There are five key areas I plan to focus upon as I begin to serve Kentucky Baptists. 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. As previously mentioned, one of those areas is the Great Commission Task Force report. The second area is strengthening the relationship between the KBC and local churches and their pastors.
The third opportunity concerns new church starts. My involvement in six church plants in the U.S. — two of them ethnic churches — has helped me better understand the realistic challenge and incredible opportunity available in church planting. In fact, I’m convinced that church planting is absolutely necessary to turn the tide of the growing lostness in the United States.
According to North American Mission Board research, the church-to-population ratio in the U.S. peaked at one Southern Baptist church for every 430 persons during World War I, but today there is only one Southern Baptist church for every 6,194 people. In Canada the ratio is a dismal one Southern Baptist church to 123,971 people. Certainly there are other evangelical, gospel-centered churches reaching out to the unchurched in North America. Yet, there are still an estimated 259 million people in the U.S. (more than 2 million in Kentucky) who do not have a personal relationship with Christ.
If every church building in America was filled with a capacity crowd this coming Sunday, millions would be left without a place to worship. That is to say, established churches working harder at outreach will never be enough to reach the lost. Established churches must also seek to plant new churches.
Let’s consider it from another angle. NAMB President Kevin Ezell recently announced that NAMB can say with certainty that 769 churches were planted in the SBC this past year. Since we have 45,727 churches, that means we planted at a rate of 1.68 percent last year. When you factor in the number of churches closing their doors, that rate is below what is needed for growth. While our ultimate goal is not to grow the number of Kentucky Baptists or Southern Baptists, that number is one indicator of our effectiveness at reaching people for Christ and discipling them in a local church. According to NAMB’s report, we are losing effectiveness and, most importantly, more people will remain lost from God’s family.
With most churches shrinking in size and the number of churches closing their doors outpacing the number of new churches opening their doors, we are losing Kingdom ground! Church planting is not the only way to take back that ground but is one of the ways God has always used to advance the gospel. Thus, it must be one of the ways Kentucky Baptists seek to advance the gospel. Will you help us take back the ground?