Baptist 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. They formed an association that would later be known as the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
That decision would have a profound impact upon the Southern Baptist Convention when it was formed nearly a decade later. The impact is still being felt today.
For example, the first and largest of Southern Baptist’s seminaries has been located in Kentucky since 1877. Moreover, the Cooperative Program was modeled after the budget plan adopted by the KBC in 1915 in my home church of Jellico First Baptist. Furthermore, a disproportionate number of SBC leaders have either hailed from Kentucky or called the Bluegrass home for a period of time. Consider that of the twelve SBC agency heads serving today, five have been teaching pastors at one of our KBC churches, Highview Baptist. Several others have studied at our seminary. And of all the state conventions, the KBC was the first to adopt a Great Commission Resurgence initiative.
More than a history lesson or an opportunity to celebrate the faithfulness of the people we know as Kentucky Baptists, I hope reminders of our past and our legacy will challenge us to persevere when we confront the unique challenges of our generation. Whether we think about the crisis experienced by our churches in this border state during the Civil War, the struggles endured by our people during the Great Depression, or the pervasive confusion felt by people in the pew during the Conservative Resurgence, Kentucky Baptists have a reputation for resiliency, unity, and Kingdom legacy. That hasn’t changed.
Nor has the fact that, in the words of our Lord, we are merely unworthy servants who have been called to do our duty: reach Kentucky and the world for Christ. I believe we will be most effective as we labor together, leverage partnerships for the sake of the gospel, and live as light in an ever-darkening culture.
Kevin Ezell, North American Mission Board president, recently asked where I see things going in the future of our work. I confessed that I believe the culture will become increasingly hostile to the gospel and to a biblical worldview, resources will continue to diminish, and planting churches, growing churches and pastoring churches will become increasingly difficult. I also told him that I was not lamenting any of these realities. To the contrary, I celebrate the fact that God has chosen us to serve when the work is getting harder rather than easier.
God must hold Kentucky Baptists in high regard. So do I.