or types of people in the strategy, limiting the number of people that can be reached through the church.

Does that make sense?

Response: “YES! I understand!”

  1. I was actually thinking about how many people in my neighborhood don’t go to church. Out of 70+ homes there is only 2 or 3 of us that go to church on Sunday.
  2. And you know, you’re right, I wish they would, but they probably would not all feel comfortable in a church like mine.
  3. And yes, we believe we should do everything we can to share the gospel with our community.

What are some ways that my church could help??!!

Yes, There are Towns in Louisiana Without a Southern Baptist Church!

Louisiana has 304 Census Designated Areas, noted as cities, towns, and villages by the Census Bureau. A few years ago, out of curiosity, I did a little digging into how many of these might not have a Southern Baptist Church. I knew of a few, but didn’t expect that number to total almost 100! Now, if you’ve ever looked at this list, you won’t recognize many of these places unless you are from there. A few even have a population of less than 10! The Missions and Ministry Team has sought to keep this list updated and add it to the numerous things that play into good church planting strategy and missiology for Louisiana.

Not all of these places necessarily need a new church. Some of these towns have active churches near them. It’s not the objective of the Louisiana Baptist Mission and Ministry Team to start churches, just to say we did. If it’s a strategic need and if God calls His people to answer that need; we will assist in starting a church in these geographic locations.

Not all of these places are without evangelical witnesses. We are not saying that all of these places are without the witness of an evangelical congregation. We celebrate the work of faithful evangelical partners who are seeking to reach our state and we’re happy when we find that a community has an active witness of the Gospel in its midst. When we find that little to no active gospel witness is present, the priority rises.

Not all the places in Louisiana that have a church are saturated with the Gospel. A more shocking statistic than the number of communities without a Southern Baptist Church is the low percentage of people that actually attend the Southern Baptist and evangelical churches that are already in existence. Most parishes across Louisiana, have less than 10% of the population attending SBC churches on any given weekend. Many areas, even across the south, have too few churches to reach even 30% of its population with the gospel.

Louisiana’s need for new churches in no way compares with the need in other parts of North America. The fact that Louisiana has towns with no SBC churches has challenged me to remember pioneer areas across North America and the world with zero access to a gospel advancing community of believers. As a missionary friend says, “As you go to the church of your choice this weekend, remember those with no church to choose.” Let the reality of Louisiana’s need, remind us of the unfinished task before us in carrying out Christ’s Great Commission.

How can we respond to places with no church?

  1. Pray! Pray for laborers (Luke 10:2). Pray for open doors (1 Corinthians 16:9).
  2. Take a vision tour. In 2020, our team will be conducting one day Vision Tours and Windshield Surveys in many of these towns with no SBC Church. Email me at lane.corley@louisianabaptists.org and let me know if you’d like to help with and be a part of these tours.
  3. Adopt a town to pray for and plan to reach out through a day of prayer walking or other outreach event. Let us know if you’d be interested in reaching out in a city or town without a church.

Where are these towns? Here’s a list of the top 50, listed by CDA / Town / City or Village, Parish, Association, and Population. Email me at lane.corley@louisianabaptists.org if you’d like the entire list, or if you know of other places in Louisiana that don’t have an SBC church presence.

Town/CityParishAssociationPopulation
1. TerrytownJeffersonNOBA24,216
2. Bayou CaneTerrebonneBayou21,173
3. EstelleJeffersonNOBA16,791
4. GardereEast Baton RougeBAGBR11,229
5. WoodmereJeffersonNOBA11,114
6. TimberlaneJeffersonNOBA10,655
7. South Fort PolkVernonVernon9,293
8. Oak HillsEast Baton RougeBAGBR8,980
9. Old JeffersonEast Baton RougeBAGBR8,283
10. GallianoLafourcheBayou7,650
11. Eden IsleSt. TammanyNSBA7,631
12. St. GabrielIbervilleBAGBR7,094
13. MerauxSt. BernardNOBA7,073
14. Village St. GeorgeEast Baton RougeBAGBR6,802
15. InniswoldEast Baton RougeBAGBR6,772
16. VacherieSt. JamesBAGBR5,689
17. ChackbayLafourcheBayou5,647
18. GramblingLincolnConcord Union5,184
19. ElmwoodJeffersonNOBA5,037
20. EastwoodBossierNWLA4,547
21. RichwoodOauchitaNELA3,378
22. Buras-TriumphPlaqueminesNOBA3,358
23. LutcherSt. JamesBAGBR3,345
24. BruslyWest Baton RougeBAGBR2,721
25. ChauvinTerrebonneBayou2,682
26. Abita SpringsSt. TammanyNorthshore2,584
27. Bayou GaucheSt. CharlesNOBA2,557
28. North Fort PolkVernonVernon2,432
29. EdgardSt. John the BaptistNOBA2,315
30. RosepineVernonVernon2,235
31. GaryvilleSt. John the BaptistNOBA2,225
32. Boothville-VenicePlaqueminesNOBA2,220
33. MontzSt. CharlesNOBA2,140
34. LabadievilleAssumptionBayou2,092
35. HendersonSt. MartinEvangeline1,885
36. Belle RoseAssumptionBayou1,837
37. ParadisSt. CharlesNOBA1,616
38. AmaSt. CharlesNOBA1,361
39. New SarpySt. CharlesNOBA1,203
40. CullenWebsterWebster-Claiborne1,133
41. PaincourtvilleAssumptionBayou1,070
42. EmpirePlaqueminesNOBA1,054
43. LeonvilleSt. LandryAcadia1,042
44. RosedaleIbervilleBAGBR983
45. Grand CoteauSt. LandryAcadia964
46. SupremeAssumptionBayou859
47. ParksSt. MartinEvangeline831
48. MermentauAcadiaAcadia815
49. KillonaSt. CharlesNOBA815
50. ConventSt. JamesBAGBR711

Check out our Engage Map for and interactive look at locations of Louisiana Baptist churches, church plants, and target locations for new churches – https://www.engagemap.org/louisianabaptists/EngageMap.

The Celebration Equation

After years of marriage my wife has successfully trained me to watch for coupons. We recently received an oil change coupon in the mail and the timing was perfect as the reminder light had just appeared on my instrument panel. However, I noticed there was a lot of fine print at the bottom of the card. I’ve been burned before by not reading the fine print relating to expiration date and other exceptions so I reached for my glasses, but they were not where they were supposed to be. My attention immediately shifted from the card to the search – where did I put my glasses? After about fifteen minutes of turning my place upside down and accusing everyone, including the dog, of moving them, I stopped to collect my thoughts. And when I scratched my head I realized that I had been wearing them on the top of my scalp! Yes, I was that guy! I didn’t come to my senses until I stopped long enough for a moment of self-awareness.

As Luke followed Jesus and recorded his teachings, he recorded the familiar parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin.

Notice the repeated words/phrases until and and when. These key words form what I call the Celebration Equation. Start with until add and when and these equal a celebration when what was lost has been recovered.

The celebration cannot begin unless we have an until moment. This part of the equation begins when we realize something of value has been lost. Repeat – until signifies value. Think about it, if we’re not searching for something that is lost, it’s probably not important to us. And in today’s disposable world, we often think, “I’ll just get another one.”

This realization triggers an urgency which requires an expenditure of energy, resources and an allocation of time. We put things on hold until the lost is found. We leave the ninety-nine, we light a lamp, sweep the floor and search diligently. We think,“I’ve got to find this coin” or “I’ve got locate this sheep.” Until releases a wave of energy that fuels perseverance. We are willing to look high and low, far and wide, over and under, until

Until doesn’t begin unless we notice that something or someone is missing. The sheep didn’t realize it was lost. The coin had no idea how it got under the couch or in the crack in the floor. Could it be in our multi-tasking, always-connected culture that we fail to notice that someone is lost?

The great thing about until in these stories is the promise of and when. “And when she found the coin.” “And when he found the sheep.”Until paid a dividend of and when. It’s not “if” she found the coin or “if” he found the sheep, but and when

We need an and when moment in our churches. But this will never occur unless we have an until moment. When we realize and understandthat something valuable has been lost. When we’re willing to expend more time, effort and resources outside of our buildings than inside. We need to be re-convinced that what is lost is so valuable it requires an all out until effort.

God’s and when promise is still good if we’ll engage in the until phase.

Remember, celebration is the result, the sum of until when added to and when. There’s something exciting and fulfilling about finding what was lost! The shepherd returned home and called his friends and neighbors to “rejoice with me.” “And when” she found her coin, she did the same.

Maybe the reason we’re not celebrating more is we’ve omitted part of this equation? Without until there can be no and when. And without and when there is no celebration.

We are in the until stage of history. “Until He comes.” This should energize us and motivate us to go wherever and whenever to proclaim the message that Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost.

That is why efforts such as Here for You are so important. When Jesus said go into the highways and hedges, He meant keep going to the highways and hedges until… Putting this in a modern setting I believe Jesus is challenging us to keep going to those intersections of life where people live and where people work and compel them to come in – that is, give them a reason to check out the Gospel.

Using current communications platforms Louisiana Baptists are meeting people where they are – in their homes, at their offices, on their devices – and planting a seed of God’s truth. While we don’t know what happens to all the seeds, we do know that some of them find good soil. And those seeds generate a harvest thirty, sixty or even one hundred times more that what was planted.

Since the state-wide launch of Here for You in February, we are beginning to see some of the seed sprouting its head above ground level of people’s hearts. Over the last six months, more than 2,500 people have viewed the gospel presentation on HereforYou.org. Just under 425 of those have indicated a decision for Christ. This does not include the thousands of people who have seen the commercials on television and digital platforms. God’s seed is being scattered and it’s finding good soil.

Louisiana Baptists live in a culture that enjoys a good celebration. But these celebrations are short-lived and one dimensional – that is they’re limited in their geography and duration. But God’s celebration is different. It’s ongoing and occurs whenever one person repents and receives His gift of eternal life through a relationship with His Son. It also occurs in multiple realms – i.e. the celebration takes place in heaven and on earth.

The celebration equation begins with us. We must take note that someone valuable is missing. A missing person is a valuable thing and demands an until search. As we expend spiritual and material resources in this until search, God will open the door to the and when promise and as the old hymn says, “what a day of rejoicing that will be!”

Pastors Need to Be Encouraged

And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. (1 Samuel 23:16 NIV)

When I accepted the position of Executive Director for Louisiana Baptists, I made this promise:

Pastors will be encouraged. Churches are essential to our work, and spiritually healthy pastors are essential to healthy churches. I have been a pastor of four churches. Each church was a different size and had different strengths and weaknesses, but all required hard work. I want to encourage pastors through public ministry to them and private friendship with them to be all that God has called them to be. This will be my daily prayer, daily goal, and daily evaluation.

Years ago, I heard the Christian motivation speaker Zig Ziglar speak. The only thing I remember him saying is, “Who motivates the motivator?”

We could adjust the words slightly to say, “Who encourages the encourager?” Who preaches to the preacher?” “Who ministers to the minister?” “Who counsels the counselor?” “Who pastors the pastor?”

Your pastor needs all of this. We all need a Jonathan to come alongside of us to help us find strength in God.

My friend Scott, at the time a doctoral student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, was taking his written examinations. Written examinations—a grueling three-day test of perseverance—occur half-way through the doctoral program. This three-day period can be a very lonely experience. Another friend of ours knew that Scott was taking these tests. He arranged with the professor to put a note in Scott’s test packet. The note simply read, “Scott, here’s a dollar. When you have your break today, buy a soda on me. I’m praying for you.”

That story has always reminded me that encouragement does not have to be expensive, just thoughtful and intentional.

I pray that all of us find meaningful ways to encourage our pastors this month.

Louisiana Baptists All State Youth Choir Alumni

Dear LBASYC Alumni and friends of LBASYC,

I pray you are well and joyfully serving the Lord wherever you are.

Now in its 36th year of ministry, LBASYC, under the wonderful direction of Dr. Cameron Weatherford, chair of the Fine Arts Department at Louisiana College, continues its tradition of providing strong music and great opportunities for high school students from all over the state to be on mission for Christ.

In addition to singing outstanding music, you will want to know time is spent each year in retreat sharing our testimonies and learning a gospel presentation, so if a student comes to LBASYC four years in a row, they will have learned at least four different techniques for sharing their faith. We consider LBASYC a successful ministry when students return to their own sphere of influence and obediently share their faith in Christ using the tools and encouragement they received in their LBASYC experience.

It is important students continue to have this life-changing encounter to be on mission through LBASYC.

However, as is true everywhere, the cost for food, travel, and accommodations continues to rise. The LBASYC program is now almost completely funded by the students and I am reaching out to you, LBASYC Alumni and friends of LBASYC, asking you to prayerfully consider a financial contribution to LBASYC. Many of our students are working hard to raise their own funds, and while churches are helping with car washes, bake sales, auctions, etc, each student must pay $950 for LBASYC and EP students have an additional fee of $95.

My hope is that through donations we will be able to cover the cost of transportation each year and thereby reduce the participant’s financial responsibility. This year, transportation to Chicago, IL, will cost $20,000.

Will you be a part of reaching this goal?

Whether you choose to participate financially, please be in prayer for the students’ lives to be transformed as a result of their involvement in LBASYC. Thousands of you are serving Christ all over the world in vocational and voluntary ministry due in part to your participation in LBASYC. Just think what God can do with the next thousand students!

Dr. Herb Armentrout
Youth Music Consultant
Louisiana Baptist Convention