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The Bible is full of resolutions. Our reading of the Bible should be to see the gaps between ourselves and God’s will and close that gap with resolve. The difference between worldly resolution and Biblical resolution is that as believers we have the promise of God’s presence with us to empower and encourage us as we resolve to walk with him. So let’s be resolute in 2019. Here are four Biblical Resolutions in way of reminder and challenge.
1. Devote yourselves to Prayer… Colossians 4:2
Prayer works every time it is tried. God promises to hear and to answer the praying believer, who prays in faith (Matthew 7:7; James 1:5-8; 1 John 5:14-15). Resolve to be a person of prayer in 2019.
- Set your alarm for 10:02am as a reminder to pray for your church and for more laborers for God’s mission (see Luke 10:2).
- Get your church’s directory and pray for one page per day.
- Sign up for Daily Prayer List of the International Mission Board
- Sign up for BlessEveryHome.com and pray for your neighbors everyday
2. Every man mature in Christ – Colossians 1:28-29
The resolve of the apostle Paul was to move EVERY PERSON in his sphere of influence closer to Christ. What a resolution!? Our influence as believers is currently limited by our vision and our lips. Resolve to see every person in relation to eternity and communicate God’s Gospel truth in practical ways in 2019.
- Pick up or make invites to your church to hand out around town.
- Ask God for divine opportunities and commit to share the gospel on a daily or weekly basis.
- Make a list of lost friends, relatives, coworkers, and neighbors to pray for everyday.
- Pick up a book or study on sharing the faith and read to get equipped. Let me suggest: Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations by Jimmy Scroggins, Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out by Alvin Reid, or Tell Someone by Greg Laurie.
3. Exercise is of some value – 1 Timothy 4:8
In most of us, a new year brings a desire to make changes. Gym memberships increase by about 12% every January. While we do not all need to be Iron Men, we should recognize the secondary value (next to godliness) of maintaining and/or improving our physical condition as a steward of God and faithful witness until our last breath. Resolve to improve and/or maintain your physical condition for stewardship and witness in 2019.
- Walk. This is a great way to combine #1, #2, and #3. Walk your neighborhood and pray for each home and look for opportunities to build new relationships.
- Try a 21 Day Fast as a way to reset your prayer life and dietary life.
- Join a gym and/or fitness class as a way to get in better condition and build new relationships in the community.
4. We will tell the next generation – Psalm 78:4
The next generation is to be a priority for disciples of Christ (Deuteronomy 6:6-8; Psalm 78:1-4). Parents and Grandparents have a built in reminder of their duty and priority. But we mustn’t stop there. With Christianity in decline, we need all hands on deck to make sure every child hears of God’s love in Christ for them. Resolve to pass on your faith to someone younger than you in 2019.
- If you’re a parent, commit to a family meal time each week where you share a devotional and pray for and with one another.
- Sign up to volunteer in the children’s ministry of a local church.
- Look for opportunities to volunteer at a local school or mentoring program.
- Ask God to show you a child at your church or in your neighborhood that needs an encouraging word.
What are some other Biblical Resolutions that we can resolve to pursue in 2019?
I’ve heard this one for years when church planting comes up among pastors. A couple of responses:
1. Who said we’re trying to plant small churches? That’s never the goal. The goal is to reach people for Christ. Church Planting is one of the means. God, the context, the partners, and a lot of other things often determines the size of the church. If you don’t want to see another small church, get involved and help us plant a big one!
2. This may say more about your vision and belief in God’s ability than the local church planting strategy. In every apple is an orchard. In every believer is a potential to reach more. In every group of believers, no matter how small is the potential for a movement. Let’s believe God for bigger things.
3. “We don’t need another small church…” Unless your lost and on your way to hell. Then you need a small church, medium size church, mega church, or whatever kind of church to come and get you and share the good news of God’s grace and salvation! Let’s not forget that this is about heaven and hell, not our own ego or discomfort.
4. And remember, God has no small churches and no big pastors. God doesn’t show favoritism (James 2:9). God doesn’t see as man sees (1 Samuel 16:7). The kingdom is upside down – to be great, be a servant; to be first, go last; to live, you’ve got to die. Can’t you imagine with me that the God that governs an upside down kingdom values and cheers on the small church as much as the big church?
Church Planting is a great means of evangelizing and discipling a community. Until every person is reached, let’s strive to do everything possible to reach them. Including planting small churches, big churches, and all kinds of other churches to see the kingdom come as earth as it is in heaven. And today, every church can get involved in church planting, church replanting, multi-site development. Pick your pleasure and lets reach people for Christ.
“The Gospel came to you because it was heading to someone else. God never intended for your salvation to be an end, but a beginning. God saved you to be a conduit through whom His glorious, life changing gospel would flow to others. You are a link in a chain….”
Robby Gallaty, in Growing Up: Becoming a Disciple Who Makes Disciples
The Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge covers all or part of Ascension, East Baton Rouge (Louisiana’s most populated Parish), West Baton Rouge, Iberville, Pointe Coupee, St. James Parishes.
- Population: 640,059
- 1 Southern Baptist church (SBC) for every 6,096 persons. Rest of Louisiana is 1 to 2,895. 131 new churches would be needed to get to 1 to 2,895.
- Only 1.1% of the population (7,049) attended a Bible Study in a SBC Church in 2016.
- Only 1.9% of the population (11,861) attended worship in a SBC Church in 2015.
49% of the population is non-anglo (41% African-American, 3.9% Hispanic, 2.5% Asian) with only 16 non-anglo SBC churches. 1 to 18,154.
- 23% of the population is evangelical, showing that Baton Rouge has a healthier evangelical population than the rest of South Louisiana.
- Baptisms are down 25% from a high of 757 in 2006. 558 in 2016.
- Association Executive Director is Dr. Tommy Middleton. Staff: Chuck Lowman, Randy Osborn, Dana Truitt, Jan Terral. Check out BAGBR.org.
Some good progress made in 2017-2018 in Church Multiplication:
- One new Church Plant – Renew Church Baton Rouge.
- Four new Church RePlants – Oak Crest / United Believers; Sherwood / Living Hope; Park Forest / The Church at Park Forest; Logos and Life / Westside Community.
- Repurposed Associational Church Planting Team.
- New churches in the pipeline for Zachary (Living Hope), Ascension Parish (Hispanic).
- Greenhouse Training planned for August 17-18.
- Potential Mission Builder Project at Fellowship South Ascension in 2018-2019.
Pray for Current Church Planters:
Parenting is at the same time, the greatest joy and the most difficult task one can undertake. Now, I’m a veteran, and getting opportunities to share my failings and hard lessons learned more often with parents younger than me. Here’s what I find myself saying over and over:
- Parenting is hard. Much harder than you’ll ever imagine. Nobody can tell you how hard it is until you’ve experienced it.
- Parents must work to set the spiritual temperature and pace in the home.
- Limit technology. Limit technology. Limit technology. So much danger lurking on the other side of a click, finger swipe, and game controller.
- Say no to Snap Chat. Just do it. There’s just nothing good about it. Just say no!
- Recognize the competing voices in their hearts and heads and deal with them decisively.
- Get them around mentors and positive people early and often.
- Recognize God’s providence is greater than imperfect parental guidance.
What would you add to this list?
C.S. Lewis said it best: “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”
This February, I’ve for the first time tackled preaching through the Song of Solomon. Sounded like a great idea last summer when I was planning sermon series for 2018, but as I got to digging in I began to think, “what have I gotten myself in to!?” Ha! As I studied, I began to see a beautiful love story outlined in the relationship between the bride and groom depicted in the Song. Here it is:
- God is the author of LOVE, ROMANCE, SEX, AND MARRIAGE. Genesis 2:18-25.
- Love is FOSTERED through God-given desire, attraction, and curiosity. Song of Solomon 1:2, 7-10; Proverbs 30:19.
- Love is FULFILLED in the marital relationship between man and woman. Song of Solomon 2:7; 3:7-11; 4:9-11; 5:1; Proverbs 5:19
- Love can be FRUSTRATING as two people bring their differences together and experience life’s difficulties. Song of Solomon 5:2-3; Proverbs 17:1; 21:9; 25:24
- The beauty of Love is found in FAITHFULNESS. Song of Solomon 7:1-2; 8:6-7; Proverbs 5:18; Ecclesiastes 9:9
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
And I’m glad to be living this story out with my bride of 18 years now (valentine of 21 years). Thinking about our story, here’s my Valentine’s Day letter to my valentine:
God created you just for me. Light shined from heaven and music started playing in my head the first time I saw you. You were different from anyone I had ever met. As I got to know you, the curiosity and desire to know more about you never dulled. Separation from you scared me because it made me feel incomplete. Our wedding day still seems like the best dream I’ve ever had. My every wish and idea about love has been fulfilled in this relationship. There has never been one day that I have regretted taking you as my wife. My heart still leaps when you walk into the room and my mind remains ever curious about your heart and your thoughts on everything. We’ve faced our share of frustrations with this life, with no doubt more trials and difficulties to come. I look forward to growing old with you and experiencing the beauty of faithfulness. Thank you for being my valentine and my wife. Thank you for putting up with the frustrations caused by me. Thank you for the promise of life long love. Thank you for making faithfulness easy and longed for. Happy 21st Valentine’s day!
What’s your Love Story? Can you see your story in the Song of Solomon? Take time to write it out. Identify gaps and close them.
Pastor Charles Starnes went home to be with the Lord on December 29th, 2017. He served as Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Slidell for 32 years. During that time the church baptized 485 new believers and added 733 other members to their roles. They also gave over $1.5 million to the Cooperative Program and other missions causes. I remember Bro. Charles as a great encourager of church planters, which included me, after moving to St. Tammany Parish in 2001 to plant a church about 35 minutes from Calvary. Under Bro. Charles’ leadership Calvary was part of planting six new churches, including the first Hispanic SBC Church on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain. I’ll never forget what he said at the constitution service of one of those church plants, Thompson Road Baptist Church in West Slidell. He said,
“Everyone always makes a big deal about Calvary planting churches. Thanks for the kind words, but I just thought that planting churches and missions is what every church was supposed to be doing.”
On another occasion he said it like this:
“Everybody makes a big deal about Calvary being part of planting churches. I always say, I didn’t know it was optional.”
Grateful for Bro. Charles and his vision for multiplication and encouragement for church planting everywhere. May his tribe increase.
“through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus”
“those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ”
“There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus”
Galatians 3:26-28 (CSB)
Relationship, so we’re loved and accepted.
Divine Presence, for when we need help that’s beyond ourselves.
Family, so that we’re never alone or abandoned
Thank you Father, for making us sons and daughters, for giving us the promise of your presence, and for making us part of your great family. Let us live that others may know you, feel your presence, and desire to become a part of your great kingdom.
2016 ACP (Annual Church Profile) Reports are in for Louisiana. The Annual Church Profile is collected by State Convention Communication and Information Services Departments and tallied together nationally by Lifeway. Our Information Services Department works hard to gather the data, even from churches that do not turn in the form, by calling them and asking for what data can be gathered over the phone. Most Associations do a good job helping churches see the importance. It is valuable for us to see how we are doing together and for our strategists to have good data as we plan church planting and missions efforts nationally. It also gets our state included in national data collection.
Here are a few highlights that I found interesting from this years ACP Reports:
- 86% or 1,376 Louisiana Baptist Churches reported. So 248 churches did not report.
- Total Worship Attendance for 2016 in Louisiana was 165,228. Which is 3.5% of Louisiana’s total population of 4,670,724.
- Total Resident Membership for 2016 was 357,631. Which is 7.7% of Louisiana’s total population.
- Total Baptisms reported – 10,214. Down almost 900 from the previous year. Baptisms declined in every age group, but most drastically among children and youth.
- Worship Attendance is down 8% since 2012.
- 791 or 57% of Louisiana congregations are <150 in Resident Membership
- 449 or 33% are between 150 and 499 in Resident Membership
- 136 or 10% are over 500 in Resident Membership.
- Out of 1,376 reporting congregations, 498 or 36% reported a decline in attendance from 2015-2016. 331 or 24% showed a decline of 10% or more.
- 551 or 40% reported a decline in Small Group Attendance. 25% had a decline of 10% or more. 656 out of 1,376 or 48% reported a decline over the last 10 years.
- Small Group Attendance is at an all-time low in Louisiana, dropping below 100,000 only the 2nd time in reported history.
- No congregation had showed a decline every year in the last 10 years.
A few takeaways:
- A decline continues to be noted in attendance and membership.
- The decline is not a doomsday 80% of churches, that we hear sometimes. 36% of churches, not 80% declined since last year. And NO CHURCH showed a decline every year in the last 10 years.
- Small Group attendance figures are alarming. Small Group attendance has dropped drastically for Southern Baptist in Louisiana. Part of this is probably due to programming issues. More churches doing two worship services, etc. But knowing how much great face to face discipleship happens in small groups, it grieves me to see these figures dropping so drastically.
- Noted decline among children and youth baptisms continue in Louisiana. In the 1990’s Louisiana Baptist were baptizing 5,000+ children and 4,000+ youth every year. This year only 2,597 children and 1,896 youth baptisms were reported. Prayers for the next generation.
What data point most interest you? What would you like to know from this years ACP data? What are your takeaways? Comments? etc.
The 2017 Generate Conference is a wrap. This years host and showcase church was North Monroe Baptist. Grateful to Pastor Bill Dye and staff for the generosity and hospitality. The Generate Conference is designed to help church planters in years 3 to 10 to get beyond growth barriers and leadership hurdles. Pastors and leaders in churches from >50 to <500 have also attended and took away actionable steps. With the Generate Conference we highlight the work of several Louisiana churches that have found ways to grow and break growth barriers in our unique context. Shawn Lovejoy, with Courage to Lead and Kirk Jones, Fellowship Church in Prairieville, also served as equippers this year, along with North Monroe’s staff. Here’s a few of my big takeaways this year:
From Bill Dye:
- You can’t be a great pastoral leader without having the heart of Jesus.
- Find a way to use new people. They are the best volunteers because they’ve bought in to the vision. Don’t wait to put them on ministry teams.
- Only person who likes change is a wet baby. Don’t attempt any substantial change until you’ve done at least one year of vision casting.
- Be willing to ignore and work around difficult people. Are you trying to win a fight or win the world for Christ.
- Let the quality of your work speak for itself. When you do tough things in a spirit of humility, your stock goes up with the right people.
- We’re not done when we make converts. Our mission is maturity.
- Church staff are not ministers, but administrators of ministry. We don’t pay people to minister. Everybody ministers.
From Shawn Lovejoy:
- The Three Gears of Growth: Culture – Team – Systems
- Growth depends not on your preaching ability but the ability to let go of control and build a great team.
- Decisions must be made based on who we might reach instead of who might leave.
- If you have the right culture and the right team, almost any system will work.
- You have to be the culture you want to build. We reproduce who we are.
- Behaviors of a High Performing Team: They Trust Each Other, They Engage in Healthy Conflict, They Commit to Decisions and Plans of Actions, They Focus on Collective, not Individual Results.
- Four things we owe our leaders: Clarity, Grace, Honesty, and Proper Placement.
- God will not bring you more followers than you have leaders.
- A learning church is a growing church. A learning leader is a growing leader.
- Church staff is to be the equippers, not to do ministry, but to develop ministers.
Other presenters were: Jacob Crawford, Life Point Mansura; Chad Merrell, First West Fairbanks; Jason McGuffie, FBC Tallulah.
Look forward to highlighting other growing churches and leaders in 2018. Lots to learn from those right around us.