Category Archives: Church planting

ONE PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE ON MISSIONS AND MISSIONARIES

HBC photoHillsdale Baptist Church just finished her 54th annual missions conference.   From her inception, The Great Commission has been a central passion of this church and her second pastor, Robert Smith, was a missionary church-planting pastor (no relation to this pastor).   For 54 years, Hillsdale has served the LORD as a Supporting and Sending church.   Today, we are blessed to have our own “kids” on foreign mission fields.  Embracing the spirit and principle of 1 Corinthians 3:9, we teach our members “we are labourers together with God” and encourage our members to  “rub shoulders” with their missionaries.  In 2016 Hillsdale sent 35 members to the mission field and are planning to do the same in 2017!

Four principles serve as a guide for Hillsdale’s missions endeavors.the-gospel

I. The Message of Missions is the Gospel (Mark 16:15; 1 Cor. 1:23)

Mark 16:15 Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

1 Corinthians 1:23 – “But we preach Christ crucified…”

II. The Method of Missions – The essence of missions is to Send and be Sent.

We follow our LORD’s fourfold charge to His disciples, “Go…teach…baptizing…Teaching” (Matthew 28:19-20) and a four point compass embracing the universal scope and mandate of The Great Commission (Mt. 28:19; Mark 16:15, 20; Acts 1:8).

Acts 1:8But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem [Tampa, FL], and in all Judaea [United States], and in Samaria [Canada; Mexico], and unto the uttermost part of the earth [every race, tribe, tongue and nation].”

faith-promiseIII. The Means of the Great Commission – Faith Promise Giving (2 Corinthians 8-9)

There are many great missions supporting churches who follow a different model; however, God has blessed Hillsdale’s emphasis on Faith Promise Giving for over 20 years.

IV. The Messenger of the Great Commission is the Missionary.

It is this fourth principle that has stirred me to address what I feel has become a neglected doctrine in some churches, Bible colleges and seminaries.  Some Bible college teachers and seminary professors have, in my opinion, turned to a pragmatic philosophy of missions in their endeavor to bolster a failing missions program.  Encouraging less than a whole-hearted surrender to missions not only slights the central doctrine of the missionary call, it ultimately erodes the responsibility of the church to support and send missionaries.

Consider three basic tenets of the missionary’s work and ministry.

The first is the Character of the Missionary greenwoods-in-front-of-church

Hillsdale views its missionaries as an extension of its pastoral staff.  When we consider supporting a missionary, one of the first questions we ask is whether or not we would hire that individual or family to be a part of our church staff.  By references, interviews, and a questionnaire, we weigh our decision to support a missionary based on whether or not they exhibit the qualities and traits of the pastoral office: “…blameless [worthy; approved; having a good report]…vigilant [disciplined; having self-control], sober [discreet; prudent], of good behavior [modest; proper; honorable]…apt to teach [able to teach]…“Not a novice”  (1 Tim. 3:2-6).

The first missionaries, Barnabas and Saul (Paul), were numbered among the “prophets and teachers” in Antioch when God called them and the character of the missionary was a big deal in the 1st century church and it should be no less in the 21st century church.

fitzgeraldsThe second fundamental tenet regarding the missionary’s work and ministry is one I find slighted the most by some Bible college and seminary professors:  The Constraint of the Missionary Call (Acts 13:2-3).  

The New Testament missionary was Dedicated and compelled to the Duty (work) of the Great Commission.  The Holy Ghost directed the church at Antioch, “Separate [divide; sever; appoint; set apart] me Barnabas and Saul for the work [occupation; labor; employment; task] whereunto I have called [summoned] them” (Acts 13:2).

Barnabas and Saul were separated [marked off; corralled; fenced; divided and cut out] by the church at Antioch.   We read, after the church “fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away” [released; dismissed; relieved]… “for the work whereunto [God had] called them” (Acts 13:2).  The calling of the missionary was not a two-year commitment or a two-term suggestion.  Barnabas and Saul were “separated” and “sent” away, laboring for the LORD the rest of their lives (2 Timothy 4:7).  I sorrow that such a holy calling is being trivialized by both our churches, colleges, and missionaries.

The third fundamental tenet of the missionary’s work and ministry is The Calling of the rodgersMissionary.  The missionary bears a specific calling [“…the Holy Ghost said…I have called them“] (Acts 13:2).  Several men were faithfully preaching and teaching in Antioch when God called Barnabas and Saul (Acts 13:1); however, only Barnabas and Saul were specifically called by the Holy Ghost to separate and go out from the church with its blessing.  Recognizing God’s call, the church “laid their hands on them, and sent them away” (Acts 13:3).

The Great Commission is a mandate for all believers; however, some believers bear an unique call to be separated and sent out by their church.  It is the duty of the church to examine those who profess to be called and send only those who evidence spiritual qualities and traits deemed essential for the work of the ministry.  I urge all the brethren, especially those entrusted with teaching and training the next generation, to not diminish the missionary unction of those whom God has called out of our churches.

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith

Hillsdale’s Vision for Missions – 2016-2026

Independent Baptist Church of PilarI believe it was Samuel Clemens, the great American novelist who went by the pen name Mark Twain, who commented regarding rumors of his death, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” Having been absent from the “blogosphere” for nearly three weeks, I know some are wondering the same about this author!

In the past month I have spent time with missionaries supported by the church I pastor in Tampa, Hillsdale Baptist Church. James and Amy (Coffill) Greenwood and Buddy and Loren (Salazar) Fitzgerald are top-tier missionaries (of course, some could accuse me of lacking objectivity since both Amy and Loren are young women who call Hillsdale home and I love as daughters). My heart overflows with joy after spending time with both families.

Greenwoods in front of churchThe Greenwoods and Fitzgeralds have proven to be worthy investments of our missionary offerings as each has established thriving church ministries in their respective countries. I had the privilege of preaching the building dedication and inauguration service for the Independent Baptist Church of Pilar, Argentina founded by the Greenwoods and pastored by James. With a partnership forged with the Greenwood’s supporting churches and pastors and the labor and sacrifice of the members in Pilar, a beautiful two-story church building now stands as a testimony of God’s grace and blessing.

FitzgeraldsThe Fitzgeralds labor for the LORD in a town in the jungles of Peru.  Buddy and Loren lead a thriving church ministry they founded among the Peruvian people.  With a goal to move into the jungle and live among the tribal people, the Fitzgeralds are looking to raise funds this next year to purchase land and, like the Greenwoods, construct a building for their church to identify as home. The church will be their home base when the Fitzgeralds move up river into the jungle.

This Sunday morning, in the 10:30 service, I plan to share with the Hillsdale family a mission’s report of my trip; however, more important than a trip report is the vision I pray will be the Mission Vision of Hillsdale, 2016-2026.

I will continue this theme in upcoming posts.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

www.hillsdalebaptist.org

www.heartofashepherd.com

Hijacked: You can lose your church while sleeping in the pew!

hillsdale_baptist* The following blog is this pastor’s brief analysis of a trend I have observed in conservative, Bible preaching churches in the last 15 years.  It is my plan to address the subject in future postings.

“He stole our church out from under us!” is a statement I hear too often these days from both Independent Baptist and conservative Southern Baptist church members.

The typical scenario is a trusting, aging church calls a young, dynamic pastor to take the helm of their church ministries following a faithful veteran pastor who retired, moved on or was pushed out by church members who wanted a change.  Reasoning the young pastor would bring new ideas and the church would be blessed with an influx of youth, the trusting church settled into a familiar rut of “watch and wait” unaware they were setting a course that would inevitably abandon the legacy and heritage of the church, its traditional worship services and often its own membership.

Before I am misunderstood and taken to task, allow me to state emphatically I am not arguing against change.  Change is an inevitable dynamic with the passing of time, membership and new leadership who bring different skills, spiritual gifts and their own strengths and weaknesses.  It is impossible for a ministry to experience a change in leadership and not face the reality of changes within the body of that organization. [Let’s face it; some people oppose change regardless of how inevitable, necessary or valid the change.]church

The changes I want to address are at first subtle, pragmatic and sometimes deceptive.  The doctrine begins a subtle shift, the music style begins to drift, and inevitably unrest takes hold in the body of the church.  Several examples come to mind where young pastors who, lacking an appreciation for the heritage of the church and its godly legacy, reasoned if a new generation is to be reached the church must “Change or Die”.  Because the congregation dutifully followed the previous pastor for a generation, church members fail to question the young pastor.  Church leaders participate in the changes without asking for the guiding principles behind the young pastor’s “Change or Die” narrative and what those changes might be.

In fairness to the young pastor, his youth, inexperience and the pressure to be successful sends him searching for the keys to a successful ministry.  Seminars, conferences, headliner national speakers, peers and “Ministry for Dummies” books and blogs soon become his fare at the sacrifice of prayer, Bible study, and the counsel of older, experienced mentors.  Like Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, the young preacher rejects the counsel and cautions of his elders and embraces the counsel and example of his peers (1 Kings 12:6-8) who flatter his ego and inflame his pride.

preachToo often the exodus of disavowed saints who were the pillars of the church and the failed influx of youth spells doom not only for the young pastor, but also the church.   I close today’s blog with Paul’s challenge to Timothy that is both timely and prophetic.

2 Timothy 4:1-5 – “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2  Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine3  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables5  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

Copyright 2015 – Travis D. Smith

* The above is a brief diagnosis of the “Change or Die” narrative that many pastors and churches are following, often to their demise.

Proverbs 11:24-26 – You poor, stingy old soul

scroogeProverbs 11:24-26 challenges us with the familiar spiritual principle “Sowing and Reaping” (Galatians 6:7).  To state the principle as a common analogy—We not only reap what we sow, we also reap in proportion to how much we sow!

Proverbs 11:24 – “There is that scattereth [disperses], and yet increaseth [adds to; surpass]; and there is that withholdeth [keeps back; refrain; reserves; i.e. keep back for oneself] more than is meet [right; upright; due], but it tendeth to poverty [want; need; lack].”

A farmer decides in the spring not only what he hopes to reap at harvest time, but also how much he hopes to store up for winter.  He must determine not only what seeds to plant, but also the amount of seed he needs to sow to reach his harvest goal.   A farmer who hoards seed is a foolish farmer because he fails to value the potential of life and multiplication represented in one seed and the possible threat of insects and mold in his storage bins.  Such a farmer does indeed risk coming to poverty!businessman with his arms wide open in rural field

Herein is the challenge for both the farmer and by way of application, the Christian.  A hoarding farmer is a fool as is a Christian who hoards and fails to be a steward of God’s overflowing abundance in his life.  Two arenas come to mind when I read verse 24–Financial stewardship and the stewardship of ministry, talents and opportunities.  Too many Christians hoard money and are blind to their responsibility to give the excess God entrusts to them by investing in God’s work and ministry.  Some are leaving their children a wealthy inheritance, but entering heaven as little more than  spiritual paupers.   What a tragedy to have the means to be a blessing, but choose to withhold from the Lord, His church and servants “more than is meet” (11:24).

Proverbs 11:25 – “The liberal [blessed; prosperous] soul [life; person; heart] shall be made fat [satisfied; prosperous]: and he that watereth [to quench the thirst of another; satisfy; fill] shall be watered [rain; flow as water; moisten] also himself.

Solomon continues his lesson on stewardship by stating a proverb that is full of promise—an abiding sense of joy and satisfaction is God’s reward to the man who is generous out of what God has entrusted to him.seed

God promises, give out of what He gives you and you will never want!  Be a conduit of God’s blessings to others and know God will refresh your soul.  Like an overflowing water fountain promising cool, refreshing water, let your life flow forth the time, talents and gifts God has entrusted to you.

Proverbs 11:26 – He that withholdeth [keep back; deny; restrain] corn [grain; i.e. wheat], the people [nation; community] shall curse [blaspheme; pierce] him: but blessing [prosperity] shall be upon the head [chief; top; ruler] of him that selleth [buy and sell grain] it.”

I often wonder why men and women of wealth wait until they die before bestowing on their loved ones those things that could be blessing and comfort to their heirs and a source of joy and satisfaction to the bestower while they are alive.

Why do Christians blessed with abundance watch their church and Christian ministries struggle?  Why hoard more than you need knowing faithful servants are praying for God to bless and sustain their family and ministry?

Dear friend, that stingy soul of yours is a curse when it could be a blessing.  How tragic!

Copyright 2015 – Travis D. Smith

Have I got a surprise for the Hillsdale church family!

red tomatoGo ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)

I highlighted in Thursday’s blog the concept of “Home Grown Tomatoes” presented by Rev. Tom Morgan to Hillsdale nearly 15 years ago.  Tom’s challenge was simple, but profound; in the same way there is nothing as sweet and rewarding as homegrown tomatoes… the same is true when a church supports and sends out its own missionaries!

I have highlighted Dennis and Melanie Rodgers participation in this year’s mission’s conference [Dennis grew up at Hillsdale and is certainly a “home grown” missionary and will be the keynote speaker of our Missions Banquet, Sunday night, October 26].

Surprise: Buddy and Loren (Salazar) Fitzgerald, our missionaries to Peru, are Fitzgeraldshome for a medical emergency in their family.  Loren saw yesterday’s missions post and, as one of our “home grown” missionaries, had her husband contact me about joining our conference!

What a joy to have two “homegrown” missionaries participate in Hillsdale’s mission’s conference! I am excited!

tomatoe farmerReminder: This Sunday you will need to sign up for a Monday evening “In Home Fellowship” with a missionary family.  You also need to sign up and reserve a seat for you and your family at our missions banquet.

Hillsdale Baptist Church – Missions Conference 2014 – “Go…Give so others can go”

This is the first of several posts highlighting Hillsdale’s upcoming Missions Conference.

Go with writingGo ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)

Hillsdale Baptist Church has been a missions-minded, missions-hearted church since her founding in 1962.  Our church family has known not only the joy of supporting missionaries and missions endeavors around the world, but also of sending our own members to follow God’s calling as missionaries.

home grownFifteen years have passed since Hillsdale’s philosophy of supporting missions and missionaries underwent a radical transformation following a challenge by Rev. Tom Morgan he titled Home Grown Tomatoes.

Tom and his wife Diane, members of Hillsdale, had served as missionaries in both Italy and Australia.  When they returned to the States I received an education in the trials and hardships of missionary deputation.  Tom challenged me; if pastors and churches want to see more missionaries go to the mission field we need to affirm them by supporting them, especially our “Home Grown” missionaries.  That challenge resonated in my heart and the members of Hillsdale.  We committed to supporting new missionaries sent out by Hillsdale at 20% of their support need—a radical departure from the past, but one that transformed both our hearts and vision.

Hillsdale’s Missions Conference begins Sunday, October 26-29, and we will Rodgersrevisit the fruit of our decision to “put our money where our hearts were” as Dennis and Melanie Rodgers, church planters in Pullman, Washington, return as one of our “Home Grown Tomatoes” for our missions conference.  The Rodgers will highlight their visit to Hillsdale by being the keynote speaker at our Missions Banquet, Sunday night, October 26.

Reminder: You need to sign up to have a seat reserved for you at the banquet.

Proverbs 27:2 – There are few things as repulsive as a man or woman who glories in boasting their own achievements.

Proverbs-27-Verse-2pThe Book of Proverbs is a king’s instructions to his son.  On several occasions we have read proverbs where Solomon expressed a concern that the heart of his son might be lifted up in pride. Born into a household of wealth and privilege, I can imagine how easy it would be for a young prince to be carried away by the grandeur of the palace and servants ready to do his beckoning.

Solomon urged his son to understand how uncomely it is for a man to praise himself [or as some say, “beat his own drum”].

Proverbs 27:2“Let another man praise [boast; celebrate; sing your praises] thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips [speech].”

There are few things as repulsive as a man or woman who glories in boasting their own achievements. It is the nature of man to “proclaim every one his own goodness” (Proverbs 20:6), but such a man has forgotten the raw clay out of which he was self-centeredtaken. Praise and acknowledgement is rewarding, but they ring hollow when expressed by our own lips.

Why is this self-congratulatory spirit so distasteful to man and inappropriate before God?

Answer – Because it is not the Spirit of God, but the spirit of the devil.  Notice in the following passage the number of times Satan, here addressed as the fallen angel Lucifer, boasts with the personal pronoun “I”.

Isaiah 14:12-15 – “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13  For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14  I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. 15  Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.”

it's all about meHow much of your conversations with others is focused on yourself? Are you given to bragging and boasting? Look at your Facebook page, pictures and blog and be honest about where you tend to focus. The ugly little secret is—others have already noticed how much of your life is self-focused.