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  For this reason churches operate under an unpublished principle during the summer: don’t start anything new.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.

Missional Monday : Love Gave 2015

mmSeveral months ago I was sitting with Shane Olsen, lead pastor of Decibel Church and Mike Green, lead pastor of the The Link at lunch. I do not remember the purpose of that meeting. Perhaps we were debriefing a past event or planning a future event. I simply can’t remember. I do remember that out conversation turned toward our city. As the discussion went on, one question seemed to emerge: How can our churches work together in order to show God’s love toward our city? We had already been serving our community in our own individual contexts. Collectively we were all part of large community-wide, non-denominational Thanksgiving event that fed hundreds and hundreds of families. Several questions helped to frame the above question.

What more could we do together?

Is once a year enough to make a real and lasting impact?

What resources could we pool and leverage to make a difference?

What is the best option for long-term and lasting impact?

It was out of this discussion that Love Gave was born.

So, what is Love Gave? Well, there is no formal mission and purpose statement. I guess you could call it an emphasis, a focus, or perhaps collaboration. My prayer is that it becomes a movement. We decided that over a 40 period (October 11th – November 22nd) that we would make it a priority to serve our city in a visible display of God’s love. During this 40 day period, each church will choose their individual emphasis. Port Royal Baptist will see 40 Days of Community. Collectively we will come together for two main community events in under-served areas; one in Beaufort (October 24th) and one in Port Royal (November 7th).  I believe a fundamental principle in community ministry is to ask agencies and city leaders how the church can help them in order to cut down on duplication and focus resources. We met with the mayor of Beaufort and Port Royal’s town manager to share our vision and seek guidance. Both recognized the need and welcomed the help. There are at least three goals we hope to attain through these events. First, it is our desire to show the cities of Beaufort and Port Royal a visible witness of God’s love through sacrifice and service. Second, it is our desire to show the community how beautiful and how strong the Body of Christ is. Lastly, it is our desire to give at least 1000 volunteer hours to our cities on each of the two city ministry days.  Although the details of each city ministry day are still coming together, we do know a few things for sure. The Beaufort ministry day will consist of park clean-up and painting, renovation work for a needy homeowner, and a carnival/block party in the Greene Street area. The Port Royal ministry day will consist of skate park repair/painting and other work in Veterans Memorial Park.

I would ask that you pray. Pray that our cities will see God’s love lived out in practical ways and that hearts will be softened to the gospel as a result. Pray for the approximately 10-12 churches that will be involved in Love Gave. Pray that their congregations will be strengthened as a result of serving their community. Please pray that this truly would be a movement that would be embraced as we partner with our cities to love the people who make them up. I would also ask that you volunteer. I would pray that you might embrace this opportunity to “be” the church.

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 : 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.

Location, Location, Location

Port Royal Baptist Church is uniquely situated for ministry opportunity. I believe the placement of our church has nothing to do with chance. I believe the placement of our church has nothing to do with luck. Instead, I believe that we are where we are for a reason. I believe that we have been planted and given a certain responsibility for the care of this community. If you’ve never been to Port Royal Baptist Church, allow me explain a little bit about our location.

Stepping out of the front door and looking to the left, there is a major highway connecting the town of Port Royal with the city of Beaufort. Across that highway are two apartment buildings. The first is a senior adult community that we have just recently been able to involve ourselves in. The other, next door to the first, is an apartment building with a mixture of singles, families, and seniors. Our church has had a presence here for over five years and continues to be active here to this day.  Stepping out the front door and looking to the right, there is Naval Hospital Beaufort. Aboard this military base you will find housing for both singles and families. At times in the past, our members who are in the military have lived here. Stepping out the front and looking directly to the front, you will see a park that is maintained by the town of Port Royal. There are two things worth mentioning about this park. First, a skate park was built here several years ago that gives  kids who enjoy skateboarding a place to go. There are always kids there. We are expecting a door to open to be able to reach them. Second, this park hosts a farmers market that runs year round.  Every Saturday morning vendors set up in the park and sell everything from vegetables to fresh shrimp, bread to plants and flowers, barbecue to olive oil. Our church has been able to be establish a presence here during the summer months giving away free cold water to both vendors and customers. This farmers market draws a large crowd every week.

The exciting part is that all of this takes place at our doorsteps. Literally. Our parking lot serves as parking for the market every Saturday. Directly behind the church is an apartment complex in which we have been praying for an opportunity to establish a presence and a witness of the gospel. Our prayers have been answered and we have been able to host a block party here recently and meet the residents and their families.  Also, within a half-mile of the church, there are at least three other multi-housing units. Port Royal Baptist Church is just over a mile from the front gate of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island. We are praying for an opportunity to open up to that would enable us to minister to the families aboard the depot.

I said all of that to say this. It’s all about placement. Boundless opportunity surrounds us. Our mission field is right here. I believe that God has uniquely positioned us here to significantly impact our community. If you have never been to Port Royal Baptist Church, I hope this helps you understand where we are. If you have been to Port Royal Baptist Church, have you noticed what is around you? When you drive to the church building for scheduled services, do you realize that you pass through a mission field on your way in? Do you notice the potential that the Lord has laid at our feet? We have a people to reach. I am excited about the potential. I am excited about the opportunity before us. I love this town. I love this church. I love these people. May God enable us to reach them.