The key to the effectiveness of a church, or an association of churches, is volunteers. So, in my next to last column I want to express thanks to the several hundred volunteers that have served with me over these 20 years. You know who you are and God knows as well. Many of you will hear God say to you one day, “Well done….” for the service you have done.
The focus of our association has been to enable every believer in Pickens Association churches to be a Great Commission, Great Commandment, victorious servant of God. This is done through a set of ministries, programs, events and projects. Here are several examples—
*Baptist Center—volunteers who staff the store receiving, sorting, displaying donated items. Preparing food boxes. Informing the managers of needs they see in their communities.
*Mission teams—like the volunteers who worked in Gatlinburg this summer and many other places away from here beginning in 2004 with a trip to Vermont. Or like teams that have gone to Brazil since 2005 and built chapels, held health clinics, Vacation Bible Schools, and door to door evangelism.
*Prison ministry—God has entrusted us with a wonderful opportunity to evangelize, disciple, and congregationalize women from around the world. FCI Aliceville can become a major source for sending missionaries for decades to come. Women who come there are dealing with guilt. They learn that God loves them, will forgive them, and has work for them to do. Many are being saved. Many are learning the truth of Scripture. Many have a sense of calling on their lives to share the Gospel now in the FCI and in the future where they settle. Women from as many as 20 nations have been entrusted to us. We have planted three vibrant churches. We are teaching the Bible to many women. We are encouraging the inmates to serve God. Response has been great. Persons from our churches, and churches too have volunteered to serve in the many ministries that are going on there. A related ministry is one that serves the inmates at our county jail.
*Pickens Bible Institute—several of our ministers teach classes here at the PBA office on the Bible. Since many of our ministers are bivocational and have not had seminary training, this is a ministry which aims at improving the quality of worship and instruction in our churches.
*Disaster Relief Team—volunteers who help with cleanup after storms here and across America.
*Ministries at the community celebrations within the bounds of the association—Face in the Window Day, Mule Day, Reform Christmas Parade, Panola Day, and others. The Gospel is shared by volunteers.
*Block Party Trailer—used by many churches for special community events.
*Radio Sunday School class—weekly broadcasts on FM 100.8. The Gospel is shared. Explanation of how one becomes a Christian is given. Good Bible study is demonstrated. It is hoped that the quality of Sunday School teaching is enhanced through this program.
*Events for age groups—children, students, senior adults and others.
In each of these cases volunteers have made these ministries happen. Thank you. Many of the volunteers of two decades ago are now with their Lord. One day, not too soon I hope, I will be able to thank them again. But to those who are still here, I hope that you will continue to be a good volunteer in the years to come as a new DoAM arrives. He will likely find additional ministry needs and will seek to launch additional projects, events and programs. As times and needs change some of the current ministries will need to change.
Recently, I came across the fact that one of the early missionaries from our association, Emma Fox Puthuff wrote a book entitled, Saved to Serve. Although I have not found a copy to read, I am taken by the title. This is what being a Christian is about. I fear that some among us are confused and think we are saved only so that we can go to heaven when we die. While there is truth here, for the interim, in that dash between our new birth and our going to heaven, God has volunteer work for us to do. Read Matthew 25:31-46. Saved to Serve. What are you doing? What ought you to be doing?