June/July CBA News Article

A Word from Your Mission Strategist, Steve Laughman

This time of year seems to be a time of change. The weather is changing. Our schedules are changing. Church attendance even feels like a roller coaster for many of our churches as people are taking much needed vacation. For the Centennial Baptist Association churches, change can be very positive and beneficial, even when it is unexpected.

On May 19th, two of our churches became one. Fellowship and New Hope Thomaston joined together to form one body, meeting regularly on the Hannah’s Mill Road campus. The sign out front says, “Fellowship Baptist Church, New Hope for the Future.” We are hopeful and thankful for what God has done and what He will continue to do through this newly formed body of believers.

While these two were working through what a union would look like, several of us have been praying for and working with the members of The Rock Baptist Church regarding their future. After 99 years of ministry, we are certain that the Lord still has work for The Rock to complete in their community. We are currently working on a strategy to restart this church with the blessing of her current members. Pray for us as we seek the Lord’s direction and as we seek people to serve in this work. If you are interested in being a part of what God is doing at The Rock, please give me a call.

Other changes in our churches may not be as big or as obvious, but for those who are affected, they may seem a little overwhelming. I challenge you to pray for one another. Change is not always easy nor is it always good. The future can be uncertain and scary. Our convention has big decisions to make at our annual meeting this month that will impact our effectiveness moving forward. Pray for peace and unity, as well as wisdom for our chosen leaders and for every messenger. I believe God has placed us here in this time and location to lift up the name of Jesus in ways that no one else can. That applies to each local body and the entire SBC. Let’s keep the Gospel central to all we do.

Pray for those of us who are going to Pennsylvania in July. We will be working with Travis Ross and the Riverbend Church Planting Network once again. If you or someone in your church would like to join us, please contact the CBA office as soon as possible. Space is limited, and we need to purchase plane tickets very soon. 

We are working diligently to have the Outreach Trailer ready as soon as possible. With the approval of the Steering and Budget & Finance Committees, we have purchased a trailer and will begin filling it up with equipment when it arrives in about 6-8 weeks. Look for the policies and procedures on our website in the next month or so. Thank you for supporting the work of the CBA. Your continued support makes resources like this a possibility. We look forward to seeing you this summer!

May 2019 CBA News Article

A Word from Your Mission Strategist, Steve Laughman

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another.”

The Apostle John recorded these words of Jesus that were spoken on the night He was betrayed. Having a limited amount of time, our Lord made sure His closest followers knew the importance of loving the way He loves. Love One Another is the theme for the National Day of Prayer which will take place on May 2, 2019. Each county in our association will have an observance, and I hope that you will take the time to join your community in prayer. More than that, I hope that you will take seriously Jesus’ mandate to love one another. The world needs to see and experience people of God who genuinely love.

By the time many of you read this, Elevate will have concluded. Thank you for your participation and for taking advantage of the opportunity to strengthen your church. Many churches struggle to survive when God has both the power and the desire for each church to thrive. As your Associational Mission Strategist, it is my privilege and hope to help your church be what God desires. We all want to see souls saved and disciples made. Hopefully you were able to glean from Bob Bickford some things that will help you achieve God’s purpose in your church.

School will be out, and summer will be in full swing before we know it. Enjoy these days of graduations, honors programs, and end-of-year activities. Invest your time in the next generation, even if you don’t have a student of your own. You would be surprised how much impact you can have on a family when you show support for their child, not to mention what it says to that child. As we move into the summer, I look forward to seeing many of you at Vacation Bible School, as well.

If you are looking for missions opportunities this summer, we are here to help. EQUIP Missions will take place June 23-26 at FBC Barnesville. Contact Jason Teal or the CBA office for more information. We are also continuing our partnership with Riverbend Church Planting Network in Allentown, PA. If you would like to be part of the team, contact the CBA office. We need to have deposits paid by June 1 for our trip which will be held July 30-August 4. We know that many of our churches are also going on mission all over our country and the world. If you are interested in going, but do not know where to start, call us and we will connect you with the right folks.

What a blessing to be able to serve together! Thank you for the tremendous spirit of cooperation and unity. Praise be to God for allowing us to work together for His kingdom purpose.

April 2019 Newsletter article

A Word from Your Mission Strategist, Steve Laughman

Thank you for allowing me and Marni to take a life-changing trip to Israel! The purpose of our trip was to embark on a Prayer Journey throughout the country. We saw many of the sites that you would expect, but more importantly, we were able to meet with people who are seeking to impact the area with the Gospel. We now know better how to pray for the people of Israel. We look forward to sharing with you more about our experiences.

Many of you are in the midst of preparations for Resurrection Sunday. Whether you focus on outreach events, musical productions, or other ways of celebrating our Lord’s resurrection, our hope and prayer is that the name of Jesus is praised and that people are drawn to Him. We all know that there are some who will only be in church this one Sunday. This is a time when people will be open to coming to church with just a simple invitation. Encourage your members to go the extra mile to invite people to worship on Resurrection Sunday.

April 30th we will gather for the Elevate Church Strategy Summit. The theme this year is Replant. Every church can be a stronger, healthier church, no matter the size or the condition. Elevate will provide tools for you to examine the needs of your church and take steps toward a stronger church body. The structure of the event will differ from last year. Rather than having several topics covered in various workshops, we will focus on two aspects of the main topic. Each session will be led by Bob Bickford, Associate Director of NAMB Replant. This event is not just for pastors and staff. We encourage all church members to attend. There is no cost, but you can help us plan by registering yourself or your church at centennialbaptistassociation.com/elevate or by calling the CBA office.

Exciting things are happening in the Centennial Baptist Association. Thank you for being a part of the work God is doing here. Let us know how we can help you reach your local mission field.

March 2019 CBA News Article

A Word from Your Mission Strategist, Steve Laughman

By the time you read this, Marni and I will probably be on our way to Israel. What started as a “maybe someday” and grew to a “possibly when we are older” has now become a reality for us. I know many of you have expressed a desire to go with us, so maybe we will work on that becoming reality someday, as well. The opportunity to walk where Jesus walked and to experience the culture in which he lived, albeit much removed from first century, is something we are joyfully anticipating. I am the worst about remembering to take pictures, but I will try to be intentional about it so we can share our experience with you.

While we are gone, we will continue to pray for you. We thank God for the work He is doing through the churches in the Centennial Association. Just yesterday I witnessed a simple exchange of ideas between people from two different churches which looks to result in a joint effort regarding discipling children. What a joy it is to live and serve in an area where people look for opportunities to work together without reservation!

As I prepare to be gone two things have been on my mind regarding you. The first is the Dental Clinic. All the pieces are in place for a successful project. The only thing left is to get the word out to those who need these services and then to execute the plan well. Experience tells me that you will all play your part to make sure this happens. Let us all pray that souls are saved through the practical help we are able to give through this ministry project. If you would still like to volunteer, contact me by email at cbaamsteve@gmail.com. I will be able to respond to this easier than a phone call while I am away.

The second is the upcoming Elevate Church Strategy Summit. Our theme is REPLANT, and it amazes me how timely this topic is for our churches. God placed this on my heart over a year ago. Now we have several churches working through some of the very issues we will be discussing at Elevate. Plan to bring your people to this training event. Whether your church is in a position to need help or to send help, Elevate will speak to some overarching concepts that affect the church as a whole. You need to be part of this discussion, because we all need one another if we are going to reach our area with the Gospel.

Thank you for loving us so well and for allowing us to take the time for spiritual renewal and prayer. We will be embarking on a prayer journey as we travel throughout Israel. As always we will remember you in our prayers, because you are all such a part of our life and ministry. I praise the Father for you and pray His blessing of peace for you and that He produces fruit through you as you serve Him.

February 2019 CBA News Article

A Word from Your Mission Strategist, Steve Laughman

In 2 Kings 18, we are told that King Hezekiah led the people of Judah to turn back to the one true God. “He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan.” One has to wonder how something that God meant as a symbol of salvation became an object of false worship.

We all know the story of how the children of Israel were dying from venomous snake bites in the wilderness. (Check out Numbers 21 for the full story.) Moses was instructed by God to make a fiery serpent out of bronze and lift it up. When someone was bit by a snake, they simply had to look at the serpent, and they would be healed. When Jesus discussed regeneration with Nicodemus (John 3), He enlightened the scribe with the revelation that “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.” So some 1400 years before Jesus was born, his crucifixion was being demonstrated in the wilderness.

But somehow between Moses and Hezekiah, the people moved from recognizing the serpent on the standard as a symbol of salvation to worshipping it as an idol. You can see how they made this mistake. Worship in the temple was corrupted. Passover had not been practiced for years. Through the judges and many of the kings, worship of God had been sporadic. The people simply did what people do today. They look for something to worship and often times focus on the wrong things.

What is tragic about this particular instance is that the original intention for the serpent was holy and good, yet over time people adulterated it. I think this is what happens in churches today when we place too much emphasis on tradition and preferences. We have made idols out of things God intended as tools to point us to Him. When the style of worship or the way we do church becomes an end unto itself, we are missing the point. When Jesus is the focus, the other stuff doesn’t matter as much.

So what is your Nehushtan? What is that part of your worship or practice that was once a means to focus on Jesus, but has now become a distraction from true worship? Maybe it is time we do some introspection and shatter the serpent on the standard in our own lives. Making these changes can be difficult, because we have placed importance on such things. But remember that when Jesus is lifted up, He will draw all men unto Himself. Let’s be like Hezekiah who “clung to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him.”(2 Kings 18:6)

January 2019 CBA News Article

A Word from Your Mission Strategist, Steve Laughman

New year = new opportunities! Throughout my ministry I have heard that the most productive years of ministry are years 7-10. I don’t know of any data supporting this, but if it is true, we are in for a great year. It is hard to believe we are into our seventh year at the Centennial Association, but looking back I am blessed to see how much God has done here. I pray that you are all thinking strategically about how your church will impact your community in 2019 and beyond. The enemy has a plan. Let’s be on the offensive to gain more ground this year than he does.

This edition of the newsletter includes several opportunities for your leaders to be equipped to make a difference. Take advantage of the ones you believe will make the biggest impact. Let me take a minute to preview just a few that I think are worth your time.

·         Sunday School Training – January 14 @ Trinity. As an extension of the SS Mentoring Program we are inviting all our churches to participate in this session where we will have experts in each age group speaking on teaching and outreach methods.

·         Children’s Ministry Workshop – January 27 @ Mt. Olive. Our annual lineup of workshops for all your children’s workers will cover topics that affect every church. You will also be able to preview VBS material and even purchase Lifeway VBS through the CBA.

·         Johnny Hunt Replay – February 2 @ Valley Grove. The Men’s Conference will be held as a one day event this year, but there will still be steak! Breakouts will include both recorded ones from the conference at Woodstock and ones offered by some of our local pastors.

·         Women’s Inspirational – February 25 @ Macedonia. The annual Inspirational meeting for all our women is always a great time of worship and fellowship. Make plans now to be a part of this.

·         Elevate – April 30 @ FBC Barnesville. Save the date now! Bob Bickford with NAMB Replant will be with us to discuss every church’s role in revitalization.

These are just a few of the training events we have planned for 2019. If there is ever a need in your church above and beyond what we offer here, call on me. Either I will come lead a training session for your folks, or I will connect you with someone else who is more capable than I on the subject. Our goal is to help you be the best church you can be – the one God wants you to be for the sake of His Kingdom. Our task of reaching the world is great, but our God is greater! Praise be to our Father for His plan to reach the nations using people like us.

December 2018 CBA Newsletter

A Word from Your Mission Strategist, Steve Laughman

 “When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told to them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.” (Luke 2:15-20)

The announcement from the angels must have come as quite a shock to the shepherds. Although the Messiah was to come someday, they had no idea it would be that night, nor did they ever expect to be the first to hear of His birth. However, when they heard, they eagerly followed the angels’ instructions. They hurried, and they proclaimed what they had seen and heard, not just to Mary and Joseph, but also to anyone who would listen. Imagine the joy they must have felt! My prayer is that we enter this Christmas season with that same sense of awe and wonder and that same sense of urgency.

No matter what you have experienced this year, you have a reason to celebrate. Some of you have been overwhelmed with loss this year. Others have sent children to college or the mission field or the military. Many in our church families have experienced anxiety, depression, and fear. But others have added children to their families or watched a dear friend come to Christ after years of praying for him or her. We have all rejoiced and mourned. God has been good through it all, because He is faithful. “We have seen and testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” (1 John 4:14) This news alone is enough to celebrate!

This month, Marni and I complete our sixth year with the Centennial Association. Thank you for calling us here. Thank you for supporting the work the Lord has given us to do here. Thank you for being on mission with us to spread the Gospel throughout our communities. It is our joy to serve the Lord with you. We pray you have a joyful Christmas season and the news of our Savior’s birth is continually in your heart and on your lips.

November 2018 CBA Newsletter

A Word from Your Mission Strategist, Steve Laughman

Have you ever wondered why God saw fit to create us with emotions? In his wisdom, He allows us to experience joy, grief, anger, and relief, often times in quick succession. This roller coaster of emotions can overwhelm us if we are not careful to put things in their proper perspective. We have a hope in Christ that those without Him never know. That makes all the difference.

The last week has been one of those up and down weeks. The CBA Annual Fall Meeting was such an incredible experience! Yatesville Baptist Church hosted us with such care and attention to detail. The music was exceptional, the reports were uplifting, and the preaching was timely. God has blessed us with a spirit of cooperation and I am grateful. Thanks to you, the BCM loaded 661 backpacks on the truck bound for Randolph and Quitman Counties. Marni and I were able to deliver these to some very thankful partners in this work. Yet as we drove there, we could not help but notice the damage caused by the hurricane. Once again, joy mixed with grief.

We celebrated my birthday this weekend by taking a few days to rest. I thank God for my wife and the great work she does by my side for the CBA. Even as we took a break, we kept up with the news of bombs being mailed and worshippers being attacked in a synagogue in Pittsburg. While some have already drawn battle lines using these depraved acts as weapons in ongoing political warfare, we must remember that we have only one enemy. His name is Satan, and he will use every means at his disposal to divert our attacks on him toward one another. May the Lord remind us that He has won.

This week also brought with it the opportunity to remember one of our own. Dr. Ken Ross displayed the kind of temperament we need today. His kind words and gentle manner remind us that we serve a God of peace. Ken never failed to encourage me to press on in the work God has called me to do. I grieve for his family and his church and for my own loss, but I do not grieve as one without hope. I pray you do the same.

I eagerly look forward to what we have going on in the months ahead. The Georgia Baptist Convention will meet in Warner Robins November 11-13. Communities will join for Thanksgiving worship services. Ministers and their wives will gather for our annual Christmas fellowship. And the Church will celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas with special times of worship. However, we may also face loss, tragedy, and unknown dangers. Some of you are going through your own personal struggles even now. How we respond will depend on whether or not we see how God is working through it all to bring glory to Himself. What looks like chaos from one view may just be a perfect design from another perspective. Let us have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to respond to God correctly.

October 2018 Newsletter

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.

September 2018 CBA Newsletter

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!

August 2018 CBA Newsletter

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.

 

June 2018 CBA Newsletter

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.

May 2018 CBA Newsletter

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.

April 2018 CBA Newsletter

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.

March 2018 CBA Newsletter

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.

February CBA Newsletter

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.

January 2018 CBA 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!

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?