As 2018 draws to a close, it’s natural to reflect on the past twelve months and to look forward to the year to come. However, 2018 provides an opportunity for even greater reflection for me as I celebrated my 5-year anniversary as the Director of Missions for the Pike Association this past August. In recent days, I have begun to not only reflect on the past year, but the past five years of ministry in the association. As I look back, there are many things for which I am incredibly grateful that the Lord has accomplished through the cooperative work of our churches. In addition to the accomplishments (and there are many!), there are still some exciting future ministry opportunities for our association. However, these opportunities do not come without some significant challenges.
Over the next three posts, I want to explore each of these items in greater detail. In Part 1, we’ll briefly discuss the significant accomplishments over the past 5 years. In Part 2, we’ll talk about the current challenges we are facing as an association. And in Part 3, we’ll cover the future ministry opportunities for the association. If you are a member of one of the churches in the Pike Association, I hope these posts will be helpful, informative, and spur all of us on to greater cooperative efforts than we have ever experienced before. If you are not a member of one of the churches in the Pike Association, I hope you will rejoice with us and pray for us as we continue to partner together to reach eastern Kentucky and the world for Christ.
In 2014, a new mission statement was presented to the churches of the association: The Pike Association exists to help churches partner together to reach eastern Kentucky and the world for Christ. In order to accomplish this mission, we unveiled a three-pronged strategy: (1) Church strengthening, (2) Church mobilization, and (3) Church planting. Since that time, we have made significant strides forward in each of these areas. For the remainder of this post, I want to highlight some of the accomplishments in each of these areas.
The association has worked hard to strengthen our established churches through providing ongoing ministry to the association’s pastors, through leadership development & training opportunities, transition ministries, as well as other church strengthening resources and consultations. Here’s a sampling of the ways we have attempted to strengthen our existing churches over the past 5 years:
Ministry to Pastors
- Informal pastor gatherings: One of the strengths of the association is the opportunity for churches and pastors to fellowship with one another. There have been countless opportunities for the association’s pastors to build a strong bond with one another through informal lunches and other meetings. These gatherings never have an agenda. Just the opportunity for pastors to meet together and encourage one another.
- Pastor roundtable discussions: In addition to informal gatherings, the association has also offered opportunities for pastors to get together for “roundtable discussions” in which they can talk about relevant ministry topics. While the association has not offered these discussions in a while, there is a good possibility that these roundtables will return in 2019.
- Local pastor conferences: The association has partnered with neighboring associations to offer 3 regional conferences over the past 5 years designed specifically for pastors. One of those conferences was the Practical Shepherding Conference, led by Brian Croft, who is a pastor in Louisville and conducts similar conferences all over the world.
- “Call to Ministry” workshop: Due to a high turnover rate of pastors in the association over the past 5 years, there is a need to assist local churches to “call out the called.” Therefore, the association now offers a 6-hour workshop once a year to help those who sense a calling to vocational ministry to assess their calling. The first workshop included five participants.
- Preaching class: With a high percentage of bi-vocational pastors who do not have the time nor resources to seek theological and ministry training at a Bible college or seminary, the association now offers a 9-month course that covers the basics of preparing and preaching a sermon. The course has been offered twice thus far with approximately 20-25 men completing the course.
- Evangelistic preaching training: From time to time, the association also partners with the Kentucky Baptist Convention to offer relevant local training for pastors. Recently, one such workshop covered how to make sermons and invitations more evangelistic.
- Books and resources. The association also consistently provides books and other resources for pastors on a variety of ministry topics, often free of charge.
Leadership Development & Training
- VBS Clinics: Each Spring, the association offers a free local VBS clinic to train VBS volunteers who will then serve in their church’s VBS during the summer. VBS Volunteers can choose to attend 2 breakout sessions that cover topics such as Crafts, Recreation, Music, Snacks, Pastors/VBS Directors, as well as age-specific classes. Nearly 100 VBS workers are trained each year during the clinic.
- Sunday School Leader trainings: During the past five years, the association has offered two conferences specifically for Sunday School leaders. In addition to Sunday School specialists from the Kentucky Baptist Convention, the association also partnered with Lifeway to provide free local training featuring several national Sunday School and Discipleship Ministry experts. A combined total of 120 Sunday School leaders were trained during these two events.
- 3 Circles Evangelism workshop: The association also trained 50 individuals from 7 different churches using the 3 Circles evangelism strategy. The 6-hour workshop was offered in partnership with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, and a total of four individuals came to faith in Christ as a result of workshop participants sharing their faith over a 3-week period.
- Safety & Security Conference: In light of multiple church and school shootings, the association offered a free Safety & Security Conference earlier this year which included local law enforcement and first responders, as well as research concerning current safety & security practices of local churches. Over 200 people from 37 churches were present during the one-night conference.
- Baptist Bible Doctrines class: Similar to the Preaching class, the association also has begun offering a 9-month basic course in the core doctrines of the Christian faith. This free course is currently being taught by one of the association’s local pastors and has over 30 individuals in attendance, representing 8 different associational churches.
- Protecting Biblical Marriage simulcast/resources: The legal definition of marriage was redefined several years ago. In order to help churches protect themselves legally, the Kentucky Baptist Convention offered a conference on this issue. The association provided a free simulcast of the event and offered other resources for churches to use.
- Revitalization workshops: The association has also offered several free church revitalization workshops over the past five years, led by some well-known leaders, including Ron Edmonson, former Senior Pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, who is now President of Leadership Network.
- Pastor Search Committee Training: Over 70% of the churches in the association have faced a pastoral vacancy during the past five years (some churches more than once). The association has trained more than a dozen pastor search committees and also provides several free books and resources to assist in this process. The association is also available to consult with search committees during the search process and has done so on numerous occasions.
- Pulpit Supply List: With a high pastor turnover rate, churches without pastors often need extended pulpit supply preachers. The association provides names and contact information for more than a dozen men who are willing and available to fill the pulpit for churches without pastors. In order to be added to the list, each man has to be endorsed by myself or one of the pastors of the association.
- Interim Pastor opportunities: My job description was revised several years ago to allow me to serve as an interim pastor for any church in the association that requests me to do so. I am currently serving as interim pastor for the fourth different church in the association. This gives me an opportunity to get to know these churches better, and it also provides stability in the pulpit for a season in each of these churches.
Other Church Strengthening Efforts
- Minister’s Wives Fellowships: In addition to regular gatherings for pastors, the association also offers fellowship opportunities for ministry wives. Led by my wife, a group of ladies gather each month for dinner, prayer, and encouragement.
- Disciple Now events: Organized and led by First Baptist Pikeville, the association supports the annual Disciple Now events specifically designed for students. Students from multiple churches in the association have attended this event over the past two years.
- Special guest speakers: In addition to Ron Edmonson and Brian Croft, the association has had a great lineup of speakers over the course of the past five years including former KBC Executive Director and current International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood, NAMB Evangelism Director Joel Sutherland, several IMB missionaries, several NAMB missionaries and church planters, Central Kentucky Network of Baptists Executive Director David Stokes, several KBC Mission Board staff members, as well as many Pike Association pastors.
In addition to strengthening our existing churches, the association has worked hard to mobilize our churches both locally and globally. Here’s a sampling of the ways we have attempted to live on mission over the past 5 years:
Local Missions Efforts
- LoveLoud: Started in 2015, this local annual week-long missions event has mobilized a total of 350 volunteers from 16 different Pike Association churches over the past four years (206 unique volunteers). Out of that number, 110 different students have served in local construction projects, community service, and outreach & evangelism. As our churches have worked together, over 50 homes in Pike County have received significant repairs. Out of those homes, we have built 20 wheelchair ramps, repaired or replaced 7 roofs, repaired or replaced 6 porches, provided landscaping and other odd jobs for over a dozen homes, and have completed other home repairs to at least 10 other homes. We have washed more than 1,500 cars for free; we have donated and given away more than 10,000 clothing and household items during our Free Yard Sales; we have passed out nearly 2,000 Bibles and gospel tracts; and we have had hundreds of gospel conversations with at least 6 professions of faith (that we know of). LoveLoud continues to be an effective cooperative missions event and we look forward to another great year in 2019!
- Medical/Dental Clinic: In 2018, the association partnered with the North American Mission Board, the Kentucky Baptist Convention, and First Baptist Pikeville to offer a free Medical/Dental Clinic for local residents who could not afford medical or dental care. The dental clinic had a full waiting list all day, and we are planning on ministering to our community with another clinic in April 2019.
- Christmas Backpack Giveaway: The churches of the association collected and packed a total of 257 Christmas Backpacks for local low-income children. These backpacks were distributed during an evangelistic event at the UPike gymnasium and the gospel was shared multiple times.
- Multiply the Blessings Thanksgiving Meals: The churches of the association collected enough food items to feed more than 90 local low-income families during the recent Thanksgiving holiday. Each family also received a Bible and 3 Circles gospel tract and were connected to a church in the association for follow-up and ongoing ministry opportunities.
- Crossover Pikeville: Preceding the 2018 KBC Annual Meeting held in Pikeville, there were several evangelistic events planned. In addition to the Multiply the Blessings event, representatives from associational churches participated in an evangelistic basketball clinic for nearly 100 elementary-aged children, door-to-door evangelism, and evangelistic conversations during the UPike football game.
- Hope For The Mountains: In one of the largest evangelistic crusades in recent memory, the churches of the association partnered together with Kentucky Baptist churches from across the state to fill the East Kentucky Expo Center last month. With over 1,000 volunteers (including a 600-member choir), the event had a total of 3,000 people in attendance and nearly 60 professions of faith in Christ.
North American Missions Efforts
- Cincinnati Vision Tour: The association provided funds for a total of 6 Pike Association pastors to explore partnership opportunities with NAMB-funded church planters in the Greater Cincinnati area. The result of these vision tours was that several local churches began partnering with different Cincinnati church plants.
- Church in the Village partnership: One of those partnerships is with The Church in the Village located in Carlisle, Ohio. The planter, Eric Clarkson, preached during the 2018 LoveLoud worship services, and the association has taken one mission trip to Carlisle.
International Missions Efforts
- BGR Buckets of Hope: The churches of the association packed approximately 35 “buckets of hope” for HIV patients in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2014. These buckets contained basic hygiene and medical items. In addition to the physical needs, Baptist Global Response workers presented the gospel with every individual who received a bucket.
- International Missionary Speakers: The association has invited multiple IMB missionaries to speak at associational events over the past 5 years. Associational leadership is currently praying about opportunities of international mission trips.
In addition to strengthening our existing churches, the association has worked hard to plant new churches in our region. Due to the fact that 92% of Pike County is unchurched, and baptisms in existing churches has been on a steady decline, and no new churches had been started in over 20 years, the need for new churches is great. The association has a vision to work to see a total of 5 new churches planted in the association by 2020. Here’s a sampling of the ways we have attempted to work toward that goal:
- Creekside Church Planted in 2017: Creekside Church was a replant of Island Creek Baptist Mission. After months of praying and planning, over 250 people from 8 different associational churches were in attendance during Launch Sunday. Since that time, this new church has averaged over 100 in attendance. The association financially supports the church plant each month and has provided training and resources to Pastor Jason Johnson.
- New Life Church is in planning stages: Another new church plant is in the planning stages. New Life Church will primarily work to reach local college students. While this church has not yet launched, the church planter is on the field and working diligently to build a core leadership team. The association will be assisting this new church in several ways.
- Multiply East Kentucky: Due to the vast amounts of lostness in the eastern region of Kentucky, our association has been heavily involved in the coordination and leadership of a church planting movement called Multiply East Kentucky. Over the past two years, there have been four gatherings of eastern Kentucky pastors, church planters, and Directors of Missions to discuss ways to partner together to plant dozens of new churches in the mountain region. When the movement began 3 years ago, there was only one current KBC-funded church plant in eastern Kentucky. Now, we are approaching double digits in the number of churches being planned or planted for our region.
Other Highlights & Developments
In addition to the association’s ministry accomplishments, there have been several other developments during the past five years:
- Team Ministry Structure: When the new mission statement was created along with the three focus areas of church strengthening, church mobilization, and church planting, the association transitioned to three ministry teams: (1) Church Strengthening Team, (2) Church Mobilization Team, and (3) Church Planting Team. This team structure allowed for easier ministry planning and a simplified ministry budget.
- Revised Constitution & Bylaws: Five years ago, the association’s Constitution & Bylaws were lacking in several areas. A Constitution & Bylaws Committee was formed to study and recommend changes. Significant revisions were made, including adding the Baptist Faith & Message (2000) as the statement of faith for any church who desires to be a member of the association.
- Transition to Bi-vocational Leadership: In 2015, my role as Director of Missions transitioned from full-time to part-time due to significant financial shortfalls in the association. However, due to the commitment of several pastors in the association, our cooperative ministry efforts have continued to make significant kingdom impact in our region.
- Kentucky Baptist Convention Annual Meeting: Last month, history was made when the Kentucky Baptist Convention held their annual meeting in Pikeville for the first time. You can read more about my thoughts about this historic event here.
Suffice it to say that the churches of the Pike Association have accomplished much more together during the past five years than we could ever do alone. I am extremely grateful for every member of this association who understands this kingdom mindset. May the Lord continue to bless our cooperative ministry efforts for His honor and glory!
So, that’s it for the past accomplishments. Tomorrow, I will post Part 2 of my reflections and talk about the current challenges facing the association. And then on Wednesday, we’ll dream together about the future ministry opportunities. I hope you will check it out!