How a local pastor became a “lifeline” after the Kentucky floods

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How a local pastor became a “lifeline” after the Kentucky floods

August 8, 2022 - Jim Denison, PhD

A "hope" sign sits atop a pile of debris on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, after massive flooding the previous week in Fleming-Neon, Ky. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

A "hope" sign sits atop a pile of debris on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, after massive flooding the previous week in Fleming-Neon, Ky. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

This is the best headline for the gospel I have seen in a long time: “After the Kentucky floods, a local pastor becomes a lifeline.”

The article is in the Washington Post, an outlet not known for supporting evangelical Christianity. But its subject is so compelling that even the Post had to tell his story in a very compelling way.

Brad Stevens is pastor of Church of God Worship Center in Clay County, in eastern Kentucky. Following floods that have devastated his region, he has helped lead his community to unite and to rebuild. He and a group of volunteers have traveled from hollow to hollow delivering food and water to families trapped in their homes. His church has become a hub for food, water, and other donations.

Stevens has been working with government officials to navigate the logistics of road and bridge building. He recently helped rebuild a bridge that reconnected a family with their only access road. When the bridge was completed, the homeowner wept.

Even the harshest skeptic who reads this story would have to be impressed with Pastor Stevens’ compassion, generosity, and servant spirit. He is Exhibit A of the old saying, “Your life is the only Bible many people will ever read.”

A conversation that changed Christian history

Dominic was born on August 8, 1170, in Castile, Spain. He entered the priesthood, but the turning point of his life came in 1206 when he was chosen to accompany his bishop on a visit to southern France. This area was held by the Albigenses, a heretical sect who held that there are two gods: one the god of light, goodness, truth, and spirit, and the other the god of evil, error, darkness, and matter.

In their view, the material universe is the creation of the bad god, while the good god made the souls of men. The bad god then kidnapped these souls and imprisoned them in bodies of flesh.

On their first night in Albigensian country, Dominic and his bishop stayed at an inn where the innkeeper was an Albigensian. Dominic engaged him in conversation all night. By dawn, the man was ready to become an orthodox Christian.

From that moment, Dominic knew God’s calling on his life. That conversation changed his ministry and, with it, Christian history.

Dominic and his bishop undertook to study Albigensian beliefs and to engage in public debates with their opponents. Then, in 1207, his bishop died and the pope declared a crusade against the Albigenses which lasted about five years.

Dominic continued to debate and preach where he could. In 1215 he founded an order of preachers who were to live in poverty and devote themselves to studying philosophy and theology and to combatting false doctrine by logical argument rather than by force.

Dominic’s order flourished. Officially known as the Order of Preachers, it was informally known as the Dominicans, or the Blackfriars (from the color of their cloaks). Two of their best-known members are Albertus Magnus (1200–80), who became famous for his learning in various fields, and his pupil Thomas Aquinas (1225–74), who became the leading theologian of the Catholic church.

“Reasoning daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus”

We don’t have to be Catholics, much less Dominicans, to adopt Dominic’s approach to culture. This is because his strategy of learning the beliefs of others and then engaging them relationally and logically was first the strategy of Jesus.

When a Samaritan woman came to Jacob’s well for water, Jesus asked her for water and then led her to “living water” (John 4:10). He spoke directly to her personal life and needs (v. 16) so that she could later say, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever I did” (v. 29). Eventually, “many Samaritans from that town believed in him” (v. 39).

Paul followed the same strategy. He cited Hebrew Scriptures when speaking in Hebrew synagogues (cf. Acts 13:13–47) and Greek philosophers when speaking to Greek philosophers (cf. Acts 17:28). When he was in a town without a synagogue, he found a “place of prayer” and led a woman who came to it to Christ (Acts 16:13–15).

In Ephesus, he began in the synagogue, but when “some became stubborn and continued in unbelief,” he withdrew from them and began “reasoning daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus” (Acts 19:9). After two years, “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (v. 10).

Six steps to transformational truth

We don’t have to be the Son of God, Paul the apostle, or the founder of a Catholic order to follow their example. The same Holy Spirit who empowered them is ready to “guide you into all the truth” today (John 16:13). If we will prepare, he will empower. If we are willing to be used, he is willing to use us.

How?

One: Submit your mind daily to the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18; Romans 12:2). Ask him to author your thoughts and guide your words.

Two: Define your kingdom assignment. Know that part of the culture you are called to engage. This may be where you work, go to school, or live. Discover your “Jerusalem” (Acts 1:8).

Three: Learn your local culture. Now that you know your mission field, learn its “language.” Read the news; seek to understand the cultural trends of the day. My Daily Article and other resources at Denisonforum.org are designed specifically to help you do this.

Four: Build relational bridges to biblical truth. Earn the right to be heard by caring for those you are called to influence. Earn their trust by caring for their felt needs and eventually addressing their spiritual needs.

Five: Look for opportunities to explain the gospel. People need to know the truths of salvation: they are lost without Christ; he died to pay for their sins; if they will confess their sins and trust him as their Lord, he will give them salvation and make them the children of God. (For more, see my website article, “Why Jesus?”)

Six: Trust the results to God. You and I cannot convict sinners of sin or save souls. If we will speak as God directs, his Spirit will use us in drawing those we influence to himself. However, he also honors their free will. Their salvation is ultimately between them and the Lord.

Rick Warren noted, “The way you store up treasure in heaven is by investing in getting people there.”

How much treasure will you store in heaven today?

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV®️ Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®️), copyright ©️ 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated in whole or in part into any other language.

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