‘Hope is always close at hand’ in Pike Baptist Association

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Last summer, the New York Times asked, “What’s the Matter with Eastern Kentucky?” While there are plenty of answers to that question being thrown about by reporters and politicians, on a recent trip to the mountains, I was impressed by some things that are right about Eastern Kentucky.  Preaching three times in two days in the Pike Baptist Association, I was able to fellowship with three congregations and a host of ministers and laypersons from the association and came away feeling immensely hopeful.

Meta Baptist Church, Pikeville

Meta Baptist Church, Pikeville

After a foggy drive through the mountains and along the swollen Russell Fork River, my first day began with joint Sunday School followed by morning worship at Elkhorn City Baptist Church. During the joint Sunday School hour, Pastor Jason Johnson asked that I teach on the Cooperative Program, an assignment I gladly accepted. Elkhorn City is a healthy church in a small mountain town. The church led the association in baptisms last year, with a total of 22. Considering the church averages just more than 100 in worship, the evidence of God’s blessing and the evangelistic zeal of Pastor Jason and this church family is astounding! Growth has the church positioned for renovation work on the building and continued outreach to the community. In addition, I learned that the Johnsons are finishing training to become foster parents, answering the call to “Be the One” to provide a home to hurting kids in Kentucky. I praise God for this faithful couple, faithful church, and God’s faithful blessings upon their work.

Dr. Brian Horton invited me to speak at Grace Baptist Church on Sunday evening. Grace is another growing church, evidenced by the ongoing construction of a significant building addition. The year prior to Horton’s arrival, the church reported one baptism. They have baptized a total of 19 during his first two years as pastor. I was able to use the Sunday evening discipleship hour to share with the church about the Cooperative Program. I was thrilled to have the opportunity and found church members eager to learn more about the Great Commission work of Kentucky Baptists and Southern Baptists.

Monday evening I had the privilege of speaking during Pike Baptist Association’s semi-annual meeting at host church, Meta Baptist. Meta’s bivocational pastor, Bill Staggs, was even bivocational at the meeting, in that after he welcomed everyone to the worship service, he made a quick exit to the nursery where he spent the rest of the evening taking care of children! Meta is a very active church with a great facility that includes a recently completed multipurpose addition the church uses as a ministry to the community.

Not only was I impressed with the local ministry of each of these churches and their pastors, I was impressed by their commitment to take the gospel to the nations. Each church gives sacrificially through the Cooperative Program as a means of obeying our Lord’s Great Commission.

Though one of the youngest DOMs in the state, Jason Lowe is effectively leading Pike Association to help churches as they minister amidst many difficulties. Lowe is also helping the association make intentional plans for the future in light of the pressing financial challenges facing the churches and, thus, the association.

With many communities in eastern Kentucky plagued by poverty, drug addiction, and an economy devastated by federal policies effectively dismantling the coal mining industry, some would think people in the region are hopeless. But where Bible-believing churches preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, hope is always close at hand. My prayer is that God will continue to use and bless those churches for the sake of the lost and the glory of His great name.

Posted in Churches, Cooperative Program | Leave a comment

Giving credit where credit is due

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ACPWe have just completed the compilation of the Annual Church Profiles submitted by Kentucky Baptist Convention churches for the most recent reporting year, and we have good news to share! Baptisms, church membership, and church financial receipts all increased over the prior reporting year.

Churches reported a total of 14,223 baptisms. That’s up from 13,975 the previous year. Reported church membership is now up to more than 710,000, and undesignated receipts came in at more than $300 million. Actual growth in these and other categories could have been significantly higher than reported, considering that nearly 20 percent of KBC churches didn’t file reports or respond to requests for information.

On the baptism front, Hillvue Heights Church in Bowling Green led the state again last year with 511 baptisms. Hawk Creek Baptist Church in London was second with 252. Valley View in Louisville reported 234 baptisms. Immanuel Baptist Church in Corbin reported 152.

First Baptist in Somerset, Crossland Community in Bowling Green, His House Ministries in Mayfield and the Bell County Forest Camp Mission all reported more than 100 baptisms, some significantly more.

Churches in the largest association, Long Run, which serves the Louisville area, had 1,035 baptisms, the highest number reported by any association in 2014. Warren Baptist Association came in a very close second with 1,031 baptisms.

In celebrating these reports, we give credit to the Son of God who owns the church by right of His sacrificial payment upon the cross. We give credit to the Spirit of God who convicts and converts lost sinners, bringing us within the fold of church. And we give credit to God the Father, who “chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).

Acknowledging “salvation belongs to our God” (Revelation 7:10), we also know that it is appropriate to rejoice over the faithful testimonies of the saints of God who are sharing the good news of the gospel all across Kentucky. In the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:14, “How are they to hear without someone preaching?” I thank God for those who preach the gospel in the commonwealth!

Let me also express appreciation to our directors of missions. They are tremendous partners in the collection of ACP data. Many of our associations have a consistent track record of 100 percent of their churches completing the ACP reports. I am most grateful for their investment of time and energy!

Lastly, I am grateful for our Mission Board staff. The KBC was created by churches, for churches, to help churches reach Kentucky and the world for Christ. Our KBC staff members are living out that mission statement, diligently working with churches across the state in order to help strengthen their ministries. And today we are celebrating what God is doing!

Posted in Annual Church Profile, Baptisms, Baptist Associations, Kentucky Baptist Convention, Mission Board | Leave a comment

SBC agency leaders’ reports underscore importance of CP

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Cooperative Program logoOnce a year, typically in February, I have the opportunity to attend a meeting of all of the state convention executive directors from across the Southern Baptist Convention. At this year’s meeting, we heard reports from SBC president Ronnie Floyd and several SBC agency heads, including David Platt (International Mission Board), Kevin Ezell (North American Mission Board), Frank Page (Executive Committee), Russell Moore (Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission), and Jason Allen (Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary).

Each of these leaders brings a unique set of gifts and vision to their roles in Southern Baptist life. Hearing them report about our agencies has caused me to reflect upon the remarkable work of God through Southern Baptists.

Through the IMB, God has blessed us with the largest overseas missionary-sending agency in the history of Christianity. Through NAMB, the Lord is using Southern Baptists to multiply churches across North America to the tune of 1,000 new churches each year and has also provided a disaster relief ministry surpassed in its size and resources only by the American Red Cross. Through the ERLC, nearly 50,000 Southern Baptist churches have a strong voice in our national government and can receive resources to help them navigate the political and cultural challenges to religious liberty and Christian values. Through our six Southern Baptist seminaries, the Lord is equipping nearly 18,000 ministry students to serve in His churches and on the mission fields of the world.

How is all this work possible? Ultimately, God must get the credit.

The primary means that God has used is the Cooperative Program. Without the CP, the mission boards could have never grown to the size or effectiveness we see today; nor could our six seminaries be flourishing by offering the best and most affordable theological education to be found; the ERLC couldn’t afford office space; and the Executive Committee couldn’t hire a secretary, let alone run the affairs of the denomination.

In addition to funding the mission work of the Southern Baptist Convention, the CP also funds the mission work of each state convention. In Kentucky, churches are planted and strengthened through the various ministries of our Mission Board staff. Students at Oneida, Clear Creek, and the University of the Cumberlands are helped with their educational expenses. More than 600 hurting kids have a safe place to live and sleep through Sunrise Children’s Services. Kentucky Baptists are able to stay informed about the church and denominational life through the Western Recorder. More than 10,000 kids hear the gospel at Crossings camps, the WMU continues to challenge us to give and go to the mission fields of the world, and the Kentucky Baptist Foundation helps secure the financial future of Kentucky Baptist work.

In short, the CP is the lifeblood of a missions enterprise that is advancing the gospel in every state, the United States, and to the very ends of the earth. Thanks be to God!

Posted in Cooperative Program, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, International Mission Board, NAMB, Seminary, Southern Baptist Convention | Leave a comment

Haynes example of how contending for the faith transforms society

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Guest article from Curtis Woods, associate executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention

African-American evangelicals have been passionate about social justice and biblical reconciliation since the late 18th century. Allow me to introduce you to Lemuel Haynes (1753-1833), an American patriot and abolitionist intellectual.

Lemuel Haynes

Lemuel Haynes

Haynes was born in West Hartford, Conn., to unmarried biracial parents. Haynes’s earliest biographer described his father as an African of “unmingled ancestry.” His mother could have been an indentured servant or an aristocrat. Most historians cannot irrefutably identify the parents. They only know the father was black and the mother was white. Biracial relations were common practice within early American history.  For evidence, one need only observe the large amounts of biracial births by African, Native American, and Anglo females. Sadly, the laws of the land often gave special liberties to Anglo male citizens, which accounted for many pregnancies.

Shortly after Haynes’s birth, his mother abandoned him. He became an indentured servant at the tender age of 5 months. Haynes lived his entire life as an indenture to a family in Granville, Mass. They treated him like one of their own. Haynes was emancipated on his 18th birthday. The uninhibited one would soon become a great liberator, as his writings helped plow the ground from which would sprout Abraham Lincoln’s “Emancipation Proclamation.”

Long before Martin Luther King Jr. wrote the now-famous “Letter from a Birmingham City Jail,” which called for the death of Jim Crow society in the South, Haynes penned “Liberty Further Extended” even before the birth of Jim Crow. In 1776, Haynes attacked American slavery and the slave trade.He struggled to understand how colonial leaders could picture “freedom as a natural right” while denying liberty to enslaved Africans.

In similar fashion, King rhetorically asked, “How can you [political leaders] advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” King answered, “The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust.” Just laws come from obeying God’s Word, whereas unjust laws take place when leaders forsake truth. These ideas were generated by King on April 16, 1963. We remember King, but we have regrettably forgotten evangelicals like Haynes.

In their struggle for freedom, African-American evangelicals kept God’s sovereignty in line with Scripture when they critiqued injustice. God was never portrayed as incapable of acting on behalf of truth and love. God’s hands, as it were, were never tied by the will of His creation. These evangelicals believed, “Our God is in heaven and does whatever He pleases.” If you hear this statement and respond, “How can someone say that God’s hands were somehow involved with the horror of slavery?” I would respond, “In the same way God’s hand – and our hands – crushed his own Son so that the innocent One could provide salvation for the guilty” (Acts 2:23).

Like Haynes, evangelicals today must contend for the faith in order to transform society. Contemporary African-American evangelicals cannot allow the apparent cultural tsunami to change the tide of truth. Let us strive to keep the gospel first as we pursue biblical reconciliation and social justice.

Posted in Public Affairs, Race Relations, Social Justice | Leave a comment

State lawmakers set to debate critical issues

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In the 2015 Kentucky General Assembly session, several critical issues will be considered, but a few rise to the top of my list of concerns for families in our state.

Ky CapitolFirst, and once again, we continue to hope the House of Representatives will work to get pro-life legislation passed. After years of committee leadership deliberately killing ALL pro-life bills, most legislators still believe most such bills would pass the full House with a huge margin of victory. We know from experience that pro-life bills would easily pass the Senate. This matter is literally one of life and death for unborn children in Kentucky. Please consider calling the legislative message line at (800) 372-7181 and leaving a message with your legislators encouraging the support of any pro-life bills.

Second, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg who claims Baptist as his religious affiliation, has filed a bill in this year’s legislative session that would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients. While we would like to believe the prescription requirement in the bill would limit its use, we have seen in the past how willing wayward doctors have been able to hand out prescription narcotics. Lawmakers need to see this for what it is: another step in the push by pro-marijuana advocates to legalize marijuana altogether.

As for the medical benefits of marijuana, if such benefits can be proven, any of us would be in favor of the Food and Drug Administration permitting and regulating marijuana as a medicine. We are hopeful that ongoing research will reveal this possibility. For now, the FDA states its position as follows:

The FDA has not approved any product containing or derived from botanical marijuana for any indication. This means that the FDA has not found any such product to be safe or effective for the treatment of any disease or condition. Study of marijuana in clinical trial settings is needed to assess the safety and effectiveness of marijuana for medical use. (http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/PublicHealthFocus/ucm421168.htm#Q2)

The FDA has approved one drug containing a synthetic version of a substance that is present in the marijuana plant and another drug containing a synthetic substance that acts similarly to compounds from marijuana but is not present in marijuana. Extensive testing has proven these drugs are effective and that any risks to patients are outweighed by the potential benefits. That is the way the process is supposed to work. For Stumbo to suggest that Kentucky legislators should usurp the FDA’s ongoing process of studying the effectiveness and safety of marijuana as a medicine is irresponsible at best. The American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychiatric Association, American Society of Addiction Medicine, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and American Cancer Society have all reviewed the science as it relates to their respective discipline and do not advocate the smoking or ingesting of marijuana as medicine.

Please consider calling the legislative message line at (800) 372-7181 and leaving a message with your legislators encouraging them to let the FDA, not politicians, regulate medical drugs.

A third pressing issue is that of payday lending. In short, payday lending is an easy-to-get, “short-term” loan available at ridiculous interest rates, sometimes nearing 400 percent. Loan sharks use these loans to further entrap the poor. Senate Bill 32, sponsored by Republican Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr and Democrat Sens. Dennis Parrett and Reginald Thomas, would eliminate the $15 service fee per $100 loan and set a maximum annual percentage rate of 36 percent. It is good legislation, and I encourage you to encourage our elected representatives to support it.

Posted in Government, Kentucky Legislature, Public Affairs | Leave a comment