Healthy Targets

For the next number of weeks, I am going to do a series of articles on the nine targets for a healthy church.  I serve as one of the Zone Leaders for the MBC Resound Network, and in our work of revitalization, we have identified markers that reflect when a church is healthy. There are three categories with three targets in each category.  The first category is Healthy Identity, and the three targets are understanding that as God’s people we are be worshippers, family, and missionaries.  Our first focus will be that of worshipper.  Jesus told the Samaritan woman that God seeks true worshipper who will worship him in spirit and truth (John 4:24). Proper and passionate worship is a target we must pursue as God’s people.  Local churches are created as worshipers of God to reflect His character, gather to worship Him together, and serve Him above all else. They must be centered upon Jesus and the Gospel in all they do, and they are to find their power in the Spirit.  Everything we do is to be done for the glory of God. Our Redeemer is worthy of our highest devotion and best worship.  Therefore, as worshippers we are to regularly gather in order to lovingly express His praise and corporately give thanks for His grace as we proclaim the gospel.  After all, it is the one thing we will be doing throughout eternity (Rev. 7:9-10). – Dr. Gary Mathes

Association – Operation

This week as I continue articles on the association, I will address two questions. First, how do associations operate today? Today, both associations and churches remain autonomous and self-governing. The association has no authority over the practices of any member church. Even though churches are independent bodies, they are interdependent by choice through membership in an association. The association is not a church, but it represents the churches working together. As autonomous bodies we understand that we are better together. While we don’t duplicate what churches do, we can expand and multiply that work through partnership efforts.

Secondly, what is the value of the association? Associations guide the collaborative efforts of member churches in a geographic region. For example, in our association we coordinate the efforts of 40 member churches in cross-cultural ministry, urban missions, church revitalization, church planting, and leadership training. Working together, we do more than churches that operate in isolation. Therefore, I encourage you to participate in, contribute to, and join with the efforts of your local association. The CPBA, like most associations, relies on the direct gifts of member churches to accomplish our mission. We do not receive any funds from Cooperative Program giving or other funding mechanisms. We are grateful for your giving and want to be good stewards of what we receive. Let us know how we serve you. Another way we can work together is joining in city wide efforts which leads to my next point…

I am happy to announce a joint effort by the three Baptist Associations in the Kansas City area. CPBA along with Kansas City Blue River and Kansas City Kansas Baptist Associations are working together to bring Dr. Richard Blackaby to our area for the KC Metro Pastors Conference. He and Mark Clifton of NAMB will be leading this conference to empower, equip and encourage our pastors and ministry leaders. This will be on Friday evening, March 4 and Saturday morning March 5 at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Overland Park, Kansas. We will be getting more information and a registration link out soon but wanted you to know about this now so you can get it on your calendar. You won’t want to miss this so mark it down and be watching for the registration link. – Dr. Gary Mathes

Association – Origins of the Clay-Platte Baptist Association

 The roots of Clay Platte Baptist Association go back to 1823, (196 years ago), when the Fishing River Association began.  It was one of three associations that was formed when the former Mt. Pleasant Association, headquartered in Montgomery County, was divided into three areas.  As so much a part of our history, Baptist began to be divided over matters of faith and practice. A couple of decades after Fishing River was formed the issues of missions became the point of dissension. Some Baptist churches were anti-missionary, and some were missionary.  Most of the churches that made up the Fishing River Association were anti-missionary (and many of those were anti-education regarding training of clergy).  However, 5 churches believed that churches should be involved and active in the sending out of missionaries.  These five pulled out of the Fishing River Association and in 1844 started the North Liberty Association.   For the next 78 years, the association grew and added more like-minded churches and the area of churches extended to include a great part of northwest Missouri.    

      In 1922, the idea grew that associations would be better served by a county associational model.  This notion led to the dissolution of the North Liberty Association in August of 1922 and the formation of Clay Baptist Association on Sept 5, and the Platte County Baptist Association on Sept 17, 1922.  Both associations functioned well for the next 16 years until leaders from both associations came together on September 20-21, 1938 and merged 24 churches of the two associations into one.  And now for 83 years we have sought to be a network of churches who partner together for the gospel to reach the northland and the nations. – Dr. Gary Mathes

Association – Origins

These next few weeks, I will share a few articles on the origin, nature and purpose of associations.  First, I will address what is a local association?  Associations are self-governing entities made of Baptist churches sharing common faith who engage in mutual support and missions in a geographic area. The association provides avenues for fellowship and cooperative endeavors in Great Commission ministry. The primary source of funding for the local Baptist association is regular gifts from member churches within the association. 

      Secondly, when did associations begin?   Baptist Associations started in England. Being targeted by the Crown, they knew their survival was dependent on remaining small and so multiple churches, who shared the same beliefs, had to separate but kept in communication with one another for mutual support and advancement of their beliefs. With persecution they had to move and depended on one another with resources and help finding places accommodating of their beliefs.   They also came together to clarify their doctrinal positions.  In 1644, seven Particular Baptist churches networked together and wrote a joint statement of faith – First London Confession of Faith.  In the United States, Baptist associations predate all Baptist state conventions and national mission boards.  As Baptist migrated to America it didn’t take long for congregations to value the need to associate together.  The first organized Baptist Association was started in 1707 by 6 churches to form the Philadelphia Baptist Association. This was 69 years before the Declaration of Independence and 138 years before the SBC came into existence.  By 1770 the Philadelphia Baptist Association had started a college and collectively sent out home missionaries, aka church planters.  By 1813 there were 115 associations in America, including the first association in Missouri, Bethel Baptist Association in Cape Girardeau (1806).  Next week I’ll share how the Clay Platte Baptist Association began of which I am thankful to serve as your Director of Mission! – Dr. Gary Mathes

How is Your Vision?

I was in second grade when our whole class had to go and take a vision test.  After having difficulty determining the direction the “E”’s where facing, I was sent home with a note for my parents to take me to the eye doctor.  Ever since then I have worn glasses or contacts. I remember how clear everything looked after I got my first pair of glasses.  As a leader it is important to have good vision.  Of course, in this case, it means to be able to discern the needs and next steps that must be taken for a church or organization to move forward in the right direction.  Thankfully there are tools to help bring clarity to the current reality we are facing, and processes to help leaders ask the right questions to enable them to look ahead and develop a map to a preferred future.  It is important to answer questions like, “What is our mission?” “What is our motivation?” “What are our methods and are they effective?” “Who is our target?” “What needs do we feel burdened by and uniquely qualified to meet?” ”What opportunities lay before us?”  These are good questions to help leaders develop and design a roadmap to a healthier and better future.  As you evaluate this past year and look ahead into 2022, how is your vision?  Please let me know if I can be of assistance to help you gain clarity as you lead forward.  – Dr. Gary Mathes

It Happened on the Night Shift

Of all the Christmas stories surrounding the birth narrative of Christ, my favorite is the angel’s announcement of the birth of a Savior to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-20).  These lowly herders of sheep, who were on night shift, had a “who would have ever thought” type of experience.  Nothing like this ever happens to ordinary people, right?  Yet on this special night, God chose shepherds to be the first to hear the good news, and to be the first to see the newborn King and Savior of His people.  The fact that shepherds were the ones whom God chose to send a host of angels to declare this wonderful news is a profound thing.  There is something about ordinary people being blessed by an extraordinary encounter that is uplifting and encouraging.  That this unexpected, serendipitous, divine interruption would come upon unclean, unlovable, undesirables truly demonstrates the undeserved grace of God.  It was something that would forever change their lives as well as the course of history itself.  After the shepherds heard this extraordinary wonderful heavenly news, they could no longer remain ordinary. This announcement required them to do something – to go and worship the King.  Afterwards they were forever transformed and they themselves became messengers of the good news.   May we learn and follow their example.  

Merry Christmas, Immanuel has come!

– Dr. Gary Mathes

God With Us

In Matthew’s gospel the angel comes to Joseph and makes an astonishing announcement that the child his bride to be is carrying is indeed from the Holy Spirit. Referring to Mary he said, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:  “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us) – Matt 1:21-23. The mystery and marvel of the incarnation is a wonder to behold.  That God would enter into our world is beyond amazement.  Jesus is the one who make the invisible God visible – the eternal God entering into time – the ever-present God is with us locally in flesh and blood – the all-powerful God is with us in our weakness and shares in the limitations of our humanity.  But not only is God with us he is for us.  Jesus comes to reveal the holy Father.  He comes to redeem sinful man. He comes to build His eternal kingdom and makes it possible for us to be a part of it through his death, burial and resurrection.  God came to be with us so that we could forever be with Him.  As you celebrate this Christmas season, may the wonder of the Incarnation fill you with hope, love, peace and joy. – Dr. Gary Mathes

Christmas Light

I love Christmas lights and seeing the creativity people have in decorating their homes and businesses.  This year I am participating in the “Liberty Light Show”.  This drive-in Christmas celebration put on by Pleasant Valley Baptist Church is a fun and bright celebration that Jesus has come to be the Light of World. [Shameless plug: it is this Fri. Sat. Sun. with five – 15 minute shows each night beginning at 6 pm].  The wonder of the incarnation is that God has entered into our darkness and illuminated the world with the hope of the gospel.  John tells us in his first letter that God is light (1:5).  When we push God out of our life we live in darkness. As Paul writes in Romans 1:21 we all are guilty of having foolish minds and hearts that are darkened. It is true that in nature when animals live in darkness, they literally become blind.  The same is true spiritually.  Without the true light we are spiritual blind groping about hopelessly lost.  The joy of Christmas is that light has entered into our world to shine forth hope, love, peace and joy. Jesus said in John 12:46, “I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness.”  In John’s prologue he proclaims, In him was life, in that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness yet the darkness did not overcome it (1:4-5). My prayer is that you not only enjoy the lights of Christmas, but that you will rejoice in knowing the Light of Christmas.  – Dr. Gary Mathes

Grateful

Last Sunday I was privileged to be part of First Baptist Church, Platte City’s celebration of Rusty Savage for 30 years serving as their pastor.  This is a wonderful milestone for Rusty, his wife Stephanie and the church.  Rusty has been a faithful shepherd to lead God’s people and proclaim the gospel in Platte City and beyond. I am thankful for being a part of an association that has several pastors who have served long term.  It is a testimony of faithfulness that can encourage us all.  Congratulations and well done Rusty! 

Also, I am grateful for the wonderful volunteers that serve in our associational Disaster Relief team.  This week I was able to work alongside a group of DR Volunteers helping to clean out the Smithville Living Center recently purchased by The Baptist Homes. Next year it will be renovated and eventually open as a place to serve military veterans.  Not only will elderly care be provided for those in need but a church for veterans will be planted and hosted there as well.  I want to commend the Disaster Relief volunteers for coming along side one of our ministry partners in the state and providing their time and effort to begin the initial phase of renovation.  Again, a job well done! – Dr. Gary Mathes

What is Your Love Quotient?

We all have heard of IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and EQ (Emotional Quotient) that measure our intellectual acumen and ability to relate well to others. As important as these things can be, Jesus had another quotient he said was an identification mark of his disciples, that is, our love quotient.  In John 13:34-35 he said, “I give you a new commandment: that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” I recently read a researcher who stated, “Growing churches possess on the average a measurably higher love quotient than stagnant or declining ones.”  While it can be difficult at times to measure the depth of our love, it can be demonstrated in things such as church members spending time with one another outside of church events, sharing meals together, giving compliments, laughing and caring for one another in good times and bad. When people look at the church, they don’t want to just hear us talk about love, they want to see and experience how Christian love really works. When our LQ is high it becomes noticeable and bears witness that we are true followers of Jesus.  It also attracts those who need to experience God’s love to come and find it in our congregations, which then opens the door to hear and embrace the power of the gospel. So, what is your love quotient? – Dr. Gary Mathes