Baptist Fellowship Center: Celebrating 100 years of racial partnership

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The Western Recorder recently reported that two Baptist church buildings in Louisville are now mosques and another is a Sikh temple. One way to turn that tide and begin to see crosses over former mosques rather than baptist fellowship centerminarets over former churches is to invest in ministries that are sharing the gospel in Louisville. Through the Cooperative Program, every Kentucky Baptist Convention church has that opportunity.

Michelle and I recently attended the centennial anniversary celebration of the Baptist Fellowship Center. Located in Louisville’s west end, the BFC is a much-needed ministry in Kentucky’s largest city.

Anyone with exposure to Louisville’s news outlets knows that the west end gets a lot of negative attention. To quote Matthew Smyzer, the BFC director, reporting from the west end follows the old adage, “If it bleeds it leads.” But Smyzer is quick to point out the west end has produced many beautiful people and positive stories, even though those aren’t the stories that typically make it into the Courier-Journal newspaper.

One of the best stories from the west end is the story of how God is using Southern Baptists through the Baptist Fellowship Center. A child care center, counseling services, a truancy-prevention program, feeding programs, and a crisis-intervention ministry are just some of the BFC’s many offerings as it seeks to fulfill its vision: “To be a transforming agent to the great Louisville community in reflecting the nature of Christ.”

The BFC began in 1914 as a ministry partnership between churches of the Central District Baptist Association and Long Run Baptist Association. The Central District’s website recounts the BFC’s historical launch when it states, “Representatives of both the negro and white Baptist state boards envisioned a missionary work.” Partnering together, that missionary work became the BFC.

One hundred years later, the BFC still represents a partnership bridging the racial divide and sharing Christ with hurting people. While some of the churches of the Central District and Long Run associations have become multi-ethnic, most can still be characterized as predominantly African-American or predominantly white. For these churches to have modeled partnership for 100 years is a beautiful testimony to the unifying power of the gospel. In Galatians 3:28, Paul writes, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Since the BFC is supported not only by Central District and Long Run, but also by the Kentucky Baptist Convention and North American Mission Board, every KBC church doing mission work through the Cooperative Program is part of this partnership, as well as a vast array of gospel work spanning from Kentucky to the ends of the earth.

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