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?

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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

‘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