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Ed Jordan: It only hurts when I breathe

Posted: 2/24/17 at 8:30am. Column by Ed Jordan.

So, the last several weeks have been quite eventful for me. Following a week of non-existence due to the weird strain of flu making the rounds, I emerged from the flu with a mysterious pain in a couple of my teeth. I couldn’t isolate the pain, so I contacted a dentist, but the first available appointment was six days away. So I had a long week while trying to control the pain until I could get to see the dentist.

While prepping me for the exam, the dental assistant asked me if my tooth hurt in response to hot or cold temperatures. I said that I don’t really think it has anything to do with hot or cold liquids. I told her that it only hurts when I breathe. We both started laughing. Of course, the solution is to quit breathing, right?

Well, it turned out that my tooth is cracked, and the crack exposes the tooth’s nerve to the air moving across it. While there is pain all the time, the sharp, cringing pain only occurs when I breathe. By the way, the tooth will get fixed, and praise God for a great dentist!

It is so interesting that a crack or fissure so small that it only shows up on an x-ray can cause such pain. It is also interesting to realize that the non-visible fault-line may go deeper than it shows, and may crack further at a later time, even if you put a crown on it. So, the bad news is that I have been in pain for almost a week, and that pain was classified by the dentist as being a 9 on a scale of 10. The good news is that the pain will soon be removed, and that the whole event inspired a new column!

Reflect with me a few moments on some of the invisible fissures in our lives that are unnoticeably growing larger and are opening up our lives to dangerous things. Emotionally we live under tremendous stresses, which bring pressures to bear upon our mental and emotional stability. We can live under the stress and pressure for years, and then all of a sudden, wham! We suddenly react to pressures in uncharacterized ways. We lash out at someone, or we dump all the pressure that has been bottled up for years. We explode, and people get psychologically hurt.

Or perhaps we find our lives becoming physically more and more complicated. The bills keep going up while the income doesn’t, and more and more things are beyond our control. So as the pressure mounts, as does our blood pressure, our pulse, and the stress-released chemicals that control many of our body functions. One day out of nowhere comes a heart attack or stroke. Once that occurs, the injured body parts can be weakened and prone to more damage.

There are many things that are seemingly invisible and, yet, are assaulting our spiritual and moral lives each day. People who practice biblical morality are under constant pressure to abandon their values, compromise them, or even jettison them. Have you ever seen a section of concrete sidewalk that has a hole in it caused from continuous dripping of water, perhaps from a gutter leaking rain for over many months or years? Each drop is just a little drop, but with each drip and impact, the concrete is weakened.

So, how do we know that there are cracks in our lives? One indicator is pain. Pain is a warning sign that something is amiss. When we ignore the warning signs, the situation will only get worse. Another way to discover invisible cracks beginning in our lives is to present our lives to Jesus, the Great Physician. We can ask Jesus to reveal things in our lives that are potential problems and then yield those areas of our lives to Jesus who can correct the situation.

A third way is to monitor what types of things we are planting in our lives, and/or the lives of our family. As Galatians 6:7-9 says: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

May your life be free from invisible fissures that develop into cracks, breakdowns, and unnecessary pain.

ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.

    Tony Brooks: 4 Ways to Ensure Sunday School is a Safe Place for Preschoolers, Children and Youth

    Posted: 2/22/17 at 11:50am Post by Tony Brooks.

    One of the increasing concerns in church and any service organization focused on children and youth are safety and liability issues. Here are some things to consider:

    1. Provide a safe environment
      We need to make sure furniture, toys, and learning tools for preschool and children are current and sterile. Furniture (like tables and chairs) and toys/learning tools should be age-appropriate and kept clean. (Please do not allow stuffed animals into the classroom. Stuffed animals breed germs and are hard to keep clean.) Small toys should not be in the preschool area because they can be a choking hazard. Build wooden cubby holes for children rather than using eye level coat hangers that could cause serious injury to a child. You need a First Aid Kit in the cabinet and properly trained persons in CPR. Keep a list of known allergies of children for healthy snacks. Phones are needed in nursery/preschool areas in case of emergencies along with a list of phone numbers of parents. Have an adult make security checks in the preschool/children’s area during Sunday School, worship, and other church-wide events for intruders.
    2. Preparations for workers of preschool, children and youth
      Have background checks on all workers. The process through your local sheriff’s department is simple and cost effective. Don’t wait until there is an issue! I know in smaller churches, we know everyone, but what happens when a new member wants to be working with children or youth.  You can’t single out new people without everyone having a background check. (If your workers are teaching in a public school system, they already have background checks at their school, and it isn’t necessary to do another one.)

      Have a system for parents to drop off and pick up their child. There are many horror stories of an estranged spouse or parent’s picking up their child without the other parent knowing and leaving the state with the child. A simple way for checking in and out is to print some animal pictures and have them laminated. The parent gets a duplicate to take with them and one is kept with the child’s name and belongings. The parent must have the matching animal to pick up their child. You need two adults to be present at all times with preschoolers, children, and youth. In a day when one wrong move can deeply affect a child and one accusation can destroy an adult’s reputation, this is necessary! No adult should be left alone with children.

    3. You need special written permission to take minors on trips.

      Get parental consent forms for special trips and avoid issues later. On a different note, I had a situation one time where a 17-year-old left a youth event an hour early to go home and do homework, and I quickly called the parents to let them know. I was responsible and would be held liable if this youth got in an accident or was doing something inappropriately. The parents were very thankful I called, because the teen was not going home!

    4. Set policies and procedures for all workers as a covenant to sign about appropriateness of contact, and policies and procedures about safety precautions.

      If there is an issue, you don’t want an adult to claim they didn’t know. The bottom line is we want a safe learning environment for our children and youth. We have the responsibility of making sure precautions are taken for this reason.

    Brooks-TonyTony Brooks is our Sunday School/Discipleship Specialist and Field Strategist for the Southside Region. You may email him at tony.brooks@bgav.org.

    Follow Tony on Twitter: @TonyBrooks7 

      Ed Jordan: Divine Pruning

      Posted: 2/18/17 at 2:00pm. Column by Ed Jordan.

      It’s that time of year again: the time of year I have to get outside and prune my grapevines so they are ready for the arrival of spring. Every time I do so, I think of the great passage of scripture found in the fifteenth chapter of John, which describes Jesus as the true vine, and describes those who believe in Him as being the branches growing from the vine.

      Christians are encouraged to stay connected to Jesus so that His life and life-giving forces can flow into us as believers and produce fruit through our lives.  In John 15:1–2 (NIV84), Jesus said:  “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

      Every year, during the dormant time of the grapevine, those who care for the vines prune them. Pruning has two primary objectives. One is to remove the dead wood from the vine, so that the life resources are directed into the branches with the most probability to produce fruit.

      Branches that are in the shade, or have little flow of life through them are cut off and removed. Then attention is given to the remaining branches and they are pruned back so that the nutrients will flow into those branches that are most vibrant. The overall goals are to keep the vine healthy and fruitful.

      Jesus explained that God the Father, who is the Master Gardener, removes branches that are not producing fruit. These are removed so that a better environment is produced for those branches that will produce fruit this year. Those branches that produce fruit are pruned, excess shoots cut off so that the fruit that grows will be nourished to peak capacity and produce even more fruit.

      If there is no pruning of the vines, there is little fruitfulness from the vines.

      As noted above, pruning is a process that occurs every year. If there is no pruning of the vines, there is little fruitfulness from the vines. But being the branch that is pruned is no fun. It is a rather strange thought when you think about it. If you don’t produce fruit as a branch, you will be taken away. This is not to be taken literally in the sense of dying, nor of losing one’s salvation. It is a functional thing that occurs in horticulture.

      Any of the people listening to Jesus’ words in this passage in first century Palestine, would have understood the image. God wants us to be fruitful.  Branches that become hardened and dry so they cannot transmit life-giving fluids along the vine will be cut off and removed. What is even more difficult to understand is that if you have been used by God to be fruitful this past season, prepare to be pruned so that you can produce even more fruit this next season.

      Pruning cuts one down to size. Much of the growth of the previous year is cut back. Those who delight themselves in looking good, and having lots of beautiful foliage, are suddenly laid bare and look like newly shorn sheep. Our big head, and pride of past things accomplished, lay as piles on the ground. We are cut back to being a short nub instead of being a long, luxurious vine.

      Past accomplishments are behind us, and before us lies the challenge of growing, experiencing the energy and vibrancy of the vine flowing through us, and growing towards the sun. What really matters is producing blooms that will become fruit, and remaining in the sunlight so that the sugars produced by vine’s activities make the grapes grow, get plump, and swell with sweetness!

      Without the life-giving Spirit of God, we can produce nothing.

      The real focus of the entire passage in John 15:1-11 is that believers are to exist in living connection both with Jesus, and with other branches connected to the vine. Without the life-giving Spirit of God, we can produce nothing.

      We are to live in vibrant relationship with Jesus, and keep our lives open to the indwelling flow of Jesus in and through our lives. We are not here to live for ourselves, or to become the center of attention.  We are here to live in such a way that God produces fruit through our lives, so that such fruit points to the magnificence of Jesus.

      If you find yourself enduring some pruning in the days ahead, or if your church does, trust God that the pruning has the purpose of making us more fruitful for God this next growing season. Ask God to glorify Himself by producing much fruit through our lives.

      ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

      He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.

        Religious Liberty Committee Spotlight: Danbury Baptist Association

        Posted: 2/17/17 at 10:00am.

        Religious Freedom: What is it, and why should persons have it? Check here each month to see how historic Baptist and other champions of religious freedom have answered these questions. These spotlights are sponsored by the BGAV’s Religious Liberty Committee.

        Read previous spotlights.

        Part of Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association.

        The Danbury Baptist Association was organized in 1790 with twenty-six churches from Connecticut and New York as members.  At its 1800 meeting, a petition was started for a statewide repeal of all laws in Connecticut that could be interpreted as supporting an established religion.

        On October 8, 1801, the DBA met at Colebrook, Connecticut, and commissioned a committee to pen a letter to the President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. Its letter, and the President’s reply on January 1, 1802, made front page news all across America. The DBA’s letter to Jefferson defines religious liberty as well as anything written.

        Part of it is as follows:

        Our Sentiments are uniformly on the side of Religious Liberty—That Religion is at all times and places a Matter between God and Individuals—That no man aught to suffer in Name, person or effects on account of his religious Opinions—That the legitimate Power of civil Government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor: But Sir, our [Connecticut’s] constitution of government is not specific.

        Our ancient charter, together with the Laws made coincident therewith, were adopted as the Basis of our government, At the time of our revolution; and such had been our Laws & usages, & such still are; that religion is consider’d as the first object of Legislation; & therefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the State) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights: and these favors we receive at the expense of such degrading acknowledgements as are inconsistent with the rights of freemen.

        It is not to be wondered at therefore; if those, who seek after power & gain under the pretense of government & Religion should reproach their fellow men—should reproach their chief Magistrate [Jefferson], as an enemy of religion Law & good order because he will not, dares not assume the prerogative of Jehovah and make Laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ.

        From The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008), 35:407-9

          4 Ways to Care Now: Come Before Winter

          Posted: 2/14/17 at 10:30 a.m. Post by Tony Brooks.

          Do your best to get here before winter. (II Timothy 4:21 NIV)

          This passage has been preached by many pastors. For Sunday School/Small Groups, it is imperative that we reach out when persons are missing and beyond. Paul knew that winter may be too late to console him before he died. We never know when someone will no longer be with us. Here are some thoughts:

          1.  Set up care groups. Every class/Small group should set up care groups. This is where a person has five to seven persons on their list to contact. (Contact me for the beginning stages.)
          2. Pray for your care group daily. Spend time each day praying for your people. About once a month call/e-mail them to discover their needs. You may be surprised at their responses as they see you care.
          3. Get other church members involved. You may discover certain needs you can’t handle. Let the Pastor, deacons and others know (if not confidential, always ask.) Often people slip through the cracks and stop coming, because others don’t know.
          4. Send cards on important days. Send a card on death anniversaries. Remember and contact them on birthdays and other anniversaries. You never know what encouraging word might help.
          Brooks-TonyTony Brooks is our Sunday School/Discipleship Specialist and Field Strategist for the Southside Region. You may email him at tony.brooks@bgav.org.

          Follow Tony on Twitter: @TonyBrooks7 

            Ed Jordan: Flying into the Wind

            Posted: 2/10/17 at 3:30 p.m. Column by Ed Jordan.

            I like to fly on large airplanes. I don’t like the time spent waiting around airports, especially when I spend more time in the airport than on the actual flight! Years ago, I used to go up in a small private plane with a friend of mine. My friend was always trying to explain the laws of aerodynamics to help me understand how a plane flies. In a nutshell, the airflow and speed of the air flowing over the top of the wing provides upward suction, and the air flowing under the wing produces lift. The two work together, along with the speed of that air. One other interesting relevant concept is that planes get more lift when they take off flying into the wind. Major airports are now built giving consideration to the most frequent wind direction at that site. The runways are laid out to allow the planes to take off into the wind, because they get more lift faster when flying into the wind.

            Many in our culture today have as their mantra: “Just go with the flow.” It was a part of my own subculture when I was in college. It is a form of passivity. It implies that the stream is flowing, and the way of least resistance is to just go wherever the stream takes you. Put your kayak in the water and drift down the river. Of course, those who just go with the flow will not arrive at a destination that is upstream, only downstream.

            Other similar metaphors are: “take the easy way,” or “stay with what is popular,” or “let the winds of culture set your destination.” However, just because it appears that a majority of people around us are getting on a raft being rapidly propelled down a river toward some yet unperceived massive waterfall with a life-threatening drop to the river far below, is no reason for us to jump on the raft and go with the flow.

            We tend to think that this ‘go with the flow’ philosophy is a new phenomenon, but it is not. Proverbs 14:12 (ESV), written approximately 2,800 years ago, warned against choosing ways which appear to be right but which in reality lead to death: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Approximately 2,000 years ago, Jesus warned us about going with the flow of humanity instead of following the way God directs us to follow.

            Here are Jesus’ words on this subject, found in Matthew 7:13–14 (ESV): “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” In The Message, the passage reads like this: “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.”

            From this we see that those who are following God will often find themselves moving against the flow, swimming against the stream which is bringing considerable energy and power against the person’s desired trajectory, in order to move the person downstream with the mass and flow of the crowd of humanity. We need to examine our ways to see if those ways are based merely upon human popularity or fads, or whether they are indeed the path that leads to God and life. As Christians, we should realize that when we are following Christ, we will likely find ourselves living counter-culturally as Christians, which expresses itself as going upstream against the flow.

            The encouragement for us is that for those who fly with God against the wind will discover God raising us up to soar above the crowd, as stated in Isaiah 40:31 (The Message): “But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.”

            May God show you the correct path on which to live, give you strength to follow that path even if it is against the winds of culture, and may He raise you up to soar as an eagle.

             

            ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

            He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.

              5 Ways to Grow your Sunday School/Small Groups

              Posted: 7/13/16 at 8:55am. Post by Tony Brooks.

              Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV)

              1. Develop a prospect list. You need twice the number of prospects as you have enrolled. Register people at every event you have in the community and at the church to find prospects. Make sure every adult class has the files that apply to their class.
              1. Contact prospects. Have someone call them about the Bible study class with information about the Scripture you are studying on Sunday. (Remember that they don’t have the quarterly if they are new.) Send a letter to invite them. Invite them to your quarterly fellowship event. They will come to this event quicker than coming to your class. 
              1. Show that you care! People will listen if you show that you care first. Contact them during the week to check on them. Ask how you can be praying for them this week. Set up care groups. (E-mail me at tony.brooks@bgav.org if you need help with documents on how to do this.)
              1. Start new classes! For every new class you start successfully you will add ten new members. Again, ask me how to start a new class at the e-mail above. 
              1. Stay focused on the lesson. There are persons who read the quarterly and wanting to know how to apply the Scripture to everyday life. When you talk about everything but the lesson, you have failed to help them apply the Scripture. You will lose people at this point. Stay on task and help them apply Scripture. You are a missionary and disciple maker! Don’t let trivial talk interrupt God’s Word!
              Brooks-TonyTony Brooks is our Sunday School/Discipleship Specialist and Field Strategist for the Southside Region. You may email him at tony.brooks@bgav.org.

              Follow Tony on Twitter: @TonyBrooks7 

                Ed Jordan: Outside, Inside, or Both?

                Posted: 2/1/17 at 4:15 p.m. Column by Ed Jordan.

                We are officially a month into the New Year. Maybe it is a good time to evaluate the resolutions and commitments that we made to make this year better for us than last year.  How are you doing with fulfilling your resolutions?  Are you making progress, or struggling to find a tipping point to make your resolutions become a new pattern of living?

                It is interesting that many of the things we annually resolve to do or accomplish involve our external life. They are things that involve our appearance or our body, usually requiring physical exercise routines and schedules, plans and strategies. They often include controlling what we eat and how much, and most of these external things are very helpful, and important.

                Why not take a moment to review the list of resolutions that you made for this year? Place an “x” beside the resolutions that are about your physical body. For those resolutions that deal with your inner life, place a “checkmark” beside them.

                If you are like most people, there are many more “x’s” than there are “checkmarks.” Part of this is because external physical goals are easier to accomplish than internal things.  External things are rather concrete and tangible and easier to validate or measure.  Internal things such as our attitude, or spiritual development, or mental growth are more abstract and harder to quantify.  The other reason we tend to work on externals more than internals is that other people can see our external identity, so it seems more important to look good to others.  Our internal motives and attitudes are often unseen by others, and therefore we are not so motivated to make changes to those areas of our lives.

                More and more people today are tempted to relegate their spiritual development to the “library stacks” of our lives, the place where things are put that are presumed to be obsolete or archaic. It is a rather sad state of affairs actually.  Many people relegate knowing God, and the development of a living, growing, personal relationship with God, to the garage freezer, where they can forget all about it.  We fool ourselves into thinking that external impressions and activities are the real substance of life, while God and spiritual matters are phantoms we think we can do without.

                In reality, the opposite is the truth. God is life.  To remove God from our lives, or relegate Him to the garage deep freeze, is to go through life as a mirage, or hologram projection.  We spend our time building our lives out of holographic Legos while the life that God wants to give us to experience is forgotten, sealed away out of sight and out of mind.

                G.K. Chesterton, who was a very brilliant person, came to the conclusion that “Life is not a thing from outside, but a thing from inside.”   Life is more than external appearances and presentations. Jesus said it differently, in Matthew 6:25 when He told us to not get obsessed about what we will eat or what clothes we will wear, or about our bodies. In this passage Jesus asked all of us a question we need to truthfully answer (cf. Matthew 6:25 ESV): “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”  Does not real life consist of more than just our body and externals?  This body wears out, and physically dies. Paul took this thought a step further in 2 Corinthians 4:16 (ESV) saying: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”

                So, what are you doing to get your inner life in shape? What exercises are you regularly doing to strengthen your relationship with God?  Are you connected and active in a local church?  Are you feeding your inner person with truth from the Bible?  Are you exercising your mind?  What books are you reading?  What are you doing to develop your soul, your inner person that relates to God?

                Our external body will crumble, while a Christian’s inner person is being improved day by day as we live connected to Jesus. Have you been neglecting your spiritual relationship with Jesus? Are you only refurbishing your outer person, i.e., your body and external life?  Or are you renewing, building up, and exercising your spirit as well?  We actually need to exercise and build up both our external body and internal soul or spirit.  Have you resolved specific ways to build up your relationship with God?

                ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

                He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.

                  Dreaming New Dreams for Sunday School/Discipleship

                  Posted: 1/31/17 at 4:00 p.m. Post by Tony Brooks

                  “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17 NIV)

                  I just watched one of my favorite movies, Dead Poets Society. In it we have some who dream dreams and other who are realists. Which one are you? Can we do both as Christians? In this time, God needs us to dream dreams and see visions, as we help others to see a new reality!

                  Is your Sunday School class/small group realizing what is necessary…Head, Heart and Hands? Here are some thoughts:

                  Head: Are you looking at your class and their spiritual needs? Has there been any dramatic change in lifestyles based on spiritual transformation for members in the class? Is it time to change curriculum or start a small group at another time? Sunday School is meant to reach new people. It is not to be the only spiritual growth element for discipleship. If most of your members have been in the same class for years and not involved in other spiritual disciplines, it may be time for a change for them.

                  Heart: Is your group caring for each other? Does every person in your group feel as though they belong and their needs are being met? If not, it is time to set up care groups. Each person needs to feel that they belong, and they are cared for. (Email me for suggestions.)

                  Hands: Persons in your group need to feel they are contributing to the class and the community. I have stated all along that every class (first grade and up) need to have an ongoing service project. You should be serving in some way outside the class. I have ideas if you need them. Just let me know.

                  In the world we live in, we need mature disciples who are making a difference in the group and the community. It is time to allow God to help us dream new dreams and see a better future in the group, church and community.

                  Learn more about ways to move to discipleship through these training events:

                  Free Sunday School Director Webinar for Thursday, February 16th at 7 p.m. 

                  Get Your Sunday School Off with a BANG! – Sunday School directors, are you having troubles getting your classes together for planning, sharing and encouragement? In this webinar you will see what Teachers ‘N Training (TNT) can do for your groups to move them forward. (Limited to only 20 participants.)

                  Register online now!

                  Deadline to register is February 14.

                  National Sunday School Directors Training 

                  Saturday, April 1st from 8:30-3:30 (Registration begins at 8 a.m.) at Calvary Baptist Church (20957 Timberlake Rd. Lynchburg)

                  There is no cost as Lifeway will pick up the tab.

                  This is an excellent training. If you do not have a Sunday School Director, pastors or staff can come.

                  Below is the registration form link. The deadline is March 22nd.

                  Register online now!

                  Brooks-TonyTony Brooks is our Sunday School/Discipleship Specialist and Field Strategist for the Southside Region. You may email him at tony.brooks@bgav.org.

                  Follow Tony on Twitter: @TonyBrooks7 

                    Summer Mission Opportunities

                    Posted: 1/27/17 at 9:15am.

                    There are multiple ways to get involved in missions this summer!

                    The Kairos Missions Initiative is accepting applications to join the May 2017 team in Vienna, Austria! Are you 18-25 and want to serve in a multi-ethnic congregation in the heart of Vienna, participate in community outreach and language lessons, and being a tangible representation of the Gospel for natives and refugees? Learn more and apply by January 30!

                    impact mission campsLooking for a way for your youth to serve on mission this summer? Impact Mission Camp registration is now open, including locations across Virginia and an international experience in Toronto.

                    Do you know young adults eager to find a way to use their gifts and talents in ministry? Summer Venturers has opportunities across the US and around the world, with Impact Mission Camps or Disaster Response, as well as in Ghana, Lebanon, Haiti, and Romania.

                    Our international partners in Romania and Haiti have opportunities for partnership in both of these countries. There are opportunities to serve with kids, utilize medical skills, teach English, work with kids with special needs, and more!

                    MC2: Missions Celebration Connection will be July 24-28 at Eagle Eyrie Baptist Conference Center. MC2 is an intergenerational experience featuring missions, discipleship, worship, fellowship, and fun! Randy Cooksey, Minister of Youth at Broadus Memorial Baptist Church in Mechanicsville, will be the keynote speaker. Learn more!

                      3 Ways That Sunday School/Small Group is Hard Work

                      Posted: 1/24/17 at 9:00am. Post by Tony Brooks.

                      “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you,  saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

                       “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?  If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. (Luke 14:28-33 NIV)

                      Doing Sunday School the way of discipleship is hard work, and we need to count the cost. It requires sacrifice and thinking beyond the traditions of the past 50 years! There was a time we could simply invite people to Bible study on Sunday mornings, and people would come.

                      Today, churches need to go back to the inception of Sunday School and see it as a missionary movement. What does this require from our churches?

                      This type of Sunday School/Small Group requires a different mindset. It requires getting past the voices that say, “We have always done it this way.” The persons in charge of Christian education need to get beyond age graded classes for adults to affinity based groups, from Sunday morning in classrooms to anytime and anyplace, as well as, thinking about places in the community where persons gather who are not in Bible study. It is best to gather a team to do this kind of work and bathe it all in prayer.

                      This type of Sunday School/Small Group requires teachers to see themselves as missionaries looking to provide an environment for transformation rather than knowledge. Teachers are seeking to be facilitators of transformation rather than experts. Leaders need to have their teachers begin to think and pray about Sunday School as an evangelistic/discipling endeavor rather than traditional models from the past.

                      This type of Sunday School/Small Group requires teachers to see themselves as disciple-makers. Whether it is teaching a lesson for transformation in discipleship or discipling someone else to teach, teachers need to move in this direction. Someone who teaches has a 90% retention rate in what they learned from the lesson. Inviting others to teach leads to spiritual growth for them. As discovered in most churches, churches need more teachers. Every teacher needs an apprentice to provide more teachers to start new groups.

                      A quote to consider as you pray about the work of Sunday School:

                      The religion that costs nothing, that demands no hard sacrifices of other things, that does not lift the life out of low-level motives, is worth little and makes little difference to the life.  The type of religion on the other hand, which costs the all, which makes the cross the central fact that dominates the life as its one driving power, becomes an incalculable force and turns many to salvation.

                      – Rufus Jones, from The World Within — p. 43

                      Count the cost, know it requires work and sacrifice, and move Sunday School to a new level in Christian education!

                      Learn more about ways to move to discipleship through these training events:

                      Free Sunday School Director Webinar for Thursday, February 16th at 7 p.m. 

                      Get Your Sunday School Off with a BANG! – Sunday School directors, are you having troubles getting your classes together for planning, sharing and encouragement? In this webinar you will see what Teachers ‘N Training (TNT) can do for your groups to move them forward. (Limited to only 20 participants.)

                      Register online now!

                      Deadline to register is February 14.

                      National Sunday School Directors Training 

                      Saturday, April 1st from 8:30-3:30 (Registration begins at 8 a.m.) at Calvary Baptist Church (20957 Timberlake Rd. Lynchburg)

                      There is no cost as Lifeway will pick up the tab.

                      This is an excellent training. If you do not have a Sunday School Director, pastors or staff can come.

                      Below is the registration form link. The deadline is March 22nd.

                      Register online now!

                      Brooks-TonyTony Brooks is our Sunday School/Discipleship Specialist and Field Strategist for the Southside Region. You may email him at tony.brooks@bgav.org.

                      Follow Tony on Twitter: @TonyBrooks7 

                        Refugee Crisis Update

                        refugee croatia 2015

                        Posted: 1/23/17 at 3:30pm. Post by Dean Miller

                        As early as last year Croatia, like many other European countries, were being inundated with refugees pouring out of war-torn Syria and other locations.

                        People fled from their homes with nothing but the bags they could carry and wandered for weeks on end attempting to find a safe haven. Many refugees desired to make it further north to Germany and the United Kingdom but first they had to travel through other countries.

                        Croatia was one of the countries where these refugees would get their first taste of freedom.

                        For many, this would be their first encounter with a Christian.

                        Croatian Baptists used this opportunity to show compassion and the love of Christ. They met the refugees at a train station and provided warm food, clean water, simple medical care, and other forms of compassion. For many, this would be their first encounter with a Christian.

                        The BGAV provided funds to assist in this ministry, and members of Richmond’s First Baptist Church were able to go and assist Croatian Baptist Aid at the refugee camp at the train depot.

                        However, Croatia soon closed its borders, and refugees were forced to find another way to freedom. Croatian Baptist Aid was undeterred, and they realized that, even though the refugees were no longer coming to their borders, they had a responsibility to help. They looked around and soon discovered a new place to serve: along the shores of Greece.
                        Kids in the Refugee Camp Greece
                        They have taken several teams to Greece to show compassion and do their best to share the love of Christ. Recently, a team from Richmond’s First Baptist Church was able to travel again to assist the Croatians with these compassion ministries. Virginia Baptists provided more funding to Croatian Baptist Aid to assist their work at the new camp in Greece.

                        Your Cooperative Missions dollars have played a vital role in funding this response to these men, women, and children who are suffering under horrible circumstances.

                        Your continued gifts will support this and other projects led by Baptist groups who are working along the front lines of this humanitarian refugee crisis.

                        Visit our Refugee Blog

                        Refugee Crisis

                        Your continued gifts will support the responses of our international partners to the refugee crisis. Thank you for your generosity and partnership in this response!

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                          How to Build Community with Your Eyes

                          Posted: 1/22/17 at 8:30am. Post by Joshua Hearne, originally published on the Fresh Expressions US blog

                          Looking for Tyler

                          “Hey brother, I saw you yesterday near the hospital,” I said, patting Tyler on the back and taking a seat next to him with my plate at a long table. “I waved and honked, but I don’t think you saw me,” I continued as I unfolded my napkin, knowing well that not only had Tyler not seen me, he hadn’t even looked up.

                          “Oh yeah,” Tyler offered, “I was coming back from the pharmacy.” Making a mental note to find a way to ask him later if the unexpected medicine expense was going to keep him from eating later that week, I almost missed his next comment. “I guess I didn’t hear you. I don’t pay too much attention,” he added with a soft chuckle and something like a smile.

                          But, I knew that wasn’t true. After all, Tyler is one of the people who remembers every detail of our calendar without the help of anything written. He notices when folks get haircuts or new shoes. He knows the names and faces, not to mention the stories, of many of the folks who gather for our meals. Tyler does pay attention and he doesn’t have a problem with his hearing.

                          That one missed interaction was a little thing, really, that caught my interest as it floated by in the sometimes rushing river that is the life and work of our community. It was certainly more important in the moment to make sure Tyler had food to eat in the weeks to come than it was to wonder after one small, curious moment. So, I forgot about it for a while.

                          That is, I forgot about it until it happened again with Redd, Iris, and Hasan. I started noticing that if I was in my car and saw one of our friends, I rarely succeeded in getting their attention by honking or waiting for them to look my way. I had to pull over, roll down my window, and say or shout something so they’d recognize my voice. The truth is, nobody was looking—at least, they weren’t until they heard a voice they recognized.

                          It was all so perplexing to me because when I went for a walk to the store or one of our community’s houses, there was a good chance I’d see somebody I knew drive by. If I heard a honk, I looked around, assuming that somebody might be trying to get my attention to say hello. This exchange of greetings through tempered glass was one of the most charming things I had discovered upon moving to the south, and I had really grown to enjoy this tiny sign of welcome. But, for some reason, many of the folks among whom we had made our home weren’t looking.

                          Finally, I decided to ask Tyler about it, just to see if I was misunderstanding something. Still thinking it was probably just some curious coincidence, but worried that it might be something deeper, I figured Tyler could be my teacher. He shrugged before saying something that would change the way I think about ministry forever: “I don’t know. I don’t look ‘cause I know no one’s looking for me.” Inwardly, I crumpled at the realization—it was all about dignity after all.

                          If people studiously avoid eye contact or even looking at you, if they cross to the other side of the street after glancing your way, or start saying no before you’ve finished asking them even a benign question, you learn that nobody is looking for you. When you stop being seen, you stop looking.

                          “I’m looking for you, Tyler,” I offered, with a forced cheerfulness, afraid to think about the times I hadn’t been.

                          “Alright,” Tyler said, “I’ll look for you too,” his words again accompanied with a soft chuckle and something like a smile.

                          Eyes to See

                          Since then, I’ve learned to pay attention to who’s looking and who’s not. In those smiles of recognition, timid waves, or boisterous whoops from a corner, I’m learning to see the power of community in a new way. Not only is there a power in seeing and being seen, but there’s also encouragement in this quickest of greetings.

                          What we’ve discovered as we continue to do our meals in their not-so-efficient-but-intimate way and invite people to share our homes, sit on our porches, and talk about all the things that really matter (and many that don’t matter in the slightest) is this: once people know that somebody out there cares about them—that somebody might be looking for them and glad to see them—they start looking.

                          “I see you,” my car’s horn seems to call out for those with the ears to hear. “I’m looking,” their nod and wave seem to answer for those with the eyes to see.

                          Joshua is a storyteller and a leader and member of Grace and Main Fellowship, an intentional Christian community devoted to hospitality, prayer, and discipleship in Danville, Virginia. He is the executive director of Third Chance Ministries, which identifies, develops, and supports missionaries who gather together and nurture intentional Christian communities of hospitality and service in areas of profound need.

                          This post was originally published on the Fresh Expressions US blog.

                            Pearl Jam, Prophets, and Their Importance to the Church

                              Growing our Faith in the Doldrums of Winter

                              Posted: 1/19/17 at 8:30am. Post by Jillian Andrzejewski

                              It is officially winter time. We’ve had our first snow storm and our first Sunday morning cancellation. The weather can be unpredictable and can give weather forecasters fits. The sun can hide for days on end. It is that time of year that grows long and wears on us. Will spring ever come? Please?

                              And we can feel like Susie, my dog. She hates this time of year too. She is a Chihuahua and hates snow. We have to convince her to take walks outside, especially if there is snow on the ground. She doesn’t get to sit on her beloved porch. She loves to sit outside and sun herself for hours.

                              But not this time of year. And the poor thing is cooped up inside with all the humans, including our daughter who has yet to learn the meaning of the word gentle.

                              And so many times, this is how we find Susie. It’s like she is hibernating and holding out until spring comes.

                              Life tends to slow down after the rush of the holidays and it’s a good time to take stock of things.

                              We can feel like Susie too. We hold out until spring to try something new, to get together with old friends, or deepen our relationship with God. But I would say that this is the perfect time of year to do just those things.

                              Life tends to slow down after the rush of the holidays and it’s a good time to take stock of things. It’s a good time to remember what’s important. It’s a good time to start reading that part of the Bible that has always inspired you or confounded you.

                              It’s a good time of year to curl up with a hot cup of tea with an old friend. It’s a good time of year to just come to worship at Mooreland and just be in the presence of God.

                              What will you do with the long, slow days of winter? Will you hibernate or will you put these days to their best use?

                              jillian-andrzejewskiRev. Jillian Andrzejewski is the pastor of Mooreland Baptist Church south of Charlottesville. She is a member of the Virginia Baptist Mission Council.

                              This post was originally written on the church’s blog “Stories from Mooreland“.