Disaster Relief Report Video

Many people expressed interest in downloading the Disaster Relief video shown during Dr. Horn’s report at the Louisiana Baptist Convention Annual Meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 10. It is available below to watch and download. Enjoy!

The Vision Thing

If there is one thing we as pastors and churches should be doing right now, it is clarifying the vision and mission for the future of our churches. Pre-covid 19, the decline in the SBC and in evangelicalism has been well documented year by year. In 2019, baptisms dropped another 20% in Louisiana, Bible Study attendance was below 100,000 for the third straight year, and more churches closed for good, bringing the total in Louisiana to 125 since 2015. Covid-19 may be fast forwarding our decline as churches slowly reopen with smaller crowds. Vision and visionary leaders are desperately needed for today.

In his book The Vision Driven Leader, Michael Hyatt lists the pitfalls of vision-less organizations. He says, without vision we…,

  1. Are unprepared for the future
  2. Miss opportunities
  3. Suffer scattered priorities
  4. Waste money, time, and effort

Here is the positive impact of 2020. The last eight months have helped us think hard about the future, consider new opportunities, prioritize ministries, and sharpen our focus. Now is the time to clarify the vision.

Are you crystal clear about the vision, missions, and values of your church? And are you communicating it in a clear and compelling way in this season of uncertainty?

Of course, Jesus has given us as church leaders a head start, with the global vision to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20). We can’t and shouldn’t try to improve on his vision. However, we can contextualize it for our church specifically and communicate it in a compelling and moving way to the people we lead.

How do I clarify the vision for my church?

  1. Get clear on the vision of Jesus for the world found in the Great Commission.
  2. Get alone with God and ask Him for a clear vision for your church and community.
  3. Jump ahead three to five years and imagine a better future for the people in your community through Great Commission obedience.
  4. Write a three to five paragraph script of what that future looks like in the present tense.
  5. Share that vision with your leaders as though you were inviting them on a journey.

Writing about your church in five years, try starting like this: “________ Baptist Church is filled with people who are new to faith in Christ.” What else can you imagine for your church and community?

For additional clarity on vision and writing a vision script, check out Michael Hyatt’s great book, The Vision Driven Leader: 10 Questions to Focus Your Efforts, Energize Your Team, and Scale Your Business.

If you’re ready to get more strategic as a leader in this new day, check out the Multiply Louisiana Cohorts, kicking off in 2021. Connect with a network of other pastors and ministry leaders who are honing their vision, developing a strategic plan, raising up leaders, and looking afresh at their communities and churches through historical and demographic data. Connect with an Informational Meeting for Multiply Louisiana Cohorts, here: https://louisianabaptists.org/get-strategic-in-2021-connect-with-a-multiply-louisiana-pastors-cohort/.

Get Strategic in 2021: Connect with a Multiply Louisiana Pastors Cohort

2020 has changed everything. Now more than ever, churches need strategic leadership to rebuild and revitalize ministries in our new normal. Over the last four years, churches and leaders have grown through networking and collaborating together through Multiply Louisiana Cohorts. These cohorts have brought together like-minded pastors and ministry leaders who are seeking to revitalize and replant churches, multiply leaders and groups, and sharpen or reshape strategies for reaching people in this new day. The Multiply Louisiana Cohort is a 10-month church multiplication and revitalization initiative for pastors and replant leaders. By joining the Multiply Louisiana Cohort you’ll be in on a monthly meeting with like-minded pastors led by seasoned practitioners, you’ll get six books and a notebook filled with ideas to grow your leadership and your church, a detailed demographic profile of your community, a 30-year profile of your church, and more.

Together we learn:

  • How to Lead Through Change
  • How to Manage Conflict
  • How to Empower Lay Leaders and Volunteers
  • How to Develop a Strategic Plan
  • How to Staff for Growth
  • How to Apply Research Data to Your Community (MissionInsite Demographic Profile provided for each participating church), and more.

Cohorts are kicking off in January of 2021. Get more info by connecting with one of these five informational meetings:

Or view a listing of all events here.

Louisiana Baptists Are Gathering

This year has brought about more challenges and cancellations than any of us care to recount. For those meetings and events that were scheduled, more times than not, they happened virtually rather than in person. This has been true for us as Louisiana Baptists.

Therefore, I am excited to meet in person for the annual meeting of Louisiana Baptists. We have made significant changes to the format to streamline our business while complying with COVID considerations, but our plans are to gather in person for this important, once-a-year event.

So please join us on Tuesday, November 10, in Guinn Auditorium on the campus of Louisiana College in Pineville. Registration will open at 11 a.m. and the meeting will begin at 12:45 with worship led by Ricky Draper, Worship Pastor at First Baptist in New Orleans. We will conduct business, hear reports, and celebrate God’s faithfulness amidst the great challenges of 2020. The meeting will conclude about 5:00 p.m. following a message from Steve McAlister, Pastor of Westside, in Natchitoches.

Resilient will be our theme – certainly appropriate for this year. We realize it may require resiliency to make it to this year’s annual meeting, but we do hope you will come and gather with other Louisiana Baptists as we corporately commit ourselves to advancing God’s Kingdom in our state. Visit LouisianaBaptists.org/AnnualMeeting to pre-register your church’s messengers.

You Want Us to Do What?

Football is back!

When I was a youth minister I worked out with a local high school football team as part of their “optional” summer conditioning program. During one of the workouts the coach took us to the practice field and announced that we were going to run 50 forty-yard sprints. They wouldn’t dare say it but I knew what those young athletes were thinking, “You want us to do what?.”

I’m sure you’ve probably asked that question many times during these COVID-19 days.

You want me to wash my hands how many times?

You want me to stand how far apart from people?

You want me to wear what over my face in the middle of summer?

You want me to do what?

We’ve all been asked to do something big or challenging to which our first response might have been along the same lines – you want me to do what? Translated – are you crazy? Do you know what you’re asking?

I can’t help but think this was going through the mind of Jesus’ disciples at the end of the long day of ministry. Realizing it was late in the day, the disciples wanted Jesus to send the crowd away. The reason they gave was so the people could get something to eat before dark. The truth was they were tired and hungry. They had just returned from their mission trip, if you will, and Mark tells us the “apostles gathered around Jesus and reported all that they had done and taught.” Jesus invited them to a remote place for some rest, but the crowds wouldn’t let Jesus out of their sight. In fact, so many people were coming that Mark noted the apostles “did not even have time to eat.”

As was Jesus’ nature, He had compassion on the crowd and spent the day teaching those who came. Fast-forward to the end of a long, meal-less, day of ministry. The disciples encouraged Jesus to send the crowd away. What Jesus said next caught them by surprise, “You give them something to eat.” Mark 6:37.

Wait for it… You want us to do what?

The New Living Translation puts it this way, “With what?” they asked. “We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people.”

The New Testament is sprinkled with “you want us to do what” assignments:

  • Lazarus had been dead four days and Jesus said, “move the stone.”
  • The daughter of the religious leader died as Jesus was on His way to his house. Jesus said, she’s not dead, only sleeping. Let’s keep going!
  • He told Peter to go catch a fish so they could pay their temple tax.
  • Before He ascended He told the disciples to go into all the world and make disciples.

The good news is whenever Jesus gives us one of those “you want us to do what” tasks, He knows how it’s going to play out. The next thing He asks is “what do you have?” When Jesus assigns us the task of reaching Louisiana, He’s not going to ask us for more than we have, but He will ask us for what we have.

When Louisiana Baptists launched Here for You, a strategy to seed God’s truth inside every heart and every home in the state, we asked the same bumfuzzled, glorious question: You want us to do what? You want us to create 30 second, cinema quality messages on secular media outlets to share the Gospel? We did and God is honoring our obedience.How has God used what you’ve been able to give?

  • In the second quarter of 2020, you’ve seeded God’s truth in the hearts of 90% of young mothers 12 or more times during the weeks we were on the air via broadcast and cable TV.
  • In the process of doing this, you’ve touched roughly 95% of TV households across Louisiana
  • Since January 1, 2020, our partnership with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has produced 4,323 gospel presentation views and 897 indicated decisions for Christ.
  • Social media has literally produced hundreds of thousands of impressions and tens of thousands of delivered clicks.

God is using what we have and distributing His truth to the multitudes of our fellow citizens who do not have a relationship with Jesus. He sees them and feels compassion towards them – and so must we.

The task before us is great and Christ’s directive is clear – you give them something. Instead of responding with “you want us to do what,” let’s show the same compassion Jesus showed the crowd and give what we have. Let’s work together, do whatever He tells us to do, and see what happens next. It may just be miraculous!

Visit LouisianaBaptists.org/hereforyou and enter the password, luke1423 to see how your church can connect with Here for You.

Lord, We Are Weary!

Lord, we are weary! Especially your people in Louisiana.

First, it was COVID-19. We spent weeks leading the nation in cases per capita. We went home. The economic impact of that is still being felt. When people went home, gas prices plummeted. So many of our people who make their living in the oil and gas industry suffered. Some were retired before they planned to retire. Others were not so fortunate. They are just unemployed. We are weary.

Then hurricane season arrived. Six times we have been in the “cone of uncertainty.” The “cone of uncertainty” became the “certainty of catastrophe” with Hurricane Laura. We. Are. Weary.

We are weary of blue tarps, if there is even something left to tarp. We are weary of FEMA. We are weary of the hum of the generator. And yes, we are tired of our new guest Jim Cantore. We are weary from all that has been lost. We are weary of the debris that is piled up at the road waiting to be removed.

Like Elijah of old, some days we want to find a tree to sit under to pray, “Lord, I’ve had enough.” But Lord, and I’m laughing to keep from crying, the tree was blown down by Hurricane Laura.

And, now comes Delta. Dear Lord, we’ve run out of names this year and have turned to the Greek alphabet. Lord, we are weary.

And Lord, while we are confessing, we are worried. We are worried that Delta will finish off what is left of us. We’re worried people are so weary that they won’t return. We are worried that the volunteers, who have blessed us so much, won’t return because they too are weary.

And so, we wait. We wait the next advisory. Will Delta shift east or west? A little slower or a little faster? What’s the exact timing? How long will we be without power this time?

But Lord, as we wait, help us, more than anything, to wait on you! For you have told us in your word, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) I am going to claim that peace today, even as I work on the thanksgiving part. We don’t see an exception to the “anything”–no footnote that exempts hurricanes, so we wait in prayer.

And as we wait in prayer, help us to wait in faith. You said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” (Proverbs 3:5) That challenges our faith as we pray.

And as we wait, help us worship. As you have reminded us so many times before, it’s hard to worry and worship at the same time. So please, let worship consume us, so worry won’t.

And we will watch. We will watch for you. We remember Jehoshaphat’s prayer, “We do not know what to do, but we look to You.” (2 Chronicles 20:12)

As you told Moses, with the Red Sea before him and the army of Pharaoh behind him, “Stand back and see the salvation of the Lord.” (Exodus 14:13)

So Lord, take your weary, worried, and weakened people, and be strong on our behalf.

Encourage Webcasts

Did you miss the opportunity to be encouraged or need to get a second dose of encouragement? Scroll down to view the Encourage webcasts that took place on Tuesday, October 6. These webcasts are available for ministers and minister’s wives. If they encouraged you, share this link with a friend.

Webcast for Ministers

Webcast for Minister’s Wives

Want to Keep it Going?

Swan's Place

Connecting Your Six Degrees

I’m sure you’ve heard of the six degrees of separation. Popularized in music, stage, and screen, the idea is that all people are six degrees (people), or fewer, social connections away from another person. To put it another way, we all know someone who knows someone who knows someone, until in only six relationships, we are all connected.

A few years ago, I attended a Texas Rangers baseball game in Arlington. At the Ball Park in Arlington, there is a playground area for young kids. During the game, I went with my son Josh, about 8 at the time, to play some of the games. As I was watching Josh play, I found myself in a conversation with a rather excited woman—dressed head to toe in Texas Rangers attire. I happened to be wearing a University of Louisiana at Lafayette t-shirt. She asked me about the t-shirt and indicated that she had lived in South Louisiana for a brief time as a child. She asked what brought me to the game. I said I was just visiting the area and wanted to take in a game. I wasn’t really a fan of the Rangers, but a baseball fan. Then she asked whether I was going to be at the game on the next evening. I indicated that I was not. Then she said, “That’s too bad, because tomorrow night my son, Rob Bell, is going to be the starting pitcher for the Rangers. That’s his kids out there playing.”

God encountered Moses in a burning bush calling him to go to Pharaoh to lead the people out of Egypt.  During the ensuing conversation, God revealed the name, I AM, to Moses. It’s an unusual name, isn’t it? But you see, each time that God revealed a new name, He was revealing something about Himself.

Yahweh is a name that indicates the personal nature of God.

Until this point in Moses’ life, God was a God of history. He was the God of His people. God was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. From this moment forward, God would reveal Himself as a personal God. I’m afraid that for far too many people, God is still just a God of history. He is the God of a story – but God wants to be known by you in a deeply more personal way.

As I reflect back on my encounter with the woman at the ballpark, I realized her reason for being at the game and my reason for being at the game were worlds apart. I was there because it was something to do while on a trip. She was there to watch her son. I was there to have something to do. Her presence was personal.

Two things stand out to me about my conversation with her:

  1. She was excited.
  2. She was going to tell somebody that her son played for the Rangers. I happened to be that someone.

Shouldn’t we as God’s children be equally, or even more excited than this baseball Mom? If we are, we’ll seek similar conversations and opportunities that ultimately point people to Jesus.

Whether you’re participating in the Who’s Your One effort or our own Here for You campaign, there are ways to engage those we encounter in potentially life altering conversations.

Six degrees of separation?

This may be true of relationships in this world, but it’s not good to be separated from God – even if it’s just one degree.  If you are not personally connected to God, today is the day to become personally connected to Him. God promises to draw close to you if you’ll draw close to Him (James 4:8).

If you are connected to God, seek someone who is not and ask God to use you to bring them at least one degree closer to Him.

God says He is “I Am.” Do you know Him in this personal way?

Duration

One of the most frequently asked questions I’ve received in recent weeks is, “Are y’all almost finished with Hurricane Laura relief?” That’s a relatively easy question. “NO! Not even close!”

Sometimes, the question will vary slightly – “How long will y’all be helping?” That answer is also easy, “As long as it takes.”

The reality is what took Hurricane Laura only hours to destroy will take months, or longer, to rebuild.

With that in mind, here is a true story I read earlier this year that has stayed with me.

Last basketball season, Hamilton Christian of Lake Charles defeated White Castle High School in the finals of White Castle’s tournament. White Castle is south of Baton Rouge and more than two hours from Lake Charles. When Hamilton Christian loaded their bus after 9 p.m. on Saturday for a victorious ride home, their bus would not start. Hamilton’s coach, Dexter Washington, returned to the White Castle gym and asked their coach, Troy Green, “Do you know anyone with a bus who can bring us back to Lake Charles?” Without hesitation, Coach Green said, “I can.” And, he did.

As wonderful as that story is, it’s Coach Green’s explanation that has stayed with me. When asked about his unexpected, late-night bus trip he replied, “The tournament is not over until the last team gets home.”

So it is with the sizable task before us – our job is not done until everyone gets home. We’re in this for the duration.

Thank you to the many who have already volunteered. If you can send a team, touch base with your Disaster Relief contacts and let them know of your availability. If you can’t go, pray for God’s hand of restoration and provision and give to support the ongoing relief efforts.

As we continue the grind of clean up and rebuilding, this is my prayer for us, “… may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone, just as we do for you.”
1 Thessalonians 3:12

Moments that Challenge Us to Respond

World War II, the assassination of JFK, the Space Shuttle Disaster in 1986 and again in 2003, the OKC Bombing in 1995, 9-11, Hurricanes—What do they all have in common? They are historical moments that impact life. They change things. September 11, 2001, changed our world. Some defining moments are historical moments that link all of us. In Louisiana, we add now Hurricane Laura to all of her ancestors.

Isaiah lived in uncertain times. The familiar words of Isaiah chapter 6 underscores this reality: “In the year that King Uzziah died.” This was a defining, historical moment in Isaiah’s lifetime. The books of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles reveal that Uzziah reigned for 52 years as King over Judah. Remember kings in this period of history were recorded as either good or bad according to their adherence to God’s law given through Moses.  Uzziah is recorded as a good king. He was a strong military leader. He had weapons that were advanced for his time that shot arrows and hurled large stones from towers. In sum, Uzziah’s reign was a good reign. His death brought uncertainty.  Would the next king follow in his steps? Would the new king lead the people closer to God or farther away from God? For a person like Isaiah who earnestly and eagerly sought after God, these were difficult times. These difficult times led to a defining moment for Isaiah—a moment that would change his life forever.

The Progression from Disaster to Defining Moment

How can historical moments of crisis and disaster become defining moments?

Look Upward! The sum of what Isaiah experiences is although King Uzziah is dead, God is very much alive. The sum of our Laura experience is although some have suffered devastating loss, God is very much alive.

Look Inward! Times of uncertainty ought to cause us to look within. Actually, for Isaiah, this is a by-product of his upward look. Because Isaiah sees the holiness of God, his attention is taken from the situation around him to the sin within him. Notice the first part of his confession: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips.” Isaiah enters the Temple trembling concerning his situation, but in meeting God, he trembles at his sin.

Only after Isaiah acknowledges his own sin does he mention the sin of the ones around him. We usually get this backward.

Look Outward! Finally, in the midst of uncertain times we need to look outward. In this experience of being in the Temple, God ultimately calls Isaiah to be a prophet. God needs people in uncertain times to speak a word in the midst of the chaos. In times of crisis, many are overwhelmed. Many are looking to see if there is any hope. Many will look to the church, but only see similar panic and chaos. We will have many opportunities if we can look outward.

God uses historical moments in our lives to capture our attention. The question is whether we will allow these historical moments to keep our attention. May the Church rise to the occasion!