What Mission Trips Have Taught Me

This July I am planning to go on a mission trip to Utah. Whenever someone goes on a mission trip with my church, they are required to full out a questionnaire.  This questionnaire includes general information, bu it also is designed to make you think about the upcoming trip with questions like "What do you hope to see God accomplish during this trip?" and things like that. One of the questions is, "what previous mission trips have you taken and what lessons did you learn on these trips?"

Although I have never been on a mission trip outside of the US I have been many places on mission and done many things on those trips.  I thought I would share some of those lessons with you here on my blog.  This is really more than I have room for on a form at church.  So without any further ado, here are 11 lessons I have learned on mission trips to Washington & Oregon, Memphis, New Orleans, Kenosha WI, New Hampshire & Massachusetts, and Pearlington MS.

1. You will probably have experiences with the native wildlife.


2. The ability to make balloon animals will make you very popular


3. Not just anybody can rock a plastic visor


4. You better like playing cards or dominoes, because once the day's work is done there is nothing else to do. You will be playing cards.


5. Take lots of pictures, because one day in the future you may want to write a blogpost about all the stuff you learned and the points that have pictures are much more interesting than the ones without. (Seriously though, pictures are great because you will want to report to the people back at your church what it was like and pictures convey more than most of us are able to convey with words.)

6. Even if, like me, you have no actual discernible skills, you can always find some way to help.


 7. Pretty much wherever you are going, [especially if you are going to the deep south] sunscreen & bug spray will be your friends.

8. Working alongside others you will probably come to know the meaning of Christian fellowship in a new way


9. Flexibility is extremely important, you almost always wind up doing things you didn't previously plan on


10. You will probably have to eat weird food or food you don't like. Just suck it up, it won't hurt you (probably)


11. There is nothing  better for personal revival than a week or a vacation, or a summer spent serving others whether it is witnessing to them, trying to lead them to eternal life, or whether it is a work project and service of some sort.

Opportunities to share

I am an ordained minister who has a secular job, so it is not unusual for coworkers who have spiritual questions to come to me.  But I learned years ago, long before I was a minster of the gospel, even before I considered going into the ministry, that if you are a Christian who lives out your Christianity, people will come to you with their spiritual questions. I also know that sometimes people have spiritual questions that they don’t really think are such.  Occasionally they think they are just making a joke about the afterlife or telling you about their debaucherous weekend or something like that.  However, it is necessary at all times for Christians to look for opportunities to share the gospel.  Those opportunities are more common than many people suspect, and there is nothing more important for that person than to hear the message.

Let me tell you about one of these opportunities

Recently a coworker made a joke about the weather that was much more than a joke.  His comment went something like this, “Wow it’s hot out there.  I better go to church Sunday.  If hell is supposed to be hotter than this I need to change my ways.”

For him this was a somewhat silly, throwaway comment.  He meant it as a joke - mostly.  But I know, and any believer knows, that there is more to a statement like that than pure jokiness.  It speaks to a knowledge built into all of us that we are incomplete.  A joke like this one is about much more than just the weather.  This is an opportunity to share the gospel.

I’d like for you to take a second and consider how you would have proceeded if presented with an opportunity to witness such as this.  What would you have said next?  Would you have at least recognized it as an opportunity to share the gospel?   Feel free to tell me in the comments how you would have responded.

He was literally walking out the door when he made this comment so I had no opportunity to reply, but the conversation continued with someone else.  I have another post about how this progressed planned for tomorrow.

By the way, if I had the opportunity I would have told him that I believe the Bible and that I actually do believe in hell and that it will be much more miserable than the weather right now.  I believe that this would have definitely led to an opportunity to share the gospel.

I will talk about that tomorrow.

The power of words

Before you read this post, take 6 and a half minutes to watch this TED talk.  It will be worth your time, I promise.  [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVCBrkrFrBE]  When I watched it, it made me think about the power of words in my life.

There are negative words that hurt me now even though I am a grown man.  In fact there are some words that linger.  They still hurt even though they were spoken many, many years ago.  There are also words of encouragement that offer me great strength.  This experience is not unique to me. It is part of life.

The story from the video is probably a bit unique though, in that, it is a bit unusual for the words of a stranger to really hurt you or to have great effect on you.  The words that pack the most punch typically come from loved ones.  I can vividly remember something said when I was 15 that determined many decisions for the next few years for me.  That statement came from someone living in my house. And that is the way of it.  The words we say are powerful.  We can truly hurt someone with them and we can really build someone up with them.

In the video, the speaker refers to an event that he has forgotten.  To him it was a throw away event, but it lead to important things, a marriage and at least one college degree.  In order to illustrate the power of words, even of this type I thought I would share a story of how some encouraging words may have changed the course of my life.

In 1995 I was 20 years old and left home for Washington and Oregon for summer missions.  To say I was inexperienced would be an understatement.  I was inexperienced at life.  Certainly I had no idea what I was doing when it came to mission work.  The problem in my mind was that I had no skills whatsoever that could be useful for a missionary.  I couldn’t build things, I was not comfortable with public speaking, and I am much more introverted than I would like to be.  Plus I was only 20.  I didn’t know what I would be doing that summer, only that I was obeying God by going.  It turns out that I would be leading a multitude of backyard Bible clubs.  My summer in large part was hanging out with kids.  Not only hanging out with kids, but hanging out with kids with a purpose.  We were teaching them the Bible.

Now to the part about the encouraging words.  In the first week there, when we divided up responsibilities for the Backyard Bible Club the teaching of the Bible story fell to me.  I had no skills remember, but I figured I could tell some Bible stories.  I was certainly familiar with them.  So when the time came, I taught.  I don’t remember what Bible story it was (though the picture looks like it was Adam & Eve) I don’t even remember how it went.  I do remember being glad that I survived it.  Here is what I really remember.  After I spoke, the pastor’s wife from that week’s host church told me what a great job I did.  She said that I had the kids’ attention and that I made it easy for them.  That was nearly 16 years ago and I remember it plainly. It is the first time I ever knew that I was good at anything useful.  That one word of encouragement went a very long way. Now, all these years later, as I attempt to launch a speaking ministry I have tried to use that ability to teach and make things simple for God's glory.  And it is possible that I never would have been anything but intimidated if not for some encouraging words from a woman whose name I can't even remember.

There are other people in my life who have been very encouraging.  I remember them as well, but this was a formative time for me and I am thankful.

I am afraid that in my lifetime I have done much more damage with words that I have done building up. So I sure am glad for those encouragers.

How about you, are there words said in your lifetime that were very significant?

Apologetics for every day – The Answer (Finally)

A few weeks ago I told of an encounter I had with someone who had a “Karma is real” sticker on her desk.  I asked you how you would attempt to begin an evangelistic conversation with her.  Literally one person is interested in this question so I decided to finally answer with my approach. I love Christian apologetics, and for people like me, it is rather easy to get caught up in the wonky, philosophy and argument-making version of apologetics.  This stuff has a place and it is even valuable in the right setting.  However I believe that for apologetics to be worth pursuing it must have for its goal, evangelism.  In other words, if I take an opportunity to use my apologetics training to destroy someone in an argument and make them feel stupid, I have done nothing for the kingdom of God.  I have alienated them and at best I have demonstrated to them that Christians are smart jerks.  This version of apologetics is divorced from evangelism and is wrong.

Having said all that, this question is both an apologetics and evangelism question.  Fundamentally this is a question about worldviews that work and worldviews that don’t.  My goal in trying to witness to this lady is not to tell her how stupid her worldview is, but merely to get her to question it so that she will be open to a worldview that is actually true.  If I were to tell her that she is stupid she will not be inclined to listen to me.  In love, I need to appeal to the truth which makes the logical conclusion that her worldview is false.

Since this entire exercise is intended to suggest that her view is false, it will be inherently offensive. (The gospel message is inherently offensive.)  So the approach has to be delicate.  Again, my goal would be to make her question the validity of her worldview and to offer to her the Christian worldview.  True for false.

If I had this opportunity again, I would ask her if she found that statement, karma is real,  to be true in her life.  Does it seem to her that good people prosper and that bad people suffer?  To me it seems like all people suffer and there is no correlation between goodness and prosperity.  I would suggest to her that Jesus says that it rains on the just and the unjust alike.  And that sinfulness does not figure into the way suffering is handed out on earth.

I realize that this is far, far away from a full gospel presentation, but again, the reason I called this an apologetics exercise is that my goal is to get her thinking about the worldview she holds and replacing it with one that works.

I welcome your comments.  Does this approach seem right to you?

Apologetics for every day - the question

Last week I had an encounter with someone working in an office and on her desk was a sign that read "Karma is real."I have spent quite a bit of mental energy in the last week thinking how I could have best broached the gospel with this lady.  So I think I'll toss this question to you, my reader.  Tell me. What would you have said to begin the process of evangelism in this case?

Later  I'll tell you what approach I have decided on.

I Challenged My Church...

...to make Lottie Moon a priority this year.  In fact I challenged people to give their largest Christmas gift to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. There are a host of reasons why I can say to you that the LMCO is important.  But I will only say this, the "All nations" part of the great commission I believe can best be reached cooperatively.  If you are not a misisonary then what better way to spread the gospel to those who are unreached than giving funds to the International Mission Board.

So why should you make this gift a priority?  For one thing, if there are people in America who  do not know Christ it is in spite of the churches on every corner.  In contrast, there are over 6000 people groups that have no access whatsoever to the gospel.

For the second year in a row, my largest Christmas gift, by quite a large margin, will go to Lottie Moon.  Nobody I know truly has any needs that are more important than obedience to the great commission.  I hope you will consider giving your largest gift to Lottie as well.

Why I Am Proud to be a Kentucky Baptist Again

Remember when the GCR task force was controversial?  Remember all the fears and hand-wringing on blogs?  Way back when the GCR was still controversial and nobody really knew what would come of it, the Kentucky Baptist Convention decided to appoint a Great Commission resurgence task force of its own. On Tuesday that task force released its report, and I am proud of it for multiple reasons. We all have labels we place on ourselves.  For me, two of those things are Kentuckian and Southern Baptist.  For the last several years I have been a  North Carolina Baptist.  Now I'm proud to be home and I’m proud that the Kentucky Baptist Convention has done such an admirable thing with this report.  Also you may notice that one of the members of that committee shares a last name with me; that is even more reason to be proud.

I have made no secret on this blog that I love the Cooperative Program and that I believe it is the most effective tool our denomination has constructed to reach the lost.  I also have said that I believe the states keep entirely too much of the CP money.  (In fact when I was a NC Baptist I was strongly considering a motion from the floor that would push that convention toward a 50/50 split.)  One of the things I admire most about the KBCGCR task Force’s report is the quick move to a 50/50 split.  This is a hard decision.  It involves intentionally cutting the budget of every entity in the state convention.

Without the cooperation of the churches willing to give more, this will be even more of a hardship for the KBC.  But I believe that churches will be motivated to make their own decisions to give more knowing that more of their money will reach the mission field .

I applaud the task force.  My church is giving 1 percent more to the CP this year, and I encourage your church to do the same.

A great commission resurgence is not equal to giving more money.  I certainly realize that.  But it is definitely a part.  I applaud Bill Mackey, Hershael York, and the rest of the task force and I give my strongest urging to Kentucky Baptists to show up in Lexington in November and to pass the recommendations.  I will be there.

My biggest Christmas gift this year goes to...

Lottie Moon I am probably only giving about 5 Christmas gifts this year, so Lottie doesn’t have a lot of competition. I am, however, giving Lottie the largest gift I ever have.  It’s no great amount but every little bit helps.

I decided to give this amount because of reading two articles from Baptist Press last week. One says economic troubles have caused damage to international mission work. This is perfectly illustrated with a look at the IMB website. ISC missions are currently not functioning. The other article says that CP giving is up over last year. How can those two things be compatible? Well, for starters, the economic situation was already bad last year (anyone remember the talk of the election), and has not really improved that much. Secondly, a major problem is the value of the dollar versus other currency. When Southern Baptists send a missionary to Azerbaijan the value of the Manat works in our favor. But when inflation rages out of control and the manat is worth 26% less it not only takes 26% more for that missionary, but it takes that much more from the IMB and the people paying their salary.  (The article said that happened in Venezuela, but I thought Azerbaijan was funnier.  Fortunately I'm not a reporter)

I believe that the IMB is the most worthy of causes, and I know that the heart of the great commission is the “all nations” part.  Therefore, I will be giving my largest gift to Lottie Moon this year.  We can call it my own personal Great Commission Resurgence.

Convention Commentary from an Average Southern Baptist

When I got home yesterday I read that Morris Chapman has announced his resignation as the head of the executive committee.  I was not shocked by this news.  Nor, I expect, was anyone else.  The real news in my mind comes as this story is added to the events of the past few months.  Chapman’s resignation combined with that of  Rankin and the ouster of Hammond means that there are 3 SBC entities with no top leader. Because of the state of the convention I thought I’d share my thoughts

In many ways I am the average under 35 Southern Baptist minister.  I have been in ministry for 12 years all in small churches.  I am seminary educated.  I have no ambition to ever preach the convention sermon, but I do want to see the Southern Baptist Convention be the best it can be. All I want is to bring glory to God in whatever position He puts me.

I obviously am a blogger, but I don’t have a wide reading.  I probably never will.  Even so, I don’t feel disenfranchised.  In fact I feel very welcome within my convention.  It’s even possible that because I’m one of the 15% of non-grey-hairs at the convention that my voice gets heard a little more.

Now that I have established my averageness as a young Southern Baptist.  I’d like to offer some commentary.

First, I don’t want to dismiss the hand of God in our entities.  As I think about individuals, I don’t want to assume that anything other than the will of God is involved in their decisions.

It seems that the takeaway from looking at the state of our convention is this: change is coming, like it or not.  The fact is, soon we will have different people in charge of both mission boards and the executive committee.

I recall Daniel Akin saying that electing the GCR task force will one day be seen as a watershed event.  At this point that is still a question mark.  The work of that body is yet to be seen. (and you can read my thoughts here) To me it seems that the real beginning of change was the 2006 convention in Greensboro.  That year the convention spoke pretty clearly about its feelings toward the status quo.  I believe that at that point many convention goers were beginning to feel disenfranchised.  The reason it worked out as it did is, I suppose, unfortunate for Ronnie Floyd.  People were feeling that the god-ol-boy network was in full force and their options were not real options.  The vote was less of a vote against Ronnie Floyd as it was a vote for the Cooperative Program.  I believe that the average Southern Baptist (e.g. me) knows that the CP is the tool that has allowed us to become the world’s greatest mission sending organization.  The candidate Ronnie Floyd, with his church's very low CP giving, demonstrated that maybe the good-ol-boy network had the network in mind rather than what is best for the convention.

I don’t want that to sound overly cynical.  In reality I don’t believe there was some grand conspiracy to control everything in the convention.  But I do believe that people who hold influence trust their own judgment more than the convention at large.  So they simply put forth a candidate and hoped for a rubber stamp.  When that didn’t come in 06, it sent a message.

So what is the takeaway from all this.  There will be new leadership in the NAMB, the IMB, and the executive committee.  (And Rainer has only been at Lifeway about 4 years)  And so, regardless of the recommendations that come from the Great Commission task force, change is coming to our convention.

Tomorrow - My Prayer for the convention

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Evangelism and Offense

This post is brought about by reading this.  This is not intended as an interaction with that post.  That post merely started the wheels turning in my mind. First, let me say that I believe the most important duty for a Christian is to evangelize, to make other Christians.  But this post is not even about that command or necessity.  This post is about answering the question, "What is the most loving thing to do?"  This answer would be the same whether you are a Christian or a Jehovah's Witness, or a Mormon or a Wiccan.

Now, to my point.

The fact is, if I deeply hold a belief that is so important as Christian faith, then I am obligated to share it with those whom I love.  I might add here that it is even more important than just life after death.  Faith in Christ and His sacrifice for my sins gives me peace and purpose in this life, as well as a certainty about my future in heaven.  If I knew where people could obtain a million dollars with no strings attached, I would certainly tell my loved ones how to do that.  Why?  Because I love them and it could make their lives better.

I don't really want to be the five millionth blog to post the Penn Jillette video, (click here to see it) but in fact Penn, an atheist, understands the necessity of evangelism better than many of the Christians I know.

Why is it that so many Christians don't share their faith?  I believe that it is a combination of things.  First, I think that many of us don't really think about the gift of salvation as we did when it was new.  Next, I think we don't live with urgency, understanding that life could be over for any of us very soon.  Finally, I think that many of us are so worldly that our thinking is warped.  Survey after survey shows that Christian church-goers deny the truths of the faith.  Not because they don't believe them, but because of the illogical notion that there is no such thing as religious truth.  This post is not about apologetics but I will say this.  If there is any such thing as truth at all, then there is religious truth.  (Everybody believes in truth and they certainly want a banker who believes in truth.)

Another symptom of this worldliness is that we are worried about offending people to whom we witness.  I understand their view, if there is no such thing as religious truth then how dare I hold my view as certain.  Again, I'll say this, if I'm not certain, then why bother?

After saying this let's look at my hypocrisy meter.  Do I get annoyed when the Mormons or Jehovah's witnesses come knocking at my door?  Sure, but I am not offended, and I always pray for them when they leave and I understand why they are there.  I believe that they have a message that is false and ultimately hopeless, but they believe it deeply and are right to share it.

Any religion worth having is worth sharing. Share Christ with someone this week.

Improving Cooperative Program Giving

Yesterday I promised that I would write about how my church, as small as it is, gives so generously to the Cooperative Program. Here is a bit of context before I begin.  LaGrange Park Baptist Church is a small church.  We average less than 100 in Sunday school.  We are in an association of 100 churches.  In our association, there are a couple of churches that are literally 10 times our size .  Last year we led the NSRBA in giving to Annie Armstrong and were close to the top in Lottie Moon giving.  We give 11% of all undesignated gifts to the CP.  (I just realized that this entire paragraph would be gibberish if a non-Southern-Baptist read it.)

What is the key to this giving?  I believe it begins with our pastor.  All preachers say they are committed to missions, but our pastor demonstrates it.  His home plays host to missionaries when a home is needed.  One of his children served as a US/C-2 missionary, another was a NAMB employee for a number of years.  He regularly participates in short-term missions and makes no secret of the fact that he hopes to be able to do mission work after retirement. His view is that if you are not willing to go on missions, the least you can do is to give.

As in all churches, our WMU does a wonderful job of keeping prayer for missions in the forefront.  We have adopted a people group and regularly hear updates about them.

Yesterday I said that one of the reasons I believe mission giving has fragmented in many churches is that the vision of accomplishing smaller tasks is easier to see.  How can you motivate people to give to a Lottie Moon goal that last year was $170 million?  By putting a reachable church goal before the people.  Our church goal is posted all over the church.  In the sanctuary we chart our progress toward that goal.

Probably the most important factor in our church is the fact that we let people know the good their money does.  We show the promotional videos, we participate in mission studies, and we read the missionary moments produced by the mission boards.  Whenever missionaries are available they speak in our church.  There have been at least 10 missionary speakers in our church over the last 4 years. (More if you count military chaplains.)

This was produced to show the many things a gift to LPBC does

As for the 11% we give to the CP.  We make it known what a gift to our church does.  This may again come back to the pastor, but his view is that if we ask our people to tithe, the least the church can do is to tithe.  (We also give 5% of our undesignated offerings to the NSRBA.)  When, a few years ago, the state convention introduced their 3 years to add 1% initiative, we just added one percent on the next budget.

People in our church know how the cooperative program works.  They may not have percentages memorized, but they certainly understand the concepts.  They know what their giving does.  And that I believe is the key.

Any of you from my church feel free to chime in and tell me what I left out.

Cooperative Program?

Before I get to the actual point of this post I need to be clear about something.  I do not intend this as a polemic.  I am not writing to unite myself with any movement or to denigrate any movement.  I am merely writing about a trend I see that I am not quite certain how I feel about.  Also, I hinted at my feelings on this topic with a post at Christmas. In 1925 the Southern Baptist Convention put in place the cooperative program (CP).  This simple and brilliant concept has allowed us to become the greatest mission sending organization on the world with about 11,000 Southern Baptist missionaries.  It has made the Southern Baptist Convention the third largest relief organization in the US.  It funds 6 theological seminaries providing solid conservative theological education, and it funds countless other ministries done through state Baptist conventions.

The beauty of the cooperative program is that we can do so much more as a group of cooperating churches than any of us can do alone.  Who has not heard the story of an independent Baptist missionary who had to leave the field and find new funding after his sponsoring church split or simply changed leadership?

Are there problems with the CP?  Sure.  Alvin Reid said it well in his blog:

The Cooperative Program still matters. But simply giving because one is "supposed to" has passed. Momentum is gaining for real accountability and much more effective stewardship. I meet no one who wants to take away from the support of missionaries or the training of ministers. But I meet plenty who say something like these words from one of the brightest young men I know: "In the Conservative Resurgence, many pastors and churches expressed frustration when their giving supported liberal professors in our schools. Now, many I know have the same frustration over giving to a bureaucracy that wastes precious money that could be more focused on the gospel." I remember as a young minister thinking that if the average person in the pew knew some things being taught in our colleges and seminaries, they would want a revolution. Recently, one of the most recognized leaders of our time commented that if the average Southern Baptist knew how every penny of their money was being spent, they too would want a revolution. The category has changed, but the sentiment of dissent is the same.

I agree with the need for much better stewardship of the funds.  I'm especially talking to you, BSCNC.  Only 37 cents of every dollar goes out of the state.  Really; is that the best you can do?  I would strongly support a motion to move the BSCNC to a 50/50 split.  I would even consider making that motion from the floor if I had the proper help and encouragement.  (Sorry, I got a little distracted there)

Churchill famously said "democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried."  This is very much how I feel about the CP.  Even though there are some problems, it is the best method of funding missions.

Having said all of that, there is a trend I have noticed in the last few years.  This trend is the fragmentation of giving.  I see it most in new church plants, but it can be seen in other places as well.  Most new church plants have missions giving at the forefront of their plans.  However, it seems that very often this giving is in the form of specific projects.  Some have goals of planting a certain number of other churches, some say that they will accomplish some project in a place where the gospel is not known, or they will build church buildings in places where believers need the financial support.  All these are things that the CP does, but these will be done through some avenue specific to the particular project.

I know that churches have to have other mission projects besides just the CP.  Recently I attended a meeting in which we talked about a specific ministry project in Bihar India.  This project is part of a partnership with NC Baptist Men and the Transforming India Movement.  I believe in this ministry and will be proud to support it.  I think it likely that our VBS offering will go to this ministry.  (Hopefully our VBS students will be able to drill a well in Bihar.)

Does this make me a hypocrite?  Again, I know that churches have to have other mission projects besides just the CP.  Virtually all local ministries fit this category.  The problem is when they are done as a replacement to the CP.  I am not even saying that these other projects are not worthy or good, but when they replace CP giving we all become less effective.  Why does this fragmentation make us less effective?  Because regardless of where missions funds go, there will be a need for administration.  The more fragmented the giving becomes, the more administration is needed.

One of the things I learned from Baptist history is that one of the reasons our Southern Baptist ancestors separated themselves was a rejection of the mission society model.  The society model was inefficient and overly fragmented.  I do not know why our churches would willingly return to this.

I have one theory on the cause.  I believe it is an easier vision to cast to say, let's raise $5,000 to provide 2 clean-water wells in India, than to say let's give $5,000 to the LMCO when it's unclear exactly what that money will do.  People wonder when Lottie will ever be paid off.  The goal in this type of giving is less clear and more nebulous.  There is no denying that people work harder toward a goal that is reachable.  (Tomorrow I will write about how my church, as small as it is, gives so generously to the CP)

I support church planting but I believe we can plant more churches through the CP.

I support missions giving but I believe we can support more missionaries through the CP.

I would like to hear from some of you whose churches practice this.  Do you think I am wrong?  Is my theory about vision wrong?  Am I just too old-school and beholden to the cooperative program because of how cheap my M.Div was?

Southern Baptists and December Giving

This is December, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) time if you are a Southern Baptist. Most charitable organizations use December as their main giving time, and consequently, there are are also hundreds of other great giving options this time of year.  Here is a very short list.

These are all excellent ways to give, but if I'm honest, I feel a pang of guilt when I give extra to these because I KNOW the good the Lottie Moon does.  As a Christian I believe in meeting the physical needs of people, but I also know that my number one duty as a Christian is spreading the gospel.  The LMCO will meet the physical needs of people around the world, and it will be used to get the Gospel to those not yet reached.  I know at least 2 of our international missionaries and I know that the money is not wasted.  I also know that the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering needs the money to keep the gospel going around the world.  (Especially in light of the dwindling dollar)

I am very curious, my fellow Southern Baptists, do you feel guilty giving to these other causes, do you not feel like Lottie is that important.  Here is a poll.  Vote, voice your opinion in the comments, then send other Southern Baptists to this link.  I want a lot of votes because I'm genuinely curious if I'm a freak for feeling the way I do.

[polldaddy poll=1138670]


My Missionary Summer pt. 2

This is missions week on my blog.  This is part two of the story of my missionary summer.  Part one can be found here: It was a hot day and already in the mid-70s when I left from Nashville early in the morning.  And it was 45° when I landed in Portland in the mid-afternoon.  As you can imagine, I was immediately wondering how I was going to survive this "summer".  I was certainly thinking that I did not pack enough clothes.  (Before you worry, the first 10 days were cold and rainy, and the last 10 days were cold and rainy.  The rest of the summer I may not have seen a cloud.  It was cool and wonderful, the most beautiful weather you can imagine.)

Someone was at the airport with a cardboard sign with my name when I got off the plane.  (This was back when non-passengers were allowed in the terminals.)  As soon as I got my luggage I got out a jacket and prepared for an afternoon in the airport.

NWBA Missionaries 1995

Over the next few hours, almost every missionary from the Northwest Baptist Convention arrived.  We had a 2 day orientation at a lodge in the mountains.  Day 2 included a sight seeing trip at the Columbia gorge.

At the end of day two we split up and the groups went their separate ways all over Washington, Oregon, and the Idaho panhandle.  My association had four missionaries.  Two girls, whose names I cannot remember (actually now that I think about it, their names might be Michelle and Karen) were in one group.  They spent nearly the entire summer in the same ministry location.  The other group was David Joiner and myself.  We spent the vast majority of the summer in Longview and Kelso WA.

So what did a typical week consist of?  On Sunday we would go to our host church.  Most were in Longview/Kelso, but we spent a week in Scappoose OR and a week in Castle Rock.  On Sunday the host church would usually want to hear from the missionaries.  So I would give my testimony, and David would sing.  By the end of the summer, David could easily have given my testimony for me, and I certainly had his songs memorized.  Then, throughout the week we would hold some sort of Bible study for community children.  I believe in 8 weeks we did 13 backyard Bible clubs, 2 Vacation Bible Schools, and a youth Bible study.  Most weeks there were morning and afternoon Bible clubs/VBS, sometimes there was an evening event.  Some weeks we worked with two or more churches.

Saturdays were typically travel days.  The Pacific Northwest is a beautiful place, however, and many times rather than rest and do laundry, we would go with host families on sight-seeing trips.  We took a few trips to the Columbia gorge, Castle Rock, and Mt. Saint Helens.  We went to Seattle, where, as a kid from small-town KY, I saw things I'll never forget.  We also went to Mt. Rainier on a very cloudy day, where we had a snowball fight in July.

Floating the Coweeman

Two weeks were exceptions.  The week of the 4th of July no church wanted to have Bible clubs or a VBS, so we mostly had the week off.  Our host pastor, Mike Neal, took care of us that week, we floated down the Coweeman River, (It even had a few rapids) and did typical Independence Day activities.  It was a good time, mid-summer, for a restful week.  We even had a cookout and saw fireworks on Lake Sacajawea.

The final week was the other exception.  The convention had a week of children's camp at a place called the Dunes Bible Camp.  It was on the beach, but the water was about 50° so there was no swimming.  The four missionaries from our association plus a mission team from Mississippi, were the staff for this week.  We served as basically the teachers for the entire camp.

So what did I learn from my experience as a Summer missionary?

This is literally the first Bible study I ever taught

Before leaving for this trip I had never taught a Bible study lesson.  (Except on youth Sunday as a teenager.)  I had only once spoken in front of a church.  By the end of the summer, I was a veteran.  I will never forget how nervous I was teaching the first Bible study to a group of Children, how great it felt as they paid attention, and some kind words of encouragement from one of the parents after I finished.

I can remember having a conversation with David during our last assignment.  I was looking back and wondering if I accomplished anything.  Over a 10 week summer, we saw no professions of faith, and no one was called to the ministry or to missions.  We didn't build anything or accomplish some great task.  Really I was rather depressed thinking that the summer had been wasted in some way.  Although I knew I had been faithful to God.

However 2 summers later, as I was serving as the interim Minister of Youth at my home church, God called me into the ministry, and I could look back and see how much of what I now knew I could do, I learned in that summer.  I definitely learned to rely on God.  When you go 2500 miles from home, for a salary of $60 a week, to a place where they don't sell Mello Yello, without knowing a single person, before cell phones were common, you must depend on God for your support.  You learn that you actually can depend on God.  In fact, the main thing I learned that summer was that I can depend on God.  He is always faithful.

It really is a beautiful place

Looking back, there are few experiences in my life that played as large a part in shaping who I am, as that summer.  There is nothing like a mission trip to teach you things about God that you simply cannot learn at home.  I would recommend summer missions to every college student, especially if you are struggling with God's will for your life.

You can learn about summer missions in North America at this link, and international summer missions at this link.

My Missionary Summer pt. 1

This is missions week on my blog in honor of the week of prayer for international missions.  So I am telling the story of my summer as a student missionary.  I realize that my experience is not with international missions, but it was significant for me and was way out of the Southeast.  Enjoy part 1. I typically refer to the summer of 1995 as my missionary summer.  I was 20 years old in my sophomore year of college and in October of 1994 I had dedicated my life to God in a new way.  It was the first time I ever told God that I would allow Him to be the most important thing in my life.  It was not the beginning of my Christian walk, but it was an extremely important time, and an anniversary I always remember.  It was also my first year away from home.  (I took my first year of classes at Hopkinsville Community College)

After giving God priority, I began to feel His call to spend that first summer as a missionary.  However, at that time I didn't know how to hear His voice and I didn't know what He really wanted.  I can look back now and say He was clearly calling me to give that summer to Him in missions, but at the time I was genuinely torn.

Here's how my decision making process went.  I thought God may be calling me, but I didn't know.  So I decided to simply fill out the application to be a summer missionary, and if I was accepted I would take that as a "yes."  I filled out the form.  It was the pre digital camera days, so I took a picture in a photo booth.  (It was easily a bad enough picture to get a no from the application committee.)  I mailed it in.  I knew I didn't want to do foreign missions at that time, but my thought was if I'm going to go somewhere away from home I might as well go as far as I can.  So I checked Pacific Northwest on the "where would you like to go" box in my application, and left it in God's hands.  (I really struggled with whether or not to put Alaska)

I got an acceptance letter telling me I was headed to the Southwest Washington Baptist association, (DOM Ted Cotton) which is part of the Northwest Baptist Convention.

Then I had to figure out a way to tell my parents what I as planning.  This was 13 years ago so I don't remember exactly, but I do remember my mom being all for it, although nervous.  Dad told me, "I kinda figured you would do something like that."  I wondered why, but he suspected it because of my involvement with the BSU, and the experience of an extended family member.

That went much better than expected.  And so, with no objections from anyone, I made preparations to spend my summer in Washington and Oregon.  I obviously had no idea what to expect.  I got instructions on how to book my flight to Portland and was ready to leave at the first of June.

The flight to Portland was my second ever flight, and it was by myself.  I was obviously nervous about many things, flying, how to pack enough clothes for 10 weeks, what am I getting myself into, what if I'm miserable?  10 weeks seemed like a long time.

Tomorrow, in part 2, I will write about how I actually spent the summer, some of the adventures, what my thoughts were then, and how it changed me.

IMB Commissioning Service

Missionaries with flags Monday night at the 2008 BSCNC featured a commissioning service for 31 IMB missionaries.  It began with march in the flags of many countries lined the aisle ways as the missionaries worked their way on stage.  Then it concluded with a message from Dr. Tom Elliff.

By far, the best part of the commissioning service was the the time of testimony from the missionaries themselves.  There were 31 appointees.  They ranged in age from their 20s to their 60s and they all had different stories.  They were literally headed to every part of the globe.  Some were called as children in GA meetings, some in college, and some as they were retiring.  Single, newlyweds, widows and grandparents.  It was very inspiring.

My prayer every day is that I will go wherever God wants me to go, Alaska to Africa, as long as I know it is god who has called.  I have a very clear sense of calling, but that commissioning service allowed me to see something I already knew, there is nothing super-Christian about missionaries.  they have simply been called, and said yes.  I have a couple of friends that are missionaries and I admire them for their willingness.

This video of missionaries from West Africa demonstrates this point very well.  Enjoy it, and be willing to be God's vessel wherever he calls you.  He may want to send you to Indonesia, but he also may want to send you to the choir, the nursery, or the nursing home.


Missions Week on my Blog

This week is the week of Prayer for international Missions and the beginning of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering emphasis.  In honor of that, I will also make it missions week on my blog. Here is what to expect. Monday: I will have a short post about the IMB commissioning service I attended at the BSCNC

Tuesday: Part one of the story of my missionary summer, 1995.

Wednesday: Part two of that story

Thursday: A poll and a question about Southern Baptist giving that I am extremely curious about

Friday: Best web junk (no need to mess with a formula that works)