Blog
Posted on November 1, 2018 10:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Missions
     In the third grade, my buddy Jimmy let me borrow his new glasses. I shouted, “Hey Mom, when you wear these glasses you can see every leaf and every blade of grass!”
     Mom said, “And you can’t?”
     Let’s just say that I had my first pair of glasses within a couple of weeks! We sometimes need to borrow others’ glasses to help us focus.
     In IMB missionary Nik Ripken’s book, The Insanity of Obedience, there were a few pages that addressed the focus of mission work. He drew three triangles that represented priorities. He described the consequences of each from a missionary perspective. If the focus was on Triangle 1: Sending Agency and Triangle 2: Missionaries, then work among Triangle 3: the Lost was hampered and created entitlement in some cases.
     In Luke’s account of the growing church, three phases emerged. In general, these characterizations matched up with Ripken’s three triangles.
     Jerusalem Church had an organizational structure. Persecution scattered it. Its leaders had authority over members. There was an inward focus. They settled doctrinal disputes. They investigated Antioch. It was traditional enough for Jewish converts.
     Antioch Church was where believers were called “little Christs.” They prayed and fasted before making decisions. Doors were open to all. They supported their members on mission. They broke traditions observed in Jerusalem, but they sent out very few into God’s harvest fields.
     Harvest provided resources for mission teams, relief gifts for Jerusalem church, and churches started churches with no expectations of support. Harvest reaction brought persecution, the need for discipleship, and counsel from godly leaders.
     It got me thinking about evangelizing among the lost. How much of a priority are they really? And then I thought about discipling efforts in our Baptist churches. What if Sunday School teachers and small group leaders focused primarily upon the needs of their participants or the church to which they belonged? Or what if the Lost were seen merely as not-yet members of our existing churches? Would they be expected to assimilate to the dominant church culture?
     Is it possible for churches to really prioritize the lost in God’s Harvest fields? How would that change things? Would baptisms increase? Would believers awaken to the power of God’s Word active and alive in their lives despite the cost of discipleship?
     Top Priority 1. Harvest: Rather than just looking at lost people and new believers to be convinced to come to our existing churches, why not think about unsaved or newly-saved as truly part of God’s Harvest fields? (Luke 10:2) What if the resources in the Harvest launched new small groups that formed new churches rather than return to solely bless the sending church? The church in Jerusalem scattered only after Stephen’s martyrdom. But later, the church in Antioch rejoiced that God was opening new doors of faith among all peoples (Acts 4:27).
     Lesser Priority 2: Church members: When focused on the lost in the Harvest, it is likely that your church members will suffer. Think of Paul being stoned, imprisoned, etc. Antioch’s “sent ones” sacrificed their time, money, and resources. They endured peer pressure and persecution. If your church members suffer serving God’s purposes, will you celebrate instead of clamping down? Disciple-making is geared to multiplication and sending into the Harvest. Members know success is not measured by attendance.
     Lesser Priority 3: Church/denomination – Focusing on the Harvest sends a clear message to church members that biblical disciple-making is costly. They don’t just send out a few, but continually send as many as possible. Making disciple-makers becomes the norm as priorities shift. It sets a clear example for new believers in the Harvest to follow when persecution kicks in. Meanwhile resources and services may need to be limited.
     Thanks for letting me try on your glasses, Nik. It helped me re-focus. What does God bring into focus for you?
 
Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association

 

Posted on October 25, 2018 10:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Evangelism
My mother’s favorite story is about a little girl who needed new shoes, but foolishly spent her money on a beautiful purple jar. One day she opened the jar and dropped it on the floor. All the purple water spilled out. She was left not only with a useless jar, but shoes that hurt her feet. 
 
Recognize this as a parable for evangelizing opportunities. Millions are distracted by dressed-up philosophies while they hobble along, having settled for what they wanted and not what they needed.
 
In the Cincinnati Area, believers do not witness for Jesus in a vacuum. There are churches in many places as well as on television. Thousands of messages bombard non-Christians shaping their theology, doctrinal premises, and understanding of Christianity prior to salvation.  Countering with Truth is as simple as speaking to your neighbor. A testimony from a friend or coworker can shine light on Satan’s ploys. The Holy Spirit is at work!
 
This past summer, I joined Sajjan Betham, a member of Newtown First, to evangelize in his neighborhood. In only one hour, two families committed to being in a Bible study at Sajjan’s home.  While I was waiting for an hour at the Health
Dept., the security guard and I discussed salvation. He said that he had heard the Gospel already because he used to work at Kroger with Jerome Byrd, who now pastors Good News Baptist. 
 
In Luke 10, Jesus sent out His disciples with a purpose to intentionally prepare people in towns to receive Jesus and His kingdom message.  Trained as disciple-makers, believers in your church can join with other believers in God’s harvest. Acts 1:8 carries a promise to witnesses that they will receive power.
 
The important thing is to obey Jesus and prayerfully “look to the harvest fields” (John 4:35).  Worldly ideas are like purple jars that fill our neighborhoods, but they fall short of God’s saving design. Engage in intentional evangelism that proclaims Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6), then make disciple-makers.
 
--Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association
Posted on October 16, 2018 10:00 AM by Josh Carter
Categories: Evangelism
Here are six tips to be more evangelistic this next month:
 
1) Pick a Tool. I like to use “The 3 Circles.” You may not love evangelism tools or you may like another evangelism tool and that is fine. I just know when I go to share Christ, it is always better to go prepared than unprepared. 
 
2) Pick a Time. As a pastor or church leader, a thousand different things can come up during your week. You must, and I stress that, carve out time to be evangelistic. If you do not, you will not. 
 
3) Pick a Place. Determine where you will go in your community to share the gospel. You will rarely share the Gospel in your office, so pick a place where the community gathers and then go to them.
 
4) Bring Someone Along. I am always more evangelistic when I know someone is with me than when I’m by myself. Maybe it’s just the pastor in me, but I intentionally bring someone to show how it’s done. I tend to do a little better, too.
 
5) Share with Your Church. If you want to build evangelistic zeal in your church, start giving personal accounts of how you have been evangelizing. You will probably find the fresh new accounts to be more relatable and encouraging to the church than the story of how you led someone to Christ 20 years ago.
 
6) Consider Some Help. If you would like some help on growing in evangelistic zeal personally or as a church, reach out to me because CABA has some great pastors and resources that you can pull from to help you and your church impact the lostness around you. In fact, it’s the reason CABA exists! Contact me at JCarter@CloughPike.com
 
Josh Carter serves as CABA's Evangelism Catalyst and pastors Clough Pike Baptist in Cincinnati.
Posted on October 15, 2018 10:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Disciple-making
     How people learn is important. How they progress toward belief and action is more important. 

     A white-haired man was introduced to me after preaching. He was starting a church in the next town over, but his comment startled me. “Mark, I appreciated what you said about new believers knowing more lost people. In all my years of ministry, I never thought about training up a new believer to share their faith. And I wanted you to know I’ll be going out with them to share Jesus with their family and friends. I’m headed out right now to start that in my ministry.” You could see the determination in his eyes. It wasn’t too late for him to learn and act.

     There’s a social phenomenon that God instilled in each of us. We respond to innovations that bring change at different rates. When I was studying marketing, I was fascinated by the work of Everett M. Rogers, an Iowa farmer’s kid-turned-scholar. His father was reluctant to use a hybrid corn until a drought proved its worth.

     Rogers identified segments of society that would adopt new ideas and tools. Innovators (2.5%), Early Adopters (13.5%), Early Majority (34%), Late Majority (34%), and Laggards (16%). If you plot this on a graph, it makes a nice bell curve. Those in authority tend to be Laggards while those with the most education and income tend to be Innovators. But Innovators can be fickle although they’ll try practically anything new.

     James F. Engel picked up on this and while teaching at Wheaton College and proposed a numerical scale from -8 (lost) to 0 (conversion) to +3 (discipleship). The Engel Scale provides a way of tracking evangelism-discipleship spiritual progress.

    Jesus was way ahead of Rogers and Engel when He taught in the parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-20) that people are like different soils. Each of us interacts with the seeds of the gospel in different ways. The same is true with evangelistic disciple-making. In that parable, Jesus stressed the importance of being like the good soil, receiving the Word, and bearing fruit for the kingdom.

     Southwestern Ohio is saturated in a sensual world that is 3D. It moves and engages them. It provides community experiences, even if it’s avatars interacting online. Most churches in CABA provide evangelism and discipleship that relies totally on “sit and get” methodology. Come to the class. Come hear the preacher. Watch this performance. Are we relegating believers to be spectators? Kyle Idleman was spot-on with his book, Not a Fan. The book is a call to get out of the stands and onto the playing field.

     Different people take more or less time to believe in Christ and eventually act to make a decision. When we share Christ and our faith with those who are lost, they may be closer to a decision than we may expect. Bill Fey who developed Share Jesus Without Fear likes to say that it takes about seven exposures to the gospel message before a person will surrender their heart to Jesus.

     And the same goes for us who are believers. Are we growing in our faith? Are we willing to make significant changes to the glory of God? It’s easy to say, “I’m sticking with what got me here. If I change it’ll destroy my credibility. Those in my church will think I was wrong all this time and I’ll lose my job.”

     Living out the faith is important for others who are watching our lives and how it benefits them. It can’t be done inside church walls and cocooning in our homes. Bringing the lost into our lives requires lifelong learning leading to a verbalization of our faith. As we interact, we watch them grow in their faith until Jesus is Lord. And then seamlessly, we walk with them into newness of life, encouraging them to bear spiritual fruit to the glory of God.

     One of the key aspects of the No Place Left training is smoothly moving from evangelism to studying the Bible. I'd love to see you Nov. 2-3 at the NPL event at New Hope, Loveland, Ohio. It's free for everyone in your church. Here's more details and info on how to register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/no-place-left-cincinnati-touch-3-tickets-49916692170

--Mark Snowden is CABA's director of missional leadership.

Posted on October 2, 2018 10:00 AM by Ken Slaughter
Categories: Prayer
   When crisis strikes, think twice before reacting. It may be a blessing seen only through Spirit-aided sight.  For reasons obvious to all, fear is the natural reaction to crisis. But for reasons unseen by most, faith is the reaction of the redeemed. And faith is first voiced in prayer.
   Prayer makes sense when we realize the best possible outcomes are supernatural ones. But Americans don’t naturally think this way. So, we rarely pray with urgency and passion.
   Jesus said people are most blessed when they least look like it. In times of grief, suffering, injustice, and slander… we are blessed. Natural eyes overlook spiritual realities. Jesus draws our attention to invisible blessings seen by spiritual eyes.  Americans are a pragmatic people. We value the aid of human agencies. That’s why we pay taxes and invest in warranties and insurance policies. If we valued supernatural aid, we would invest in prayer and the Word.
  We prepare for material threats because we see them. But what about unseen threats? What good is it if we gain the whole world and lose our souls? What of the inner life? Thoughts and desires? Character? Our spiritual condition? Relationships?
  The human heart is an unseen battleground. For the lost, it is territory occupied by invisible enemy forces. The only hope for the natural (lost) person is the gospel. But if we believers are occupied with physical things, we are blind to the spiritual desperation of others. Seeing no need, we share no gospel, and pray no prayers. We fail not only the lost, but Christ also. The Church in America is a sleeping  giant.
   O God, wake us up to supernatural truth! You have called us to invisible Gospel work. Bend our lives around that mission!
   Supernatural work will not be accomplished through natural human ability. Drive us to prayer and fasting, that we may come to our senses!  Open our eyes to invisible realities. We are born again as Your children. You have washed us with Your Son’s blood. Speak to us through Your Word. Sanctify and empower us by Your Spirit…that we may see the          invisible, touch the intangible, and accomplish the impossible for Your glory and for the salvation of many people.  
 
-- Ken Slaughter serves as CABA's Prayer Encourager and pastors Mt. Repose Baptist in Milford, Oh.
Posted on September 20, 2018 10:00 PM by David Frasure
Categories: Disciple-making
   In a conference I attended in the early 80’s, a leader stated, “The world will never hear our concerns about abortion unless they see that we love children the way Jesus loved children.” God really challenged me with that thought. I went home and began to pray, “Lord let me learn to love children the way Jesus loved children.” In the years that followed, God led my wife and me to have four more children in addition to our two. I guess we need to be careful how we pray!
     In all seriousness, I wonder how praying such a prayer would impact pastors and teachers and churches today. Clearly, the Bible is filled with an emphasis on passing our faith along to the next generation. In Deuteronomy 6:6, we are told to teach the truth diligently to our children. Paul’s great prayer for the church in Ephesians 3:20-21 emphasizes God’s desire to see His glory in the church impact generation after generation. 
    Back when Sunday School was first used in churches, the emphasis was on reaching children. How to teach adults was an afterthought. I fear that many churches reverse that thinking today. Some even see
children’s ministry as unnecessary or optional. The absence of young families in many churches attests to the fact that children’s ministry has become an afterthought rather than a priority.
   The true test of our success in discipleship is the ability to carry it on to a new generation. Consider Paul’s challenge to Timothy to pass Bible teaching to “faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
    If the faith is not passed on to a new generation, the church becomes an endangered species! May God burden us and guide us in reaching and discipling a new generation for Christ. The good news is that they are more teachable now than they will ever be!
 
--David Frasure serves as CABA's Disciple-making Catalyst and pastors First Baptist, South Lebanon, Oh.
Posted on September 19, 2018 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
When I led a Sunday School class for our church’s college students, I was astounded one Sunday when one long-time Christian and faithful attender blurted out, “Just tell us what to believe.”
 
My Baby Boomer generation grew up doubting the Establishment with its political corruption, humiliated tele-evangelists, rampant inflation, and unethical business practices. The Baby Boomer mantra was lifted straight from Karl Marx, “Question everything.”
 
This was unique to me. I belonged to a youth group at church, but went to public schools, participated in the student council, and played sports. I started looking at these college kids more closely. Over time I realized that it is possible for young adult followers of Jesus to live in a parallel universe that does not intersect with the larger society. Many Millennials that profess Christ were raised, schooled, dated, got jobs, married, and began the cycle all over again raising kids within a Christian bubble.
 
Millennials are an age grouping that includes the oldest members born in the early 1980s, now in their mid-30s, and it goes down in ages to those born 17 or 18 years ago. But when I look around churches where I teach and preach, I don’t see significant numbers of Millennials beyond those in the most vibrant youth groups. Just look at the 2010 census counts to see the majority of Millennials are unengaged.
 
And I’m convinced it’s not always the crowd that “loves Jesus, but hates the church” described in Steven Crainie’s book. Tom Gilson, in a review of the book unchristian by David Kinnaman, points fingers at our churches, “This book robbed me of sleep, revealing, as it does, how badly the church is disconnected from younger Americans, and how negatively we are viewed. The source of the disconnect, I’m convinced, is that our discipleship has been weak, sloganistic, not very thoughtful, not loving enough, shallow. Though 29% of Americans say they are highly committed to Jesus Christ, only 3% espouse a Biblical worldview, defined for research purposes as adhering to eight basic doctrines of Christian religion.”
 
Leaders of Bible studies using Bible Storying methods likely have the best chance of effective disciple-making among Millennials. However, I believe two groups of Millennials may have to be evangelized and discipled as if they were two different people groups. Those with a strong evangelical background may need to be challenged more to be evangelistic than those who are from the “lost” ranks. Those with a nominal Christian background are biblically illiterate. An active witness cannot assume those Millennials that they encounter with the gospel know any Bible stories, not to mention basic Christian doctrine. Bible verses used in tracts will be from an unknown context and use words unfamiliar with the lost. Millennials raised in the Christian bubble will have just as difficult time and will likely need cross-cultural training to gain significant relevance among their own peers. Believers need reproducible methods and tools that Storying provides.
 
Bible stories and Storying methodology provide vital tools for advancing the gospel among those in the next generation to the glory of God. Using Bible stories or proverbs as illustrative points in a conversation can flow naturally and planting seeds for future conversations. Being a friend that cares is one thing. Being involved in an important community project that they’re invited to be alongside you is probably even more important. Sharing life together provides a witness when it is verbalized in a relevant but moving story from God’s Word.
 
If an oral approach is ignored, I’m afraid that Millennials will keep considering Christ is no different than considering, well, Karl Marx.
 
Mark Snowden is Director of Missional Leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association.
Posted on September 5, 2018 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Missions
When Jim Breeden, director, St. Louis Metro Assoc., gave me a copy of the newly reprinted book Indonesian Revival, by the late Avery Willis, I wasn’t expecting much. But Jim hand me a real gift.
 
Indonesian Revival documented a people movement that occurred in 1966-68 in which two million Javanese came to faith in Christ. It’s not only a good read, but Avery based it on his doctoral dissertation at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The trigger for the revival was that the government of Indonesia passed a law requiring every citizen to declare their religion. In a matter of two years, two million people aligned with Christians. They learned about Christ, often seeking out churches to understand the Bible, salvation, and basics of the faith.

Out of five evangelical denominations that had tremendous growth, the Baptists among whom Avery worked as a missionary had the least growth. That’s right. The work that Southern Baptists were engaged in had the fewest converts, baptisms, and numeric church growth. They also required believers to dress and act like Christians in the southern United States.

Avery’s bias toward literate worldview is on display in the book. Avery mentioned that 93% of the Javanese were illiterate at the time of Dutch independence in 1942, but never again addressed their inability to handle the literacy required to read God's Word. And he frequently stressed the importance of reading Scripture in disciple-making efforts while lamenting the lack of seminary-trained leaders. Yet, it was not until 2000 that Avery started to get a handle on what could have been done to use orality to win more to faith in Christ. It makes you wonder if he thought so many others could have come to faith in Christ during that movement of the Lord.

Avery’s remarkable shift to using orality is documented in Truth That Sticks. He helped found the International Orality Network and was its first executive director. My intent is not to provide an analysis of Avery’s work from 1977, but through my orality lens, it is now startling to contrast how a literate worldview bias influenced the bedrock strategy of evangelicals and particularly Baptist missionaries at that time. One unidentified leader said that the pre-Baptism classes lasted three months to a year. He said that "probably twice as many people were refused baptism for failing to meet the requirements as were baptized" (147). It does not say the "catechism" used a literate approach, but the reader is given that assumption.

There were 13 Church Growth Coordinates (228) that Avery identified. These coordinates were responsible for how believers were introduced to Christ. Some methods were rapid. Others were slow. Avery made comparisons such as nurture (slow) vs. evangelism (rapid), clergy (slow) vs. laity (rapid), and classes (slow) vs. masses (rapid). I wonder if Avery could revisit this analysis today if literacy methods would be slow and addressing those with orality preferences would be fast?

After studying this revival, I wonder what evangelistic efforts across the Cincinnati Area could be still just as biblical, but rapid, especially among adults. Is it possible to accelerate response to the Gospel by giving the Holy Spirit more opportunities to work?

Consider making these changes based on ideas generated by Indonesian Revival:
1.    Know the lost. Transform communities from their worldview toward biblical alignment. Listen carefully, catching nuances. Learn from cultural informants. Adapt without compromising the gospel.
2.    Learn and use oral methods. In Missouri, 90% struggle with reading comprehension on the level the Bible requires. Thousands in the Cincinnati Area struggle with the literacy required just for a job application.
3.    Emphasize disciple-making. The early church in Acts baptized quickly and sought to disciple because they lived life together. Disciples who can make disciples is the best indicator that you’re doing it in obedience to Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20).
 
Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association.
Posted on September 4, 2018 10:00 AM by Ken Slaughter
Categories: Prayer
   I read somewhere that the average person can maintain only about 150 relationships. How can that be true when I have 800 friends on Facebook alone? It raises questions. What is a friend? What is a relationship? I’m not taking a shot at social media. I’m thankful to be able to keep up with high school friends (in Georgia), Navy buddies, and missionary friends. But we have to recognize that virtual friendships rank lower than close personal friendships. It leads to problems when people confuse the virtual with the vital.  
    
   In Matthew 7, we learn two things: People get confused about their relationship with Jesus. But Jesus is very clear about it.
 
   Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them,” I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:21-23).
 
   Do you know Him? Do you post a prayer every now and then just to show some activity on the account? Or do you communicate deeply with Him about important and intimate things in your life?
 
   Do you spend time listening for His voice speaking in your spirit?
 
   Are your prayers virtual or vital?
 
--Ken Slaughter serves as CABA's Prayer Encourager and pastors Mt. Repose Baptist in Milford, Oh.
Posted on August 29, 2018 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: General, Leadership
Journalists are notoriously a tough crowd. Some go to prison rather than divulge a source. A few are imprisoned or even shot for being mistaken as spies. They take the heat from important people for holding them accountable. And Christian journalists have no fewer pressures as they work hard to accurately explain how God is at work.
You may not be a journalist, but do you have a message of salvation from God? And how will you share it with those who need to hear it? Personal meet-up? Hand them a tract? Facebook them? Tweet it?
 
“The Lord sent Nathan” is how 2 Samuel 12:1 begins. The prophet, Nathan, told David a story and emotionally involved the King. David was upset that a rich man would take a poor man’s only lamb to feed his guest. Nathan stood and delivered one of the most famous judgments in the Bible, “Thou art the man.” David had caused Bathsheba’s pregnancy and her husband, Uriah’s death. Christian journalists and other thought-leaders have a “prophet” ministry not unlike Nathan’s.
 
When Nathan spoke, David repented and the Lord spared his life. When Christian communicators share their stories, they should expect change.
 
Print-only journalism is dwindling in readership across America. From 2003 to 2011, the Newspaper Association of America reported that advertising for newspapers in print and online dropped by half. Some studies say that print journalism will not stop, but it will rather find its niche like radio has done.
 
Newspapers will never again dominate the secular news industry. The hardened write-or-die reporters constantly face the reality that they need to look beyond the literate word to fully communicate. Journalists – print, electronic, social media – must see readers or viewers as audiences.
 
The Millennial age group (ages 19 to 36) have a far more oral learning preference than any other U.S. age segment. They are a communications force that is personally engaged in embracing what is genuine and foregoing the slick, the formatted, and the scheduled delivery. They thrive on “real.”
 
Christian communicators, especially journalists, can learn a lot from those with an oral worldview. Like Nathan standing before King David, they will tell stories out of their calling from God to their ministry. Will those reporting mojo stories let people who interact with their content (visual or story) draw out biblical truth? Users of smartphone and web-based media want to stay informed. They’re clearly blurring the lines of information and entertainment seeking a brave new world of entertainment.
 
The stuff we see, hear, smell, touch, and taste are gateways to our minds—and ultimately to our hearts.  The more senses that are engaged, the more effective the communicator will become. Brain theorists have noted that “emotions etch memories.” Experiential learning means more than “sitting and getting” whether it be by staring at ink on paper, text on screen, or via some other channel. As many pastors are starting to say, “Don’t turn off your smartphones, but text out to your followers and friends the truths that the Holy Spirit teaches you today!”
 
The bottom line is that church leaders must help believers become truth-tellers who craft their own stories of faith. Will churches empower communication in the hands of those who dare to communicate as God sends them?
What is God calling you to say? And how will you say it?
 
Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association.