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.
"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.
"The foremost is, 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these.'" - Mark 12:29-31
What a blessing it is to experience the fellowship of believers as we come together to live out these commandments! This past weekend several of our churches gathered together at First Baptist Church in Barnesville for EQUIP 2017. The goal is always to equip students for the work God has called them to do. The focus this year was on the previous verses. We are all called to love, and we should be equipped to do so.
If you have never been in a room full of teenagers who are worshiping the Lord, you should try it. Nothing is quite as refreshing as seeing the joy that some of them bring to worship. I think we need to be careful not to snuff out that enthusiasm, but to encourage it. As we love God with all we have and all we are, we should get excited about who He is and what He is doing. It is not about entertainment or who can produce the best show. Worship is about expressing love to the One who made us. We were reminded on Friday night that we cannot truly love God unless we know Him. As our knowledge of Him grows, so should our love for Him.
Each year we spend our Saturday afternoon participating in an activity that demonstrates the theme of what we are emphasizing. This year the students and their leaders went on a scavenger hunt to find items that would be used to support area ministries. They collected food, hygiene items, plates and cups, diapers, and soap among other things that will go to five different compassion ministries throughout our four county region. It was a competition with a purpose. In the end, there were over 3000 items collected. That not 3000 plates or diapers. That's 3000 packages of plates, diapers, or whatever else was on the list. Praise the Lord!
Loving others consistently is a challenge for most of us. Jesus pointed out that even the wicked love those who love them. He also said that if we cannot love the people we do see, then we cannot love God whom we cannot see. We are surrounded by hurting people every day. Most have genuine needs that we are capable of meeting if we were to just invest a little time in finding out what those needs are. For some it is simply a need for a friend or a kind word. Some need encouragement or a shoulder to cry on. Others have more tangible needs like food or clothing. Foster children need loving homes. Addicts need a place of support and recovery. Lost people need directions to the Savior. Hopeless people need hope. Spiritually dead people need life that only comes through a relationship with the Giver of life, Jesus. Each one of us may not be able to meet every need, but we can each meet some of them. And together we make a difference.
I am thankful to be a part of EQUIP and what God is doing through the CBA. Thank you to all the churches who brought their students. Thank you to all our breakout leaders. Thank you to the great speakers and worship team. Thank you to FBC Barnesville for hosting us so well. Thank you to all the pastors, youth minister, and volunteers who worked behind the scenes planning and preparing. And thank you to parents who entrusted us with your children, so we could share this experience with them.
We will continue what was started this weekend with EQUIP Missions this summer. Even if you were not able to be there this weekend, we hope you will join us for this time of serving our communities and worshiping together. Save the dates: June 25-28. You can click here for more information or to register your group.