December 2017 CBA Newsletter

A Word from Your Missionary, Steve Laughman

Thank you for supporting the Centennial Baptist Association this year! This ministry exists for you, and we want to express how grateful we are to be allowed to serve the Lord by serving His church. Each local body of believers has a unique personality, a specific mission field, and particular gifts and talents. Getting to be a part of what God is doing through your church is an honor and a privilege.

As 2017 comes to a close, we have many things to celebrate and even more to look forward to. We will continue with some of those ministry events that have been so beneficial in the past like the Children’s Ministry Workshop, the Johnny Hunt Men’s Conference Simulcast, EQUIP, and the Dental Clinic. We will also introduce some new opportunities with the state-wide Children’s Missions Extravaganza being held right here in Centennial and the Elevate: Church Strategy Summit in April. Be sure to take advantage of each of these by bringing people from your church.

Beginning with the January News, I will be focusing on specific priorities as outlined in our new strategy. In order for us to reach our goals, we must be intentional about keeping our focus. We hope it will be clear how each part works together to accomplish what we believe God has called us to do. To that end, you can help us get the word out. If you know of anyone who would like to be informed about the work of Centennial Baptist Association, ask them to sign up to receive this newsletter. You can also include information on our upcoming events in bulletins, church newsletters, and calendars. We want everyone to know what God is doing through CBA!

Let me also take a moment to wish each of you a happy Christmas season. Marni and I are blessed to have each of you in our lives. We pray that this Christmas is full of joy and wonder as you remember and proclaim the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Prayers for Sutherland Springs

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." Romans 12:15

The Apostle Paul included this verse in the context of describing the connection we as the Body of Christ have to one another. Although much of what he wrote here applies to the local body, I do not think it is an error to say that we all as the Church mourn today for the church family and community of Sutherland Springs, TX.

What motivates anyone to commit such an evil, horrific act of violence is beyond my comprehension. Words fall short when I attempt to express what I am feeling and thinking. While my flesh moves me toward anger and frustration, my spirit demands sorrow and brokenness. I cannot begin to imagine the pain of the families and friends who have lost those dear to them. But I can intercede as the Spirit moves me to even when I don't have the words.

How should the church respond to this? That is the question that confronts me this morning. Some will inevitably take sides on the gun control debate. There will be many curious people who want to know all the details. Blame will be placed on more than just the shooter. But let me remind you of a few things from God's Word.

  1. "For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline." - 2 Timothy 1:7 While we are to be diligent to protect ourselves and others, especially in the place where we gather for worship, we should never be fearful of what might happen. We cannot and should not ignore the potential danger, but once all safeguards are taken, we must trust God to be God. Fear will keep us from doing what we have been called to do.

  2. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." - Ephesians 6:12 Satan is actively seeking to hurt the church and to diminish her influence in this world. He will use sinful people to do that. Sometime those people use a gun. Other times they use hurtful words and anger. Let us not allow this tragedy to be used by Satan as a tool. The world needs to see a church that loves and represents our Lord well, especially in times like these.

  3. "Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away." - James 4:14 While we should never minimize the tragedy of losing anyone, especially in this manner, this is a chance for each of us to remember that we are not promised tomorrow. Whether we are in the presumed safety of our home or church or in the middle of a dangerous situation, each breath is a gift from God. For those of us who know the Lord as Savior, we have a glorious eternity to look forward to. We must also remember that everyone we meet also has an eternal destiny, and most of them do not know Jesus. Let the Gospel message be urgent in each of us.

My prayer today is simple: God, my Father, thank You for the gift of life everlasting. Thank You that I can trust You when life makes no sense. Please grant peace and comfort to those who are mourning and help your children represent You well as we confront a lost world that desperately needs to see You. Make us grace givers as You have given us grace to face today. In the Name of our Lord Jesus and through the power of Your Spirit I pray, Amen.

November 2017 CBA Newsletter

A Word from Your Missionary, Steve Laughman

This past week I was reminded that Jesus died for our best days, just as much as He died for our worst day. If we are all honest with ourselves and each other for a moment, we would admit that we tend to have a pretty high opinion of our own righteousness. Then there are those days when we are hit right in the face with the fact that we are not even close to where we think we are. We could mope around and feel sorry for ourselves and our condition. We could compare ourselves to others in order to boost our morale and our self-inflated perception. Or we could simply rest in the fact that although we were desperately without hope, Jesus died for us in order to redeem us, to reconcile us to the Father, and to lavish His grace on us. There is tremendous freedom in the realization that any good we do cannot be credited to us, but to the one who empowers us to accomplish His will.

Left on my own, I will disappoint you. Praise God, I am not left on my own! As we celebrated the work God has accomplished through Centennial this past month, I have been overwhelmed with the truth that God allows us to be a part of what He is doing. He has given us a clear vision for the future and He will be faithful as we follow His lead. Will we make mistakes? Yes. Will we sometimes misinterpret His directions? Perhaps. Will we get ahead of His plans? Hopefully, not. But will we devote ourselves to following Jesus? Yes, we will, without reservation and without apology.

As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach believers have a great opportunity to share the truth of what Jesus has done for us. When we celebrate Thanksgiving, we are reminded that our thanks is not just a general appreciation for the things we have. Our thanks is directed at Someone – at the Creator and the Giver of all good things. Be creative about starting conversations about that with the people you encounter this season. Christmas brings with it songs of praise to our Lord and Savior on every radio station and through every sound system in every store. How easy it would be to engage people in conversation about the gift of salvation while “What Child is This?” is being played?

October 2017 CBA Newsletter

A Word from Your Missionary

October is one of my favorite months of the year. So many wonderful things happen each October. The leaves begin to fall and the temperature declines. Churches host fall festivals and Halloween alternatives to reach their communities. This year we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation. I turn another year older and our association holds one of our biggest events of the year, the Annual Fall Meeting.

This year the Annual Fall Meeting will feature a number of key reports and items of business. I am very excited about the opportunity to share with each of you about what God is doing in our association. The Strategy Team will outline priorities and action plans for the coming years. The Applications Committee will present three churches for membership in the Centennial Baptist Association. The Budget and Finance Committee will ask you to approve a budget for 2018 which increases our investment is several areas of ministry. And the Missions Committee will present details about a new partnership with Star City Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. We will also hear from several other ministries regarding the work they are doing and how your church can take part. You do not want to miss this.

The Annual Fall Meeting will be held on Tuesday, October 24th beginning at 4:30 PM. Antioch Baptist Church in Yatesville will be our host. Many of you have already been putting backpacks together for our partnership with Bethel Association in South Georgia. You can drop those off at Antioch beginning at 4:00 PM on the day of our meeting. After the business meeting, we will enjoy a meal together and then a time of worship.

These are exciting times to be in partnership together for the Kingdom of God. Our communities need to see Christians united for a purpose. With so many being drawn away from the things of God, we have the opportunity to clearly show them a better way – a way centered on Jesus Christ and His glory. Thank you for preaching the Word and equipping the saints for the work of ministry. And thank you for being a part of the Centennial Baptist Association.

September 2017 CBA Newsletter

A Word from Your Missionary, Steve Laughman

A fellow Associational Missionary recently asked his fellow AMs the question: What’s going on in your association that has you excited and energized? His goal was to encourage our fellow AMs by sharing stories of how God is working throughout our state. I didn’t have to think long for an answer. To tell the truth, there are so many great things that I struggled to keep my answer short. In fact, this article is too short to include all the positive things I see God doing in the Centennial Baptist Association. He is at work bringing life back to struggling churches, drawing new congregations into partnership, and building connections between churches that show the world what church is about. What an exciting time to serve the Lord in this place! I hope you feel the same way.

The question my friend, Bobby Braswell, asked our fellow AMs is a good one, so I am going to ask it myself in a different way. What is God doing in your church that has you excited and energized? How is He moving and how does this encourage you and your people? We can all get discouraged in ministry, even when things are going well. Let’s take some time to encourage one another with some good news. It’s OK to brag on Jesus for a minute. In fact, Paul wrote that he boasted only in the Lord.

Here is how this will work: most of you have a facebook page. If you don’t already follow the Centennial Baptist Association page, do that now. I have posted this question on our page. Just add your comment and take the time to read the ones from your fellow believers. My hope is that we will all find encouragement and comradery in this exercise. If you don’t have facebook, I’m sure you can find a fellow church member who can post something for you.

Be sure to make plans to attend our upcoming business meetings to hear more details about what God is doing through the Centennial Association. Executive Committee will meet at Maynard, September 7th at 6:30. We will share a meal and conduct business around the table. This meeting is for all pastors, full-time staff, elected executive committee members, CBA officers, CBA ministry directors and the chairmen of each CBA committee. Our Annual Fall Meeting will be held at Antioch on October 24th beginning at 4:30. We will have a longer business meeting due to extended reports from several committees including our Strategy Planning Team. We will also be collecting backpacks for our partnership with the Bethel Association. This meeting is open to anyone who would like to attend. Messengers from each church will be allowed to vote, so be sure to elect your messengers prior to the meeting.

Thank you for making my job so much fun. We truly do have some of the best churches in the world right here in the Centennial Baptist Association.

August 2017 CBA Newsletter

A Word from Your Missionary, Steve Laughman

Thanksgiving is more than a Thursday in November. Throughout Scripture we find God’s people expressing gratitude for who God is and what He has done. And why shouldn’t we be thankful? Our Father has blessed us in more ways than we can count. His attributes are beyond number and His grace has redeemed us from the path of destruction.  Where would we be without the goodness of God?

Please, allow me a few moments to express thanksgiving for some specific blessings in my life and ministry. This is only a small part of what I believe God is doing, but I only have so much room and you only have so much time.

·         People of God demonstrating His missionary heart. You have been busy going on mission this summer. Whether you have gone yourself or you have supported members from your church, many of you have been actively involved in mission trips to places like Panama, Alaska, Kosovo, Nicaragua, Montana, Louisiana, Tennessee, and right here in the Centennial Association. I pray that we are known as an association of churches that loves missionaries and loves missions. Thank you for whatever role you have played in that effort.

·         Churches helping churches. It is my privilege to peek behind the curtain sometimes regarding partnerships and how they come to be. This summer I have observed believers who worship in different places on Sunday serve together to strengthen one another. Youth have spread the Gospel with face paint and kickballs at churches they have never attended. VBS was a combined effort in several places. Pastors have encouraged one another regarding how to effectively preach and minister to their individual flocks. Thank you for seeing God’s work as Kingdom work.

·         Stewardship that honors God. Centennial Baptist Association can only do what we do because of the generous support from our member churches. We have been blessed to receive more than our budget requirements so far this year which has allowed us to continue the ministries that are so vitally important. As our committees meet to plan for 2018, we will have the freedom to see where God would have us increase our budget to do more. Thank you for supporting the work of the CBA. As you have been faithful stewards, we will also be diligent to do the same.

May the joy of the Lord be your strength as you seek to serve Him faithfully. May He meet your every need and give you eyes to see the needs of others you are to meet. And may He bring souls to salvation through the obedient life you live for Him.

EQUIP Missions - Solidarity

"Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;" - Philippians 1:27

Solidarity - union or fellowship arising from common responsibilities and interests, as between members of a group

EQUIP Missions was an incredible success in every sense of the word. Our theme of SOLIDARITY permeated every aspect of the event. Students and adults from six of our churches worked side by side to minister in all four counties of the Centennial Baptist Association. This was more than just something to occupy students' time during the summer. This was a movement toward fulfilling God's commission to impact our world with the gospel and make Him known.

Dave Edwards encouraged the students to make Jesus obvious in every thing they did this week and your students took his admonition to heart. Throughout the week, he gave them practical tools for living on mission far past this week. Worship was focused on the Lord each evening and morning. Alan Smith reminded our students on Monday morning that worship is more than what we do corporately with our lips. The other side to the coin is making Jesus known through our actions.

The majority of each day was spent at mission sites. A conscious effort was made to work through local churches to help them reach their communities. Jeff Davis, Concord, Juliette, Garden Hill, and Pine View served as mission sites for our students. Ministry included kids camps, VBS, and even clean-up, yard work, and community surveys. Other mission sites included Sunny Grove and Pike Manor Assisted Living Homes. Students also accepted the See a Need, Meet a Need Challenge which allowed students to find ways to make Jesus known through random acts of service. They handed out roses, cleaned homes, washed windshields, collected shopping carts, wrote encouraging notes, and made visits to widows.

FBC Barnesville was an incredible host church. Jason Teal, who serves as Minister to Students and Singles, as well as Campus Minister at Gordon State College, took care of the bulk of the planning for EQUIP Missions. His team of 70+ volunteers served our students with a smile and great enthusiasm. Whether preparing food, running sound, or taking care of one of the many behind-the-scenes tasks, they pulled together to make this event one to remember.

I have to say a word about the wonderful youth pastors, pastors, and volunteers from our churches. The attitude of "Yes" and "I will" that your students demonstrated says a lot about how you lead them on a regular basis. On more than one occasion, pastors and other church members from the mission sites commented to me about how impressed they were with your leadership and the way your students handled themselves. To God be the glory and may you be encouraged that He is using you to equip the next generation for the Kingdom.

I also have to praise your students. I am confident that God is raising up a generation that loves Him and sees the need to make Him known. Watching them worship and serve was a true blessing this week. Some were brand new to their Christian faith. Others made it known that God had called them to Christian service this week. Whatever their level of maturity or experience, each one served with a good attitude and a grateful heart. They represented our churches and our Lord well.

Finally, I must say thank you to an association of churches that sees the need to invest in this type of ministry. EQUIP Missions was a picture of what we are as an association - churches helping churches and making Christ known. You have heard me say many times that we are stronger together. I saw that over and over this week. Our Father was honored and His glory was evident. As exhausting as this week was, I honestly cannot wait to see what He does next year.

July 2017 CBA Newsletter

A Word from your Missionary

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1

We who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ know a freedom that the rest of the world does not understand. We have been set free from the bondage of our past, from the bondage of sin, and from the curse of death. For this reason, we are implored to stand firm against those things that have the potential to ensnare us again. Even when we think we are well-guarded, we all have the potential to fall once again. Praise God for a Savior who forgives and restores willingly! Let us remember that true freedom is only found in Jesus Christ.

Throughout the month of June I was able to visit several of you during VBS. Thank you for giving of your time and talents to serve the children and lead them to Jesus. Your investment in them is an investment in the future of your church and in the Kingdom of God. I look forward to seeing many more of you this month as we wrap up our VBS season and move on toward all of our back to school activities.

Pray for our mission team as we head to Copper Basin this month. We will once again be serving at the Crisis Center and helping residents in the area with some home repairs. Although this is our final year of partnering with Copper Basin, rest assured that we will continue to collect Backpacks of Hope to be used during Christmas outreach. You will hear more about this effort in the coming months.

Check out the rest of the newsletter for information about upcoming events. GO Georgia was so good last year that they decided to add a second location. GO Georgia is an equipping conference for all church leaders. There will be training sessions for every ministry of your church including but not limited to Sunday School, church administration, music, children’s ministry, youth ministry, and missions. The cost is extremely reasonable and the content is excellent. I plan to attend the event in Tifton, and I hope to see many of you there. For more information including how to register and a list of all training sessions, go to gogeorgia.net.

Continue to pray for your CBA Strategy Planning Team. God has blessed us with some productive time together, and we are excited about how the process is going. Thank you for being a part of the Centennial Baptist Association. Together we are making Christ known throughout our four counties and beyond.   

 

Call to Prayer 6/12/17

My mother, Mary Laughman, serves as the Prayer Coordinator for the Georgia Baptist WMU/WEM. Each Monday she posts a blog which she calls the "Call to Prayer" on the website oneinprayer.net. If you would like to subscribe to her blog, just click the link and follow the instructions. This year she is inviting guests to write on the fruit of the Spirit. I was asked to share on patience. Here's my offering:

 

When I was a much younger man, patience was not my friend. In fact, I wasted a great deal of energy expressing my frustration over everything from the amount of time I was spending on hold to the fact that I was hungry and my order hadn’t arrived soon enough. Looking back, I was probably not much fun to be around. Most of my wrath was directed at other people and what I perceived to be their inefficient use of my time. I was not much of a grace giver. Thank God that patience is part of the fruit of the Spirit! What I could not muster (and had no desire to), He has produced in my life to greater and greater degrees as I grow in Him.

I am still not the most patient person, but I am not who I used to be. James, the brother of Jesus, understood the practical applications of following our Lord. He admonishes us to look at patience as a result of the God-given challenges we face. More than that, he relates patience to the very way we perceive our lives and the amount of time God has given us on this earth. He writes:

“Therefore, be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.” – James 5:7-9

We tend to be overwhelmed with what is immediately before us. The loudest complaint is addressed first. The tyranny of the urgent reigns supreme. So many problems and concerns compete for our attention that we fail to see the big picture. When we see life and all its challenges from an eternal perspective, as James advocates, we recognize that God’s timetable is set. Just like the farmer in James’ example we are free to wait for God’s provision. We continue to work toward the harvest, but we have no power or influence over the rains or the sunshine. This eternal perspective also frees us to see others, those we may complain against, in light of God’s timing. He is still working on them, just like He is working through us.

Like all of the fruit of the Spirit, patience is not something we can create through any power of our own. As we grow in Christ, the Spirit works in us to make us more like Him. Jesus was always present in the moment because of (not in spite of) His eternal perspective. His knowledge and trust in the Father’s plan allowed Him to spend time with people and give them the attention they needed from Him. He was never so hurried that he ignored people. As we grow to be more like our Lord, the Spirit working in us can and will produce the patience we need to not only live in the moment, but also to see how each moment was crafted to bring glory to God.

Father, you have placed eternity in our hearts, but we confess that we get impatient for things to be as you planned. We fail to live each moment as a gift and rush on to the next without much thought of your purpose for today. May each of us demonstrate a focus on eternity by being patient today for whatever you allow. Amen.

June 2017 CBA Newsletter

A Word from Your Missionary, Steve Laughman

Vacation Bible School time is here! What a great opportunity for the entire church to be involved in reaching the next generation for Jesus. VBS engages people of all ages and abilities in ministry. Some will teach. Some will lead worship. Some will prepare snacks. And some will handle all the behind the scenes details. Where else do we get to see senior adults doing the motions to songs? VBS reminds us of the joy of celebrating the simple Gospel of Christ. If you haven’t already contacted your VBS director to volunteer, let me encourage you to reach out and use the gifts God gave you to serve.

I was reminded recently of the passage where older men are instructed to teach the younger men and older women are instructed to teach the younger women. The pastor pointed out that the Scripture doesn’t qualify this with a specific age. I commented to a friend after the service that I believe this means an older man is any man older than me and a younger man is any man younger than me. That means we all have people to learn from and others we are to teach. This concept stuck with me so much, I used it in the next sermon I preached. God created the church to be a multi-generational community where each of us is being discipled and making disciples. What a blessing to be a part of His church!

This year is the third year of our partnership with Copper Basin Crisis Center. If you are able to join us July 7-11 on our mission trip, plan to be at the team meeting on June 4 at 4:30 at Trinity. We hope to have about 20-25 team members this year. If you are unable to go with us, then please pray for us as we go. Also remember to pray for all the other mission trips being taken by members of our churches this summer. Christians from the Centennial churches will once again be all over the world this summer. Praise God for the opportunities to serve here and abroad!

EQUIP Missions (coming up this month, June 25-28) is one of those opportunities to serve here. Students from our association will serve our communities through various kinds of ministry. There is still time to get involved. Whether your church has one student or 100, they can participate. Visit our website to register or just to read about this ministry.

Thank you for all that you are doing to make Christ known in our area and throughout the world.

May 2017 CBA Newsletter

A Word from Your Missionary:

There are times in our lives when the future seems full of hope and promise: Graduation Day, the birth of a child, your Wedding Day, or the first day on a new job. Although I do not have a child graduating this year, the feelings are still fresh. As parents, our emotions are all mixed up between the sense of losing something and the joy of accomplishing something. While the student graduating is looking toward the future, we are remembering the journey to get there.

Our Association has had 134 years of ministry. What an accomplishment! Our past is rich, and our future is bright! I want to thank the Strategy Planning team for bringing their experience and wisdom to the table as we seek to plot a course for the next 3-5 years. I also want to extend my gratitude to all the pastors who were able to be part of the evaluation process on April 24 & 25. I look forward to hearing the report from our State Missionaries regarding your input. The initial reports I received were enlightening and encouraging. Thank you again for sharing your advice and your concerns with us.

Only the Lord knows what the future holds, but my hope is that God continues to use the Centennial Baptist Association to equip churches and leaders to reach their communities for many years to come. The fields are ready for the harvest. Most of our churches have plenty of empty seats and room to grow. The next generation desperately needs to see a church that is alive, has answers to life’s challenges, and loves them with the love of God. We owe it to them to be the community of faith they need.

Join me in praying that God will strengthen our churches and renew a passion for the lost around us. May He empower us to love the way He loves. I envision churches that experience such a move of God that they cannot even explain how it happened.

Thank you for what you do to shine the light of Jesus. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your ministry. Do not hesitate to call on me when I can be of service.

In His Name,

Steve Laughman

April 2017 CBA Newsletter

A Word from Your Missionary:

“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.” – Jesus Christ (Luke 9:22)

On the third night of the “Preacher Swappin’, People Hoppin’ Revival” as Jeff Morgan, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church, preached on the above passage, he said “Aren’t you thankful that Jesus suffered for you? And that He was rejected for you? And that He was killed for you? And that He arose for you?” He further pointed out that Jesus did all this because it was worth it to Him for us to have a relationship with Him.

Earlier that same night, I listened to my wife Marni tell the story of Jesus’ arrest, mistreatment, death, and burial to a group of AWANA Sparks (K-2nd graders). Her voice shook and even broke as she expressed the price Jesus paid for our sin. The weight of His sacrifice was evident as she shared with the children.

After these two reminders I found myself pondering the indescribable act of the cross. What our Lord did for us overwhelms me at times to the point that I have no words. Every effort at thanking Him seems too small. Even obedience to His will seems miniscule compared to His obedience to the Father. To think that my sin resulted in His suffering is too much to bear. Fortunately, His grace is sufficient. In our weakness He is strong. He carries our burdens. And He knows how very small and frail we are.

As we observe a time of remembering the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord this month, I pray that we will each know the forgiveness that He made possible. That we will live in the freedom His death provides. That we will not shy away from proclaiming His story to anyone within earshot. Let us make His name known throughout our cities, our state, and our world.

“And when before the throne, I stand in Him complete

‘Jesus died my soul to save,’ my lips shall still repeat.

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe;

Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.”

In His Name,

Steve Laughman

EQUIP 2017

"The foremost is, 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these.'" - Mark 12:29-31

What a blessing it is to experience the fellowship of believers as we come together to live out these commandments! This past weekend several of our churches gathered together at First Baptist Church in Barnesville for EQUIP 2017. The goal is always to equip students for the work God has called them to do. The focus this year was on the previous verses. We are all called to love, and we should be equipped to do so.

If you have never been in a room full of teenagers who are worshiping the Lord, you should try it. Nothing is quite as refreshing as seeing the joy that some of them bring to worship. I think we need to be careful not to snuff out that enthusiasm, but to encourage it. As we love God with all we have and all we are, we should get excited about who He is and what He is doing. It is not about entertainment or who can produce the best show. Worship is about expressing love to the One who made us. We were reminded on Friday night that we cannot truly love God unless we know Him. As our knowledge of Him grows, so should our love for Him.

Each year we spend our Saturday afternoon participating in an activity that demonstrates the theme of what we are emphasizing. This year the students and their leaders went on a scavenger hunt to find items that would be used to support area ministries. They collected food, hygiene items, plates and cups, diapers, and soap among other things that will go to five different compassion ministries throughout our four county region. It was a competition with a purpose. In the end, there were over 3000 items collected. That not 3000 plates or diapers. That's 3000 packages of plates, diapers, or whatever else was on the list. Praise the Lord!

Loving others consistently is a challenge for most of us. Jesus pointed out that even the wicked love those who love them. He also said that if we cannot love the people we do see, then we cannot love God whom we cannot see. We are surrounded by hurting people every day. Most have genuine needs that we are capable of meeting if we were to just invest a little time in finding out what those needs are. For some it is simply a need for a friend or a kind word. Some need encouragement or a shoulder to cry on. Others have more tangible needs like food or clothing. Foster children need loving homes. Addicts need a place of support and recovery. Lost people need directions to the Savior. Hopeless people need hope. Spiritually dead people need life that only comes through a relationship with the Giver of life, Jesus. Each one of us may not be able to meet every need, but we can each meet some of them. And together we make a difference.

I am thankful to be a part of EQUIP and what God is doing through the CBA. Thank you to all the churches who brought their students. Thank you to all our breakout leaders. Thank you to the great speakers and worship team. Thank you to FBC Barnesville for hosting us so well. Thank you to all the pastors, youth minister, and volunteers who worked behind the scenes planning and preparing. And thank you to parents who entrusted us with your children, so we could share this experience with them.

We will continue what was started this weekend with EQUIP Missions this summer. Even if you were not able to be there this weekend, we hope you will join us for this time of serving our communities and worshiping together. Save the dates: June 25-28. You can click here for more information or to register your group.

March 2017 CBA Newsletter

A Word from Your Missionary:

When I was in student ministry years ago, I read some curriculum that used the phrase “Inward, Outward, Upward” to describe life in the church. This month we have several opportunities as an association to focus on equipping believers (inward), ministering to our communities (outward), and worshipping together (upward).

The “Inward” part begins with the EQUIP Youth Discipleship weekend where our students and leaders will learn how to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength (upward) and love their neighbors (outward). Hey, look what I did there. Pray with me for our next generation as they worship and learn together. Thank you to all the leaders who are working to make this happen.

We will also be training children’s workers at the Children’s Ministry Workshop. This year the focus is on child protection, and we hope you will send your folks. Don’t forget to sign up early if you plan to attend the Stewards of Children training.

The “Outward” part of this month is happening in a number of ways:

· At EQUIP, the students will be collecting items for various local ministries.

· The Dental Health Clinic will provide care for many of our neighbors. We are still in need of several volunteers for that event. If you are able to help us out, please contact the CBA office. Please, help us get the word out so that more people can be served.

· We are collecting items at the Spring Meeting for the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home in Meansville.

The “Upward” part is my favorite. In addition to worshipping with students at EQUIP, we get to worship together at the Annual Spring Meeting at Milner and hear a message from Bobby Boswell. I always enjoy these times together of fellowship, hearing some reports, doing a little business, and then worshipping as the Lord’s Church. Please join me.

Two more things to keep in mind: The deadline for the Cliburn Scholarship in April 1st . The Strategy Planning Team is asking for input from our pastors to help us better understand the needs of our association. You will receive a survey from us soon, and we ask that you prayerfully respond by attending an assessment interview that will be scheduled in late April. More details will be shared at the Spring Meeting.

God is at work in the Centennial Baptist Association. Let us thank Him together for inviting us to participate in His plan.

In His Name,

Steve Laughman

 

February 2017 CBA Newsletter

A Word from Your Missionary:

I had to confess something to my wife today. Just like Paul in Romans 7, there are times when I know what I should do and I don’t do it and other times when I know what I shouldn’t do and that is the very thing I do. The subject of my confession was the over-scheduling of events that take up the time and energy of our pastors. In my effort to support you and your work, I have a tendency to ask you to put even more on your plate and your calendar.

Case in point: February and March. We have a bunch of stuff going on at CBA over the next two months. Each and every event, meeting, and ministry is valuable and designed to meet needs. Each is meant to enhance your ministry. When you find that to be true, then I invite you to wholeheartedly participate. When you find that not to be true, then encourage those who may benefit to participate, but feel free to skip it yourself. We understand that each ministry event has a specific audience in mind. Our calendar is like a Venn diagram. If you find yourself in the overlapping sections, I apologize.

This newsletter is full of opportunities like EQUIP, Children’s Ministry Workshop, Southside Summit, and the Dental Health Clinic. We have Pastor Roundtables, the Johnny Hunt Simulcast, and the Quarterly Fellowship Lunch. State Missionary Randy Mullinax will join us at the Monthly Ministers Meeting with a plan to make our churches more mindful of how our guests experience church. We even have an Executive Committee meeting where we will discuss the agenda for the CBA Annual Spring Meeting. In fact, there is too much information to even include in this limited space. Please check out more details on the website, www.centennialbaptistassociation.com.

I want you all to know that I appreciate your time and the way you support the Centennial Association. Pray for our Strategy Team as we seek to define clear ways to support our churches and to be the best association we can be to the glory of God.

In His Name,

Steve Laughman

January 2017 CBA Newsletter

A Word from Your Missionary:

How big do you dream? Whether God has given you the responsibility to pastor a church, lead a ministry, parent children, or just do your part for the Kingdom, I believe God wants us to expect great things. The father of the modern missions movement, William Carey, is quoted as saying, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” His life certainly demonstrated a dedication to this admonition.

It is easy to get frustrated and beaten down in ministry. Sometimes it seems that the whole world is against you. Guess what? It probably is. Jesus told his disciples that the world would hate them because of their association with Him. When the believers in Acts were beaten for preaching the Gospel, they rejoiced because they were deemed worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus. Sometimes we think that the slightest opposition to us is reason enough to give up and try something different. If we have taken the time to make sure our goals are covered in prayer and in line with God’s will, nothing should prevent us from reaching them. Through His strength we can do great things.

So I return to my first question: How big do you dream? Do you see your church baptizing twice as many people in 2017 as you did in 2016? Do you see yourself personally winning more people to Jesus this year? Can you imagine how your life would change if you made a point to share your story with people every week or even every day? How many lost people in Upson, Pike, Lamar, and Monroe counties can come to Jesus this year if we all just dedicate ourselves to boldly sharing the Gospel? Have you identified someone you can disciple this year? Are there lost people you are praying for and building relationships with? A big dream starts with simple steps.

I know God can do amazing things through people who are willing. Let us be those people. I want to see churches worshipping God without reservation. I want to see people that seem very far from God come to know Him as Savior and Lord. I want to see broken families healed, restored, and actively following Jesus together. I want to see an entire association of churches make such a difference in our communities this year that even the most hard-hearted cynic takes notice and wants to know more about Jesus. How big will you dream in 2017?

In His Name,

Steve Laughman

December 2016 CBA Newsletter

A Word from Your Missionary:

We have one more month remaining in 2016. Most of us will spend a good portion of that time getting ready for Christmas. We will practice for cantatas and plays. We will decorate and bake. We will shop (some of us more than we should). If this December is like past Decembers it will go by in a flash, and we will be ringing in the New Year before you know it. If we are not careful, we will rush through it all without taking the time to pause and reflect.

When I think of 2016, I will remember ENCOUNTER and how I saw God renew an urgency for evangelism among our churches. I pray that this continues throughout the coming year. Wouldn’t you love to be able to baptize more new followers of Jesus in 2017 that ever before? I know that would please our Father. Ask yourself what you can do to make this goal a reality.

When I think of 2016, I will probably remember one of the harshest political seasons in my lifetime. If the election taught us anything, it is that our nation is still deeply divided in many ways. Our communities need to see the unity that defines the Church according to Scripture. My prayer for 2017 is that each local church will strive to live in harmony for the sake of God’s renown. As we represent Him, may we dismiss our preferences in favor of proclaiming His clear Gospel message.

When I think of 2016, I will also remember some personal milestones and challenges. Abigail graduated from high school and began college. We lost a dear aunt. My father-in-law had by-pass surgery in July and is still dealing with complications. Our family like many of yours experienced ups and downs this year. I am so thankful for a God who makes His presence known each and every day. We do not serve a God who is distant and unattached to us. I pray that His power and presence will be evident in your lives every moment of this next year.

Thank you for another great year of ministry. The future is bright and full of hope. We still have much to accomplish together. Pray with me that we will finish this year strong and will enter 2017 with a vision that is perfectly aligned with God’s plan. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

In His Name,

Steve Laughman

November 2016 CBA Newsletter

I recently heard an interview with A. J. Jacobs, a secular Jewish man, who wrote The Year of Living Biblically after spending a year trying to closely follow every law in the Bible. Jacobs does not claim to be a follower of Christ or even a believer in God. But according to the interview, among the most important thing this year taught him was the value of gratitude. Thanksgiving is a powerful principle that is found throughout Scripture. I wonder how our lives would change if we practiced it more often.

In a culture in which we can go to the store and get whatever we want 24/7, we take for granted pretty much everything. If we ever find ourselves without electricity or food or some other convenience, we complain a little, but know that it is probably just temporary. If we are honest, most of us are pretty spoiled. Thanksgiving reminds us that we are not our own provider. Everything we have comes from a loving God who cares deeply for us and meets our needs in abundance.

I am as guilty as the next guy in my lack of gratitude for God’s blessings. You would think that those of us who live comfortable lifestyles compared to the rest of the world would be more grateful, but I think the opposite tends to be true. So what is the solution? I started by reading from the book of Psalms. The various authors remind us over and over to give thanks to God. We are to remember His blessings and cry out to Him with thanksgiving and praise. Our worship is to reflect a grateful heart for His presence in our lives. We should be aware continually of how He has delivered us from our enemies and the sin that would destroy us without His ever-present help. That’s a good place to start.

I am thankful for the great year we have had together. I am grateful to work with so many great churches and pastors who understand the power of the Gospel to save. I praise God that we have freedom to proclaim His truth and to live out our convictions. I thank God for the family and friends He has given me. And I thank God for the calling He has placed on my life, that I can live my life with purpose know He has a plan much bigger and greater than I can even imagine.

Join me this Thanksgiving season in being more intentional in our praise and thanksgiving to the One who gives all good gifts. Keep your eyes open to His goodness and grace in all the little things in life. Enjoy the time with family and friends and let each one of them know how thankful you are for them. And take the time to tell God how thankful you are.

In His Name,

Steve Laughman

October 2016 CBA Newsletter

A Word from Your Missionary:

Praise the Lord of the Harvest! ENCOUNTER resulted in a renewed sense of urgency for the Gospel and a number of changed lives, including many who became believers in Jesus Christ. Our hearts were challenged and encouraged. We experienced incredible worship and Spirit filled preaching. I was particularly thankful for the way our churches worked together to cover all the areas of responsibility. My prayer is that revival will continue in each of our churches as we meet weekly to worship and proclaim the truth.

I would love to hear about your experience at ENCOUNTER. On October 10 at 10 AM at New Bethel Baptist Church, we will have a feedback and celebration time to talk about how ENCOUNTER went and how we can do even better next time. Jon Reed has asked me to make sure he hears from us, as well. This time is for pastors as well as anyone else who was involved in ENCOUNTER. All feedback is welcome.

So, what’s next? That is a question that many have asked me recently. On the immediate horizon, we have our upcoming Fall Meeting at Mt. Olive on October 25th. I would encourage everyone to participate in this time of reporting and handling some important business for our association. We will also enjoy a meal together and have a great time of worship. Dr. Ken Ross, pastor of Milner, will be our speaker. Don’t forget to bring your Backpacks for Appalachia to the Fall meeting.

Shortly following that, I would like to invite each of you to a day of training hosted by our Women’s Ministry. This is in cooperation with the Flint River Association and will be held on Saturday, October 29th. You will find all the details in this newsletter.

Under the leadership of the Steering Committee, we have already begun a Strategy Planning process that will help us shape the vision for our next several years. Centennial has been blessed to accomplish quite a bit up to this point. We want to continue that momentum by planning for the future. By taking a look at where we are and what is needed, we can be prepared for what God has in store. Pray with me as we embark on this challenging endeavor. You will hear more about this in the next few months.

In His Name,

Steve Laughman

Did We Have Revival?

ENCOUNTER revival services were held last week at The Rock Ranch. The worship, led by many of our local music ministers, was excellent. Jon Reed preached powerful, convicting messages. People responded both with public decisions and ones made quietly between them and the Lord. Every aspect of the revival including parking, child care, hospitality, greeters, security, media, setup and tear down, response team and follow up were all handled with excellence. The folks at the Rock Ranch made every effort to meet our needs. If I were to check off the boxes on my list of what needed to happen logistically, I could check them all.

But I am interested in more than being able to say we had a great event. ENCOUNTER began as a desperate prayer that God would bring a harvest of souls to our area. The need was great when we began praying and it is still great today. We realized that the Church needed spiritual renewal and a refocus on evangelism. We prayed and prepared for revival in hopes that the Lord would answer our prayers and use ENCOUNTER as a catalyst to change what needed to change in our hearts and in our churches.

So the question remains: Did we have revival?

I believe the answer is different depending on who you talk to. If you were to talk to the two dozen or so people who accepted Jesus as Savior, they would tell you that their lives will never be the same. They were reborn and now have an eternal home. If you were to ask the pastors who now have new believers in their churches as a result of someone inviting a lost friend or family member to ENCOUNTER, they would tell you that God has truly blessed. If you were to ask believers who repented of their lack of spiritual fruit, they would tell you how God has given them a new desire to see people come to Jesus and an urgency to be what God has called them to be.

There is no doubt that many of those who attended ENCOUNTER experienced personal revival. My prayer is that this revival becomes so evident in our lives that it extends to those around us. I pray for that thirty-fold, sixty-fold, one hundred-fold fruit in our lives. And I pray that we cannot keep silent about what God is doing.

I heard two sermons on the Sunday following ENCOUNTER. It was obvious that both were informed by what those pastors had experienced in their own lives during the revival. I was challenged once again to go beyond what is comfortable and to tell the simple story of the Gospel and how it has changed my life.

I thank God for what He accomplished through ENCOUNTER. I expect the ripple effect to impact our churches for a long time. Real revival has a way of spreading. I believe it has a greater impact if it builds over time, and that is what I am praying for. I cannot speak for you, but I know I had revival. How about you?