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.
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: