Cooperative Program’s impact felt around the world – and around the block

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CP-logoMost Kentucky Baptists are aware that the Cooperative Program offerings given through their churches provide support for missionaries who serve overseas through the International Mission Board, as well as other Southern Baptist Convention ministries and missions. What many Kentucky Baptists may not realize is the extent to which the CP is funding mission work and ministry here in the commonwealth. When churches give through the CP, they not only invest in the advance of the gospel in other countries, they invest in the advance of the gospel in their own communities and in neighboring counties and churches.

For example, through the Cooperative Program, ministry couples in Kentucky are encouraged and equipped during the annual Shepherding conference and return to their churches re-energized for the work to which God has called them. Churches are spurred on in the area of evangelism by the annual RISK conference. Through the consulting work of our KBC Mission Board staff, provided by the CP, every Baptist church in Kentucky has the opportunity to receive advice and training in any area of their ministry and mission outreach programs. And university students across the state are engaged by campus missionaries whose salary and ministry budgets are funded through the CP.

The cost of sending children and teens to summer camp is reduced because of the investment KBC churches make in the Cooperative Program, as is the cost of study in our boarding school, Bible college, Baptist university, and Baptist seminary here in our state. James 1:27 ministries are carried out day and night as the CP helps fund the work of our children’s homes and assist Kentucky Baptists called to foster or adopt. State missionaries receive ministry funds, church planters receive financial support, and associational missionaries are equipped for their work, all because churches give through the CP. Disaster Relief teams stand ready to deploy, bringing help and hope to people in the midst of life-changing crises, help made possible by the CP. A foundation ministry is available to help churches and individual donors secure the financial future of a particular church or any form of Baptist work in Kentucky or beyond, a ministry funded by the Cooperative Program. The Baptist story and Baptist news are heralded through our state newspaper and missions education is promoted and facilitated through our Woman’s Missionary Union, funded in part by – you guessed it – the CP.

While this list is not exhaustive, I trust that it sheds light upon all that Kentucky Baptists are doing to advance the gospel right here in Kentucky through the Cooperative Program. Every Kentucky Baptist Convention staff member belongs to a church that gives through the CP, as does every person who has a leadership role in the work of our denomination, including those who serve on the KBC Mission Board, convention committees, or as trustees on the boards of KBC agencies and institutions. Those who eat their bread from the CP table and those who choose to lead CP ministries and mission work should lead by example by being part of a local church with a track record of strong CP support.

I believe in the Cooperative Program because of all it accomplishes for Christ’s Kingdom. And I’m grateful for every Kentucky Baptist who believes in the Cooperative Program.

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Southern Baptists moving from sinful past into a bright future

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The ethnic diversity of the Southern Baptist Convention is rapidly growing. African American churches affiliating with the SBC and culturally diverse church plants account for most of this growth. According to the North American Mission Board, between 1998 and 2013, membership in mostly non-white churches increased by 116 percent. In 2014, more than 58 percent of churches started by Southern Baptists were non-white. Nearly one-fourth of SBC churches now have a membership where the majority race is not Caucasian.

Especially over the past two decades, local churches, associations, state conventions, and the North American Mission Board have been very intentional in evangelism efforts targeting the various ethnic groups in our communities. The Kentucky Baptist Convention is home to Hispanic churches, Korean churches, Cambodian churches, Native African churches, South Asian churches, Vietnamese churches, and a growing number of intentionally multi-ethnic churches.

The growing number of African American churches in the SBC is a unique testimony to the reconciling power of the gospel. As a denomination, Southern Baptists were tragically on the wrong side of history when it came to defending the dignity of Africans brought to America by the international slave trade. Our denomination was launched on the predication that slaveholders should receive endorsement and support as missionaries and many of the leading figures in SBC history were not only sympathetic to slavery, but were slaveholders themselves.

How have Southern Baptists come from such a sinfully tragic past into such a bright future? Many white Southern Baptists have walked the pathway of repentance. The SBC and KBC have both adopted multiple resolutions confessing our sin and seeking reconciliation with those whose forebears were degraded and enslaved by our forebears. Resolutions adopted during the most recent KBC annual meeting expressed: “A biblical worldview requires all Christians to unite together in order to advance the gospel. … We acknowledge past and present racism in our hearts. … We renounce and oppose all forms of racism which distort the message of the gospel.”

But far more important than votes cast and resolutions adopted is the resolve to love and serve our neighbors of every color and ethnicity. Love is the only real difference-maker in the struggle to overcome racism.

How ironic is it that the only denomination to have been started over the insistence to grant approval to the institution of slavery would be planting and welcoming into fellowship such a large number of African American and ethnically diverse congregations? More than unlikely, it would seem impossible – unless you know the ways of the God of the Bible.

Consider the irony of Israel, one of the weakest and most despised people groups on the planet, becoming God’s elect. Consider the irony of Rahab, the prostitute, being included in the book of Hebrews’ list of those who modeled faith. Consider the irony of David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons, being chosen by God to be the king of Israel. Consider Paul, the foremost persecutor of the church, becoming an apostle, a prolific church planter, and giving his life for the gospel.

Indeed, as Paul contends in 1 Corinthians 1, God turns the wisdom of the world on its head and chooses to use what is despised so that our boasting may only be in Him. As despicable as it is that Christ followers would make biblical arguments in order to dehumanize and enslave fellow image bearers, God has mysteriously chosen these very people, Southern Baptists, to model the reconciling power of the gospel as black and white Southern Baptist churches work side by side to take the gospel to the nations near and far.

For that Southern Baptists can take no credit. To God alone be praise!

Posted in Denominational Life, Multiethnic ministry, Race Relations, Southern Baptist Convention | Leave a comment

How the KBC protects against ‘vision leak’

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LOGOCOLRLeaders talk often about the need to protect churches and organizations against “vision leak.” This could be described as the tendency to lose focus on the ultimate goal for which the organization exists. For example, I would argue that the local church ultimately exists to bring glory to God by making disciples of all peoples. When a church fails to focus on that ultimate goal, it has lost its vision.

The Kentucky Baptist Convention is not a local church but ultimately exists to help churches. The vision of the KBC can best be captured by asking three questions.

First, we ask, “Why?” Why does the KBC exist? That question can best be answered with our mission statement – “The Kentucky Baptist Convention: Created by churches, for churches, to help churches reach Kentucky and the world for Christ.”

Next, we ask, “How?” How will the KBC carry out the vision of helping churches reach Kentucky and the world for Christ? That question can best be answered like this: “by fostering missions cooperation among churches and providing vital resources and services to assist churches in fulfilling the Great Commission.”

Then, we ask, “What?” What does the KBC do in order to fulfill the vision of helping churches reach Kentucky and the world for Christ? The following bullet points summarize most of what we do:

  • Provide comprehensive ministry consulting for KBC churches
  • Facilitate training and networking opportunities for leaders and churches
  • Facilitate missions partnerships and church planting opportunities in Kentucky, North America, and to the ends of the earth
  • Inspire and equip churches in evangelism and disciple-making
  • Facilitate relationships between Kentucky Baptist churches and their agencies and institutions
  • Promote and process Cooperative Program and other missions giving in order to assist churches in their Great Commission obedience
  • Mobilize Kentucky Baptist churches to influence society and government with the Christian principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love

The Mission Board staff members at the KBC have committed our mission statement to memory and allow that mission statement to guide us in our work, keeping us ever focused on our goal, i.e., helping churches. That is one of the ways we protect ourselves from vision leak.

As we begin a new year of ministering to Kentucky Baptist churches, we are praying that our churches will be more effective than ever at their ultimate goal of bringing glory to God by making disciples of all peoples. We are also praying that we will be more effective than ever at helping churches achieve that goal.

Posted in Churches, Cooperative Program, Kentucky Baptist Convention | Leave a comment

Reaching the unreached

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Fulfilling the Great Commission requires cooperation. None of us, alone, are able to make disciples among all the world’s people groups. Working together, however, I believe the Great Commission can and will be fulfilled.

LMCO graphicBaptist churches in Kentucky 176 years ago became convinced they could do more to reach Kentucky and the world for Christ if they partnered together than if they worked in independence and isolation. Thus they formed an association that would later be known as the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Today, the KBC represents a partnership of 2,400 churches. Most of those churches are also committed to partnering with the broader Southern Baptist Convention family of churches. Altogether, that cooperative body represents more than 45,000 congregations.

During the Christmas season, Kentucky and Southern Baptists are challenged to focus on our partnering efforts to support Great Commission work overseas. Today, more than 3,000 unreached people groups around the world remain unengaged with the gospel. At the same time, due to a lack of funding, our overseas mission force on assignment through the International Mission Board of the SBC remains in an ongoing state of decline. Tragically, with the most recent downsizing, our overseas force will be reduced by nearly 1,500 missionaries in less than a decade. The target number of missionaries the IMB hopes to keep on the field stands at roughly 4,000.

The issue is not that Southern Baptists are too poor to provide for the 5,500-plus overseas missionaries who once worked in the world’s harvest fields. Rather, we are not willing to make the lifestyle sacrifices that would allow us to be, at a minimum, tithers. If every Southern Baptist simply committed to giving the Lord 10 percent of his or her income, the result would be that church budgets would more than triple, as would the sending capacity of our mission boards in Kentucky, North America, and overseas.

While I hope you will join my family in making a gift to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering this year, more importantly, I challenge every Kentucky Baptist to recover the biblical teaching of tithing. Our obedience is at stake and lost souls hang in the balance.

Will you sacrifice so others will have the opportunity to hear the gospel?

Posted in Cooperative Program, International Mission Board, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering | Leave a comment

Upcoming opportunities for pastors

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Join other Kentucky Baptist churches and show appreciation for your pastor during the holiday season. God has blessed us with faithful, fearless men who love the Lord Jesus and His church. Two opportunities are coming up for churches to bless their pastors with times of retreat and learning.

First, registration is now open for the 2016 Shepherding event at www.kybaptist.org/shepherding. The Kentucky Baptist Convention and Baptist Health hope that Shepherding 2016 will bring a time of godly refreshment to ministry couples.

As in the past, we desire to bring couples together in a relaxed setting where they can experience renewal, strengthen relationships, and encounter God in worship. The conference begins Thursday, Jan. 28, with registration at 1:30 p.m., EST, and concludes Saturday, Jan. 30, before noon. Space is limited, so register early to reserve your spot.

The registration fee covers only a portion of the costs associated with this event. As a means of blessing and encouraging our ministers, the remaining cost is provided by Baptist Health and by Kentucky Baptists’ gifts through the Cooperative Program.

Second, I will be hosting a Holy Land tour for any Kentucky Baptist who would like to join us, March 14-23, 2017 (more information found here). The tour would be a great learning opportunity for anyone, but especially for pastors. A church may want to consider sending its pastor or at least assisting him with the trip. The estimated total price is $3,869 per person, departing from Louisville, Ky. A $300 deposit (paid to Jerusalem Tours) will reserve a place.

Included in the estimated price are flights, hotels, touring, daily breakfast and dinner, four lunches, tips, airport taxes, and fuel charges (subject to change by the airline). Not included in the estimated price are optional travel insurance ($292), meals not noted on the itinerary, drinks, and items of personal nature.

For more information, contact Dr. Stephen C. Rice, leader of the KBC’s Church Consulting & Revitalization Team, at (502) 489-3434 or steve.rice@kybaptist.org, or call Jerusalem Tours at (888) 373-8687.

Posted in Pastor, Pastoral Resources | Leave a comment
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