Thoughts on faith and our daily bread

By Lee Kemp 

This summer Forefront hosted “Summer Fun Days” at Timberline Apartments to make a positive impact on kids who would otherwise spend the summer alone.

Monday through Wednesday we would meet from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. In the morning we played games, sang songs, made crafts, and told Bible stories. After we fed the kids lunch, they would swim in the pool for afternoon playtime. Then on Thursdays we would go on fieldtrips to places like the nature center and skating rink. We even had a special water slide party one day with the fire department’s help.

This summer alone, we reached 58 kids. Seven of those kids prayed to receive Christ!

This was our third and best year for Summer Fun Days. It came together really well, but we’re learning how to do it better. This summer Forefront had two E4Call interns, college students who feel called to ministry, named Joel and Taylor. They connected and served with Forefront for the summer.

Joel and Taylor were not only a blessing to us as a church but also the many kids/families we met through the summer program. Here’s the thing: We wouldn’t have had the ability to pay them if it wasn’t for Dixie Jackson dollars. Other churches’ giving gave us the money to pay them.

The conundrum of money in ministry  

Early in Forefront’s ministry, a local businessman—Steve—told me something about money that really convicted me. He said, “Lee, I’ve never seen a ministry that Jesus wanted to see done that didn’t happen because of money.”

I know when we start talking about money everybody gets weird, but the raw and the real is that we’ve got to be careful with how we view money in ministry.

To me, there are two sides of the continuum. There’s the guy who may not plant a church because he doesn’t have the money. He is sitting there, stressed, and thinking that if he doesn’t raise some sort of money then he can’t start, or he thinks he knows how much money it’s going to take. But by then, he isn’t really thinking about church planting.

There’s a guy I talked with once who said, “You know, I really wanted to be a church planter, but I don’t know about the financial instability. And I’m not good at raising money.”

{ I’ve never seen a ministry that Jesus wanted to see done that didn’t happen because of money.}

On the other end, there’s an established church that has more than enough money but is trying to figure out what to do with their end of the year excess. When they planned their budget, the church was saying, “This is what we need in order to do what God’s placed on our hearts.” That’s really what a budget is. And they’ve not only met that budget but they’ve exceeded it.

I’ve been in that meeting before at an established church. God gave us an excess, and as support staff we put in our wish list of what we would like to get as if it was Christmas. Instead of having just one projector that everyone looks at on the left side of the room, we could get one for the right side. Or we could look into getting a church van with a better air conditioner.

But I don’t ever remember thinking, “Hey, we could give that to missions.” I was thinking of my own kingdom and not God’s. I’m not saying it’s wrong to “up” your game or buy a better projector for your auditorium, but how can we spur generosity?

I remember asking once about stewardship during an ordination council meeting. Lee Woodmansee said, “Every time we come along an extra sum of money, we ask the Lord, ‘Ok, who do you want us to give it to?’”

A lot of times we don’t think this way.

Ping pong back to the guy who is worried about money and is expecting money from another church. He’s thinking about what it takes to get the church up and running instead of God’s kingdom. He’s paralyzed. What would it look like if that church planter realized he will never have enough money—at any given point—to supply all the church will ever need, but he does have enough to start?

Walking (and spending) with faith

A pastor pulled out a white handkerchief once to clean his glasses, and he said to me, “When you surrendered to ministry you raised this white flag.” If God wants to send me, then where he sends me he will provide for me. It’s so simple, but it’s so hard to walk out.

You can never have enough money in ministry. It’s expensive. It’s risky. And even if you have money, ministry will probably take more money than you currently have.

In the Bible, there’s manna—when God is providing. Then there’s man taking more than God instructed—where men tried to provide for themselves by their own efforts.

The point here is being careful not to spoil ourselves with something God really didn’t give us. When we have this abundance, instead of asking What do we want? we should be asking How much should we really keep?

What if we looked at money as if it was manna?

Baptist churches think about a lot of good things in their budget: how to provide for their staff, what’s going to support the key ministries their staff oversee, how to retire debt, how to fit capital items in their budget, building a budget to get people excited, etc. I’ve been a part of teams where we did that and God still gave us excess, and I made the mistake thinking it was for us just because we had already put those “visionary” things in our budget.

{ I made the mistake thinking the excess was for us just because we had already put those “visionary” things in our budget.}

And there’s this strategy of us cooperating as Baptist churches. God has blessed us! Not only with what we need to do ministry but more because we do it together! Forefront’s goal as a church plant was not to plant or pastor a church that thinks about its own people. We are building God’s kingdom in the state of Arkansas. Other peoples’ success is our success, but only if we’re cooperating.

If your church gives a large amount to Dixie Jackson or to the Cooperative Program, someone will be blessed! Sometimes we don’t want to because we won’t physically see where it goes, or what it does. But what is that expressing? Where’s the Holy Spirit in this? I think at times the reason we are lax in giving is because of a spirit of control.

It’s just that I think our questions about money really ought to be, What are we doing here? and What is the Holy Spirit leading us to do with it?  How are we advancing God’s Kingdom within our local church and the capital “C” Church?

We can wisely spend the money that God has entrusted us with and still think big!   


God is already there

By Nicole Hutcheson 

I spent this summer on the other side of the world in Southeast Asia. Though I can’t say which country I served in, I can say it is against the law to “Christianize” the people who live there. The good news is that God is already there, even in the hardest and most closed places.

It’s illegal to share the Gospel. It’s hard. But we have to go!

My team and I had to use a lot of discernment as we talked to people, but our priority was not the number one concern—the people we met were. Someone told us during training that we were on a rescue mission, so we kept that mindset the entire summer. 

We would really want to share with someone, but the opportunity did not come up naturally in the conversation. Silently, we would ask the Lord to please open a door. So many times I was praying that specific prayer, and the door would open right in that instant.

Relying on God

We had a neighbor in one of the cities where our team was staying. For several weeks we visited with her, but the opportunity to share the Gospel never came up.

On our last night in the city, we were having dinner with this woman. I was sitting on the edge of my seat asking God for his help because we still had not shared the Gospel.

Then my teammate sneezed. The woman turned to her and said the traditional “May Jesus bless you,” but in her language. When I heard her say his name I asked, “Would you tell me what you just said?” She said it again, so I asked, “Do you mean Jesus Christ?” In that moment we shared the entire Gospel with her.

{ Later, our team talked about how God just used a sneeze to share the Gospel! }

Also about the midpoint of our trip our team was struggling because we hadn’t seen a lot of fruit from our work. We knew that the Lord was faithful—that we might just be planting seeds—but we were praying and hoping we would see someone come to know him.

We had the day off from work, so we were spending the day at the beach just paddle boarding, relaxing, and having a good time with our team coordinator and his family. One of my teammates went down the beach to buy coconuts for us, and he realized the guy he was buying from had a Bible verse on his shirt.

He asked the man if he knew what the shirt said and meant, and when he answered “no,’’ my teammate shared the Gospel with him. The man accepted the Lord on the beach right there! The guys went back later and talked with him, studied the Word, gave him a Bible, and really solidified that faith.

It was just the coolest thing to see that, but this moment spoke to more than that. We were trying so hard to be faithful and wanting things to go the way we thought they should, and when we least expected it God moved into that man’s heart and changed his life.

God is definitely moving in this nation! (For a similar God story, be sure to checkout Lee’s post “God is still on the move” about a divine encounter with a member of the Arapaho Tribe.) 

Sharing the Gospel is more than telling

Last September, I was reading in the New Testament and God told me I should checkout church plants in our area. I thought, “That would be cool. Ok.” A few days later, my Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) campus minister, Lee Woodmansee, told me that a local church planter would be speaking at one of our events.

It was Lee Kemp. After he spoke, I introduced myself and told him, “I’m coming to your church on Sunday.” I’ve been going to Forefront Church ever since.

After I got back from Southeast Asia, I was sitting at Forefront and very distinctly God told me, “This is what you’re going to do. Go out and make disciples.” In order to go and make disciples, we have to have to create a place to come together.

Nicole (left) with members of her team.

We can’t ignore that fact as believers. We can’t just go and tell people about Jesus. We have to see it through! We need people to grow with new believers, to come beside them, and walk with them through life. You get that that discipleship and community through church.

To me, it’s not about becoming a “church planter.” It’s just part of my call.

Attending Forefront, I’ve kind of seen how church planting works. I’m pretty sure that will be my future in international missions: planting a church with local believers and knowing the church and their outreach will continue even after I leave.

I don’t know how I will get to that point, but I think it’s a biblical truth. That’s what we should do. One of the things they say in East Asia’s underground church is this: “Every member of a church is a church planter, and every church planter plants churches.” 

College, missions, or both? 

I’m not on the field right now, and that’s hard! I’m now a senior at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith. I know I’m supposed to finish school, but I also need to play an active role in missions work.

We had one lesson this summer that was about different aspects of missions, like praying for and mobilizing missionaries. What that looks like for me as a college student is telling people about my experience, encouraging them to do international missions, and explore those options with them.

At the same time, I just completed the first step in a long application to become an IMB Journeyman. I had kind of written it off as too big of a commitment (two years), but after a summer of serving with Nehemiah Teams I am convinced this is what God is telling me to do. So I’m praying he will see me through again!

Want to learn more about Nehemiah Teams? Be sure to checkout the “Team Work” CP Share story!   

Nicole’s video diary 

How a vision became Forefront Church

forefront logo

By Lee Kemp 

My wife Sarah and I really felt affirmed in our ministry. We had spent eight and a half years working with youth and absolutely loved it. I was also preaching several times a year in our church, which is unusual as a youth pastor.

We questioned whether we would go to seminary or begin pastoring a church. I actually went to seminary three different times . I was thinking “I have three kids with one on the way.”

Instead, I got involved with a multi-site church called Brand New Church, and I was a campus pastor for 18 months there. We enjoyed that time even though it wasn’t completely what we felt called to. It did give us a lot of opportunities to work with adults. The only adults I had worked with were my kids’ parents in youth ministry, so I really got my feet wet working with adults and not just students.

Still, we were asking God why this didn’t feel like everything we were being told to do. So I gave Dave McClung a call; he is on the Church Planting Team at the ABSC. I told him “I’m ministering and enjoying it, but I know I’m not doing everything I was created to do. I’m lacking.”

{ I’m ministering and enjoying it, but I know I’m not doing everything I was created to do. I’m lacking. }

Dave sent me several books to read, a few being “Strength Finder 2.0” and “Church in the Making.” At the time, I also was reading a book called “Greater” by Stephen Furtick. As I read those books, it was a process of assessing who I was.

The Vision Comes

So then I tried to sit down and pray for a vision. I asked myself, “If Jesus were to ask, ‘If you could do whatever you want to advance my kingdom in ministry, what would you like to do?”

I just thought about church—getting outside the box—and I wrote out Forefront Church.

After that I had coffee with Roy, a business man in Fort Smith, and told him what I wanted to do. He gave me four other guys to talk to. I also talked with a guy named Burt who would ask questions. What we ended up with was a magazine; it’s the business plan of our church plant. We put in 40-50 hours planning out this vision.

Raising Support

There was a season where it was just businessmen and my money. I was going to be short and I was like I have to get a job or it’s going to slow me down. We had some support from our personal savings, from businessmen, the ABSC, Dixie Jackson funds & the cooperative program. There are church planters in Arkansas like me who really need those Dixie Jackson funds to keep them going.

With things in motion, we lived with our parents for a little bit before moving-in to an apartment complex that the businessmen (who were sponsoring us) owned. It was a two-bedroom apartment. We had three children at the time with one on the way!

Lee’s advice if you are considering church planting :

  • Start by asking yourself these questions: Who are you? What are your spiritual gifts? What are you passionate about?
  • Write down your thoughts/vision.
  • Meet with a coach to critique your plans in a positive way, someone who will bounce your ideas around and be a sounding board.
  • Business men are not pastors; they want to know what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it.