God Knows

Jesus told us that we would have trouble in this world. “You will have suffering in this world!” (John 16:33 HCSB) Not maybe, but you will. Why?

In part, we have trouble in this world because of the presence of evil. Again, Jesus said, “I have told you these things to keep you from stumbling. They will ban you from the synagogues. In fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering service to God. They will do these things because they haven’t known the Father or Me.  But I have told you these things so that when their time comes you may remember I told them to you. I didn’t tell you these things from the beginning, because I was with you. (John 16:1-4)

I find comfort and confidence in knowing that He knows. In the Old Testament, the people of God were crying and groaning about their treatment in Egypt. The Bible says, “God saw the Israelites, and He took notice.” (Exodus 2:25) When God met Moses at the burning bush, He said, “I have observed the misery of My people in Egypt, and have heard them crying out because of their oppressors, and I know about their suffering.” (Exodus 3:7) If God knew then don’t you think that He knows today? He knows about your bank account, and your family, and your chart at your Doctor’s office. He knows. And, He is not in a panic. There is no panic button in Heaven.

The Sunday School Challenge – Step 1

Step 1: Pray

Two things I know. First, God has a plan for your church and your community. Secondly, God wants to use you in accomplishing His plan in your church and in your community. The book by Henry Blackaby entitled, Experiencing God, taught us to “find where God is working and join Him”. One of the most important aspects of the Sunday School Challenge is PRAYER.

Like you, I believe in the value and impact of Sunday School.  Your participation in the Sunday School Challenge can be a great foundation to move your church toward a healthy, growing Sunday School.

(If you are not yet a part of the Sunday School Challenge, you need to join us. Just go to LouisianaBaptists.org/SSC to find out more).

The primary objectives for the Sunday School Challenge are to 1) Reach & Enroll New People, 2) Teach Toward Life-Change and 3) Involve Members in Ongoing Ministry.  These goals begin through a commitment to prayer.  This campaign is built on prayer and a surrender to God’s leading.  Prayer efforts must be thoughtful and intentional for all involved.

To help you lead others in this heartfelt discipline, we have gathered resources for Step 1—Prayer:

  • PRAYER BOOT CAMP, developed by Claude King, based upon War Room’s “The Battle Plan for Prayer” is a flexible prayer training experience introducing the basics of prayer and weapons of our spiritual warfare. It is learning to pray by praying together. (Free download) blog.lifeway.com/growingdisciples/?s=Prayer+Boot+Camp.
  • CONSECRATE THE PEOPLE, by Claude King; an 8-day devotional guide to help Christian individuals, churches, and groups prepare themselves for a sacred assembly before God—a time to renew covenant commitments to the Lord. Download Here.
  • FRESH ENCOUNTER, by Henry Blackaby and Claude King, is a 28-day devotional guide which emphasizes “Seeking God Together for Revival in the Land.”  This guide leads you to seek the kind of relationship with God through which He can revive you and use you for revival and awakening.  Fresh Encounter Guides may be purchased for $3.99 each at lifeway.com/en/product/fresh-encounter-a-28-day-devotional-guide-P001305293.
  • COME TO THE LORD’S TABLE, from Claude King, is a 28-day devotional guide is a simple tool focused on church renewal, a daily guide to prepare mind, heart and life for meeting at the Lord’s table. Special attention is given to the preparation of hearts, and renewal of our covenant with the Lord in a worthy manner.  Cost is $6.99 each.   lifeway.com/en/product/come-to-the-lord-s-table-P001315091.

If you have scheduled your churches’ dates for the Sunday School Challenge, please let us know. We are available to assist you in any way we can. We are praying, expectantly, for His blessings in your church.

Sean Keith is the Sunday School/Discipleship Strategist for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Check out other resources at LouisianaBaptists.org/churchgrowth.

Start Something!

Recently I was with a group of church leaders and the issue of reaching the lost came up. One of the leaders asserted that it seems the churches are all going after the same people, while the truly lost in our communities have little outreach to them. He’s absolutely right. Many of our standard church outreach activities are white noise to the growing number of NEVER churched in our communities. Maybe its time to Start Something new to reach the lost in your city.

  • When was the last time you assessed your community for the real needs of people?
  • When was the last time you thought about the unchurched in your town and how to bring the gospel to them?
  • When was the last time you asked hard questions about the effectiveness of your churches ministry in making contact with the lost?
  • When was the last time you looked at the demographics around your church?

This years Missions and Ministry Summer Luncheon tour will focus on these questions. We want to learn about your community and highlight some needs that may be great avenues for sharing the gospel. We want to talk about starting some new fights with modern day issues affecting people in our state. Join the Missions and Ministry Team at one of our Summer Luncheons across Louisiana in June and July.

Visit LouisianaBaptists.org/Compassion to find and register for a meal and discussion.

The Sunday School Challenge – Overview

Over the last three or four decades, Sunday School Enrollment and Sunday School Attendance have steadily and consistently declined. There were a few bumps of growth, but the trend line has been heading down. Over the last several years God has challenged me to try and simplify what the average church needs to do to move toward a healthy, growing Sunday School. As I understand it, the average church in Louisiana has a worship attendance around 67. With the help of a focus group of Pastors, Directors of Mission, other staff and some lay leaders, we have developed the Sunday School Challenge. (You can find and download resources that will explain how your Church can participate in the Sunday School Challenge at LouisianaBaptists.org/SSC).

The goal of the Sunday School Challenge is to provide the Pastor and Sunday School Champions a tool to equip teachers and other leaders to develop a healthy, growing Sunday School class or Small Group. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (HCSB)

The Pastor can lead his congregation to accomplish three primary objectives through the Sunday School Challenge. They are: Reach and Enroll New People, Teach Toward Changed Lives, and Involve Members in Ongoing Ministry. The Sunday School Challenge seeks to engage every teacher/leader of every class to set a minimum of 3 goals during The Challenge. After setting goals, each class will develop a plan to accomplish the goals they have established with the help of their Sunday School Champion.

The Secret to a successful campaign is the Sunday School Champion(s). These wonderful leaders in your church will work with the Pastor to influence and encourage others to join God in accomplishing the three objectives listed above. Check out the Sunday School Challenge Guide for more information about the Sunday School Champion(s).

At the conclusion of The Challenge, the Pastor, in conjunction with the Sunday School Champion(s) will recognize and/or give rewards to the classes who have achieved their goals. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6 (CSB Bible) This verse skillfully reminds us that God gives the growth. Nonetheless, Paul planted and Apollos watered. We are to do our part. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without meJohn 15:5 (CSB Bible) This gentle reminder should encourage us to be faithful and obedient to do and accomplish what God desires.

We celebrate what God has done and we reward and affirm those who worked toward accomplishing the objectives God has given us.

Honestly, there is nothing new in the Sunday School Challenge. Unfortunately, too many of our churches are not practicing these clear and effective principles in building a healthy, growing Sunday School. Why not lead your church to participate in the Sunday School Challenge?

Head to the website LouisianaBaptists.org/SSC now and download your guide to the Sunday School Challenge. Let us know when you plan to lead your church in moving toward a healthy, growing Sunday School.

Sean Keith is the Sunday School/Discipleship Strategist for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. More resources can be found at LouisianaBaptists.org/churchgrowth/.

Olive Tree Parenting

Olive trees produce one of the most desired and sought after fruits around the world. The trees can live for thousands of years. The olive and the olive tree is spoke of in the Bible on numerous occasions. Including a few references to family life, like in Psalms 128:3 (NLT) – “Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table.”

What can olive trees teach us about raising children? Four lessons from the Olive Tree:

1. Olive Trees are Symbols of Peace, Happiness, and Health.

In Genesis 8:11, we see that after the flood, all was pronounced well when the dove brought an olive branch back to Noah. This was a welcomed and joyous sight. The birth and growth of our children bring similar joy to our hearts. New life, new milestones make us grateful for God’s gift to us.

2. Olive Trees may not bear fruit for 12-15 years and may not be fully mature for 20-50 years.

Just like children, olive trees take some time to develop and mature. For the parent, this is a reminder to be patient. Don’t expect perfection and fruitfulness from a developing tree. They will make mistakes. They will mess up. God’s promise is that He can use even their mess ups and ours for their good in the end.

3. Olive Trees can survive and thrive, and may even be helped by harsh conditions.

Like olive trees, people don’t always grow when things are easy. We grow when there is a little pressure. Olive trees grow in arid, hot, dry climates and benefit in some places from stiff winds. For the parent and the disciple maker, this is a reminder that for people to grow, learn dependence on God, and bear fruit, we should not shield them from all pressure, but carefully lead them through them. Athletics, academics, first jobs, broken relationships, temptation, mission trips, disappointments are some of the early pressures that can bring growth to our children. If we shield them from all of them, we may shield them from growth.

4. When the tree appears dead, it lives on through new shoots that spring from a strong root.

There are olive trees that are believed to be 800 years old that are still producing fruit today. Now they have died 100’s of times, but continue to live through new shoots. This is what our next generations represent. New shoots that carry on our name, our faith, our legacy. The question is: Am I connecting my future generations to a strong root? And am I connected with a strong root? a life source that will multiply good fruit for generations to come? That root is of course Jesus Christ. He promises to flow through us to others. He wants to. Connecting with him, will ensure that.

John 15:5 (NLT) – ““Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”

See this article in its original context

What Can You Do to Protect Your Congregation?

Houses of worship are considered soft targets for those intent on doing evil. In response to the ongoing threat, the Department of Homeland Security has several resources for congregations to review and implement as they desire.

Some of these resources include:

  • Hometown Security Report which outlines the challenges and how to prepare for potential threats.
  • A vulnerability assessment for churches.
  • A grant program where churches can request funds to enhance their on-campus security.

If you’re interested in being considered for a grant to assist in upgrading your on-campus security, applications will be received beginning April 16, 2019. Interested churches are encouraged to complete and submit their grant requests by April 30, 2019.

The first step to apply for the grant is to immediately apply for a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number via the following link: http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/register.html. Obtaining this identifying number for the nonprofit/church is mandatory and takes weeks to receive.

A vulnerability assessment is also required and can be accessed by clicking on the Vulnerability Assessment PDF in the download section below.

IMPORTANT: Churches and religious schools will not compromise the religious freedoms of their faith-based institutions for applying and accepting any DHS funding for this program.

For additional information and resources visit:

Download these resources for more information:

Ideas Out Loud

One of our goals is to provide tools and resources to the many churches in our great state. We do this through conferences, literature, digital media, and more. From 2016-2018, we produced a podcast called Ideas Out Loud. In it, we interviewed various leaders and experts in a variety of ministry-related fields, including VBS, discipleship, finance, and more.

Even though the podcast has run its course, we still want to make the audio files available to you. So click through the playlist below and enjoy!

*Resources mentioned in these episodes are no longer available.

 

Lee Strobel’s Full Presentation (ECON)

Due to a power outage during ECON, Lee Strobel’s message was cut short. He recently gave the same message at another event, and has allowed us to publish the video here. Please enjoy!

If you haven’t seen the other ECON videos, click here.

Video credit: Southern Baptists of Texas

Is My Church RePlant Ready?

RePlanting has become a hot topic for denominations. With 65%-80% of churches in decline and many communities transitioning demographically, new visions and strategies must be developed to reach people with the Gospel and build healthy congregational life. Sometimes, churches can’t go on as they are to accomplish that purpose. RePlanting is a way to redeem the property, organization, and investments of previous generations for the vision of a church to reach a people and a place for Christ. Among Louisiana Baptists the need is great. Surveys of Associations have found that potentially 190 churches will close in the next 3-5 years. That’s more than 10% of our current congregations!

RePlant Ready Churches Needed

The Louisiana Baptists Missions and Ministry Team have partnered with now, 50 RePlants since 2010. Many of them have received funding through the Cooperative Program and Georgia Barnette State Missions Offering for Church Planting and Building Renovation efforts. Our need today is more healthy churches that will say “Yes!” to RePlanting and serve as a sponsor, mentor, or sending church to churches at or near closure.

What does it look like to be a RePlant Ready Church? As we’ve reviewed our current list of RePlant, we find some common denominators among the churches involved. Here are a few:

  1. A Passion for God and the Lost. Healthy church planting and replanting start with a desire to see people saved and obey Jesus’ Great Commission.
  2. Eyes Open to the Needs of the World. Churches that multiply are looking for opportunities to be a blessing and spread the love of Christ. They look at the world through the eyes of Christ, who saw the crowds and had compassion on them (Matthew 9:35).
  3. Growing through Healthy Systems that Produces New Disciples. RePlanting and multiplication is not a strategy to get your church growing. Multiplication is a way for churches that ARE healthy and growing to extend their healthy dna outward for the kingdom. Multiplication will reveal unhealth faster than anything. Get your systems healthy and multiplication will be the result.
  4. Unified through Relationships and Purpose. A recent RePlant that was the result of two congregations merging, testified of 100% unanimous vote by both congregations. This didn’t happen automatically. Great patience and clear communication by the leaders produced unity of relationships and purpose. Dealing with disunity is a must before embarking on a large multiplication effort like RePlanting.
  5. Discovers a Community or Communities in Need. With eyes open, churches that multiply see the needs of a community and in the case of RePlanting, a sister congregation in need, and seeks to respond.
  6. Ready to Send a Team of Leaders and Laborers. Churches that multiply well, prepare to send and give so that God’s kingdom can grow. Strategies and systems are in place to raise up leaders to go.

If your church is RePlant Ready or would like to assess your Readiness, let us know (Click here to fill out a form). We’d love to see your church take this multiplication journey. Contact one of our Church Planting Strategist for more information.

James Jenkins: james.jenkins@louisianabaptists.org
Carlos Schmidt: carlos.schmidt@louisianabaptists.org
Lane Corley: lane.corley@louisianabaptists.org
Lee Green, Multiplication Assistant – lee.green@louisianabaptists.org
Office – 318.448.3402
multiplyLA.com

Church Multiplication vs. Church Planting

When talking about planting new churches, I prefer the term church multiplication. Why? Most churches lack margin and without margin financially and with volunteers, they don’t believe that they can plant another church. It’s an option for one day IF we are able. But multiplication is a must for every church and a path to every church getting healthy and getting involved in planting new churches. Every church, to be healthy, MUST multiply. We must multiply ON-CAMPUS through new disciples, servant-leaders, groups, and ministries. Then multiplication in a healthy church WILL move OFF-CAMPUS through multiplication of ministries, outreach events, missions partnerships, AND new congregations in some form.

Start multiplying and you WILL BE a church planting church.

How do we get started?

  • Multiply New Disciples by sharing the gospel and bringing new people into the kingdom. Train your church in personal evangelism and lead them to see their community as a mission field.
  • Multiply New Servant-leaders by having a monthly leadership development round table for existing and potential leaders. Begin a mentoring relationship with teachable and hungry disciples.
  • Multiply New Ministries by looking at the needs in the body that are currently not being met and commission a leader or team to tackle the need.
  • Multiply Off-Campus Ministries and Outreaches by asking the question “Where is the church not?” Look for opportunities like local multi-housing communities, local nursing homes, local compassion oriented agencies, etc.
  • Multiply Mission Partnerships by planning an annual mission trip, a vision tour to an underserved part of your state or region, co-sponsoring a new church in your area or state, etc.

Multiplying at these levels will lead to growth, health, and the hunger to keep the multiplication going at every level, including new communities where a church or campus may be needed.

Get in touch:

lane.corley@louisianabaptists.org – if you need to help with ideas and scenarios for multiplying your church or if you’d like to network with other multiplying churches in your area. Connect with our Louisiana Baptists Multiplication Network for events to help you work on strategy and systems for healthy multiplication. Attend one of our upcoming Multiplication Ready or RePlant Ready Events in 2019 for more info and ideas.