Thursday, December 3, 2020

Christmas Traditions


By: French B. Harmon, PhD


One of the traditions I enjoyed as a pastor was leading the church in a Christmas Eve worship service. It was similar in every church--sing a few carols, preach a message, share in the Lord's supper and then the lighting of individual candles. To conclude, we would hold our candles and sing "Silent Night." Just reflecting on this brings back great memories (see photo).

One area that evolved was a discussion on receiving of an offering in that service. For sure, this would be one of the larger services each year and members are inclined to give. As a staff, we also knew that many families had several stops to make that evening. A leadership meeting was held to discuss shortening the service and direct people to give in designated boxes upon exiting and thus save a few minutes in the worship service. What followed was a wonderful theological discussion.

J--"Jesus" is the focus of worship. Worshippers should to hear a message of faith, hope and love that comes through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
O--"Others" is the mission of worship. Members in the church need to hear the gospel imperative to reach their world for Christ through evangelism.
Y--"You" should be changed in true worship. When people "hear" the gospel message it challenges all to be more like Him. Believers should grow in their discipleship with Christ.

Upon reflection of these truths, the congregations I pastored received an offering during the Christmas Eve service. Many would joyfully give their tithes and additional offerings during that service. Others would be challenged to share their financial blessings and assist in helping the less fortunate. All would given the opportunity to reflect upon the birth and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.

One snowy Christmas Eve, I arrived early at Fort Mitchell Baptist Church to prepare for our candlelight service. A person in need knocked on the door. I answered the door and then heard the personal story of this struggling young man. It was almost time for the service so I encouraged him to join us.

By God's grace, he sat next to a beloved member that was spiritually sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Upon passing the offering plate, Sandra Strunk befriended the guest and showed him the love that comes from a relationship with Christ. That young man received more than expected when the "plate was passed" in that special service. Later that night he would receive Jesus Christ as savior!

I realize that the COVID19 pandemic might restrict us from certain traditions--passing the offering plates, sitting close in the pews and perhaps even sharing in candlelight services. What it can't change is the J.O.Y. of giving.

Give Jesus your "TIME"
Give Jesus your "TALENTS"
Give Jesus your "TREASURE"

The Kentucky Baptist Foundation stands ready to assist you in making legacy and permanent gifts to assist your church or related Baptist institutions and agencies that will truly bring joy for eternity. Merry Christmas from your KBF staff.

French Harmon is president of the Kentucky Baptist Foundation.

The information in this article is provided as general information and is not intended as legal or tax advice. For advice and assistance in specific cases, you should seek the advice of an attorney or other professional adviser.

Thankful Heart

By: French B. Harmon, PhD

I recently transitioned from being senior pastor of the historic First Baptist Church in Somerset to my role as president of the Kentucky Baptist Foundation. I am still in awe of what God can do through the local church. After thirteen years, I have found this move to be very emotional, broadly inspirational and forever thankful. Here are five thankful takeaways from a wonderful spiritual experience.

1. Thankful for a supportive wife and family. Being in ministry isn't for the faint of heart. The demands on a pastor today can be very great. Living with a supportive pastor’s wife has been a real blessing to me. Thank you Rachael. I am also appreciative of my children for living in the glass house and doing their best to serve the Lord.

2. Thankful for a great staff. Every Sunday was a significant event at our church. Planning and executing worship services, conducting weekly programming and promoting spiritual growth is always a work in progress. I was so blessed to have staff members that fulfilled their calling and graciously gave their best for Jesus Christ.

3. Thankful for a church that respected and encouraged pastoral leadership. No pastor is perfect, but to have served in a church that faithfully listened to the preaching of God’s word, bountifully gave resources to support the work of Christ and was active in all types of mission projects made for a fulfilling pastorate.

4. Thankful for a congregation that invested in young leaders. During my season of service we had the joy of working with many dynamic young leaders. We have watched with joy as several pastors, worship leaders and denominational servants have emerged. The church assisted these young men and women in their educational efforts, mission endeavors and presented meaningful opportunities for each to grow in their faith. I know each young leader expressed their appreciation to the church.

5. Thankful for the Bible. I found myself in many challenging moments during my pastoral tenure. However, what I always discovered was the power, guidance and truth found in scripture that made all the difference. It has become routine for many believers to automatically turn to their favorite author, theologian or personal friend for eternal guidance. That is good. In my life, the Bible is that one true word that points me on the right path for Jesus Christ. Remember to pick up that Bible and seek His will.

The late Dr. Adrian Rogers said, “The church is not the way to heaven but it is the sign that points to heaven.” As churches begin to reassemble, I encourage you to build the church and support your pastor. The world is now discovering that the church is “essential.”

French Harmon is president of the Kentucky Baptist Foundation.

The information in this article is provided as general information and is not intended as legal or tax advice. For advice and assistance in specific cases, you should seek the advice of an attorney or other professional adviser.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Tribute to Togetherness

 

By: French B. Harmon, PhD

I was a seventeen year old freshmen eating lunch at Ashland Community College's Baptist Student Union (BCM) when I first experienced the amazing collaborative work of Southern Baptists. I watched as our Greenup Baptist Association organized local churches to take turns at providing "free meals" for the college students. It was the Kentucky State Convention that would then provide a campus minister to spiritually guide the group, present the gospel weekly and disciple believers.

 

I grew exponentially during that formative year. I would later be elected President of Ashland Community College's BSU and called into the ministry. I have since graduated from a number of institutions, but God used those weekly lunch meetings in my early years to help direct my spiritual path. It was a unified effort that helped connect students like me with the unchanging truth from God's word. Thinking back on those special days gives me hope for the future.

 

  1. Biblically. The early church is our guide in being unified. We read in Acts 2:44 that the believers were "together" and the Lord would add to their number daily. A healthy church is constantly adding to their congregation. I am surprised at the energy many people take at trimming the membership rolls rather than being focused on adding to the ranks of the redeemed. Being a faithful witness during this COVID19 season will take courage. Charles Stanley said, "Opportunities are always lost when we let fear overrule our faith." Walk by faith. Pray that God will allow your path to be a blessing to another and demonstrate the strength of togetherness. I believe this is a critical moment for the church to demonstrate how "essential" Jesus is in our world. 
  2. Practically. I have travelled all over the commonwealth and have heard a simple but power statement repeated many times, "We can do more in the Lord's work when are all pulling in the same direction." I certainly agree. As an example, I served as the Men's Director for the 2002 Billy Graham Cincinnati Evangelistic Crusade. The goal was to rally all people around the cross. What joy it was to witness the Lord bringing together people of all ethnicities, backgrounds and cultures in order for the gospel to be preached. As a result, thousands gave their lives to Christ. Billy Graham spoke about the importance of unity when he said, "The cross shows the seriousness of sin but also the immeasurable love of God." Let's be unified around the cross and His gospel and not allow our differences to be a hindrance in bringing people to Him.
  3. Graciously. As followers of Christ, we acknowledge His grace and respond by sharing our lives. Romans 12:1 says "I beseech you, therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you are to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." I would encourage all Kentucky Baptist Convention Church members to express their love to God by offering tithes and offerings through the church. Adrian Rogers said, "God doesn't need us to give Him our money. He owns everything. Tithing is God's way to grow Christians." Additionally, if you are a "tither" you should consider giving at least a tenth of your estate to the Lord's work. In making that decision, please allow the Kentucky Baptist Foundation assist you in your planning. Recently, I called upon one pastor and gave him some wonderful news--"A member left part of his estate to the church." He was tearful in his response. I encourage you to leave a lasting legacy that will continue to build His kingdom until He returns. The foundation is part of the Kentucky Baptist Convention family and is here to serve in the area of stewardship, charitable giving and estate planning.

French Harmon is president of the Kentucky Baptist Foundation.


The information in this article is provided as general information and is not intended as legal or tax advice. For advice and assistance in specific cases, you should seek the advice of an attorney or other professional adviser.

 


Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Generosity: Become a doer of the word!

By: French B. Harmon, PhD


Many people in Kentucky were touched by the generosity of the late Ward F. Correll. International Mission Board (SBC) President Dr. Paul Chitwood said, "Ward Correll was the most generous man I've ever met." Among his many recognitions was a 2003 award as Philanthropist of the Year by the Association of Fundraisers, Bluegrass Chapter. This Baptist laymen from Somerset understood many of biblical principles regarding generosity and sought to live with a grateful attitude toward the things of God.
 

 

As Mr. Correll's pastor, I was honored to preach his funeral in 2016. As believers, we acknowledge a "person preaches their own funeral" but he certainly gave me plenty of biblical examples to share on that occasion. Here are few of the principles that were presented

 

  1. Build the Kingdom. One of Correll's favorite verses was "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all of these things will be added to you." He learned early in his life to invest in the things that really matter--Church, Christian institutions and Christ-honoring charities. These are ways a person can have a lasting impact on the Christ's Kingdom. United States Congressman Hal Rogers said of Correll, "His generosity was a vast as his business ingenuity, and he used both to inspire everyone around him." I would suggest that you to specifically list your church, Christian institutions, seminaries and Christ-honoring charities in your estate plans. Call the Kentucky Baptist Foundation for assistance.

 

  1. Bless people. Another powerful biblical principal that I presented in the funeral message was the concept of encouragement. I Thessalonians 5:11 says, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing (NIV)." Ward Correll made it his passion to be generous to people in need. He would often says, " Its all God's. We are just to help people on the journey. A practical lesson for each believer is to pray for "divine appointments." Often God will allow Christians to be the hands, feet and even the means to bless another person. Having a generous attitude could mean doing things that "only God may know about." It was amazing to hear the stories of how Correll had used his resources to bless others in their moment of need.

 

  1. Bloom where you are planted. This popular phase has a biblical root. In Matthew 7:17 and 20 says, "Even so, every good tree bears good fruit...by their fruits you shall know them." A person will be remembered by the fruit they leave behind and pay forward. Jesus encourages his followers to make a difference wherever you are. Ward Correll could have taken the resources and lived an opulent life. But he chose live a simply and be a devoted follower Christ. Being a "doer" will allow each of us to think of ways to be generous. Developing a Christ-like attitude comes from spending time reading the Bible and having time alone with God. As we allow God to mold us into His image an amazing thing takes place--we bloom! We begin to see opportunities to invest in people and causes that have eternal significance. Randy Alcorn wrote about possessions in the Treasure Principle, "You can not take it with you, but you can send it on ahead." I can think of numerous ministries that need a boost about now. Call me at the KBF and we can have a conversation about how you can make a difference now. 

 

The poet Deborah Ann Belka wrote about being a generous and kind person. She was inspired after reading Galatians 5:22-23 and the fruit of the Spirit.

 

                                                 "Disperse some generosity,

                                                  it can go a long, long way

                                                  to energize and cheer up

                                                  someone sad you meet today.

 

                                                 Scatter seeds of kindness,

                                                 let goodwill be what you sow

                                                 how they make others feel

                                                 you will never really know."

 

 

French Harmon is president of the Kentucky Baptist Foundation.


The information in this article is provided as general information and is not intended as legal or tax advice. For advice and assistance in specific cases, you should seek the advice of an attorney or other professional adviser.

 

Monday, June 15, 2020

Twice Blessed

By: Richard Carnes

As I sit here in my temporary home work space, as many of you are during the COVID-19 virus outbreak, I’ve reflected on what final words I want to express in my last column as President of the Kentucky Baptist Foundation. I am a fortunate individual that has been blessed, not once but twice, to serve in an executive leadership role with the Kentucky Baptist Foundation. The opportunity to serve my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through this legacy stewardship ministry and to be a fellow servant with the KBF board of directors and my staff colleagues is an honor and privilege I will forever cherish.

I want to take the next few moments to express appreciation to several significant relationships and parties. First, I want to express appreciation to the 17 members of the KBF Board of Directors, for their steadfast support, wisdom, and encouragement in directing the financial ministry of the Foundation.

I also want to express appreciation to a dedicated KBF staff I’ve been honored to serve with as colleagues. They are a solid group of professionals who foster a wonderful atmosphere of collegiality and exhibit a commitment to serve every one of our clients in a Christ honoring way. They’ve been a constant blessing to me.

As well I want to express appreciation to KBC Executive Director Dr. Todd Gray and all the KBC Mission Board leadership for the strong partnership support we have with the KBC in serving Kentucky Baptists.

I especially want to express thanks to our donors and clients, who through the past 75 years have called upon the services of the KBF and created funds through the Foundation. Their generosity has enabled us to distribute in excess of $194 million during these 75 years, to Baptist ministry causes as directed by these faithful donors and clients.

I’m happy to report the Foundation is sound and stands on solid footing through this very uncertain period in our country as we confront the COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, we’ve all taken a bit of a punch, and it may have knocked a little wind out of us, but we’re still standing, we’re still in the arena, and we continue to proclaim the great Good News that Christ is on the throne and reigns eternal. I’m so proud of our Kentucky Baptist churches and the way they have used this pandemic circumstance to expand the communication of the Gospel and literally taken the message outside the four walls of the church and into the community through creative technology.

I look forward to the advancement of the KBF’s legacy stewardship ministry, and I know the next president will be equally blessed with the opportunity to serve such a special group of people called Kentucky Baptists!

Richard Carnes is retiring as president of the Kentucky Baptist Foundation on June 30th, 2020.

The information in this article is provided as general information and is not intended as legal or tax advice. For advice and assistance in specific cases, you should seek the advice of an attorney or other professional adviser.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

A Place to Start

By: Richard Carnes

When working with individuals seeking guidance from the Kentucky Baptist Foundation, we are often asked for suggestions on how best to begin a person’s estate planning process. We suggest using the following four steps as a framework for organizing your thoughts.

People

The people in your life are central to the planning process. List those individuals for whom you are now financially responsible and those whom you would like to assist in the future. This is also the place where you could list your church, and other Christian ministry causes as part of your “family.”

Property

Next, we suggest listing your property. Think of everything you own, including financial assets and tangible property. Begin with income from all sources (salary, investments, rental property, etc.) Also include any current balances in pension plans, individual retirement accounts (IRA’s), 401K plans and other retirement plans. Beside each asset, list its current value. Next to its value, list its cost. Finally, note whether it is owned outright or with others.

Plans

Your plans begin to take shape as you review the list of persons and consider how you wish to provide for them. Study the various assets you listed to determine which ones may match the needs of each person or charitable cause you identified as important to you.

Planners

At the top of the list of planners will often be an attorney and an accountant. Your attorney drafts your will and other legal documents. Your accountant can provide valuable advice on tax matters as well as other estate planning issues, in consultation with your attorney. Others who may participate include life insurance professionals, financial planners, real estate professionals and trust officers.

The Kentucky Baptist Foundation is honored to work with individuals seeking how best to organize their planning goals to achieve their personal and charitable objectives, to support their families, their church and other Baptist causes.

To learn more, call upon the Kentucky Baptist Foundation as a helpful partner.

Richard Carnes is president of the Kentucky Baptist Foundation, PO Box 436389, Louisville, KY 40253; www.KYBaptistFoundation.org

The information in this article is provided as general information and is not intended as legal or tax advice. For advice and assistance in specific cases, you should seek the advice of an attorney or other professional adviser.

Monday, April 13, 2020

The Secure Act and the Charitable IRA Rollover Gift (QCD)

By: Richard Carnes

The “Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement” Act, aka the SECURE Act, was signed into law on December 20, 2019. The SECURE Act, which went into effect on January 1, 2020, changes many of the rules governing retirement plans, including several provisions relevant to making charitable IRA rollover gifts (also known as qualified charitable distributions or QCDs.)

Under the SECURE Act, the charitable IRA rollover, or QCD, remains a terrific way to make a tax-free gift to your church and Baptist ministries using your traditional IRA.

How Do I Qualify?

· You must be 70½ years old or older at the time of the gift

· Gifts must go directly from your IRA to the qualified charity

· Gifts must come from a traditional or Roth IRA account

· Gifts cannot exceed $100,000 per donor per year

· You cannot receive a benefit in return for your gift, such as tickets to a gala

Benefits of a Charitable IRA Rollover Gift (QCD)

The SECURE Act increased the age at which you must start taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from 70½ to 72. Once you reach 72, one of the great benefits of a QCD is that it will count towards your RMD. However, even if you have not reached age 72, there are still good reasons to consider a QCD at 70½. First, a QCD offers all the benefits of an income tax charitable deduction, even if you don’t itemize your deductions. You can’t claim a deduction for your QCD, but your QCD is not included in your income. Your QCD is always a tax-free gift.

Another change brought on by the SECURE Act is the elimination of the stretch IRA for many beneficiaries. With a few exceptions, children and other non-spouses who are more than 10 years younger than you no longer can stretch their withdrawals from an IRA they inherit from you over their life expectancy. Instead, they must withdraw and pay income tax on all funds within 10 years. This change means that it may be most tax efficient for you to support Baptist ministries and provide for your heirs by making QCDs during your life and setting aside other assets to pass on to your loved ones.

To learn more, call upon the Kentucky Baptist Foundation as a helpful partner.

Richard Carnes is president of the Kentucky Baptist Foundation, PO Box 436389, Louisville, KY 40253; www.KYBaptistFoundation.org

The information in this article is provided as general information and is not intended as legal or tax advice. For advice and assistance in specific cases, you should seek the advice of an attorney or other professional adviser.