Blog
Posted on November 30, 2020 8:00 AM by Jason McKinney
Categories: Disciple-making
If we get discipleship right, we get church planting right.

I like to use a series of diagnostic questions to learn about the state of a church:
 
  1. “How do you identify new areas in need of the gospel?”
  2. “How do you share the gospel reproducibly in the context of that area?”
  3. “How do you equip new believers to obey Christ and become disciple-makers?”
 
There are a couple others, but that third question is often a sticking point. Too often, we struggle to express (let alone implement) how we can disciple in such a way as to have healthy disciple-makers.

I can’t identify a command in scripture that says “Go and make churches.” Certainly you get what follows, however: it’s clear that we are to make disciples. Teaching them to obey Jesus’ commands. Entrust such teaching to them that they may teach others also. This generational discipleship has a natural result: new pockets of new believers begin forming. New churches arise, just as we see through-out Acts. Further, existing churches become healthier.

It begins with healthy disciple-making. That’s not a program we can buy and implement. Discipleship is a lifestyle and a priority shift. When we get it right, we’ll see movement.
 
--Jason McKinney serves as CABA's Church Planting Coaching. He also pastors One Church, Cincinnati. 
Posted on November 17, 2020 8:00 AM by Ken Slaughter
Categories: Prayer
In 1985, a 17 year old joined the Navy to become an Electronics Technician and Nuclear Reactor Operator. As he studied subatomic particle physics, he found himself absolutely in awe of the unparalleled design and perfect operation of what he knew to be basic building blocks of all matter everywhere. By the grace of God, he also came to know, love, and worship the Great Designer/Creator. That young man was me.

I was honorably discharged in 1991 following 6 years active duty. Christ had changed my life and I began following Him very intentionally. Over the years, I was often surprised and always pleased where He led me. I learned that I was most satisfied when I followed most closely. I thought my greatest surprise was when He called me to be a pastor. But after 17 years of pastoral ministry, God surprised me again: At age 53, I’m going back into the Navy, as an active duty Chaplain!

Not many 53 year olds sign up for active duty military. Even fewer have taken a 30 year break in their military career. Could I be the only one? Perhaps. But it doesn’t matter what others do. God has opened doors that were shut. He has made it abundantly clear that for me and my wife, this is what it means to follow Christ.
So, I’m resigning as the Prayer Encourager for CABA. Already, God has called someone to take this ministry into the future. Someone else will now experience the twin blessings of growing in prayer and encouraging others to do the same. If you are that person, contact me and Mark Snowden. I encourage you to faithfully follow the Great Shepherd. Talk with Him regularly. And finally, I encourage you to pray for me and the men and women of the Navy and Marine Corps. Pray that I will be an adequate encouragement to them… that they too, along with all of us… may follow our Great Shepherd wherever He may lead.
 
--Ken Slaughter has served as Prayer Encourager for CABA and pastors Mt. Repose Church, Milford.
Posted on November 2, 2020 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Leadership
Steve Long invited me to Toledo to observe their network meetings of pastors. Josh Carter and I traveled there. In the prayer time, one of the pastors said, “My son was just diagnosed as severely autistic.” The group rallied to pray for him. The next pastor said, “My wife left me two weeks ago and she and her boyfriend moved her stuff out yesterday.” Josh and I offered to step out, but the pastors wanted us to stay and see how beneficial this huddle was for them. Steve later said, “Our pastors have a safe place to meet and be completely vulnerable. It’s not always this way, but the other sessions together made today’s experience possible.”

In September, I met with Tom Pendergrass and the Urbancrest staff. We brainstormed why a pastor and staff would want to participate in a network of pastors. They quickly built this list:
  • Encourage each other – fellowshipping
  • Team/Cooperation – working together
  • Resources
  • Coach/Train – learning
  • Celebration – recognizing progress
In mid-October, CABA’s regional Conveners met at CABA’s office. Randy Wheeler, a trainer with John C. Maxwell, led the Conveners in leadership training. Toward the end, we listed reasons why our pastors would feel threatened to stop meeting. The #1 prob-lem was identified was the difficulty meeting because of Covid-19, but that also included political & social fear. Other reasons included lack of time, a pastor being too proud to meet with other pastors, buy-in to the idea, fragmentation, and moral failure.

CABA exists to impact lostness and one of the major ways we do that is by having quality regional networks. We have seven great pastors who are extending monthly invitations to get together Southern Baptists excel at cooperation and pastors will find that cooperative spirit at work in our midst. When trouble – or celebrations – come, then there is a network in place that cares, really cares.
 
-- Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership (AMS), Cincinnati Area Baptist Association
Posted on October 20, 2020 8:00 AM by Ken Slaughter
Categories: Prayer
“… He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit.” (HCSV, Jn 15:2).
 
Before Covid, most churches needed revitalization. Now, the context has changed and EVERY church needs it. We’ve had to shut down many programs. We’re all trying to adjust, adapt, and shift paradigms. But take heart, we’re not being cut off from the vine! We are being pruned so we’ll produce more fruit. God cares enough to prune us! But the process… will sting.

Our churches are at a watershed moment in history. The good news is: God isn’t angry at us. Just the opposite. This momentary light affliction is intended to spur us us to actions resulting in more spiritual fruit for God’s glory. (1 Peter 5:10; Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Hebrews 12:11) It’s about the Great Commission! But it won’t happen automatically. We really do… have to… change.
 
Right now, church leaders are in a pressure cooker. But God’s people thrive under pressure. Elisha asked the widow what she had in her house. So, what are our available resources? Communication technologies, money, volunteers, leaders and partners in CABA, SCBO, SBC, etc. What else? A direct connection to the VINE! We have the Bible and the Holy Spirit! How do we prioritize our resources?
 
“The greatest resource for accomplishing the
Great Commission is not missionaries or money. The
greatest resource is the Holy Spirit. We access Him
through prayer.” – Paul Chitwood with Terry Sharp,
IMB, The Baptist Association, p. 56.
 
We’ll revitalize our churches only after we revitalize our connection to the True Vine. Will you pray about it? Join me in praying for a resurgence of prayer leading to another Great Awakening in America!
 
“If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it
will be done for you. My Father is glorified by
this: that you produce much fruit and prove
to be My disciples.” (HCSV, Jn 15:7-8).
 
--Ken Slaughter is CABA's Prayer Encourager. He also pastors Mt. Repose Church in Milford, Ohio. 
Posted on October 6, 2020 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Leadership
Changes in church size require adjustments for church leaders. The chairman of deacons of a once-large church in another state sought my input on his new plan. The church used to run 900+ and was now doing good to have 250 in AM Worship. His plan was very formal and freed up the pastor for vision-casting just as they had always done. Things had changed in this church, but would the chairman’s plan still be relevant in a much-smaller church?
 
Timothy Keller wrote a paper titled, “Leadership and Church Size Dynamics: How Strategy Changes Growth.” “There is a ‘size culture’ that profoundly affects how decisions are made, how relationships flow, how effectiveness is evaluated, and what ministers, staff, and lay leaders do,” Keller said. “A large church is not simply a bigger version of a small church.” His point was that churches have to attract and keep different types of people who take on or are given roles, largely because of their church size.
 
In reading Keller’s ideas, in short, it was obvious to me that the deacon chairman seeking my counsel was using an outdated church size paradigm. He still acted like just because the worship center could seat 1,200, that the church was still a big church. His plan literally separated his pastor from the very people he needed to touch in order to have closer relationships.
 
Church leaders need to be aware of their changing church dynamics and foster the right outcomes for their churches. Understanding church growth changes a church’s character, how it grows, and barriers to overcome for growth as the Lord leads. 
 
--Mark Snowden is the director for missional leadership, Cincinnati Area Baptist Association
Posted on September 29, 2020 8:00 AM by Jason McKinney
You are not a failure.
 
There’s plenty telling you otherwise. You’ve fought a temptation to feel like you’re a failure. Someone might have even offered proofs that you’re one, not
that you can’t offer even better proofs.
 
First, you were called to follow Jesus. You’re a follower. Visions of grand leadership aside, you’re not the head guy. It’s not on you. You can’t fail God if He’s
not counting on your success.
 
Second, you were called to be a fisher of people. Regardless of the rise or fall of whatever great programs in 2020, your role is unchanged. You’re His follower and fisher; you’re His new creation and His ambassador. Forget failure. Our win is to abide in the Spirit and to make Him known to others. So don’t carry the burden of fighting for success, and don’t cast it on those around you. Instead, embrace the identity in Mark 1:17.
 
Living and leading thus freed, enable others likewise. They too may experience the same identity to abide and make disciples. Pastors and elders are to equip them in doing so, right?
 
Our upcoming cohort will wrestle with the implications of such an identity for ourselves as leaders and our approaches to generational disciple-making. 
 
--Jason McKinney is CABA's church planting coach. He also pastors One Church Cincinnati. 
Posted on September 15, 2020 8:00 AM by Doug Sibcy
Categories: Leadership
When I was 5-9 years old, I played baseball for the little league program in my hometown. However, there was a problem, I was not very good, and by some standards, I was not very good at all. I had average hand-to-eye coordination, so fielding and hitting the ball was an issue. I could not hit very well and rarely caught the ball. I played right field on occasion and typically batted at the bottom of the order.
 
Not to fault the other coaches I had, they were using a common standard of measurement. However, then came Mr. Fox. Coach Fox would work with me, but he just watched for the first few practices and games. He noticed that I was the first one out of the dugout with my gear, the first one to the dugout after the inning was over, and when I was walked, or, actually got a hit, he noticed that I could run like the wind. Soon, he sat me down talked with me about a position that I was unfamiliar with, the pinch-runner. Before I knew it, a player who could hit, but was much slower, would get on base, and Coach Fox would put me in. I still had to play right field sometimes, and eventually became a back-up catcher, but I got to run! He taught me that a walk was as good as a hit. Stealing bases was my specialty.
 
Locating my strengths and weaknesses in baseball was essential to me having fun. I have found the same thing in ministry.
 
While in the corporate world, I discovered a book that changed the way I saw myself, and it transcended into every area of my life: StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath. Understanding my strengths allowed me to discover a bit more about how I am made up, function, and what drives me. There is an assessment that accompanies the book that ranks 33 traits that everyone has. Here are my top 5:
 
  1. Futuristic-Inspired by the future and what could be. Inspires others with their visions of the future.
  2. Focus-Takes direction follows through and makes the corrections necessary to stay on track. Prioritizes, then acts.
  3. Significance-Wants to be seen as impactful in the eyes of others.
  4. Restorative-Adept at dealing with problems. Good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it.
  5. Competition-Measures progress and performance. Strives to win and revels in contests. Setting goals and achieving are critical.
 
Do you have a coach? What are you being measured by? Are the standard, rather than customized measurement tools used, maximize your strengths, or are you, and others, focused on your weaknesses? Maybe a bigger question is, do you even know your strengths?
 
I have learned to focus on my strengths, surround myself with people who have strengths that compliment my weaknesses, and understand that I am not good at everything that God needs for my church to be triumphant. God knows my strengths. If you would like someone to sit down with you, listen, and watch for strengths, give one of the coaches at CABA a call.
 
The first two Pastors to shoot me a note at dsibcy@gmail.com, will receive a free copy of StrengthsFinder 2.0. The only catch is that I would like you to email me a copy of your list.
 
--Doug Sibcy is a church coach for CABA. He also pastors G3 Community Church in Lebanon, Oh.
Posted on September 1, 2020 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Leadership
Have you ever experienced success? Did you try to do the same thing hoping for success the next time, too? While visiting Las Vegas, I learned that one of the predictors of a gambling addiction was an early win. Gamblers will keep looking for that thrill even though it never happens again and they lose their shirt. What began as a pastime became a new lifestyle. 

The year 2020 is leaving us reeling because of the pandemic, business closures, racial unrest, just to name a few. In our churches we now have services regularly on Facebook Live and small groups meeting via Zoom. Some of what we knew we shouldn’t be doing we did anyway. At least two church services had to go back online since members tested positive. It’s easy to focus on just one week at a time. 

Tod Bolsinger, author of Canoeing the Mountains, said that when he was out jogging, he violated every rule when he encountered a black bear near his home in California. He didn’t stand his ground, talk loudly, and wave his arms. Instead, he ran screaming down a hillside back to his cabin. When he shared the story with a tour guide in Alaska, he expected her to a approve of his escape technique. Instead, she said, “Jeez. You were really lucky. If you do that up here, a bear will kill you.” Tod, who is the vice president and chief of leadership formation at Fuller Theological Seminary went on to say, “Most of us trying to bring change in a post-Christendom world are attempting to use lessons we learned in one situation that are keeping us from adapting to a new spiritual terrain. But perhaps a humble stance of curiosity, awareness and attention, as well as healthy skepticism at our own success, may indeed be the first lessons we need to learn, especially when our egos are on the line.”

CABA planned 2020 around church revitalization. What we could not have predicted is that almost all of our churches now face the need for revitalization. Some pastors are telling me that their attendance is really low, but their financial giving is up. Other pastors are slacking off planning for a post-Covid situation, figuring on returning to normal. But they were saying that in April looking to June. In June, they were saying that about August when school resumed. And now we’re looking hopefully at November after the election. Meanwhile, the church paradigm is shifting. As the Steve Miller Band used to sing, time keeps on slipping into the future. The Barna Group’s surveys from mid-July found that one out of three church members have stopped in-person church attendance and 14% have already switched to a new church. 

CABA is providing new learning opportunities for pastors and church leaders based on a new emerging reality in the Cincinnati Area. It’s more than about coping, but infusing new skill sets that address deep church revitalization. After all, you can’t outrun a grizzly bear. 

--Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association. He enjoys hiking, but has never been near a grizzly!
Posted on August 20, 2020 8:00 AM by Joshua Lenon
Categories: Disciple-making
Anything we can do to stop encouraging outsourcing the primary spiritual development to those other than the parents would be a win. I believe this season would allow for churches to reconsider an approach towards integrating families in ways they would not have been able to before. 
 
The question for us comes in how we set up parents for success each week and month. Our family team works on activity packets that translate the weekly teaching into “kid” and they also create family discussion cards for dinner times and drive times. 
 
Red Door is not currently meeting in person and that has caused a shift even for us. We have personally found that engaging our kids with a live stream is a battle not worth fighting. Most of our parents were feeling like failures for not keeping their kids engaged in a live stream. One hour with adults talking for most of it is hard for a kid. That should not be the barometer for success. 
 
We decided it was better to encourage parents to use different outlets for the kids during the time they watch the live stream. We have focused on helping parents with the discussion cards through the week and resources they can use for devotions as well as other media resources. The primary question continues to be… How do we set-up a parent for success? 
 
When we do meet in person, we will return to packets for the kids to use during our service. These are usually filled with: 
1.    A coloring sheet (or sheets) 
2.    An activity that corresponds to the teaching
3.    A snack
4.    A tray for them to use as a writing surface
 
Most parents raised in church feel like it is important that their kids sit and listen. I prefer to think they should play and listen. The kids in our gatherings are picking up waaaay more than their parents realize. It is usually when the kid blurts out a question mid-week about what was said on Sunday when the parent realizes their kids were hearing a lot more than we thought. But it’s the same way at home. We don’t think our kids are listening until much later when they blurt something out we didn’t think they had heard—usually to our surprise! 
 
Kids are going to make things louder and more interesting. Good. Parents will be frustrated and embarrassed. No big deal. I think any pastor that is going to encourage it should embrace it with vision for what it could and should be. Not simply as another thing to endure during COVID. The pastor is the one who has to set the tone to let parents know that it is no big deal if their kids do kid things. I have had kids walk up and ask me questions as I’m teaching. Great. We aren’t running productions. How we handle our kids’ hearts these days will be a big deal. They will know if they feel like a nuisance or a part of what is happening. 
 
I don’t know what pastors’ timelines are for returning to “normal” childcare and kid’s ministry. But I do think that embracing bringing the family together could be good for this season (and beyond if willing to consider it).
 
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“Taking Kids’ Ministry Home” is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. and repeat the session live at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 1.
Features Joshua Lenon, Pastor, and Ben Eckstein, Family Pastor, Red Door Church, in Fairfield, Oh. We plan to meet via Zoom. Join the Zoom meeting 
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85257870845?pwd=VzdnMTJBRW04MnhEYXB4aFNMMTMxUT09
=====
--Joshua Lenon pastors Red Door Church in Fairfield, Oh. 
Posted on August 19, 2020 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Disciple-making
Mary Leigh and I hosted a small group in our home before coming to Cincinnati. It was fully age-diverse. We had kids in elementary school sitting beside recent retirees. We also had a teen couple that was dating and got married after high school. We were part of a church plant that couldn’t afford much meeting space to rent, but we prioritized disciple-making above all other obstacles or challenges. We were family-integrated in all we did. 

Family Integrated Churches as a movement holds the keys to discipleship, especially during COVID-19. The Barna Group’s annual report on the state of the church usually points to declining Sunday School attendance that stretches prior to the pandemic and social distancing guidelines. In 2015, even USA Today carried an article titled, “Has the sun set on Sunday School?” Barna’s study showed the Sunday School couldn’t compete with “fun” options, competed with what little time families had to be together, and even cited racial divisions interfering at church. 

Many Sunday School workers spend so much time on their one hour on Sunday morning that they forego disciple-making outside of church walls. Meanwhile, the family’s Dad is not being the spiritual leader of his family. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 ESV). The CSB says the responsibility is to “parents.” 

Moms and Dads can be encouraged, guided, and provided for as spiritual leaders for their children. What does it take for Dad to lead worship and become a protector against predators? How can families become stronger in the Lord? How can FIC’s prevent teen exodus in high school? 

FIC’s are not creating bunkers. Dad becoming a spiritual leader doesn’t replace his church’s pastor. Socialization of children in a healthy church context is important. Yet, age-graded programs don’t have to continue being the status quo. What if Sunday School workers were freed up to become disciple-makers in their home and community?
In this unusual time of potential pandemics ripping across our churches, helping parents become active disciplers must be intentional. Church leaders must not just provide activity sheets for elementary-age kids or books for teens to review, but active times of spiritual growth with parents tracking spiritual progress in key areas – worship, prayer, devotions, Bible study (including dialog on key points), fellowship, ministry inside and outside the church family, evangelizing, and being on mission. The church cannot easily do that right now. Families can. 

Red Door Church in Fairfield is one church that is excelling as a family-integrated church. They were a church plant in 2010 and are now in CABA’s top five in AM Worship attendance. Discipleship started and stayed in the family. Explore their model and then accept their offer to help your church strengthen disciple-making in the home. 

“Taking Kids’ Ministry Home” is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. and repeat the session live at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 1. My special guests: Joshua Lenon, Pastor, and Ben Eckstein, Family Pastor, Red Door Church, in Fairfield, Oh. We plan to meet via Zoom.  Join the Zoom meeting:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85257870845?pwd=VzdnMTJBRW04MnhEYXB4aFNMMTMxUT09
 
-- Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership, Cincinnati Area Baptist Association. He and his wife, Mary Leigh, have been part of two church plants and one re-plant. 
 
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