This blog will be a sampling of the articles I write for the Centennial monthly newsletter along with anything else I need to get off my mind. Sometimes there will be attempts at humor, and for that I apologize now. Other times, the subjects will be more theological in nature. I do not pretend to be an expert in any field, but I have an opinion on just about everything, and can usually make a pretty good defense if challenged. Enjoy my ramblings and feel free to share them with anyone else who may be blessed by them.
Sorry, folks! I guess I forgot to post this last month. So here I am about to post November’s newsletter article and there is no October one.
A Word from Your Mission Strategist, Steve Laughman
This week I read the following on social media: “It’s fall in Georgia, you know what that means? Absolutely nothing, it’s still 90 degrees outside.” The weather may not be changing as quickly as we would like, but this season in the Centennial Baptist Association means that we are gearing up for the Annual Fall Meeting. Please join us at Yatesville Baptist Church on Tuesday, October 23, 2018. The business portion of the meeting will be filled with reports from our various ministries and committees. You will also hear from two of our ministry partners: Bill Barker with Appalachian Mountain Ministries and Travis Ross with Riverbend Church Planting Network. We are very excited to hear from Pastor Dean Hemphill who will bring a message from God’s Word. This will be a great evening of worship and celebration.
One of the biggest joys of this ministry is to see churches working together for the Kingdom. I have been privileged to watch churches support one another in ways that bring glory to God and bring life to the Church. Whether it is by meeting together for worship and community revivals, sending help during Vacation Bible School, or providing someone to fill a vacant pulpit, our churches see the value in building one another up. We understand that we are one Church meeting in various locations. The momentum is building. I can’t wait to see what God has planned next.
Thank you for all you continue to do to make the name of Jesus known. Keep representing Him well in your communities. Keep being salt and light to those who need to see the Church in action. Together we are making an impact, because Jesus is our King and the Spirit is our Guide.
Don’t forget to pack your backpacks for the children of Randolph and Quitman Counties and bring them to the Annual Fall Meeting on October 23. The students from Gordon College Baptist Collegiate Ministries will once again load them on the truck. For more information on packing a backpack, go to the CBA website or call the office.
A Word from Your Mission Strategist, Steve Laughman
What’s in a name? In case you haven’t heard, the Steering Committee of the Centennial Baptist Association voted to adopt the recommendation from the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders that my title be changed to Associational Mission Strategist. The new title better reflects what associational leaders like me actually do. Rather than serve as a missionary to our churches (who presumably already know Jesus), I work to help our churches strategically impact their communities and make disciples.
This is the time of year when we begin to look forward to our Annual Fall Meeting where we will celebrate what God has done so far this year and will present some plans for 2019. In preparation for the Fall Meeting, here are a few things you can do:
· Be willing to serve. The Nominating Committee will be calling on some of you to serve in various capacities next year. Thank you in advance for using your gifts for the association.
· Be willing to host. Every year we ask churches to host meetings throughout the year. Next year could be your year to host a women’s event, Quarterly Fellowship Lunch, or annual meeting.
· Attend the Executive Committee meeting at Neal Baptist Church on September 6. In order to streamline the business portion of the Fall Meeting, we handle some of our business at the Executive Committee meeting. If you are a member of the Executive Committee, please attend.
Last month we kicked off a new and exciting ministry for music ministers. We all know how important music is to corporate worship in our churches. We held our first Music Ministers Roundtable in August, and, like our Pastor Roundtables, it was a great time of encouragement. We plan to begin an additional Roundtable specifically for our bivocational music leaders who are unable to attend during the day. The first Bivocational Music Ministers Roundtable will be held Tuesday, September 11, 6:30 PM at Mountain View. Check the calendar each month for future meetings. Both Roundtables are open to anyone serving in music ministry.
I am so thankful that our God loves variety. No matter what your passion, your personality, or your gifts, He has a place for you in the body of Christ. Every church has the ability to reach people no other church will reach. We need one another and the world needs to see a church united and lifting up the great name of Jesus. Keep on piercing the darkness with His light!
A Word from Your Missionary, Steve Laughman
Laugh at me if you want, but I was one of those weird kids who liked going back to school. My name is Steve, and I am a nerd. (Hi, Steve.) To all the other nerds or former nerds out there, you know the feeling of getting new school supplies and gleefully finishing your summer reading in anticipation of that first day back in the classroom. You had your new mechanical pencil and Scooby-Doo lunch box ready to go long before you needed them. Even now as I walk the aisles of Walmart, I resist the urge to buy new, clean, unmarked notebooks and calendars. There is something about a new start.
I guess that is why I enjoyed the beginning of school. It was a chance to start over. The notebooks served as a modern clean slate on which I would eventually work out problems or write about the things I was learning. A new school year was a chance to prove myself again, a chance to rise to the challenge and explore the possibilities.
Of course, I didn’t always get it right. I remember when erasable ink came out. In theory, you could erase your mistake, even if it was written in pen. In reality, you just smudged the paper and probably rubbed a hole in it. Aren’t you glad God doesn’t leave it up to us to erase our own mistakes? He offers a clean slate each time we mess up. If it were my job to clean up my messes, I would surely make a bigger mess. But I serve a Savior who is bigger than my mistakes. He covers them with His blood and removes them from my account. I have the joy of a fresh start every single day.
Whether you or your church is riding the wave of God’s goodness or you are sinking because of the weight of your burdens, look to Him for your joy and success. He offers a new start when times are hard and He sustains us when times are good. Let us not rely on our own abilities or talents, but rest in His strength and power.
CBA works to connect you with the resources you need to be the church God wants you to be. I would encourage everyone to take advantage of the offerings listed here in the newsletter. GO Georgia is an especially good opportunity for you to receive training and encouragement no matter what area of ministry you are called to. We are fortunate that this year it will be held in Macon, very close to most of us. Sunday School Mentoring starts this month. It is not too late for your church to participate. Contact me for more information on this or anything else you read here.
A Word from Your Missionary, Steve Laughman
Summer is here, and the opportunities for ministry are boundless. My experience is that although summer has its challenges with members taking vacation and schedules being fluid, this can be one of the most productive times for a church to connect with their community. People are outside! They are going to the park and playing games. Families are grilling out and swimming. A church that keeps her eyes open will see a plethora of chances to engage neighbors in conversation and hopefully build some relationships. Let’s be involved in the lives of those around us.
Marni and I will be heading to Dallas, TX, for the Southern Baptist Convention in a couple of weeks. Thank you for the privilege of representing you there. Our denomination is facing many questions at this time in our history. We are at a crossroads and have the opportunity to become the voice for truth and mercy that God intends for us to be. The annual meeting can be a time for us to proclaim loudly that we understand our primary purpose is to shine the light of Jesus to every corner of our world. Or it can be another missed opportunity where we are known more for what we condemn. Pray with me that God will speak loudly, and that nothing we do will cause shame to be brought to His great name. Even when leaders fall, we have an opportunity to show grace and mercy. Even when we disagree, we have the opportunity to show the world how love transcends diverse opinions. My hope is that we will once again become the standard bearers of truth - that we will not just make bold proclamations, but will live out our convictions. The world desperately needs to see a church that stands FOR something.
Last week I attended a listening session for the search committee to find the new Executive Director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. Dr. Robert White has served our state faithfully for nearly 26 years and will be retiring this year. He has big shoes to fill, but God has already prepared his replacement. During the session I was filled with hope knowing that those who sit on this committee are listening to Georgia Baptists of all corners of our state. They are also listening to God as He guides the process. The future is uncertain from our perspective, but God knows every detail and He is trustworthy. Join me in praying for the search committee. You can find a prayer guide at christianindex.org/executive-director-search-committee-releases-prayer-guide-prior-beginning-work/.
I look forward to seeing many of you at VBS in the coming weeks. Thank you for reaching the next generation with the Gospel.
A Word from Your Missionary, Steve Laughman
This year has been packed with opportunities to work together for the Kingdom. In March we hosted our fourth dental clinic, completing our plan to provide free dental care in each of our four counties over a four year period. Thanks to the great volunteers including dental and medical professionals we treated nearly 70 people. Plans are already being made for the 2019 clinic. Thank you for supporting this vital ministry to our communities.
In April a mission team comprised of members from four CBA churches traveled to Bethlehem, PA, to work with Travis and Grace Ross. They are church planters with the North American Mission Board and the Riverbend Church Planting Network. Travis will serve as pastor of the Star City Church which they hope to launch by the end of 2018. Your team represented you well as we helped Travis and Grace build relationships in the community. We spoke with homeless people and professionals, students and shop owners. God demonstrated His grace by orchestrating many Gospel conversations. We left knowing that we had accomplished our goals of encouraging Travis and Ross and helping him build relationships in the community. Pray with me that we will find the best way to partner with Star City Church in the future.
Elevate has been a monumental undertaking requiring the body of Christ to work together in so many ways. I am extremely grateful for the tremendous resources we have through the Cooperative Program and the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. I am also thankful for churches and pastors who understand the importance of continued equipping for ministry. We are blessed to have experts willing to share their experience and wisdom with us. My prayer throughout this process has been that our members will leave with the tools they need to effectively make disciples.
Thank you for doing the work of ministry wherever you are. It is my privilege to serve the Lord with you.
A Word from Your Missionary, Steve Laughman
This is the fourth article in a series related to our new strategy and vision as an association.
Priority Four is to build unity among the churches culturally, racially, and generationally. We are blessed to have churches that understand unity. The cooperative spirit that exists among CBA churches is unlike
anything I have experienced in ministry. However, there are still barriers which we struggle to overcome. We understand that the Kingdom of God includes people from every ethnicity, age, and culture, but we do not always know how to bridge our differences effectively.
The question I am asked most often is “How do we reach younger families?” Somewhere along the way we missed raising up a generation
to whom we could pass the baton of leadership. There is also a growing concern that our limited amount of diversity fails to reflect God’s plan for His church. As the people of God we are to be on the forefront when it comes to wrestling with the tough questions facing our culture related to race. The Church should demonstrate to the world how people of various backgrounds and perspectives live a nd thrive together in unity.
The CBA Strategy Team set the following goals related to this priority:
Goal 1: Use Senior Adult Quarterly Fellowship Lunches to create awareness of diverse needs. Whenever I get the chance to address
our seniors, whether at the quarterly lunches or in their churches, I remind them of how God entrusted the discipleship of
younger people to them. If we are going to reach the next generation, we cannot leave the responsibility to the next generation.
Goal 2: Engage various ethnic congregations and populations by connecting to existing churches or planting new churches. God has
opened doors and allowed me to have several conversations with existing Black churches about partnering with Centennial. Pastor
Eddie Johnson of Macedonia Baptist Church has been instrumental in helping me understand the challenges we face. In the future
we may also see a need to help plant churches for Spanish speakers or other language groups within our region.
Goals 3 & 4: Enlist a team to develop multi-cultural, multi-racial, and multi-generational ministry strategies and then to implement the
strategy. As the Strategy Team worked, it became clear that this priority would take more than we could offer. The goal is to enlist a team by our Fall Meeting in October and then to have them develop a strategy by Fall of 2019. There is no quick fix to this complex issue, so we want to dedicate an appropriate amount of time and effort toward addressing it. If you feel called to participate in this process, please let me know.
I pray you will join us at Elevate on April 28 where we will host a panel discussion related specifically to this topic. We are at a critical time
when it comes to reaching the next generation and bridging the gaps that exist even among God’s people. Pray with me that we will seek
and find God’s will in these matters.
This is the third article in a series related to our new strategy and vision as an association.
Priority Three is to guide churches to reduce lostness in their communities. If we are to believe the surveys, we can expect that about 70% of our neighbors do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As representative of Jesus we have the privilege and imperative to proclaim the simple, clear message that Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. However, many of us never engage the lost with the Gospel. We want that to change.
The CBA Strategy Team set the following goals related to this priority:
· Goal 1: Raise awareness of the lost population by providing Mission Insight Reports for every church by April 2018. Through our partnership with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, we have access to valuable demographic information. Although this information is available directly to churches at any time, we are going a step further and delivering it to you at Elevate. If your church would like to get your hands on this data before then, just let us know.
· Goal 2: Hold Roundtables for pastors that focus on evangelism and outreach. Roundtables are one of the greatest tools we have as pastors and ministers to sharpen our own skills and learn from one another. If you are not part of one of our existing roundtables or would like to start a new one, contact us. The topics vary, but we will be intentional in 2018 and beyond to include the topics of evangelism and outreach.
· Goal 3: Provide training opportunities in evangelism and outreach for pastors and churches. In addition to our State Evangelism Conference which is held each January, we will seek to provide other opportunities for pastors and churches to be trained in this area. Elevate will offer workshops specifically related to reaching the next generation, being relevant in your community, and developing a missions strategy. Our Evangelism Ministry Director, Stephen Morgan, is also available to come to your church to speak on the topic of how to effectively engage people in a Gospel Conversation.
· Goal 4: Guide churches to set evangelism goals by October 2018. We do just want to talk about reaching the lost. We want to find out if we are actually doing it. Churches have measured the number of decisions and baptisms for years, and these are both effective tools. However, we are also looking for churches to set other tangible goals related to evangelism. One goal I would like to see is the number of Gospel Conversations completed. Imagine if every member of your church committed to talking to just one person about Jesus each week. To paraphrase one of my seminary professors, I believe we would catch more fish if we went fishing more often.
We have opportunities all around us to proclaim Jesus and win the lost. Let us remember why we exist and reclaim the urgency of the Gospel. The world around us cannot afford for us to be silent.
This should have been posted last month, but apparently I never posted it. Sorry about that.
This is the second article in a series related to our new strategy and vision as an association.
Priority Two is to assist churches in developing strategic direction. Most of the members of the Strategy Planning team for CBA were also pastors. It became abundantly clear as we worked through the process that many of our churches would benefit from taking time to examine themselves and define their purpose. The need for churches to refocus and revitalize is great. It also became evident that the association could play a vital role in that.
To that end, we set the following goals:
· Goal 1: Cast a vision for strategic direction by October 2107. This vision was outlined at the Fall meeting in October. For those who were unable to attend, you will find the information we shared on our website under “Our Strategy.” I will also continue to share over the next several months how this vision is being fulfilled.
· Goal 2: Identify 4-6 churches annually that are willing to engage in strategic planning. I know what you are thinking – at that rate, by the time you get through all the churches, it will be time to cast a new vision. In truth, we would need to move at a much more rapid pace to keep up with the need. However, we also understand that not every church desires or needs to go through this process at this time. So far in 2018 I have begun working with two churches and have spoken to several pastors about the possibility.
· Goal 3: Enlist a Strategy Development Team to work with churches by October 2018. I will be working with the Nominating Committee to enlist volunteers to help me work with churches that desire to go through a strategy development process. Over time we should be able to multiply our efforts and make it easier for every church to experience the benefits.
· Goal 4: Lead 4-6 churches through strategy development annually. This is an extension of Goal 2. We do not want to just identify churches, but we want to actually see the process through to completion. Some of our churches know firsthand how God can bless a church that understands her purpose and sets tangible, reachable goals. It is exciting to see what God will do in our churches who commit to this.
Don’t forget to check out all the great ministries that are working this month and next. There is literally something for every age group in your church. Let us know if you have questions about anything you see here in the newsletter.
A Word from Your Missionary
Happy New Year! My prayer is that God will make His presence known to you and through you in 2018. Last month I promised that we would take some time each month to unpack each of the four priorities established through our recent strategy planning process.
Priority One is to provide training and equipping of churches in missions and ministry. As you know, this has been part of what we have done as an association for the last several years. We found during our strategy process that most of our pastors look to us for training and equipping, and we want to meet that expectation well. We understand that there are other sources for training. In addition to what we provide, we will continue to promote Georgia Baptist training events and others that will meet your needs.
We set three goals related to this first priority. Allow me a few moments to expand on how we are accomplishing those goals right now.
· Goal 1: Develop an associational training event beginning Spring 2018. ELEVATE: Church Strategy Summit is meant to train and equip every member of your church. Workshops include topics on missions, small groups, worship, women’s ministry, outreach, and student ministry. There will be something for you no matter what you area of ministry. Dr. Chuck Lawless is scheduled to be our main speaker. He along with our workshop leaders brings a wealth of knowledge to the table. Registration information will be available soon on our website.
· Goal 2: Utilize existing associational events as opportunities for training. You may have noticed that most of the events we have traditionally had now include a training element. The Fall Women’s Event now is Abide, a day of inspiration and training for women. A couple of years ago, we changed our annual VBS preview day to the Children’s Ministry Workshop. This event will be held this month and is designed for anyone who works with children, not just leaders. Because we believe the church is the place where we gain the tools to do ministry, we will continue to provide opportunities for our churches to join together for training.
· Goal 3: Develop quarterly training opportunities for pastors. We will continue to host Roundtables for pastors where these men of God sharpen one another. In addition to that, four times a year the monthly ministers meeting will include a special guest speaker who will address a specific topic related to pastoral ministry. We call this Pastor Enrichment. The first one will be held January 8 at noon at the Garden Patch restaurant. Bryan Alexander from the GBMB Church Minister Relations Department will speak on the topic of handling conflict.
Together we can accomplish so much more. Thank you for being a part of the Centennial Baptist Association!
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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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: