Guest post by Kentucky Baptist Convention President Kevin Smith.
As a pastor, I stand with the 3,500 Baptists in my local church. As president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, I stand with 750,000 Baptists in my state convention. Together we desire to see the Great Commission pursued in our commonwealth and beyond! No individual congregation can accomplish this task alone.
The 42 state conventions are the primary, relational promoters of cooperative ministry and the Cooperative Program. Whether associations, state conventions, or national mission boards, Baptists have always understood that we are better together.
State conventions have the capacity to pursue ministries beyond the ability of individual congregations and beyond the scope of our national mission boards. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams, for example, show the love of Christ to hurting families in times of crisis. “Yellow Hats” are on the scene often before government assistance is available. This compassion ministry is the collective effort of Baptists at the state convention level.
State conventions also have other distinct ministries that provide opportunities for evangelism:
- camps/retreat centers—researchers regularly note the percentage of Christians that begin to follow Christ as children. Notable portions of these students make commitments to Christ in camp settings.
- children’s homes/orphan care—state conventions coordinate Baptists’ efforts to love orphans. For example, in Kentucky, we care for over 1,000 abused and neglected children that desire a “forever family.” Again, the facilities, expenses, and compliance with state laws put this biblical ministry beyond the scope of individual congregations.
- colleges/universities—although Christian higher education is facing some challenging days, the remaining colleges that stand upon biblical fidelity were often founded and are presently supported by Baptists in various state conventions. This ministry is still vital in many contexts and many Baptists are still committed to supporting these institutions.
- campus missionaries—state conventions galvanize the local church to reach high school and college age students through campus ministries.
- Christian witness at state capitols—state conventions have the ability to muster the collective voice of Baptists in the state concerning pressing issues that enliven Christ-followers. For example, for several years, Baptists in Kentucky have rallied against political efforts to expand gambling in our state by placing casinos in an area of great poverty.
- church revitalization and care for pastors—many pastors in America are discouraged or overwhelmed. State conventions intentionally, as part of their ministry assignment, seek to address these two concerns. While our national missions boards focus on international missions and church planting/re-planting, state convention staff seek to intentionally support and resource pastors, especially the vast majority of SBC pastors that are single-staff or bivocational.
State conventions sync our 45,000 congregations into one Southern Baptist national/global disciple-making effort, while simultaneously providing focus and strategy for our distinct mission fields. They conduct thousands of presentations/consultations with pastors, churches, and associations to make them more effective Great Commission Baptists through evangelism training, revitalization support, strategic planning and leadership development, worship/music consulting and training, assistance in handling church conflict, pastor search team training, training in church technology and security matters, etc.
Our Baptist cooperation, at the state convention level, allows the majority of our churches to experience a capacity of ministry and mission that is well beyond their individual ability resulting in a greater impact with the message about the Person and work of Jesus Christ.