A Denominational Niche: Connecting Partners

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Among the key areas I plan to focus upon now that I have begun to serve Kentucky Baptists in my new role are embracing the Great Commission Task Force report, strengthening the relationship between the Kentucky Baptist Convention and local churches and their pastors, and starting new churches. While many other important roles for the KBC will always exist, these are “opportunity areas” that can help us ensure you of the value of your Cooperative Program investment and, God willing, grow that investment.

I believe a fourth opportunity area to be that of networking and forming new partnerships. If state conventions will remain relevant in the future, we must place an even greater emphasis on networking pastors and churches. Getting our pastors connected to one another is the most effective way to introduce them to new ideas and enable the natural process of leaders strengthening leaders to unfold, even “as iron sharpens iron.”

Connecting ministers is also very effective at bridging the relational gaps that weaken us. Whether it is the “generation gap,” the divide between pastors who espouse a Reformed theology and those who do not, or the animosity between small churches and large churches or rural churches and urban churches, these and other lines of separation we tend to draw between ourselves and others diminish our ability to work together to advance the Kingdom. My experience has been that when I get to know leaders different from me and begin to understand churches different from the ones I have led, I usually find things to appreciate and even lessons to take home. I have also found some valuable relationships.

As I think back on ways our state convention helped me as a pastor, two stand out above the rest. One is the educational opportunity afforded to me through institutions funded by the Cooperative Program and the other is the networking that was facilitated by various KBC ministries. The latter has convinced me of the need to increase our emphasis on networking.

Another aspect of networking involves enlarging our network by forming new partnerships. To be specific, I hope to appeal to churches in Kentucky that are “baptistic” in doctrine and practice, inviting them to partner with the KBC. I am firmly convinced that the structure, institutions, and agencies of the KBC provide the greatest opportunity to facilitate Great Commission work. I especially believe that many existing ethnic and African-American churches, if shown the value of our partnership, would soon be ready to join our convention. To that end, if you know of any church that fits the description of being “baptistic” in doctrine and practice that would make a good partner in our work, contact me by email at [email protected] or by phone at 866-489-3369.

What do you think about the role of state conventions in facilitating networks? Have you ever participated in any of the networking opportunities provided by the KBC? Were they helpful? What other areas of emphasis so you think state conventions will have to embrace in order to remain relevant? Post your comments.

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  1. Posted August 11, 2011 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I appreciate the tenor of your post, because cooperative attitudes are extremely beneficial for Christians to fully fulfill the Great Commission. Doctrinal and even ecclesiological disagreements can be worked through for a greater cause. I’m praying expectantly for great things in your ministry to and with Kentucky Baptists!

    • Posted August 11, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      Thank you for your prayers and encouragement Brother Ed! We have to draw appropriate doctrinal lines in our efforts to partner with one another but we can sometimes box ourselves in so tightly that we miss opportunities to learn, as well as opportunities to advance the Kingdom through partnership. Glad to have you as a pastor on the KBC team! Blessings on your ministry.

  2. Posted August 11, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Dr. Chitwood! I wholeheartedly agree that appropriate doctrinal distinctions must be made so as not to compromise the essential elements of the Gospel message.

    • Posted August 12, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      Ed, rest assured I know of your faitfulness to the gospel and to biblical doctrine. Might we all be found so faithful!

  3. Darrell Morgan
    Posted August 16, 2011 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    I agree with the networking principles and value the connection I have with fellow pastors. Partnerships usually have developed in my experiences when I have a common belief not only about doctrine but about approach to ministry. Trust is also a huge factor. All of us have put our names and energy to projects/ministries only to cringe when the event or progam plays itself out. Trust is developed by praying, spending time with each other, and being focused on His kingdom and not our own. I think we need to even answer a bigger question about the associational model. For the most part I think it seems dysfunctional at best. It has no clear purpose. I think, we have believed the association can fulfill the connection between churches but often it doesnt. We are autonomous churches and autonomy should be respected and acknowledged. I have felt like the state and the association has inadvertentley sent the message that if we dont support the ministries they have created we are less than or if we change our mission giving approach we dont value cooperation etc…….we have to decide are we autonomous or not. Not respecting that creates distrust not partnerships, like we all desire. The partnerships i have created were not because someone said ok, here is who you need to partner with and here is what you should do. It may not fit our churches calendar, our vision and our philosophy. So if I opt out I get labled as not caring about cooperation. It seems like a set up. Partnership is usually more organic than programmed.
    I look forward to you leading our state and you have my support as a pastor in the state.

    • Posted August 16, 2011 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      Thank you, Brother Darrell, for your thoughtful response! I had the privilege of leading a revival at WBC many years ago and found the people there to be faithful and encouraging.

      On the issues of trust and common beliefs and methods, I agree these are necessary for successful partnerships. Concerning the associational model, and even the existing state model in Southern Baptist life, indeed we must value autonomy. I am pledging to celebrate all of our partnershing churches regardless of their level CP giving. With that said, I know no one will be surprised when they hear me cheerleading CP since I am convinced it is an incredibly effective way to fund Kingdom work. If, however, KBC staff, myself included, ever send the message that churches who “opt out” don’t care about cooperation, call us out on it since each church has the perogative to determine her own partnerships.

      As for the models you reference, I am witnessing a shift in some of our associations that is very exciting. The shift that is taking place is assocations taking a greater initiative to faciliate mission work. Some of our associations are bringing churches together to partner in planting new churches. Some are bringing their churches together to adopt a city that is under-evangelized. Some are sponsoring overseas mission trips or even adopting UUPGs. These kinds of mission efforts are especially vital for smaller churches that would struggle to undertake them on their own. I believe this type of Great Commission focus will typify strong, healthy associations in the present and near future. To be fair, some of our associations have always had this focus and others are renewing it. Let me add that, as the percentage of unchurched continues to grow in the US, and as our culture becomes more resistant, even hostile, towards the gospel, I believe churches will find the local partnership opportunity afforded by healthy associations to be more valuable than ever before.

      Thank you for your pledge of support. I am thankful to serve with you. Blessings on you and your ministry!

  4. Darrell Morgan
    Posted August 16, 2011 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the reply. May God get all the Glory and I am with you on reaching the unreached with the Gospel. We will have to have you back here to preach again! Have a great day