Kentucky Baptists celebrate victories

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Winter may have brought some brief interruptions to life in Kentucky, but with the exception of a few days of unusual snowfall, the work of your KBC staff was not hindered. I want to give you an update on that as we look back over the past year.

Chitwood2As we embraced our new mission statement three years ago, one of the things I stressed to our staff was the need to get out of the building and into the churches. A convention created by churches for churches to help churches had better employ people who are ready to call on churches.

To that end, your KBC staff members drove 465,000 ministry miles last year, for the most part, en route to visit churches and their pastors and staff. For perspective, that’s enough miles to circle the globe almost 19 times or, to bring it closer to home, that will get you from Pikeville to Paducah nearly 1,200 times or from Covington to Corbin 2,800 times.

As to the ministry accomplished while traveling all those miles, here is a brief synopsis: Your Mission Board staff members preached and spoke more than 1,000 times. We made presentations and consultations to more than 12,000 people, not counting congregational sermons. Ministry events overseen by Mission Board staff and Kentucky missionaries yielded more than 6,000 professions of faith. We have helped churches start 29 new churches. Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief yielded 20 percent of the professions of faith of all the disaster relief ministries across the Southern Baptist Convention. KBC Communications staff members created 126 news releases, 121 videos, sent 1,300+ tweets, 1,100+ Facebook posts, which yielded more than 100,000 interactions.

These statistics, among others, give only a snapshot of the vital work funded by the Cooperative Program and carried out by your Mission Board staff members. To understand the full impact of Cooperative Program ministries, I would need to add to the report the work of our agencies and institutions in Kentucky, as well as all of the ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention boards, agencies, and seminaries.

The most celebrated statistics, however, are those appearing on the Annual Church Profile. Looking back to the most recent reporting year gives us much cause for celebration. In three key categories, KBC churches saw increases for the first time in years. Most importantly, baptisms were up over the year before. Total church membership and undesignated giving also were up. God is blessing the work of Kentucky Baptists and giving much fruit.

As I am soon to begin my fifth year as your Executive Director, let me say that I could not be more pleased by the progress we have made and the victories God has given us. Serving our churches is among of the highest privileges of my life.

Posted in Annual Church Profile, Baptisms, Church Planting, Disaster Relief, Kentucky Baptist Convention, Mission Board, Missions | 1 Response

A prayer for our pastors

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PreachersThe Bible says, “Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life.” While the phrase “all days of his life” may not seem terribly significant, I contend it is remarkably significant. Staying committed and faithful in ministry, over the long haul, can be incredibly challenging.

Year after year, studies indicate that the number of ministers who resign their ministry positions each month hovers around 1,500. Surveys reveal that more than half of seminary graduates have left the ministry within five years of graduation, and less than 20 percent of those who begin serving as pastors will continue in that role until retirement. The reasons for such high attrition rates in vocational ministry are many but, regardless of those reasons, the numbers are startling.

A New York Times article summarized the plight of many in pastoral ministry: “Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen.”

Every Sunday I have the privilege of preaching in a different church in Kentucky. The pastor is usually present. While a few minutes of interaction before worship and casual discussion over lunch afterward does not provide the opportunity to see deeply into any man’s heart, what I have seen gives me a growing love and appreciation for those who serve as undershepherds of the Good Shepherd.

I see men who love people and have a God-given desire to serve others. I see men who love the Lord and want desperately to please Him with their lives. I see men of conviction, who would be willing to lose all of their worldly possessions before they would stop “speaking about what they have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). I see men who eagerly proclaim the gospel with the confidence that God will use even their stuttering to bring the lost to Himself.

I also see men who carry heavy burdens. They help carry the grief of those who grieve and the pain of those who hurt. They help carry the brokenness of children whose parents are divorcing, the confusion and sorrow of parents who must bury a child, the emotional devastation of a man whose wife has been unfaithful, the fear of a young mother diagnosed with cancer, the regret of a man who looks back on the wasted years of his youth, and the concern of a grandmother for her lost granddaughter.

Yes, they cast their cares upon the Lord (1 Peter 5:7), but they do not have the privilege of turning off their love and concern for His sheep when they say “Amen” and close their eyes hoping for sleep. Why? Because God has called them to be pastors.

God, thank you for our pastors. Bless them. Use them. Protect them. Reward them.

Posted in Churches, Pastor | 13 Responses

KBC educational institutions: Equipping generations for gospel work

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Kentucky Baptists have long believed in the value of a Baptist education. In fact, students today can begin with kindergarten and continue all the way to a terminal doctorate in a Kentucky Baptist Convention educational institution. With spring being the season for trustee meetings at our educational institutions, now is a good time to provide some highlights regarding their ongoing ministries.

OBINews coming out of Oneida Baptist Institute is extremely positive these days. Construction for a new 200-resident boys’ dormitory is set to begin in June. This building will also include new classroom space for 120 students. OBI will be reopening its doors to the public for kindergarten and elementary classes. In the early years, OBI was a K-12 school, but for many years, the K-5 classes have only been for OBI faculty and staff children. These new K-5 local, commuting students will attend OBI tuition free. Even before the formal, public announcement, students from the community are already registering. During their formative years, these students will have the advantage of spending every school day in a distinctly Christian environment where they will hear the gospel and see the gospel being lived out by their teachers and fellow students. Even before this anticipated influx of new students, enrollment growth at OBI over the past two years has been staggering.

Cleark CreekWe can celebrate the news that Clear Creek Baptist Bible College is currently ranked fifth out of all Bible colleges in the U.S. and Canada as the most affordable and offers a complete bachelor’s degree online. Having adopted the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message as a confessional statement, CCBBC is sold out to the KBC and SBC with students learning about the Cooperative Program and giving through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. This year the student body gave the largest AAEO it has ever given!

UCThe news coming out of my alma mater, the University of the Cumberlands, has never been better. UC now has far and above the largest total enrollment of any private college or university in the state of Kentucky. A recent emphasis on graduate degree programs at UC has enabled the university’s graduate student headcount to now fall behind only the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville among all public and private institutions in the state. UC has also recently taken steps to ensure faculty and staff do not reflect poorly on the Christian character of the institution. The university’s handbook states, “In order to fulfill its purpose, the University may legally discriminate on the basis of religion in employment, and the University has sought and been granted exemption from certain regulations promulgated under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 which conflict with the University’s religious tenets.” This language means that UC has been legally ensured the right to hire faculty and staff who are committed to our Christian faith.

Kentucky Baptists are grateful for our educational institutions. We pray God will continue to use and bless them to the end so that generations of Kentucky Baptists will continue to be equipped for gospel work until Christ’s return.

Posted in Christian Education, Clear Creek Baptist Bible College, Education, Oneida Baptist Institute, University of the Cumberlands | Leave a comment

Coming Together in Columbus

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We are a little more than two months away from the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Columbus, Ohio, June 16-17. Will you be there?

Posted in Annual Meeting, Southern Baptist Convention | Leave a comment

Eternity weighs heavily on Kentucky Baptists’ hearts

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Video captureIn the wreckage and grief surrounding the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525, a sad and disturbing picture of the suicidal co-pilot continues to emerge. By all appearances, one would think that Andreas Lubitz had it all together. Lubitz, in his late 20s, was employed by a major airline, ran marathons, and traveled the world. One would hardly suspect an individual of that profile to take his own life and the lives of 150 innocent people. But reports indicate Lubitz was also dealing with a broken relationship and a deteriorating mental state that was sure to put his career in jeopardy.

I have found the tragic story of Lubitz and those he killed to be a harsh reminder of a universal truth: Everyone needs the gospel and they need it now. Despite the appearance of worldly success and self-sufficiency, Lubitz was obviously a broken and hopeless young man. And, regardless of how successful and sane the 150 passengers and crew members may have appeared to be, none of them had any suspicion as they boarded the plane that they would be dead in a matter of hours. Sadly, very few of them were probably ready to face the Living God and give an account for their lives and how they had responded to God’s offer of grace through Christ.

When taking my seat beside total strangers on a plane, I have often looked for opportunities to begin a spiritual conversation and present the gospel. And I have often not looked for opportunities. Flight 9525 reminds me that no matter where we are or whom we are around, our greatest concern should be for the eternal state of the souls of others. We, and they, may be unknowingly in the last moments of life.

Kentucky Baptists continue to give me reason to believe that eternity still weighs heavily upon our hearts. At the request of our convention president, Tom James, KBC Business Services Team Leader Lowell Ashby recently reported the total amount Kentucky Baptists gave to the cooperative mission work of the KBC and the Southern Baptist Convention this past year. Lowell added together all receipts, including Cooperative Program, special mission offerings (e.g., Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, Eliza Broadus), and every category of designated giving (e.g., world hunger, disaster relief). The only figures missing from the spreadsheet are the gifts Kentucky Baptists send directly to an agency instead of routing those gifts through the KBC. No doubt that is a significant figure. But so is the figure Lowell provided.

How much did Kentucky Baptists give to our cooperative efforts to reach Kentucky and the world for Christ? $35,522,376! Of that total, $21,404,431 were given through the Cooperative Program.

Do Kentucky Baptists still care about the lost and still believe we can do more to reach the lost by working together? I have more than 35 million reasons to say, “Yes, we do!”

Posted in Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and Week of Prayer for North American Missions, Cooperative Program, Eliza Broadus Offering, Evangelism, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, Missions, Partnership | Leave a comment
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