February 3, 2022

 

Craig's Comments 

 
Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.” Isaiah 6:8
 
When I heard this message preached in a revival service at Parkburg Baptist Church in Pinson, Tn. where I served during my college years, it gripped my soul and never let go! Little did I know all of the implications through the years of being sent, but God has been faithful.
 
I never dreamed when I surrendered to living missionally how many manifestations of such would become a reality. In my limited perspective, I thought you were either a pastor or a missionary. On the contrary, God has so many ways of working through His people today! Especially when it comes to areas that do not have access to the gospel as much as we do. While the counties that the PMBA spans are not nearly as diverse as some that I have known, there is still great need all around us.
 
Concentric circles
 
I am often asked, “Why church planting?” or “Why not revitalize existing churches?” and my response is “Yes!” It is not an either/or proposition when it comes to ministry. God chooses to work in many different ways when He sends us. Just as we are vastly different people, the people that we serve among are vastly different as well. One of my favorite illustrations of this recently is an Unreached People Group cohort that I help to facilitate. One of our leaders is a Hispanic missionary from Venezuela who has a heart for Muslim people. He is learning English and Arabic, but has surrendered to simply be faithful and let God fill in the gaps! In a matter of a few weeks he has connected with various Arabic speakers locally and has started having conversations with them about our faith! Despite his many challenges, he is making great strides because he walks by faith and not fear. He is also helping area churches to mobilize as well!
 
Our world is simply waiting for us to embrace the calling that we hear in the book of Isaiah and later in the New Testament. God is raising up churches to actively take the gospel to the nations and make disciples by planting churches as we see in the book of Acts. It is that passion that leads our association to embrace a more active role in adopting the unreached areas with greatest need for the gospel. We are excited to announce that plans are underway to advocate for local and global church planting needs more effectively!
 
Locally we have church plants who launched recently or are in the process of being planted. Many of these are seeking to take the gospel to an area where pockets of lostness (https://viewer.mapme.com/lostness-in-north-carolina/) have been identified and strategic ministry is needed. Such local needs are very accessible for our existing churches to come alongside of the PMBA as we seek to encourage and resource those plants to navigate the early stages of formation, discipleship, and growth. Such a step of faith is never easy, but we believe that it deserves all of the support that we can muster to ensure success.
 
Global church planting is multifaceted so we are hoping to advocate for two significant areas of need where PMBA churches are already partnering and seeing gospel advance. Areas such as Calgary, Canada and Mumbai, India have significant lostness and area churches are already advocating for these works in significant ways to advance the Kingdom among them.
 
So what does it look like to adopt and advocate for people groups, church plants, etc? It is often different for every church, but the best place to start is prayer. Would you commit to pray for these works and even advocate for them by doing the necessary “homework” required to effectively pray for their needs? If you don’t know where to begin, we are here to help. While the internet can be a wonderful resource these days, it can be overwhelming for those who may not know where to look. We plan to provide more information in the days ahead for those interested in deepening their church’s passion for missional engagement.
 
While many churches assume that the next step is to give financially, I’m not going to say that (yet!). Giving is essential, but going tends to fuel giving in so many regards. This is especially true when there are so many “good” opportunities these days. Going enables us to go deeper than an internet search, a video, or a training session even. Going allows us to look into the very eyes of lostness and feel the tremendous need that exists in our world. In many cases we not only look into their eyes, but we feed their stomachs, heal their wounds, and share the life-giving Good News of Jesus Christ.
 
Once you have done those two things…the rest will come naturally as long as you are abiding in Christ and instructed by His Word. Churches engage in so many ways just like we see in scripture. The key is not how you engage, but that you are actively seeking faithfulness in the great commission that we are given to make disciples of the nations. If you have read this and still feel like I am speaking another language, let us know how we can walk with you in this essential, strategic step. You may just be surprised by the ways that God chooses to move through your church! Maybe someone among you will even say, “Here I am. Send me.”
 
Craig
 
  

January 5, 2022

 

A Word from Walker

 
Despite my best efforts, I got it. You guessed it. I contracted COVID. I am not sure where I was exposed. This virus is so contagious that it is hard to tell. All I know is that several days ago I felt like I had a run-of-the-mill cold and, after being tested, learned I had a mild version of this wicked virus. I am grateful to have had my two shots and the booster. Considering some of the medical conditions I deal with, it would have most definitely been worse had I been unvaccinated.
 
This experience has reminded me of two things. First, it reminds me how fragile life is. Over 800,000 people have died from this disease. While the vast majority of these victims had pre-existing conditions, there have been many who were healthy, vibrant and active folks. Regardless, some people still think it is either some kind of conspiracy or, at the least, a virus that has been way overblown in the press. To be frank, it doesn’t matter what you have read on the internet. No one is bullet-proof when it comes to this adaptive enemy. It can kill anyone, or make even the healthiest of people very ill. To not take it seriously involves embracing a very large risk that, in the end, is not worth it. The Bible tells us that we are like “withering grass … here today and gone tomorrow” (Isa. 40:6-8). This is true for all of us. The pandemic only reinforces this sobering reality.
 
Second, it reminds me of how little control we truly possess as fragile creatures. I know what some of you are probably thinking: "Of course, this is true." But, the way this obvious truth has hit me is that you can do all the right things and still get sick. Some people exercise, eat right and avoid unnecessary stress yet die of strokes and heart attacks. Some drink, smoke and eat raw lard and live to age ninety-five. Don’t ask me to explain. I can’t. What I can say is that despite our best efforts, there are things beyond our control. That is why James said that when we make plans we should say, "If the Lord wills,” not as a safety default, but as a genuinely humble affirmation that just because we plan something doesn’t ensure it will happen. COVID has been a wrecking ball to such presumptive thinking.
 
Nonetheless, I have great hope that as we emerge from all of our personal and corporate challenges, we will carry with us lessons that provide wiser perspectives on how to invest our lives in ways that are neither reactive, passive or prideful, but full of faith and hope. We have several of these kinds of plans for 2022. Stay tuned as we fill you in on new opportunities and possibilities.
 
Happy New Year!
Walker