Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Charles Barnes — Baptist statesman


By: FRENCH HARMON

I recently introduced the chairman of Kentucky Baptist Foundation’s Board of Directors, Dr. Charles Barnes, as “Mr. Kentucky Baptist.” What an honor it is to serve alongside such a legendary denominational leader! Jesus said in Matthew 7:16, “You shall know them by their fruits.” Reading his biography gives great evidence to a life of service, commitment and Christ-like humility.

Charles has a career punctuated as a distinguished banker (retired), mayor of River Bluff, chair of the Downtown Louisville District, director with the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and Man of Year Award from the University of Louisville School of Business.

Baptist Roots. Attending a Baptist high school and college was an integral part of Charles’ spiritual development. He is a graduate of Oneida Baptist Institute and Cumberland Junior College. Later, he would serve as chair of the Board of Trustees at Cumberland College (now University of the Cumberlands).

Church Commitment. Charles has been faithful in building meaningful Christian relationships and supporting his local church. As a member of Hurstbourne Baptist Church in Louisville, he has served as Adult Sunday School teacher, chair of deacons, moderator, chair of Business and Finance Team, Missions and Evangelism Team and interim church administrator.

Associational Leadership. As a member of Louisville Regional Baptist Association (formerly Long Run Baptist Association), Charles served as interim executive director, chair of the Administrative Committee, Business and Finance Committee, moderator, coordinator of Crossover Louisville, FIND IT HERE Campaign, treasurer for the Tony Evans Louisville Outreach event and treasurer for the Greater Louisville Billy Graham Crusade.

Denomination Service. Dr. Barnes has modeled the way a layperson can serve the Lord. President of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, chair of the Administrative Committee and Business and Finance Committee and the chairman of the Financial Board of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Most notably, he is the longest serving KBF board member, interim KBF president and a consultant. Former KBF President Barry Allen stated, “Charles, your life has reflected a sense of success, but with humility, at your ability to integrate that ‘first things first principle’ into the various aspects of your personal and professional life.”

Personal reflection. I was asked to write a short article about life in Christ. I immediately thought of Charles Barnes as a living illustration of a person who represents our Lord in such a magnificent manner. Every Baptist leader should have the privilege to learn “how to manage a committee meeting” from Charles Barnes — courteous, focused and prepared. However, it is how he interacts with people that allows Charles to excel as a Baptist statesman. Through the years, I have watched Charles from a distance and up-close. He is the same authentic person that only wants the kingdom of our Lord to advance. We need more Charles Barneses in our Baptist world.

Recently, Charles and I had breakfast at one of his favorite restaurants — First Watch. We both ordered the same meals as in previous meetings. But it was his personal stories that became the real meal for me. He took me back to KBC leaders like Boswell, Owen, Marshall, Mackey, Chitwood and Eldred Taylor who can easily provide a map for our future leaders to follow. Time will tell how we learn from our history, but during this season we have been blessed by one who has given his life to unify Kentucky Baptists. Thank you, Charles, for your service and to his wife, Shelva, for sharing him with us.

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.

This article was reposted from Kentucky Today. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Western Recorder: A long-time friend

By: French D. Harmon, Phd

It is hard to imagine Kentucky Baptist life without the Western Recorder. We realize change is part of life, but losing this treasure is difficult.

I am truly thankful every morning when Kentucky Today arrives in my inbox, but it was the Western Recorder (WR) that gave me insight and context as I grew up in ministry. We have adapted to this new online news service, but please allow me to share four personal reflections on the Western Recorder.

1. Values. The Western Recorder — in both its newsprint and magazine formats — provided much-needed biblical perspective on matters of faith. The articles I read often reminded of the need to respond to our Lord's teaching. I recall reading an inspirational editorial that challenged me to build character and Jesus said, "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26). There were times I didn't fully agree with a WR opinion piece, but that is part of being in the Southern Baptist Convention family. It was so great to have a state newspaper that served the interest of congregations all over Kentucky.

2. Victories. For several years, two of the churches I pastored used the back page for our weekly newsletter. It allowed for our members to experience the spiritual victories of our church, individuals and congregations across the commonwealth. Proverbs 21:31 tells us, "Victory belongs to the Lord." Seeing items in print allowed members to spur on their friends to grow in their walk with the Lord and be encouraged by members of the body of Christ. It has been a great tool for local church leaders.

3. Virtues. I grew up during the SBC era that featured programming and allowed congregations to focus on consistent teaching from the Sunday School Board, church training materials, evangelistic outreaches and passionate preaching. The Western Recorder encouraged believers to be a faithful part of their church. I was regularly reminded of Philippians 4:8, and to "think on things" that are true, honorable, just, commendable, lovely, excellent and praiseworthy. To me, the Western Recorder promoted denominational unity which I felt was very important in my growth as a Christian.

4. Voices. I got to know Baptist leaders and laypersons through articles in the Western Recorder. When I recall the notable editors, pastors, seminary, mission and denominational leaders, it actually points to what the future could be. The late John Bisagno stated, "Jesus called us to be brothers and sisters and not identical twins." John 15:12 tells us, "This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I loved you." Today, let our Baptist voices be inviting and loving as a watching world needs Jesus.

Recently, I walked through the space previously used by the Western Recorder staff. There was an old typewriter, a plaque in memory of C.R. Daley — but then I saw the stack of newspapers going back to the 1800s. I then realized how many people were touched by the Western Recorder.

Farewell, old friend. I already miss your values, victories, virtues and voices.

Thank you.


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.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Echo Chambers


By: French B. Harmon

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: For it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone that believes…” Romans 1:16

Over the years I have watched many of our gospel conversations remain inside the friendly walls of the church. It seems that casual Christianity is alive and well in the American church. The trouble is that many believers are more interested in winning ecclesiastical debates than evangelizing the community. Perhaps our echo chambers are keeping the gospel from changing our communities.

Here are four suggestions to truly get the “Gospel to Every Home.”

1. Don’t let your social media comments ruin your witness. Sadly, many of our brothers and sisters are very concerned about winning the political, social or philosophical debate but loose the opportunity to share a gospel conversation. Remember the words of Jesus in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Examine your social media habits and make it a positive expression of your faith.

2. Engage your community. As a pastor, each staff member was encouraged to have a community ministers. I coached baseball and basketball in local schools which opened many doors to share my faith. My wife Rachael was also very involved as a volunteer in each school which allowed for additional engagement with families. Be creative and host quality events in your home, church or local park. People need the love that comes from Christ (John 3:16).

3. Be bold. When I read Romans 10:13 it seems clear, “For whosever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” The boldness needed for these times should be gospel-centered. What the church doesn't need is for believers to center conversations on personal opinions, political views or divisive social matters without presenting the gospel. Unfortunately many “life groups” can deteriorate into personal merely discussions sessions without the salt and light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Be bold and present the gospel.

4. Old school and new school strategies. I really think it's time to stop criticizing methodologies and become evangelism cheerleaders. D.T. Niles said evangelism is “One beggar telling another where to find bread.” Old school strategies work—Visitation, revivals, youth, children's and outreach evangelism programs are awesome. New school initiatives—gospel conversations, concerts, adopting schools and sports evangelism works. I am for both old and new gospel- sharing strategies.

Our Association Mission Strategists provide great leadership for churches in our Kentucky Baptist Convention. Schedule a meeting with your local associational missionary and develop strategies to reach your community. Let's commit ourselves to not merely talk in our echo chambers but really do the work of evangelism.

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.




Tuesday, January 26, 2021

COVID-19 makes me cherish LIFE


By: French B. Harmon, PhD

Recently I preached the funeral of my wife’s Rachael 92 year-old grandmother Marie Childers. It was as a beautiful, socially distanced gathering, that allowed only a limited number of participants. The graveside funeral featured heartfelt music, the reading of sacred scripture, personal reflections and a gospel message. The family was not able to receive guests as you would during normal conditions.

The Bible tells us in Psalm 23: 4 “Yea, though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” The family experienced this comfort as COVID19 restrictions did not allow personal visits to Mrs. Childers for many months. It was certainly a long goodbye but assisted by God’s very present help. Life is should be cherished even when times are challenging.

This experience with Mrs. Childers taught me:

1. God is the author of Life. Each person is precious in the eyes of God. We are thankful for the skilled health workers, and especially those that cared for Mrs. Childers during these unprecedented times. Acts 17:25 reminds us that God “gives all life and breath.” Each breath we take is a gift from the Lord at every stage of life.

2. Nothing is a surprise to God. COVID19 took me, and seemingly the whole world, by surprise. However, God wasn’t overtake by this pandemic. He is with us and will help us through these times. I am very thankful for the researchers working hard to find a vaccine for this virus. Let's remember to intentional pray for those conducting this research and claim the promise found in James 1:5-- “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.”

3. Family matters. During these moments at the graveside, many memories with Marie and our family came to mind. Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are such important times for families to gather and be as one. This year was different. Celebrating and being thankful to God for His blessings are central for each believer. The pandemic caused us to shelter in place for extended periods of time with our families. Count this as a real blessing.

4. Heaven changes everything. Marie is now in the presence of Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 5:8 the Bible reaffirms the reality of a deceased Christian by stating, “To be absent from the body but present with the Lord.” Yes, heaven is real! No more pain, disease or suffering. While there were tears from each family member present we claimed this precious promise from God. I strongly encourage church leaders to provide biblical teaching on heaven and what Jesus said in John 14:1-6.

I urge each follower of our Lord to be careful during this season. The church is essential in helping this world deal with COVID-19 and the many physical, mental, emotional and spiritual challenges it brings. I now understand the heartbreak many people have felt in loosing a loved one during this pandemic. Let LOVE LIFE! 

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.

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.