This is part 4 of an ongoing series walking through the revitalizing process, thus far, of Cypress Lake Baptist church. You can read part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.
Part 4 of what has happened with CLBC that has, I believe, contributed to what seemingly is a revitalizing of God's people is an emphasis on missions. By God's grace I've been blessed to go to India (twice), Trinidad, Mexico, Haiti, and Myanmar on short-term mission trips. I've also been blessed to minister to several people within the local context of the church I've served with.
With that being said, I used to think that it was my responsibility to make sure that my people knew as much as I could possibly teach them before they began engaging the lost with the gospel and hoping to see disciples made. This led me to be extremely hesitant to have too many outreach or mission opportunities in place. However, I have over the past several years come to the conclusion that part of the equipping process is to have disciples engage in the work of outreach and ministry. I immediately wanted our church to develop the mentality that we are about helping other people become devoted followers of Jesus.
Of course, this does mean that I need to teach and prepare my people to do the work of the ministry. I have attempted to take time to consistently point out ways that we could engage the people around us in personal evangelism, ministry projects, or even just inviting them to one of our worship gatherings where I try to make sure the gospel message is clearly proclaimed. By God's grace CLBC has responded to the challenge to find ways to make disciples of all nations.
We've done this in a few different ways. One way is that we've had the opportunity to display our care for others through our benevolent ministry as well as opportunities to help gather backpacks for kids who needed help, and to help support a local ministry providing meals for families at Thanksgiving. While neither of these provided the face-to-face evangelism opportunities that are certainly needed, they did provide us opportunities to care for others. Prior to my arrival at CLBC they had a couple other yearly opportunities to help others (which we still do), but we have upped our emphasis and strategy here.
Another way we've emphasized this is through praying through and finding ways to minister at the local state college, Edison. Again, while we haven't had as much face-to-face engaging conversations as I'd like, we have had more than in other avenues. It's been good. It's been a way to help our people see the needs and opportunities with a younger generation. I believe this has been used by God to help open the eyes of our people and given them a passion to reach out to others with the good news of Jesus Christ.
A third way that we've seen the development of our missions strategy is through a short-term mission trip to Myanmar. I was the only one from our faith family who went, but all the money raised for me to go and money to help with a couple projects while there, came through the giving of our people. This helped our church 'own' the trip to a very unreached area of the world. In order to help CLBC feel a part of what the Lord was doing there I spent a Sunday PM sharing pictures and stories of the opportunities overseas.
While this was my emphasis from the start Joe Thorn was again helpful in this for me. The truth is, however, this is still an unfolding and remolding process. We are presently praying through and seeking through ways to best use the limited resources of workers with a smaller congregation to reach those around us. Just last night I shared a brief outline of ways we can think through how we can engage our immediate area. We live in a county were over 90% is not affiliated with any kind of evangelical church. We want to be good stewards with the opportunities God has given us here.
Developing a missions emphasis and strategy has been crucial for us. We're certainly not there yet. We still have much, much work to do. But God has seemingly been pleased with our desire to care for and reach out to others in our local communities and to the ends of the earth. I have come to realize you don't make disciples (devoted followers of Christ) and then help them engage the lost. Rather, you help them engage the lost as you help them become devoted followers of Christ.