Tales from the VBS Road Trip

Tales from the VBS Road Trip

By Marc Ira Hooks
Associate Missions Strategist/Director of Communication

There is nothing more Southern Baptist than Vacation Bible School (VBS.)  Some of my earliest memories of church come from VBS. My mother was known in our church as “The Cookie Monster.” As school was coming to an end, she would begin collecting (hoarding is probably a better word) cookies and Kool-Aid to feed the numerous kids who would come through our church for a week filled with Bible study, crafts, games…and cookies.

When I was commissioned as an IMB missionary, I fondly recalled my early memories of missions education – standing on the stage during VBS as one of the volunteers chosen to act out the mission story of the day. They would dress one of us in rags that had been “bloodied” by catsup while another would don a white lab coat, stethoscope, and one of those reflector thingies that old-fashioned doctors would wear. Then we would act out the story as the leaders shared about how the missionary-doctor traveled to a foreign land to bind the wounds of the broken. And how Jesus, just like that doctor, can heal our spiritual needs as well as our physical needs.

Years later, I found myself dressed in my own missionary costume – a parka, and Russian-style fur hat – sitting next to some women who had made their way through the ice, snow, and bitter winds of Siberia to draw water from the village well. I shared with them about the one who brings living water. You see, a week of VBS will not just provide experiences that change the lives of children who attend, it has the potential to change hundreds or thousands of lives around the globe.

I traveled more than 1,000 miles over Collin County roads this summer during The VBS Road Trip and managed to visit 24 of the many CBA Church Network churches who hosted VBS for their neighborhoods. Though the theme was often the same, the VBS experience from church to church was vastly different. However, the one thing each had in common is that young lives were being changed through the transforming message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

On one stop, the pastor left me abruptly minutes before our live video broadcast because a young man had just indicated he wanted to talk about how to accept Jesus as his lord and savior. On another stop, one of the children talked about how scared John the Baptist must have felt to baptize Jesus because he realized Jesus was the Son of God. And during a visit to an adult VBS (yes, that is a thing) a young man gave testimony about how Jesus appeared to him while he was in a coma, and now his life’s mission is to proclaim the Gospel.

This summer, countless girls, boys, women, and men in Collin County came face-to-face with a living witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ…and that is what VBS and the work of the CBA Church Network churches is all about, the transformational work of Jesus in the lives of our neighbors.

See you next year on The VBS Road Trip – 2020!


Extra Cups on a Sunday Morning

Extra Cups on a Sunday Morning

Sunday morning is a sacred time as a pastor. Most wake up early and get to their church before anyone else does.

If you’re a small church pastor like me, you’re probably turning on all the lights, adjusting the thermostats, making the coffee, making sure the bulletins are printed and in order, and reviewing your sermon one last time before the band comes in to practice. Most pastors have a routine they follow and like to stick to that routine as closely as possible.

One Sunday morning, I got a call from a pastor friend of mine. He pastors a church nearby, and he and I have become friends through the CBA Church Network. Knowing what his obligations are on Sunday mornings, the timing of his call was strange. When I answered the phone, he asked me if I had any cups for the Lord’s Supper, because they were doing it that morning and he was running short.
He came by to get the cups, and all was well with his service. In that moment, it was a simple conversation about small disposable cups, but the relationship leading up to that conversation took months to build.

Pastor, let me ask you a question: when you have a need, who can you turn to? It can be communion cups on a Sunday morning, or it may be wisdom, guidance, and prayer because of infighting in your church.

What the CBA Church Network provides us as pastors is a group of churches that are battling back the same lostness as you are and in the same area you’re in.
We have large and small churches in our network. We have new church plants and churches that have been around for more than a century in our network. We have traditional churches in historic buildings, and we have churches meeting in a shopping center in our network. We are a diverse group that has one goal, to build God’s Kingdom.

I have networked and partnered with pastors from the CBA in serving our town with a clothing and food pantry, a city-wide call to prayer after a tragedy, high school graduating senior ceremonies, as well calling to see if a certain family was attending their church in order to minister to them.

Outside of my town, I’ve partnered with CBA pastors to travel to Washington DC and to be trained at the NAMB headquarters in Georgia.The opportunities for pastors to have a brotherhood network of men serving the same God in the same area is here, all you have to do is get involved.

I’ll end with this challenge: there are pastors in your area, probably within a 10-minute drive of you, who need an encouraging call from you and who need your prayers and compassion. Networking isn’t hard, it starts with a phone call. And who knows, the relationship you start with that phone call may have extra cups for you on a Sunday.

Chase Smith serves as pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, and is currently working on his doctorate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can connect with him on Twitter @ChaseMSmith.

Are You Leaving A Part Out?

John Mark Caton
Pastor, Cottonwood Creek Church

Baseball is my sport. I enjoy every aspect of the game. Hitting, running the bases, goofing off in the dugout… I enjoy it all. I even love the smell of a freshly cut field and the look of a neatly raked diamond. I get excited hearing the crack of the bat and the cheer of the crowd and the screaming third base coach as he waves a runner home. There’s nothing like it.

Some of you who are not baseball fans might not have caught what happened in the description I just gave. Yes, I described one of my favorite things in the world, which is baseball and how much I enjoy it, but did you “catch” what I left out? I left out a very important part of baseball which is playing defense in the field. Baseball isn’t just about hitting the ball and scoring runs. It’s also about playing defense and fielding the ball and keeping the other team from scoring. It’s crazy to think of baseball without the fielding aspect of the game.

Just like it’s crazy to think about baseball without fielding, it is absolutely crazy to think about being missional – Great Commission/Matthew 28:19-20 driven – people and churches without being involved in local missions and local missional partnerships. Remember, the Great Commission has an international, regional (national and state), and local aspect to it. It’s been my experience in ministry to see a church family get really excited about sending a team to the Dominican Republic to help a local pastor meet the physical and spiritual needs of people in that country. It’s also been my experience as a pastor to see a church family get excited about going to a far-off place in our own country to help churches get planted and reach those communities for Christ. However, it has also been my experience as a pastor to see how we can lose our zeal for evangelism and missions in our own neighborhoods and in our own cities. This is the part of the Great Commission that is the easiest to forget and one that plagues us all from time to time. So, what are we do? Simply put, get out in our communities and reach people for Christ and build them up through our church’s ministries. And secondly, get involved in local missional partnerships.

The Bible reminds us of what a successful missional partnership looks like in 1 Corinthians 3:5-9. A successful partnership is one built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ and the Gospel first and foremost and not on a certain personality, church, or association. Verse 6 also reminds us that a successful partnership involves parties working together to sow the seeds of the Gospel, but it is the Lord that provides the growth and the harvest and is to get the glory for the results. So, if you have 2 parties who agree in Christ as the foundation and on the importance of the Gospel and the Great Commission, then you have the beginnings of a successful missional partnership. So, how do you go about seeking someone locally to partner with in gospel ministry? Easy. We’ve got the CBA Church Network.

The CBA Church Network exists “for the day when every girl, boy, woman, and man within our reach experiences a living witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” The way they work to see this day happen is through the networking “… of Great Commission churches and organizations who connect, collaborate, and engage in the work of the Gospel in Collin County and beyond.” So, it’s easy to see that we’ve got a ready and willing partner to do local missions right here in our area. Cottonwood Creek Church has renewed our commitment to partnership with the CBA Church Network. This renewal of commitment is happening specifically in two areas. The first area is with the reThink Student Apologetics Conference.

The CBA Church Network and Cottonwood Creek Church partnered together last year to bring Stand to Reason’s (see http://str.org) reThink Student Apologetics Conference to our area. This conference is a unique conference bringing senior pastors, student pastors, parents, grandparents, middle school and high school students, college students, and even seminary students together to be trained and equipped to defend the faith in a culture that is increasingly becoming more and more non-Christian. The conference is also unique in that it is set up to be used by senior pastors and youth pastors as a “kick start” or as a “booster shot” to their own churches year-round apologetics ministry. Stories have come in how students have been bold witnesses for Christ in lunchrooms, hallways, and even in classrooms based upon the training they received at the conference. Other stories have come in how parents and grandparents have been able to have deep and meaning conversations with their students about the material presented at the conference and how they as a family can be committed to being ready to give a reason for the hope that is within them at every opportunity the Lord gives. This fruitful partnership has been a wonderful addition to Cottonwood Creek’s ongoing apologetics ministry to both adults and students.
The second area Cottonwood Creek Church has renewed our commitment to partnering with the CBA Church Network is through the new church planting ministry called Send North Texas (see http://sendntx.org). You might be familiar with the Send City initiative that quite a few of us participate in that seeks to plant churches in areas of our country that don’t have enough Bible believing evangelical churches to reach the population. Well, that Send City initiative has come to North Texas. Why? The Send North Texas website states, “Today, the population in North Texas (Collin County and Denton County) is 1.8 million with approximately 216-member churches. Government estimates indicate that in 10 years, our population will increase to 3 million people, which means the need to start 344 churches in the next 12 years to ‘hold our own’… that roughly translates to starting 28.6 new churches per year.” We all have been hearing about the recent shift of corporate national headquarters to our area and the jobs they bring and the housing shortage it has caused by people moving in from other parts of the country. And now, we’re experiencing people from other countries coming to this area in increased numbers to work and to raise their families. All of these factors have created a wonderful ministry partnership opportunity here locally for us to band together and reach North Texas for Jesus Christ.

It’s truly an exciting time to be involved in local mission work and local ministry partnerships. The Lord has provided us with opportunities to get into the work of local missions. Cottonwood Creek Church seeks to do its part, as best as we can, to join these efforts. My challenge to every pastor and church leader in this area is this… will you prayerfully and honestly evaluate your church’s missional efforts to see if you’re missing out on a part of the Great Commission? Will you prayerfully and seriously consider researching and joining us in these and other local missions and ministry partnerships with the CBA Church Network? My prayer for you is that you will take on these challenges like we have at Cottonwood Creek and seek to partner with us and the CBA Church Network in these exciting new ministries as we plant and water the seeds of the Gospel while praying and looking to the Lord to give the increase.