Understanding Your Mission

In the next number of weeks, I am going to write a series of articles that address the directional questions church leaders need to answer.  In my work as a consultant for many years, I helped a number of churches address these questions: What do we do? Why do we do it? How do we do it? Where are we going? Where do we start? and How do we know if we got there?  The first and primary question is: “What do we do?”  In other words, what is our mission?  What is our purpose?  Purpose addresses why we exist.  Mission addresses what are we supposed to be doing.  For churches this is not something that needs to be created.  Our purpose and mission are one and the same.  They are not drawn up in a board room but given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus gave us two clear directives.  The first is the Great Commandment – to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, as well as love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:36-40). The second is the Great Commission – to go and make disciples of all nations who are baptized and taught to obey these commands (Matt. 28:18-20). We exist to love and glorify God.  Our mission is to express that love for God and for our neighbors enough to share the gospel and help them become disciples who love and glorify God.  If we are to be faithful leaders we must lead in a way that our mission trumps everything. Always, Every time.  Such commitment becomes important when the mission is challenged by culture, personal preferences, traditions, or even the influence of financial givers. Mission is our true north that helps us navigate what we do and don’t do. How we do it is determined by how we answer the other questions. More to come.
– Dr. Gary Mathes

The Day the Tornado Came to Us

“I just wanted to see” said the woman as she looked at the room. There were tears, prayer, and a hug.

She explained she had been telling herself over and over, “There HAS to still be good in humanity! There just HAS to be!” But she was seriously starting to think she was wrong.

She was badly needing to see confirmation that she wasn’t wrong. When she looked over at her neighbor’s place and saw it swarmed by people in gold colored shirts freely giving their time to help her neighbor clear downed trees and limbs, that was the confirmation she had been looking for. They needed help badly and help was there.

She came to the Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief Command center to see us for herself, to meet us, and to say “Thank You” for restored hope.

The early morning hours of June 8 brought strong winds and an EF-2 tornado to areas of Eastern Jackson County bringing down tree limbs, trees, and damage to homes. After accessing the damage and confirmation of the need for help, Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief representatives met with the Emergency Management leaders for both Independence and the Fort Osage Fire District on June 9 at the First Baptist Church Buckner Annex building, which became the Disaster Relief Command Center for the days following. From June 9-15, 2022 Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers from the Clay-Platte Baptist Association, Blue River-Kansas City Baptist Association, and the Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief Collegiate Summer Interns helped those in need.

Joe Dayringer
Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief Regional Coordinator

Thoughts on SBC Anaheim

“So what did you think of the convention?” is a question I have been asked a lot lately since my return from the SBC in Anaheim, California. The truth is I came back encouraged.  Reading all the rhetoric going into it caused me a level of concern that was somewhat lifted afterward.  While there are certainly issues that are being debated among us, and strong personalities that intend to sway us, when a convention of messengers gather the collective will of the assembly becomes clear.  It was clear that everyone rejoiced in 52 more IMB missionaries who were commissioned and celebrated for their commitment to go into all the world for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and for many in hard-to-reach places.  It was clear that when the worship team led the gathered saints in songs of faith that we were unified praising the One who makes us one.  It was clear that in addressing the report and recommendation of the Sexual Abuse Task Force that we are repentant and resolute in righting the wrong and correcting the way we address it in the future.  While there are still important topics to debate and decide on that have potential of dividing our tribe, I believe the demeanor of our engagement and the tone of our communication is key in whether we can do so in a way that honors the Lord Jesus and advances the Great Commission.  I was pleased to see more focus on what unites us than distract us from the main thing.  It is my commitment to be in prayer for our new president, Bart Barber, our elected officer, as well as the many new and current members of the Executive Committee, as they lead us forward as a convention.  The times ahead are definitely challenging, but if we keep our eyes on the Lord, He is faithful and will provide us the wisdom, strength, and a way forward together by His great grace. 
– Dr. Gary Mathes

Call to Prayer

As you are aware the SBC annual meeting is being held next Tuesday and Wednesday, June 14-15, 2022 in Anaheim, California.  This will be a difficult and yet very important meeting as messengers respond to the Sexual Abuse Task Force report from Guidepost Solutions and the subsequent recommendations related to it.  I plan to attend as a messenger and would appreciate your prayer as I travel and participate.  Please pray that we will have great wisdom, humble hearts, and a spirit of harmony as we deliberate and decide on future actions that will shape the future of the SBC. We will also be electing officers to lead us.  Please pray that the Lord will guide us to call those who can lead us well into a challenging future as a denomination.  I believe the days ahead will not be easy, but I also believe it is incumbent on all of us to work together to navigate the troubled waters we are going through with grace and truth.  Pray that the Lord will be honored in our response to address the wrong that has been done, and also be pleased with our resolve to faithfully fulfill the mission He has given us to accomplish together. – Dr. Gary Mathes

Trust is Fragile

The events within the SBC that have occurred and been made public in the past weeks, has caused me to do some reflecting.  As I shared last week, I am deeply grieved by the Guidepost Solutions SATF report.  I am also burdened by the task set before us as a convention of churches of rebuilding trust in the leadership and gospel work that we do as Southern Baptists.  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:2  “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. Leadership is a stewardship.  Some may think it is about position, privilege, and prestige.  That is a worldly point of view.  The Bible makes clear that as God’s children we are called to faithfully steward whatever the Lord gives us.  We are to take the time, talent, and treasures we have been entrusted with and to serve and honor the Lord with them joyfully and diligently. This includes leadership. The point Paul was making in the noted verse is that as a gifted and special God-called apostle he saw himself simply as a servant who would have to give an account of his stewardship before a holy God.  It is a call for us all to recognize we too will give an account, therefore, we need to prove faithful.  What the report demonstrated was that many of our leaders (not all) were not faithful stewards of what was entrusted to them.  The role of leadership is to protect and defend the innocent but instead we heard of victims of abuse being ignored and even mistreated.  It is poor stewardship that has severely eroded trust.  Unless we repent and demonstrate it by properly acknowledging and addressing the wrong that has been done, we will not be able to restore trust. Trust is the very foundation of cooperation, and once destroyed demolishes confidence, reliability, and loyalty in relationships and it will take great effort and much time to rebuild.  Join me in praying that the Lord can help us do right for the survivors of abuse and do the hard work of reestablishing trust and thus enable us to continue the mission of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ to a dark and broken world who needs His light and life. – Dr. Gary Mathes

Response to the Sexual Abuse Task Force Report

As you are well aware, in fact it is nearly non-ignorable, the Sexual Abuse Task Force report from Guidepost Solution came out this past Sunday.  Like so many of you, I have read through a great portion of the report as well as the many responses it has evoked.  My heart grieves.  I grieve for the victims of abuse who have had to endure a systemic response of being stonewalled and sideline with their cries for help and justice.  I grieve that the cause of Christ has been severely damaged as yet another denomination has been guilty of trying to cover up evil rather that expose it. I grieve for the trust that has been broken and it will be a hard and long road to rebuild.  I grieve for the painful consequences that the erosion of trust brings which will greatly affect our cooperative effort to advance the gospel.  I have heard it said that a reputation takes years to build and only minutes to destroy. Even with a true, genuine, and appropriate response it will take a great amount of time to reestablish the confidence in our leadership that has been lost.  But we owe it to the victims, to the advancement of the gospel, and for glory of God to work together to respond in the right way, in the right time, and with the right spirit. This is a time for prayer, for repentance, and for resolute determination to right the wrong, and put in place measures to prevent this from ever happening again.  I appreciate the many recommendations contained in the report to help our SBC family respond properly and address the issue of abuse with wisdom and diligence.  We will certainly be mindful of how our association of churches can be a part of the solution moving forward.  I know many of you have already been praying and I would simply ask that you continue to lift up our SBC leaders to the Lord, as well as the upcoming annual convention in Anaheim, California.  Pray that we may we be found doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God. – Dr. Gary Mathes

Leadership – Leading Organizations

This week I wrap up sharing principles of effective leadership.  We first looked at learning how to lead yourself, then learning how to lead another person, and last week learning to lead teams.  This week the next level of leadership is that of leading organizations.  As a pastor, we have been called to be a wise elder, a loving shepherd, and a transformational overseer.  The overseer role is the ability to lead an organization. At this level you are asking questions pertaining to the mission of the organization, in our case, the church.  You are also looking at the culture you are shaping in order to be effective at carrying out the mission.  Leading an organization requires the ability to look at the whole from a 30,000 feet point of view and measuring and adapting strategic and systematic competencies. Leaders of organization have to answer and articulate the following directional questions. Why do we exist? What is our mission? What core values must we operate from? What is our vision? Where are we going in the next 5-7 years?  What is our plan to take us there? How are we currently operating? What do we need to adjust or realign? How will we know if we are making progress and hitting the right targets? What kind of team do we need to lead us well? Of course, none of these questions should be answered alone but by a group of leaders who have demonstrated competencies in leading themselves, others and teams well, and working synergistically to assure the organization effectively accomplishes its mission. May the Lord continually grant us wisdom, strength, and courage to lead his Bride, the church, faithfully, fruitfully and for His glory. – Dr. Gary Mathes

Leadership – Leading Teams

The past few weeks I have shared the principle that effective leadership starts with first learning how to lead yourself, then learning how to lead another person – one on one. The next level in a leadership ladder is knowing how to effectively lead teams.  This is moving from discipleship to building and directing ministry teams.  Not surprisingly, Jesus is our best example of how to build effective teams.  It began by recruiting the right people to join his team.  When Jesus called his disciples to follow him, they certainly were not mature, complete leaders ready to change the world.  Therefore, he poured himself into the work of developing them into world changers.  What he provided for them in the three years they followed was first, clarity of mission.  He helped them grow in their understanding that he was on mission to establish the kingdom of God through his life, teaching, death and resurrection.  And he was on mission to help people enter into this kingdom through the proclamation of the gospel and the making of disciples in every nation.  Every team or ministry you lead needs to have clarity of purpose and strategy to bring it about.  Without clarity there is confusion, frustration, and stifled accomplishment.  The second thing teams need is competency in the work they are asked to do.  Jesus spent time teaching and training his disciples.  He modeled his ministry before them and then asked that they emulate it through group projects.  At one point he sent out 70 on a mission assignment and then called them to come back and debrief their experience.  At the end of his earthly ministry his disciples were ready.   Before he ascended into heaven, he finally authorized and deployed them to go and take the gospel into all the world.  They had clarity, developed competency, and now was given control to carry out what he called them to accomplish – the Great Commission.  The goal of leadership is not to take and wield control, but to call others to join you to successfully achieve worthy goals as a team.  A leader is successful when they provide a clear mission for the team, developing sufficient competencies within team members, so together they have confidence and control to accomplish the tasks the group has been purposed with.  Eventually the hope would be that those you develop and deploy will turn around and do the same for others. – Dr. Gary Mathes

Leadership – Leading Others

Last week I shared the principle that effective leadership starts with first learning how to lead yourself, and that begins by learning how to first be a follower.  The next level of leadership is learning how to lead another person – one on one. This is the level of one disciple making another disciple.  This is what Paul was demonstrating when he said, “Follow me as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1). And this is what Jesus has called us to do in the Great Commission – be a disciple who makes disciples.  Learning to lead others is key to faithfully fulfilling Christ’s command.  While it may seem difficult it often happens more naturally than one might think.   Parents lead their children, husbands lead their wives, friends lead friends.  While there are a number of skills one can grow in to grow as a leader of others, I will focus on just three – listen, learn, and love.  Good leaders are good listeners, they not only hear what others are saying but actively listening for what is really being communicated, keying in on and identifying the needs and concerns of those they lead.  Leaders are learners, they next study and research to be prepared to bring timely truth, useful ideas and relevant resources to pass on to those they are leading.  And finally, leaders are those who truly love those they are helping.  This is the heart and soul of effective leadership.  Love for the Lord and love for our neighbor is the “why” in our motivation to lead others.  It is the reason we put the needs of others before our own.  It’s the reason we desire to see others reach the potential God has placed in them and called us to help draw out.  What a tremendous honor and privilege it is to be used of the Lord to lead others to become followers of Jesus and grow more and more like Him!  – Dr. Gary Mathes

Leadership – Leading Self

One of the things I can assure you of – there are lots of books and resources out there on leadership.  Understandably, it is a topic that draws a lot of interest because it is so needed.  If you Google leadership, or still go to bookstores, you will find a plethora of books giving you all the keys, principles, laws and secrets to leadership.  I have read many of them as I’m sure you have.  Yet one of the best sources of learning to lead well is – Jesus.  I appreciate and have learned much from authors like Collins, Kotter, Covey, Maxwell, Lencioni, and many others, but I would rather learn to lead like Jesus. And one of the first lessons of leadership is learning how to follow.  The best leaders are followers.  And to follow well is to practice self-denial and submission.  Jesus demonstrated this and in speaking to the Jewish leaders told them, “…I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him” (John 8:28-29). Jesus set the example of leading under the direction and will of the Father.  He asked the same of his followers. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24).  To lead others, we must first lead ourselves in the sense of yielding our wills to the will of the Father.   Letting Jesus lead us is key.  And when we allow that we can do so with the confidence that the work Jesus began in us, he will complete – making us more Christ-like.  And when we become more Christ-like we can then say as the apostle Paul did – Follow me as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Cor. 11:1). 
– Dr. Gary Mathes