Missional Monday : 80 Days of Summer – A Family Ministry Challenge

mmSummer is coming to an end. Vacations have been taken, school shopping is in full swing, and family schedules are getting back to normal. Summer can be a double-edged sword. On one hand you have students who are excited to be free and are thinking only of having fun. On the other hand you have parents stressing over how to keep their kids occupied for three months. It can be tricky for families to juggle the summer. Summer can be a tricky time around the church as well. Family schedules are different. Attendance patterns shift.  For this reason churches operate under an unpublished principle during the summer: don’t start anything new. Well, we violated that principle this year.

With the reality of families scattering during the summer, we asked ourselves a question, “Why does it have to be this way?” So, we decided to give our families an opportunity to spend some of their free time together in kingdom work.  On June 3rd we began 80 Days of Summer;  a family ministry challenge that would continue through August 22nd. The concept is simple. 80 Days centers around a very specific goal: to see families serving their community together.  Over the course of 80 days, 17 ministry opportunities in 9 different community locations were scheduled. We challenged our families to choose a ministry event and work together. It pleases me to be able to say that we have accomplished our goal. We have seen families, some for the first time, give up their free time and serve the kingdom through their local church.

Getting all caught up in numbers is not a good thing. With that being said, numbers do reflect a certain reality. As of this past Friday, 15 ministry opportunities have taken place with two remaining. Over the course of these opportunities, 48 different people have been involved and have contributed 902 volunteer hours to our community. My heart has been blessed this summer to know that we were committed both to our families and to our community.

Monday is For Missions : What Are You Doing For Others This Year?

mmThe Christmas season is upon us. Our city has begun putting up lights and decorations on the light poles that line the streets. Families have begun putting up their trees and are well into their Christmas shopping. Our church calendar is filling up quickly. Between class and ministry parties, choir celebrations, and Christmas-themed sermons, we are reminded at every turn that we have entered into a very special time in the life of the church; the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. It would be very easy for us to get lost in all of the fun and fellowship side of the holiday. There is certainly a place for all of these. I often tell our people that the priority in all that we do is life-changing ministry that leads others to worship the One True God and His Son Jesus. Don’t get me wrong here, I enjoy Christmas parties. I enjoy spending time with our various ministries/classes in times of fellowship. I enjoy the fun of the Christmas season. I am thankful that in the midst of all this, we prioritize ministry opportunities that intentionally introduce people to the love of the Savior. What does this look like for us?

1. Angel Tree Christmas Party

Angel Tree is a ministry program of Prison Fellowship which reaches out to the children of inmates who are incarcerated in our state prisons and their families with the love of Christ. Angel Tree gives us the opportunity to share the Savior’s love by helping to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the prisoner’s family. Angel Tree works to connect the gift requests/desires of the inmate for his/her family and the need for the children to remain connected to their parent during an especially emotional time of year. All of this happens while maintaining the dignity of both the inmate and the family. We help to provide toy and clothing gifts to the children as well as hand-written letters and family pictures to the inmates.

2. Christmas Party at Local Multi-Housing Complex

Across the street from our church is a multi-housing complex that have been volunteering and ministering in for many years. We take time on a Saturday and provide a simple party for the residents and children. There is food, games, a small gift, and a gospel presentation through the telling of the Christmas story. The greatest present we give here is our presence. This party is a simple way for us to communicate that each one is important and that we care about them. We have found that this event, along with other seasonal events (Easter, back-to-school, etc.), are critical to building lasting and meaningful relationships.

3. Operation Christmas Child – Charlotte Distribution Center

We have some of our people heading to Charlotte to work at the Operation Christmas Child Distribution Center this year. Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse which delivers shoeboxes filled with toys, hygiene items, candy, etc. to children around the world who may not have any gifts this Christmas season. Once the shoeboxes leave local collection centers, they make their way to Charlotte to be prepared for their final trip to over one hundred countries around the world.

Allow me to leave you with a question today. What are you doing this Christmas season for someone who will in no way be able to return the favor?

An Open Letter to the Membership of Port Royal Baptist Church

Power of WordsFive years ago today I began my tenure as your pastor. Having spent my ministry life in Florida, the thought of moving to South Carolina never crossed my mind. My expectation was to remain in my home state. It has become clear that the plans of the Lord are far better than the plans of man. The Marine Corps brought me to Port Royal back in 1994. I had no idea this church existed. I passed it every day but never noticed it. This is because I was not a Christian, much less a pastor in those days. What a difference fifteen years can make. Being able to come back to a place that Terri and I enjoyed, now as a pastor, has been a tremendous blessing. The manner in which you embraced me and my family has been at times beyond words. As a congregation you have been very loving and encouraging. The past five years have been filled with highs and lows, good and bad, times of celebration and times of mourning. There is a great deal more in my heart that I can’t express with words. Let me just say a few words of thanks and then let you know how I am praying for you.

1. Thank you for giving me the freedom to preach God’s Word. As a minister of the gospel, I am called to share the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). At times, God’s Word is not easy to hear or handle. You have never asked me to soften, back off, or water-down God’s message. I appreciate being able to carry out my calling among you while honoring God with a clear presentation of Scripture.

2. Thank you for your willingness to accept all people into the fellowship. This can never be said enough. God has called us to reach all people. Thank you for embracing an ethnically and socially diverse community. There are churches that say, by word or action, that only certain types and colors of people are allowed and wanted. I thank my God every day that you celebrate the worth of every individual. You give me the confidence to go into our community, knock on any door, and know that whoever answers will be welcome. I’ve never had that confidence before.

3. Thank you for loving my family. The lives of a pastor’s wife and child are unique. It is lonely and frustrating at times. They must be willing to take a back seat to the entire congregation and share me with everyone else. Thank you for being a blessing to Terri and Jordan. Thank you for not putting unusually high and unfair expectations on them. Thank you for encouraging and allowing me to take the necessary time to foster these critical relationships. Thank you for taking care of my family emotionally, spiritually, and financially. I would like to especially thank you for allowing me the time to be with my dad when while he was sick. How you ministered to my family at this death is something that will live with me for the rest of my life.

4. Thank you for trusting me. From the beginning, you have trusted me. You have allowed me to lead as I have been led. I have asked a great deal from you in five years. I have asked you trust and love each other during a difficult time. I have asked you to love your neighbor as yourself. I have asked you to be increasingly active in reaching our community. I have asked you to give more to missions. Each time you have responded beautifully. Does this mean I have always gotten it right? Absolutely not. Still you trusted me. I understand that I am a steward of your trust. My prayer is that I always do right by the Lord and you.

The Apostle Paul, speaking to the Philippian Christians, wrote, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy.” Phil 1:3-4. I want you to know that I have been praying for all of you long before I met you. You have heard me say before that if you knew how I prayed for you that it would certainly surprise you. I pray big things for you because we serve a big God.

1. I pray that you always feel a little unsettled. I believe contentment and comfort are twin enemies of the gospel. I pray that you are always looking ahead. This is where your best days are. I pray that you always look for new opportunities to minister in Jesus’ name. Changing cultures will require new means to communicate the gospel. I pray that you are never satisfied with your prayer life. I pray that you are never satisfied with your missions work. I pray that there is always a sense of longing and yearning to stretch your faith, trusting that “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”.

2. I pray that your testimony will precede you. In writing to the Thessalonian Christians, Paul, speaking about their faith, said “Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.” This is what I desire for you. I pray that when you introduce yourself and the gospel, people say, “We’ve heard of you and your Lord.”

3. I pray that you would be missed. You have heard me tell you throughout these five years that is important that you grow where God has planted you. I don’t mean that as some silly cliché. You are in the location you are for a reason. The people in our community are our responsibility. I pray that your involvement in, influence over, love for, and dedication to the town of Port Royal would run so deep that if something were to happen to the church that the community would minister to you.

I want to close by saying how privileged I feel to be your pastor. I can’t imagine being anywhere else. To be honest, it has been a quick five years. I did not write this letter to solicit praise or thanks. Instead, I wrote it to express my love and appreciation for you as my church family. I am excited about the future and can’t wait to see how the Lord uses you in the years to come.

Monday is for Missions : What Will You Do This Summer?

mmMy favorite time of the year – summer, has arrived. Summers here are the best. Sure it’s hot, but we have the beautiful beaches. Sure it’s hot, but we have the soothing sea breeze. Summers are certainly a time for vacations and sun, for rest and relaxation. Summers are certainly not a time for taking a break from the ministry work of your church. In fact, there are many opportunities for service throughout the summer for the Port Royal Baptist Church family. I encourage you to find a place of service and give it everything you have. To volunteer for any of these opportunities, look for the sign-up sheets at the church or you can go to www.portroyalbaptist.org and click on the “volunteer” tab to sign up. As you find ways to cool off this summer, don’t allow your missional spirit to cool off. Here’s what’s available.

June 7th and 21st : Port Royal Farmers Market

What could be better than cold water on a hot day? How about free cold water? Please join us as we set up at the Port Royal Farmers Market (directly across the street from the church) and give away free cold water to our community as they visit and shop at the market. Times of ministry will be 8:00am-12:00pm. You may sign up for a little as an hour or you may spend as much time as you like.

June 16th : Migrant VBS at St. Helena Baptist Church

Each year, St. Helena Baptist Church and Baptist Church of Beaufort come together to provide a Vacation Bible School for the migrant workers / families on St Helena Island. Each night, churches volunteer to cook the evening meal. We will be cooking on Monday, June 16th beginning at 4:00pm.

June 21st : Vacation Bible School Kick-Off

Please join us on the front lawn of the church from 11:00am – 1:00pm as we host a community outreach event that kicks off our Vacation Bible School. There will be food, bouncers, popcorn, sno-cones, and other fun and games.

June 22nd – 26th : Vacation Bible School

The theme for this year’s VBS is “Agency D3 : Discover, Decide, Defend”. Kids will move through rotation sites such Bible Study, Crafts, Missions, and Music all the while discovering who Jesus Christ is. Times will be 6:00pm – 8:30pm nightly. Supper will be served at 5:15pm each night. Please join us and invite someone to come with you.

July 6th : Independence Day Celebration

Independence Day is a major family holiday. Please join us on Sunday afternoon for a time of fun and fellowship. Activities will begin at 3:00pm with a horseshoe tournament. There will also be games for the children. We will then have a cookout with hamburgers and hot dogs at 5:00pm.

July 10th : Cookout at Hunting Island State Park

Each summer, in conjuction with the Savannah River Baptist Association, we choose a day and cook lunch for the all the staff at Hunting Island State Park. This is a simple way for us to simply say thank you for their service to the community. At 11:00am, we will be cooking hamburgers and hot dogs, along with all the trimmings for a noon lunch.

July 12th and 26th : Port Royal Farmers Market

What could be better than cold water on a hot day? How about free cold water? Please join us as we set up at the Port Royal Farmers Market (directly across the street from the church) and give away free cold water to our community as they visit and shop at the market. Times of ministry will be 8:00am-12:00pm. You may sign up for a little as an hour or you may spend as much time as you like.

August 5th : National Night Out at Stuart Towne Apartments

This is a relatively new ministry opportunity for us, only out third year. We are partnering with the national crime prevention program called National Night Out. Our church will be hosting a block party for the residents of our partner multi-housing unit, Stuart Towne. Along with the food, games, and bounce houses, we will have personal and family safety messages from local police and fire departments. Activities will begin at 6:00pm and conclude at 8:00pm.

August 16th and 30th : Port Royal Farmers Market

What could be better than cold water on a hot day? How about free cold water? Please join us as we set up at the Port Royal Farmers Market (directly across the street from the church) and give away free cold water to our community as they visit and shop at the market. Times of ministry will be 8:00am-12:00pm. You may sign up for a little as an hour or you may spend as much time as you like.

Missional Monday : Lessons Learned Through Community Ministry in 2013

My first pastor, Lamar Anderson, whom I was called to the ministry under used to say, “It is a sorry frog that won’t croak over his own pond”. So, let me croak. At Port Royal Baptist Church we place a high priority on community ministry and missions. The reason: God’s Word teaches that we are to care for and serve others in the name of Jesus Christ. I must say that our people take seriously the missions mandate given to the local New Testament church. They are compassionate, generous, and caring. When presented with a ministry opportunity, they always rise to the occasion. I have at times challenged our people to invest more in current ministries and add new. I have never been disappointed and our community has been the beneficiary of their love and care. I appreciate Port Royal Baptist Church greatly for placing such a high priority on the care of our community. Your commitment to minister to all people, regardless of their race and economic background, surpasses any place I have ever been a part of.

We have had a full and fulfilling year in 2013. We have been able to touch our community in many, many ways. From mentoring elementary school children to assisting families with staying in their home, we put them first. From helping a sister church minister to migrant workers in VBS to serving lunch to state park workers just to say thank you, we put them first. From assisting families provide Christmas gifts for their children to food baskets for nourishing meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas, we put them first. From community improvement projects to giving out free cold water in the summer, we put them first. From giving and going to meet the needs of those in the mountains of Kentucky to giving the most basic needs such as laundry detergent to our partner apartment complex. We have used these opportunities, along with others, not to make our name known, but to foster relationships and build bridges for gospel conversations. Through all of this, I have learned two lessons this year that I would like to share with you here.

Lesson #1. Be Open. You must be willing to be taken advantage of in order to reach your community. I have often shared with our people that we must give to our community with no expectation of return. Many find this troubling. There are those who believe that everyone we help during the week should be in church with us on Sunday. That would be nice. The hard truth is that most of those we serve in our community will not attend Port Royal Baptist for one reason or another. What really matter is the opportunity to minister to them where they are. If our willingness to serve is taken advantage of, so be it. In the course of this year’s ministry opportunities, has our giving been taken advantage of? I know it has. In the course of this year’s ministry opportunities, have we suffered offense through the actions and responses of those we were helping? Absolutely. In the end, I have learned that we are only responsible for why we do ministry. If we give and serve with the sole motive of being obedient to Christ and a blessing to our community, we have nothing to worry about. The possibility that we may be taken advantage of is real, but it should not stop us from serving our community.

Lesson #2: Be Intentional. You must plan and prepare. Life-changing ministry doesn’t “just happen”. I am proud to say that our missions and ministries leaders see the value of being prepared. Some ministry opportunities require very little planning while other opportunities require a great deal of planning. Nothing could be more counterproductive than to arrive at a ministry site and not have the food, the supplies, the craft, the gift, the lesson that is needed to be a blessing. Being prepared shows the community we care. Being prepared shows the community that we have thought about them in advance. As I said earlier, our ministry calendar was very full this past year and I expect it to be the same this coming year. I have learned that without planning we would be far less effective than we were. I am so thankful that our people are opposed to flying by the seat of their pants. I am a firm believer in the old adage that says “when you fail to plan you are planning to fail”.

Missional Monday : National Night Out

nno2013Last August, Port Royal Baptist Church had the privilege to participate in a community event known as National Night Out. National Night Out is an initiative to develop and promote crime-prevention programs in neighborhoods involving watch groups, law enforcement agencies, churches, non-profit organizations, businesses, and individuals working toward one simple goal: safer and stronger communities. Our church had been seeking a way to gain entry into the multi-housing community that adjoins our property. We approached the property manager with this initiative and were welcomed with open arms.

This is how it works. A church, business, or non-profit organization identifies a neighborhood to “adopt”. Local law enforcement and fire departments are brought in to share the anti-crime and safety message. Through this initiative, foundational partnerships are formed that lead to future opportunities of ministry and involvement. Port Royal Baptist will host a block party (bounce house, popcorn, sno-cones, etc.) including a cookout. The property manager will provide the space, power, and internal promotion to more than 100 family units. Port Royal Police Department, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Department, and Beaufort County Fire Department will provide staff and resources from their departments to communicate their anti-crime message, while showing a side of their work that most of the communities never get to see. On August 6th, 2013, we will all come together again to do our individual part in collectively making sure our community knows that we care about them.

Earlier I mentioned foundations for future involvement. From the church standpoint, we have had the privilege to minister in other ways. Because of a “non-church” event, we have been allowed to come back to host “church” events including those related to Easter and Vacation Bible School. I believe we were able to carry out the purpose of the church because we built trust and earned the right to minister. How did we do this? How can you do the same thing?

1. We took advantage of a secular event in order to lay the groundwork for ministry. Check your community calendars and involve your church in those events. I wrote about the importance of merging church and community calendars. You can read that post here.

2. We earnestly believe that our community is our responsibility, not someone else’s. Remember, missional is not about doing. It is all about being. Don’t allow someone else to be the missionary to your community.

3. We were not afraid to be told “no”. You should not be either. Pray, identify, and ask. We were told “no” in this particular multi-housing unit once before.

Missional Monday : MissionsFEST Atlanta

atlanta-skylineIn October of this year I, along with two other member of Port Royal Baptist Church (Joyce Bunton, Judy Greenlee), will take part in MissionsFEST Atlanta. This trip is the result of a partnership between South Carolina Baptist Convention Missions Mobilization, National WMU (Women’s Missionary Union), Georgia WMU, and the UACP (Urban Atlanta Church Planter’s) Network. The UACP is a cooperative effort to engage lostness through the planting of intentionally reproducing churches with the I-285 perimeter of Atlanta. Individuals and churches who participate in MissionsFEST work alongside church planters who active in reaching neighborhoods with the I-285 loop where over 100 different languages are spoken. Events and projects are designed to demonstrate the love of Christ in real and tangible ways that allow bridges to be built for future gospel conversations. Some of the week’s projects include block parties, service ministries, prayer walking, and light construction work.

We are looking at this trip as more than just an opportunity to help church planters with the enormous task of reaching their community. We are viewing this time in Atlanta as a vision trip for Port Royal Baptist Church. Every spring we sponsor a state-side mission trip for our congregation. As we seek the Lord’s guidance as to the coming year’s destination, we are praying He uses this week to open doors for future ministry. As in any trip, meeting, or conference I attend, certain hopes are always present. My hopes for this trip are as follows.

1. It is my hope that we will create partnerships for future service. As I mentioned above, we hope to be able to discern the needs of the church planters and determine if our congregation would be a fit in Atlanta.

2. It is my hope that I will be personally challenged. I believe that many of us minister within a bubble of safety. That is not always our fault, just a result of where we are. I hope to be stretched and challenged to do ministry that I never have and among people I never have.

3. It is my hope that we will learn new methods and practices for our own local ministry. Our church is very active and present in our community. I am hoping that some of what we experience in Atlanta will give us fresh ideas for reaching Port Royal.