The Power of the Regift!

We’re already well into the New Year and you may not have done so yet, but sometime this year you probably will.

I’m not talking about exercising or dieting. I’m referring to regifting.

Apparently regifting has become commonplace. According to Wikipedia, the term became popular when it was introduced on the 80’s sitcom Seinfeld. There are even rules or etiquette related to regifting and you can discover them in The Art of Regifting, Regifting 101 and 12 Rules for Regifting Without Fear. Some environmentally and budgetary conscious people consider regifting a “green” practice. There is even a National Regifting Day which falls the Thursday before Christmas. Talk about perfect timing. Who needs Amazon when you can simply regift!

Have you ever considered the fact that Jesus commanded us to regift? He has gifted us and because of His love for all people, He wants us to share the gift of spiritual transformation and rebirth everywhere we go.

Jesus said as we’ve freely received, we should freely give. Paul challenged Timothy to pass along the things/teachings he received to faithful men who in turn would do the same. James reminds us that every good and perfect gift is from above. And Peter exhorted his readers to always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you. In other words – be prepared to regift what you’ve been gifted with – hope!

There are two gifts that we desperately need to regift. The first is truth. The absence of truth in our culture is stunning. Rarely has there been so much information and knowledge but so little truth. Jesus reminds us that God’s word is truth (John 17). So, when you share God’s word with someone, you’re sharing truth. You’re regifting, if you will, the truth you’ve experienced.

Eternal Life is the other gift that needs to be regifted whenever and wherever we have the opportunity. Eternal life is not ours to give, it comes from God (Romans 6:23); but, it is ours to share. If receiving the gift of eternal life is all there is to our journey, then our life after rebirth would be rather pointless. We are still on this earth to share, to regift, what Jesus died to purchase – eternal life and all that accompanies it: forgiveness, peace, hope, comfort and so much more.

Here for You is all about regifting. In fact, Here for You actually delivers God’s gift of truth. We are delivering it to hearts and homes across Louisiana using current communications platforms. We regift truth so we can encourage those viewing the messages to receive God’s gift of eternal life.

How can you get in on this regifting?

  1. Realize the gift inside of you was never intended to stay there. God is not into hoarding. He’s into sharing. He wants you to regift what you’ve been gifted with through His Holy Spirit.
  2. Repent. This means to turn around and start doing what you’re currently not doing. I believe if more Christians would repent, we’d see more non-Christians do the same. If you’ve received God’s gift of eternal life and you’re not sharing it, you need to repent of your sin of omission (James 4:17) and start regifting what you’ve been gifted with.
  3. Restart your efforts. Odds are when you first experienced God’s grace, His gift of eternal life, you told someone. You shared it. I would suggest that when you did that, you regifted. God brought someone to mind who needed the same gift you just received. But over time you began to keep the gift to yourself. Oh, you’re grateful for it, you just stopped sharing it. Jesus told the church in Ephesus to go back and do the things they did at first (Rev 2:5). We need to do the same.

We have a simple way you can regift! Go to hereforyou.org and share the videos on your social media platforms. As you share these messages, you’re regifting God’s truth to all your friends, family and others who view your posts.

Some gifts are meant to keep, to cherish. Others are intended to be shared. I believe people are waiting for us to regift what we’ve received from God. The gifts they’re receiving from the world are perishing and unfulfilling. But the gifts God gives us to regift can meet the deepest longings of their heart.

2019 ECON Recap

ECON 2019 compelled a large gathering of Louisiana Baptists to share Jesus and develop a strategy to do just that. Thanks to your gifts through the Cooperative Program, we were able to bring presenters from across the United States to inspire us to dream once again about what God could do in and through churches.

And now you can:

  • Experience it if you weren’t able to attend.
  • Experience it once again if you were there. And share with others.
  • Use these sessions in church leadership meetings. They’re great content to train and inspire your people.

These videos are your content because of your gifts through the Cooperative Program. They are downloadable and open to everyone. (Scroll to bottom of page for downloads)

Downloads:

Is My Church Multiplication Ready?

The Louisiana Baptists Missions and Ministry Team is making our final push toward the goal of planting 300 new churches 2020. Since 2010, our convention has worked together to plant 235 new churches! The result has been over 13,000 new commitments to Christ! and many new fronts opened up for meeting spiritual and physical needs across our state. While every Southern Baptist church is invested in church planting through giving to the Cooperative Program and our State, National, and International Missions Offerings, only around 280 churches in Louisiana (out of 1,624) have taken the next step and gotten involved in direct MULTIPLICATION through sending people, direct financial sponsorship, or starting a new campus or location.

As we make this final push to 300 new churches, we want to invite you to explore your church’s multiplication readiness. We will have a series of luncheons across the state this year that will help you see the possibilities of and opportunities for multiplication for your church. Every church CAN get involved in Church Planting Multiplication!

Why Should Multiplication Readiness Concern Me and My Church? Three Reasons:

  1. Readiness to Multiply is a Mark of Health and Maturity. Healthy churches generally are multiplying churches. Healthy churches multiply new disciples, new leaders, new groups, new ministries, etc.,etc. As the multiplication train gets rolling, it is often the case that God moves His people to look to a neighboring community or people group in need to multiply the gospel to. Is it time for your church to consider a multiplication project? Or is it time to explore why your church is not seeing greater multiplication inside? How do we get started? What resources are available? Join us for one of our Multiplication Ready luncheons to explore these questions.
  2. Healthy Church Multiplication requires Healthy Sending or Sponsor or Parent Churches. As Bob Roberts says in his great book The Multiplying Church, “The future of faith in America (and anywhere in the world, for that matter) is not tied to planting more churches, but in raising up of mother congregations of every tribe, tongue, denomination, and network that are reproducing… The hope is in pregnant mother churches.” The healthiest new churches often come from mother churches that are reproducing and multiplying in all aspects, spilling over into new communities and people groups through church planting and evangelism.
  3. Reaching our state and our nation is more than just one church can accomplish. Across Louisiana, church attendance is in decline. In almost every association, less than 10% of the population are in attendance in a Southern Baptist Church on any given weekend. The number of unchurched and dechurched people is climbing. To reach new generations of people, new fronts must be opened against lostness. Church Planting and Multiplication has proven to be a great tool in reaching people in Louisiana and beyond. 13,000 and counting have responded to the gospel through one of our 235 new churches. Imagine the possibilities as we continue to multiply through 2020 and beyond.

Explore the possibilities, available resources, and current opportunities with your Louisiana Baptists Missions and Ministries team this year as we make our final push to 300 new churches by 2020.

Four Biblical Resolutions for 2019

The Bible is full of resolutions. Our reading of the Bible should be to see the gaps between ourselves and God’s will and close that gap with resolve. The difference between worldly resolution and Biblical resolution is that as believers we have the promise of God’s presence with us to empower and encourage us as we resolve to walk with him. So let’s be resolute in 2019. Here are four Biblical Resolutions in way of reminder and challenge.

  1. Devote yourselves to Prayer… Colossians 4:2

Prayer works every time it is tried. God promises to hear and to answer the praying believer, who prays in faith (Matthew 7:7; James 1:5-8; 1 John 5:14-15). Resolve to be a person of prayer in 2019. 

Ideas:

  1. Every man mature in Christ – Colossians 1:28-29

The resolve of the apostle Paul was to move EVERY PERSON in his sphere of influence closer to Christ. What a resolution!? Our influence as believers is currently limited by our vision and our lips. Resolve to see every person in relation to eternity and communicate God’s Gospel truth in practical ways in 2019. 

Ideas:

  1. Exercise is of some value – 1 Timothy 4:8

In most of us, a new year brings a desire to make changes. Gym memberships increase by about 12% every January. While we do not all need to be Iron Men, we should recognize the secondary value (next to godliness) of maintaining and/or improving our physical condition as a steward of God and faithful witness until our last breath. Resolve to improve and/or maintain your physical condition for stewardship and witness in 2019.

Ideas:

  • Walk. This is a great way to combine #1, #2, and #3. Walk your neighborhood and pray for each home and look for opportunities to build new relationships.
  • Try a 21 Day Fast as a way to reset your prayer life and dietary life.
  • Join a gym and/or fitness class as a way to get in better condition and build new relationships in the community.
  1. We will tell the next generation – Psalm 78:4

The next generation is to be a priority for disciples of Christ (Deuteronomy 6:6-8; Psalm 78:1-4). Parents and Grandparents have a built in reminder of their duty and priority. But we mustn’t stop there. With Christianity in decline, we need all hands on deck to make sure every child hears of God’s love in Christ for them. Resolve to pass on your faith to someone younger than you in 2019. 

Ideas:

  • If you’re a parent, commit to a family meal time each week where you share a devotional and pray for and with one another.
  • Sign up to volunteer in the children’s ministry of a local church.
  • Look for opportunities to volunteer at a local school or mentoring program.
  • Ask God to show you a child at your church or in your neighborhood that needs an encouraging word.

What are some other Biblical Resolutions that we can resolve to pursue in 2019? 

Pump Up Your Social Media

It’s difficult to navigate the digital landscape without understanding social media. Facebook currently has over 2.2 billion monthly users. That’s the population of China and India combined! However, newer platforms are emerging and pushing their way into competition with Facebook. With an expanding range of options, algorithms, and metrics, making your way through the social media world has never been more confusing.

Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to carve out your own piece of the social media pie. It begins by asking the 5 W’s.

  1. Who is our audience?
  2. Where are they? Which social media platform?
  3. What kind of post do they react and engage with most often?
  4. Why does are audience engage with these posts?
  5. When and how often should we post?

Start by asking these simple questions and you will be well on your way to boosting your social media.

We made a handy guide to walk you through some of these questions as well as a sample posting schedule.

2018 Annual Meeting Videos

The 2018 Louisiana Baptist Convention was held November 12-13 at Temple Baptist Church in Ruston, LA.

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

Monday Evening

Tuesday Morning

Tuesday Evening

Who Don’t You See?

We’ve all had the experience. You’re cruising down the interstate when the car slightly in front of you swerves into your lane barreling dangerously close to the side of your car. Your adrenaline races and you sit on the horn. He swerves away and gives you an apologetic wave or some other less friendly gesture. Either you have encountered a lunatic intent on driving you off the road or, more likely, a negligent driver who didn’t check his blind spot. Thus the expression, “I never saw it coming!”

If you’re really honest you’d have to admit that you’ve done the same. We all have! We’ve all neglected our blind spot and heard the all too familiar loud honk of a horn or the sickening sound of scraping metal and increased insurance premiums!

In a sense, all of humanity was born with blind spots. Jesus described those living outside of his divine light as having eyes that don’t see and ears that don’t hear.

Even David, a man recognized as being after God’s heart, acknowledged his blind spots, if you will. He called them “hidden faults” (Ps. 19:12). These were sins outside of his realm of awareness, but were sins nonetheless. Even though he could not, or chose not, to list them, they were there. They were real.

Jesus was particularly hard on religious leaders with blind spots. On more than one occasion He pointed out their blindness and their apparent contentment with it.

Unlike His creation, Jesus doesn’t have a blind spot. His awareness of people and His surroundings challenges those of us who claim to be his followers.

Jesus sees individuals amidst the masses.

Jesus feels – He never became calloused but instead, felt compassion.

Jesus calls us to get involved.

Luke reminds us of an occasion where it was late in the afternoon but the crowds were still hanging out with Jesus. The disciples, probably tired from a long day, urged Jesus to send them away so they couldget something to eat and find a place to stay. They were more than likely surprised by Jesus’ response,“You give them something to eat.” In other words, don’t just dismiss the crowd because you’re tired. Don’t take the convenient route and let them figure it out on their own. Don’t pretend you don’t see who’s right in front of you and their needs –you do something.

Who’s in your blind spot?

Who’s right in front of you but you want to dismiss them to fend for themselves?

The disciples said, “Send them away.” Jesus said, “You do something today.”

But what can we do? One strategy is Here for You.

Here for You is an attempt to do something for the masses who are right in front of us as well as those in our blind spots. It would easy to say, budgets are down, we’re already doing all we can. Let someone else address the needs. But Jesus is calling us to do something – now. Like those blind-spot moments on the roads, spiritual blind spots can be deadly. When believers knowingly, or unknowingly, fail to recognize the needs of the lost, the consequences are devastating.

Right now, Louisiana Baptists are seeing and connecting with people in the blind spots. Using current communication platformswe’re sharing the bread of life with those who hunger for more than this chaotic world offers. And Jesus multiplies the message to –not just 5,000 –but hundreds of thousands of people as they receive a gospel seed via their smart phones, tablets, televisions, and social media platforms. But we need help passing out bread to the spiritually hungry. Would you consider helping pass the bread?

Visit LouisianaBaptists.org/hereforyou and enter the password, luke1423. There you’ll find how your church, no matter how small or how large, can begin to share the Bread of Life with every person on a regular basis through Here for You.

Jesus sees the masses.

Jesus notices the individuals.

Jesus calls on us to do what we can.

Join us.

Special Call to Prayer

Special call to prayer from SBC President J.D. Greear

With the announcement of Dr. Kelly’s retirement from New Orleans Seminary, there are currently five (5) SBC entities searching for a new leader. In light of this reality, SBC President, Dr. J.D. Greear, has asked all Southern Baptists to join him in day of prayer and fasting on Monday, October 8. Specifically he requests we pray:

  • For wisdom for the search committee in assessing what is needed most for effective ministry in the 21st century
  • For boldness for the search committee in asking the difficult questions
  • For loving-kindness for the search committee as they interact with one another
  • For favor, that God’s face would shine upon us as a people—not for our sake, but that Jesus’ name would be known to the ends of the earth.

I know Louisiana Baptists will gladly join him, and our brothers and sisters across the country, in bringing these requests before our heavenly Father.

Thank you Louisiana Baptists for your prayers and participation.

A Culture of Crisis

Before cell phones do you remember the beeper?

It was a small device worn on your belt. When someone needed to get in touch with you they would call your beeper and their number would show up on your small, monochrome display.

I signed up for a service plan and told my family they could call any time and if it was an emergency, enter 911 after our home phone number. My youngest daughter took this to heart and every time she would call my beeper the display would light up with our home phone number followed by 91111111111111!

This meant a crisis was looming – at least in her mind.

Today we live in a crisis culture. Our news feeds are filled with crises…

  • Immigration crisis
  • Financial crisis
  • Humanitarian crisis
  • Healthcare crisis
  • Prescription drug crisis

The 24-hour news cycle magnifies almost every news story, accident, and social media post to “crisis level.”

Churches are not exempt from crisis. Over last 15-20 years we’ve experienced our own crises over issues like worship styles; hymns or choruses; hymnals or slides; pianos and organs or praise bands; traditional, blended or contemporary worship; your Sunday best or come as you are casual.

A quick review of our declining baptisms reveals an evangelism crisis. We’re either not sharing our faith or we are sharing and people are simply not responding as they once did. During the recent meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas it was interesting to hear several motions addressing our declining evangelistic endeavors.

I wonder if we’re seeing another crisis in the church. Let’s call it a crisis of complacency. We see the news, either on television or via our social media feeds and we are troubled, shocked or even saddened. We shake our heads, say a brief prayer and even make a quick online donation as we continue on our way.

When Jonah was running from God’s call to go to Nineveh, he hopped a boat heading in the opposite direction.  Exhausted from his efforts to escape God’s clear calling, he went below deck and dosed off.  While he slept, the sailors fought for their lives. They used all of their sailing skills to combat the elements, but the storm was so severe the ship was breaking apart. After doing all they knew to do, the captain went below and asked the slumbering prophet, “How can you sleep?”

In spite of his deliberate disobedience, Jonah at least gave an honest answer: “Pick me up and throw me into the sea and it will be calm. I know that it’s my fault this great storm has come upon you.”

I wonder if maybe, just maybe, we, those of us who profess to be followers of Christ, are at the core of some of the crises we face today. Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying everything that is wrong with our culture is our fault – but I am saying some of it could be.

We are the ones called to be salt and light.

We are the ones called to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

We are the ones who are called to love one another in such a way that the world would know we belong to Jesus.

We are the ones called to go to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in.

Would things calm down, even just a little, if we awakened from our sleep and began to be obedient to what we know God has called us to be and do?

During one storm, the disciples were in the boat with Jesus trying to get to the other side of the sea. As the storm worsened, so did their fear. Things finally reached a point where they awakened Jesus and asked Him, “Don’t you care that we are about to perish?”

I wonder if our culture drives by our church buildings and asks the same thing.

Let’s not forget that we have the answer to life’s big questions. We know what to do – how to act, how to live.  And like Jonah, we know where we’re supposed to go – to the ends of the earth, to the highways and hedges. We’re just not doing it.

Each of us must ask ourselves the “why” question. It’s easy to look at the culture and try to pin the blame on Jesus, “Don’t you care …” The real challenge comes when we have to respond to His question, “Where is your faith?”

If we want to change our culture, if we want to calm some of the storms in our culture, we must seed God’s truth into people’s homes and hearts.

Only God’s truth can calm the storms that rock our culture.

Only God’s truth can bridge the divides Satan has created.

Only God’s truth can spread His love which can conquer a multitude of evils.

Here for You is an attempt to begin this process. By leveraging current communication platforms to creatively and consistently share God’s word, we can spread the seeds of truth which can begin to defuse our culture of crisis and allow our light to shine further and brighter as we walk with Jesus in loving obedience.

Behind each Here For You commercial are important, soul-waking messages that are simple and yet so needed today. Messages like:

It’s never too late to come back to God.

No marriage is too far gone.

God restores the broken parts of our lives.

You can get involved by visiting HereForYou.org and posting these 30 second slices of life on your social media pages and sharing them with friends. You can also invest in this effort by giving to the Here for You campaign and the Georgia Barnette State Missions Offering. Bottom line – we need 300-400 churches to give $100 per month to this strategic initiative. This will provide the needed resources to empower this effort statewide.

We can’t avert every crisis, but we can look in the mirror of God’s word, confess any areas of disobedience that may be contributing to the chaos and begin to intentionally scatter the calming seeds of God’s truth

I believe this is doable. I pray you agree.

Reflections on a Half Century of Ministry

I made the decision. I am going to attend the fifty year reunion of my high school graduating class in a few weeks. As I read posts about this event on social media, I think everyone in the class must be having the same questions I do: (1) where did all the time go, and (2) who are all these senior citizens? I am passing/approaching the half-century mark in other areas as well. I preached my first sermon just over fifty years ago. The fiftieth anniversary of my wedding is a few months away as is that of my ordination to the ministry. There is something sobering about measuring life events in segments of fifty years.

As I look back on the past half century, I remember the aspirations I had at the beginning. It was my desire that my life and ministry would be faithful, fulfilling, and fruitful. Have I hit the mark? Others (and ultimately God) will be the final arbiters; but I hope that there is evidence of my having lived consistently with these aims.

Faithfulness

I remember sitting in a restaurant as a high-schooler while my dad had a cup of coffee with a colleague. At one point, the man said, “David, what are you going to be?” My dad answered for me. “David is planning to go into ministry.” There was an awkward pause. Then the guy replied, “Well, a lot of young guys think that for a while. But then they move on to other things.” So much for a word of encouragement. He probably thought he was just being a realist. But I have imagined a conversation from time to time where I would say to him, “Still here!”

I am thankful that, after all these years, I am still pursuing my calling. I make no claim of doing it perfectly and no one recognizes more than I that God’s grace has been operating vigorously to keep me from veering onto destructive, disqualifying paths. Any number of the seven deadly sins are always lurking nearby to trip me up so that Satan might sift me like wheat.

That is why, in my first few days as a pastor, I adopted my motto for ministry: “O Lord God of the armies of heaven, don’t let me be a stumbling block to those who trust in you. O God of Israel, don’t let me cause them to be confused.” (Ps 69:6, The Living Bible). While this prayer is admittedly defensive, it has reminded me of the value of faithfulness for the long haul. If you are on the front end of ministry currently, a great aspiration for you would be “to finish well.”

Fulfillment

I like what I am doing. I grew comfortable a long while back telling people (when they inquired about my occupation) that I am a Baptist preacher. They don’t always know what to say about that. One guy responded, “Well, I guess you get to work with a nice group of people.” Yes and no.

Ministry hasn’t always been easy, but it has always been fulfilling. In fact, for me, the more difficult assignments were often the most fulfilling. I do not mean to minimize the struggles some in ministry have faced. The circumstances can sometimes be grueling, even brutal. But I want to challenge my fellow strugglers to remember their high calling, to consider it joy to serve the Lord, and to be happy in their labor.

Ministry for Jesus ought to be satisfying. The satisfaction should come more from the what of your service than the where of your service. I find my ministry fulfilling because the cause is right. I find my ministry fulfilling because it is purposeful. I find my ministry fulfilling because it pleases God.  God’s ministers should say with Paul: I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

Fruitfulness

A psychology professor once taught me that there are two kinds of people: “get ahead” people and “get by” people. I have always wanted to get ahead–to achieve, to be successful, to be fruitful. (The caption on a picture of me and the other class officers in our senior yearbook reads: Climbing the Ladder of Success).

I applied the same drive to ministry. While we ought to avoid the excesses “get ahead” people can fall into (pride, self-sufficiency, misplaced priorities, burn out, etc.), there is nothing virtuous in laziness, lack of ambition, or being a slacker. God will evaluate our “fruitfulness.” Will it be gold, silver, precious stones or wood, hay, and stubble?

I want to be a good steward of my opportunities to bear fruit for the Kingdom. I look back thankfully on those individuals who came to salvation as we prayed together, on those families who renewed their commitment to God and one another, to those churches that sacrificed to be on mission, to those strategies that led to spiritual and numerical advance.

Carlos McLeod, the late Texas Baptist evangelism director, told of his boyhood days and picking cotton. When he was tempted to hide behind the plants and not do his work, he would remember that his father would be waiting at the end of the day to weigh the cotton he had picked. He didn’t want to disappoint his father by a paltry amount in his sack. Then, Dr. McLeod challenged us all: We have an eternal harvest to reap. Let’s not appear before the Father empty handed.

 

Thank you, Lord, for 50 years and counting. May God grant us all the gift of a faithful, fulfilling, fruitful ministry for Jesus sake!