Blog
Posted on January 3, 2022 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Evangelism
After 9/11, I agreed with leaders across the evangelical world to avoid military language so that Islamists would not view followers of Jesus as jihadists. Is it time for a change? If so, the church shouldn’t wrap itself in the American flag, but weaponize faith in Jesus alone. 

The word “weaponize” has become in vogue although Webster’s says it was first coined in 1957. Today, Christians seem to be jumping on the idea of Jesus as warrior. Mike Huckabee titled his 2015 book God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy. Natalie Grant in 2020 sang “My Weapon,” a worship song that identifies Jesus’ presence that crushes strongholds, pushes back darkness, and breaks every chain. 

What if your faith was weaponized? Would it become more laser-focused on Jesus? What if your faith turned outward (as weapons do) and you became less doubtful; more confident? The Psalmist depicted children as arrows (Ps 127:4). Jesus said if you have the faith the size of a mustard seed you could move a mountain and throw it into the sea (Lk 17:6). What if your faith weaponized hope in what can’t be seen (Heb 11:1)? Would we pick up the Sword of God more often (Eph 6:17b)?

In WW2, the Battle of Saipan ended with 240 U.S. fighters and bombers trying to find the U.S. fleet after attacking the enemy. The sun soon set and several planes began running out of fuel. One-by-one, many pilots ditched into the ink-black sea. Then three battleships were given orders to steam ahead of the fleet. Breaking wartime protocol, they focused their searchlight beams back toward the U.S. aircraft carriers. Their lights pointed the way home, saving all but 46 crewmen. What if we weaponized “this little light of mine” and turned it into a brilliant beacon shining the way to Jesus?
 
--Mark Snowden serves as Director of Missional Leadership (AMS) for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association
Posted on September 3, 2021 8:00 AM by Tom Pendergrass
Categories: Evangelism
“If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him….” Rev. 3:20
 
I was blessed to have a wonderful father-in-law. Earl was a humble, godly man who lived a simple life. … He was born in 1909, and in his later years, Earl became very hard of hearing. Years of working in a brush factory left his hearing damaged and with each passing birthday, his hearing diminished even further. When Earl was 85, the family thought it would be a great idea to get him hearing aids.
 
Earl hated the hearing aids. ….
 
On one occasion, he was being encouraged (really nagged on) by his family to wear his hearing aids. We were all tired of yelling to communicate a message to him. After his wife and both daughters exhorted him and then left the room, Earl turned to me and spoke a profound statement.
 
“Tom, I’m not hard of hearing, I’m tired of hearing!” I’ve never forgotten that moment.
 
There are times when I want to turn down the volume of those speaking to me. Their requests feel endless and I can never seem to meet their expectations. It is at those moments that I understand why Jesus would go up on the mountaintop to be alone.
 
Please remember that the voice pleading for you to open the door is a voice that you cannot afford to ignore, refuse, or reject. His voice alone can calm the storms and speak peace to your somewhat chaotic life. Seven letters to seven churches all with the same plea! Please hear His voice, stop what you’re doing, and open the door!
 
--Tom Pendergrass, pastor, Urbancrest Church, Lebanon
Taken from Tom Pendergrass’s book, Through the Door (Author Academy 2019) 62-63.
Posted on August 3, 2021 8:00 AM by Jason McKinney
Categories: Evangelism, Missions
If you want to brighten Mark Snowden’s day, ask him about orality and methods. He’s passionate, experienced, and knowledgeable. The insight is worthwhile, as storying is becoming a lost ability of the church. Sadly, we’ve been moving away from sharing stories overall.
 
Perhaps you’ve heard the adage that vision is a leaky bucket? Well, story-telling is an incredible patch for leaks. Many in the church are apprehensive of sharing the gospel because they don’t have habits of talking about or through the gospel. Similarly, many don’t have rhythms of gospel sharing because we don’t foster a culture of celebrating such gospel sharing.
 
This point is where story-telling brings change for effect. If we cultivate sharing stories of God at work, especially in lives changed, we fuel a passion for participation in His work. Stories lead people to see the God of the Bible working today as He did then. Stories lead people to desire to experience such work. Stories move the heart and challenge the mind. And overcome inhibition. Stories of movement fuel movement. Let’s reclaim the art of storytelling.
 
Let’s foster a culture of sharing stories about God at work!
 
--Jason McKinney pastors One Church and is CABA's Church Planting Coach
Posted on June 15, 2021 8:00 AM by Jason McKinney
Categories: Evangelism
     The onset of spring as well as diminishing Covid fears means people are being drawn outside for some sense of renewed life. With more people outside comes more opportunities for meeting new people and having conversations free of Zoom (possibly even free of masks). 
     In ministry, it can seem easy to strike up a Gospel conversation with any random person. It’s what we do, right? We feel out the conversation, intuitively inserting Gospel truths. Yet, if we’re honest, it’s not the most reproducible method. 
     Intuition isn’t teachable. 
     Have we been faithful to lead people in how to share the Gospel simply and easily? A lack of proficiency can result in a lack of confidence. A 10-week course on sharing the Gospel isn’t the answer. We don’t need to begin with an intensive on the elements of the Gospel.
     It begins with modeling it in our own lives, side by side with others. Having regular conversations together about our own stories. There are also incredibly simple, reproducible, biblical tools we can use to share the Gospel in conversations. Our 15-second testimony. Three Circles. The Bridge. Creation to Christ. Pick a tool, teach the tool, model the tool.
     A vast majority of Cincinnati awaits.
 
-- Jason McKinney serves as CABA's Church Planting Coach and pastors One Church in Cincinnati.
Posted on May 4, 2021 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Evangelism
     Four CABA pastors and three Youth Ministers have begun working on a report for the association. It is due at the Annual Meeting, October 4, 2021.
     They are looking at one of the five SBC Vision 2025 goals (sbcvision2025.com) addressing a 38% decrease in baptisms among 12 to 17 year olds since 2000. Strategic Action #4 states: “Turn around our ongoing decline in reaching, baptizing, and discipling 12-to 17-year olds in the prime of their teenage years.”
     Each of the members are from CABA's seven geographical regions.
     Members:
Region 1: Tyler Freeman, Sonrise
Region 2: Ken Dillard, Mt. Healthy FBC
Region 3: Tyler Freeman, Urbancrest
Region 4: Jason Buss, FBC So. Lebanon, Chairperson
Region 5: Tom Leach, Faith, Blanchester
Region 6: Danny Calves, Clough Pike
Region 7: Bink Garbutt, Georgetown
     Mark Snowden, CABA director, said, “Pray for this team to hear clearly from the Lord and help our association's churches see and address lostness among teens.”
     Ronnie Floyd, SBC CEO, said in Baptist Press, “We cannot accept this dismal reality and ignore this great need.”
 
-- excerpted from CABA Focus, May-June 2021 edition
Posted on March 30, 2021 8:00 AM by Jason McKinney
We don’t lack tools to go out and share, or to engage those who come to us (though perhaps some tools are better choices than others). You’ve likely heard much about Three Circles as a tool for sharing the gospel. It’s simple, reproducible, biblical and sticky. There are, of course, other good tools. Tools are only good if they are used!
 
What is often neglected regarding the use of our tools is that they are excellent filters. Our 15-second Testimony, 3 Circles and other methods let us know where someone is. They may be a Red light, someone who is not interested. Perhaps they are a Yellow light – interested but not ready to commit – in which case we can continue sharing stories of hope (people encountering Jesus). They may be a Green light, ready to follow Jesus! Still they could be a believer after all. We won’t know until we use a filter.
 
Throughout the path of discipleship, there are filters that allow us to see who’s desirous of going further and who’s a red or yellow light. Jesus often applied filters, such as parables, questions and hard teachings, to draw out those ready for more. Jesus modeled how to make disciples; we need only follow His model.
 
We need to be proficient with our toolset, but also recognize where to invest our own time. Our tools are our filters; we need to use them wisely. 
 
--Jason McKinney is CABA's church planting coach. He pastors One Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. 
Posted on March 5, 2021 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Evangelism
Why yes, of course, I’m glad to not eat meat offered to idols! No worries. That might cause someone weaker to sin and I wouldn’t want to do that. 
 
Wear a mask and socially distance? Why would I do that? What do you mean someone may stay away from my church because we are exercising our freedom?! That sin is on them, right? They’re just weak, I tell you! Hey, let’s get back to meat offered to idols. I don’t like that anyway. 
 
Of course, I remember that verse in 1 Corinthians that says “everything is permissible, but not everything is helpful [or] builds up.” (10:23 CSB). 
 
Are you saying that wearing a mask and socially distancing during a pandemic with new variants could make it possible for the weaker among us to fellowship with us again? Would non-believers be more likely to check us out as well? I hadn’t thought about that. 
 
I don’t think you’re talking about meat offered to idols. I guess this meat and mask stuff do go together because “no one is to seek his own good, but the good of the other person” (10:24). 
 
Yes, I’ll listen to another Bible verse. Is this one going to hurt, too?
 
“I also try to please everyone in everything, not seeking my own benefit, but the benefit of many, so that they may be saved” (10:33). 
 
So, okay, I have freedom, but I’ll gladly limit that to help others come to Christ!
 
--Mark Snowden wears a mask during the Covid pandemic as director of the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association. 
Posted on April 1, 2020 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Evangelism
Firemen are awesome first-responders. They run toward the action. And when they arrive, they know what to do and how to do it.
Here are five evangelism ideas to spark your thinking as God’s Fire Investigator.
 
1.      Where did the fire start?
   A home across the street from me once burned because a garage had faulty wiring. You can’t always look at someone and know the wiring in their heart. Engage them in conversations that are caring and genuine.
   The lost today hesitate to come to a church. It’s a strange, out of touch world to them. They are much more comfortable in your home. And some are wide open to hosting a Bible study in their own home.
 
2.     What clues did the fire-starter leave behind?
   An arsonist’s explosion can quickly set little fires in a wide arc. A careless cigarette may smolder in a leaf-filled gutter, eventually setting an entire house ablaze.
   How did you come to faith in Christ? What was done with you is what you’ll repeat. It’s what you consider “normal.” That tends to be what you’ll repeat, even if it’s not easily replicated. 
   In the original Star Trek series, one episode involved furry creatures that were born pregnant. Will you help a new believer go witness to a person who needs Jesus? (It’s a boy!) What does it take your new small group to start two others? (Twins!) Can a new church plant already be planning their first three plants? (Triplets!)
 
3.     What accelerants came together to spread the fire?
   Fire is self-sustaining, but only with certain accelerants present. We are admonished not to quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). The godly counterparts for oxygen and flammable material include the Spirit of God and the Gospel mixing with tinder-dry souls.
   We don’t need to debate the value of a traditional legacy church or a house church. It’s the body of Christ at work, not under just any purpose, but knowing how to rightly handle the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:15) in a way that spreads the Gospel fire.
 
4.     What structural elements contributed to the blaze?
   Individuals can set many spiritual fires for the Lord as they share Jesus. However, leadership in a healthy church provides the structure needed to keep it going long-term.
   A men’s ministry leader I counseled in southwest Missouri wanted to get a witnessing fire burning in his church. I made sure to include the idea of a monthly meeting for accountability, trouble-shooting, and encouragement. The idea was not to turn witnessing into a program, but provide long-term structure to the effort.
   Each element in a church should contribute to not burning-out for Jesus. Worship, prayer, the ordinances, evangelism from a missional lifestyle, missions among all peoples, making disciple-makers, stewardship, and leadership should all contribute to stoking a white-hot zeal in each church’s commitment to making disciples through evangelism.
 
5.     Where did the fire spread?
   Wildfires often leap over houses when sparks are picked up by the wind. There’s an outbreak here. Now it’s over there. Tracking movements of the Lord is exciting. Who shared Christ and did they pass it along? Who knows whom? The movement of God does not always follow a neat line.
   Barriers to the spread of the Gospel must be identified and minimized. If your fellow church members never interact with anyone on a spiritual level, then their “sparks” of faith cannot spread. As fire must spread to stay alive, so believers must circulate among others. Turn the godly combustion loose!
   Take an inventory in your own church. Who is on fire for the Lord? How can you team them up with someone whose wood is wet and get them fired up?
 
-- Mark Snowden, Director of Missional Leadership, Cincinnati Area Baptist Association
 
Posted on January 8, 2020 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Evangelism
Not too long ago, the IMB gave each missionary a quota of how many gospel tracts they needed to distribute each month. And by the end of the month, some missionaries in the Americas admitted to getting in their cars and throwing tracts out their window at the people waiting at bus stops.
It was the first drive-by peltings.
 
They carried no accountability other than to get rid of tracts. But were they being held accountable in the things that brought spiritual transformation?
What are you counting in your church? How do you count disciple-making? Tracts given away? Quarterlies distributed? Budget used up? We have trustees, financial committees, and watch closely over the money counters. Could you imagine if they were just counting offering envelopes each week? Silly, right? But is the same umph-with-wisdom being given to disciple-makers? What’s your church’s oversight look like?
 
Pastors occasionally connect with me about disciple-making efforts for their church. It was great talking with a church planter / preacher in another state recently regarding his attempt to preach in hopes that his (so-so) sermons would be enough to disciple his congregation. Working together, I had him contrast his ability to disciple from the pulpit with small group leaders facilitating weekly meetings among 9 to 12 people.
 
The size of the small group determines the need for accountability. When the participants can “hide” in the larger group, then they tend to stop growing in the Lord.
 
Another leader who served as a discipleship strategist in another state called me. He was concerned for some “creeping” backsliding and occasional doctrinal error among some small groups that were developing their own Bible studies. With this leader, the key was to help him train small group leaders to hold their group participants accountable for what they volunteer to do, believe, say, decide, etc.
 
It’s truly all about making disciples. Accountability defines spiritual growth and multiplication. And it is far too often overlooked.
It’s time to hit the brakes and stop driving by real opportunities people are seeking to grow in Christ and multiply themselves in the lives of others.
 
--Mark Snowden is the Director for Missional Leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association.
Posted on July 15, 2019 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Evangelism
When I accepted Jesus as my Savior as a boy, I walked the aisle at the end of an evangelistic service. Someone filled out a card with my name and address and then the pastor presented me to the church. I was voted in as a member right on the spot pending my baptism.

Churches today are taking a closer look at how they receive decisions. Those who continue to live a lifestyle contrary to biblical teaching are being received under a form of “watch care.” They don’t have voting rights and cannot hold office, serve on committees, or be approved as a Bible study teacher. In some churches, this requires a change to bylaws and constitutions.

Counselors are on the frontlines of decision-making and follow-up. Just as we say in sports, “the best offense is a good defense,” so the best follow-up is good preparation. Prayer for revival and spiritual awakening saturate everything the counselor will ever do on behalf of the church. They must know how to lead someone to faith in Christ and use their own testimony when appropriate to do so.

It is important to be security-minded and sensitive to those who come forward. “Why have you come today?” is still the best question to use to greet people making decisions. A child may have come on a dare. A college student may admit looking for a place to meet a godly spouse. A man may want help paying his car payments. An older adult may want to be in a church where their children belong. And, of course, there are those who are making spiritual decisions with eternal consequences!

Listening is the key. My wife was a decision counselor in a church when we lived in another state. A woman came forward and the pastor nodded to Mary Leigh to accompany the woman to a counseling room. The married woman confessed to having an affair with a co-worker. My wife was coached to listen carefully and arrange a meeting with one of the church staff, which they did.

Children and students should not be escorted by an older man into a private counseling room. All they have to say is, “he touched me,” and, well, it’s over. Despite having had a godly reputation, it will be instantly ruined. Counseling with parents present is always advised or in a pinch, a front pew in the open is advised.

After the decision is made, and made public, new believers must be discipled intentionally. They may be carrying baggage from another religious background. “New Believers Following Jesus” is available free from my office. New believers need training in five areas: abiding with Jesus in prayer and worship, obedience beginning with baptism by immersion and stewardship, studying the Bible, loving others as part of active church life in and beyond the church, and telling others about Jesus as He commanded in the Great Commission.

Hal Seed pastors New Song Community Church, Oceanside, Calif. This SBC church has seen over 17,000 people come to Christ. Seed explained to a group of us that during their invitation time, they encouraged new believers to give fist pumps right where they stood if they made a decision. Trained counselors spotted them from the back and handed them a guide. They treated the first 20 minutes after their profession of faith as the most important time in the life of a new believer. Each of these counselors took the initiative to schedule meeting times the coming week.

Decision counselors have that immediate relationship that works perfectly for follow-up. Invite parents, spouses, or friends to join in, too. When you reinforce the decision and the Gospel message, they may follow Christ, too.  
I’m available to help you train your church’s decision counselors. (CABAdirector@gmail.com)
 
Mark Snowden is the Director for Missional Leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association.
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