It was an incredible honor to visit 7 locations in 4 days with a band of brothers that represented the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the local church pastorate. Words are inadequate of how energized and encouraged I am having observed the work of Kentucky Baptists as we seek to cooperatively reach Kentucky and the world of Christ. Below are a few takeaways. These are not comprehensive; space nor time would allow me to share everything.
1. Pastors are the best!
One of the things I’m afraid we take for granted is the relationships that we have with one another. In observing the work of Kentucky Baptist pastors (and church leaders), I was reminded of something I already knew: Pastors are the heroes in our work and I am thankful for their dedication to the work God has called them to. They go to bed wondering if they made a difference. They wrestle at 2:00am with a difficult decision that must be made in an upcoming meeting. They are laboring in prayer for their own children to walk faithfully with Christ. They are trying to be the best husband to their wife while seeking to honor the flock that God has called them to pastor. They are trying to ward off the guilt of just sitting down and resting without being accused of being lazy. They want to give themselves to the best strategy to reach their community and world for Christ. I observed this week faithful pastors sacrificially honoring their flocks all across Kentucky. Churches, your pastor loves you and I could see it all over him this week. They are committed to God and to you. Honor them.
2. Associations and Associational Mission Strategists (AMS) are instrumental leaders!
It blessed me to see AMS’s love on their associations and the pastors represented. I was fortunate to observe this within my previous pastorates, but seeing it from this side as a KBC mission board staff member gave me great encouragement for the leadership within associations. They were incredible hosts, providing 5 star hospitality and modeled what associations are really all about. I experienced humbling affirmation from each of them and was so honored to be a part of this RESET training with them hosting. Observing them interact with their pastors and church leaders brought a huge smile to my face, as they used their special God-given gift to its fullest. The present is bright, and the sky is the limit, for the ministry of KBC associations and I’m thankful to have witnessed the great work going on. I certainly know this is true all across the KBC.
3. Top shelf ministry leaders are everywhere, shining brightly!
I was amongst the most passionate, evangelistic pastors and church leaders in all the Southern Baptist Convention. No questions. Having pastored three churches myself, I understand the dynamic of demographics and population. In fact, my previous church Beulah Baptist Church is in the SECOND LEAST populated county in the state of Kentucky (4,278).[i] You labor where you are and seek to do all for the glory of God. It’s the call of God and the love for the people/community that tethers these brothers to their place of service, not the huge populations that are around them. The size of the church does not always equate evangelistic or discipleship faithfulness. Some of the most evangelistic pastors in the SBC are serving in places that will not be listed in a magazine, website, or social media post—yet I was amongst them this week and it is an honor to see firsthand the grit they have in getting it done! They are practicing evangelism fervently and faithfully–truly working with what they have, where they are…and for the overwhelming majority of KBC churches this means in rural places with smaller populations. I love these people and many of them could have done a better job at presenting than I did. God has their reward.
4. Church buildings are awesome!
I am amazed at the beautiful architecture of many of the church buildings we visited this week. Some were simple. Some were historical. All were awesome! I am one of those guys that happens to appreciate church buildings and the gospel story they tell. Can you imagine if the walls could talk?! I understand that having a church building is not necessary to worship our Lord, but those that worship their Lord in them have something special. These church buildings mean something in their community—they are sovereignty placed there by God to be local posts of the Kingdom. Man, I love seeing and walking through church buildings!
5. Friendships are treasures in our life!
When you travel around the state with folks, you cannot help but become closer! It was a joy to travel this week with Rob Patterson, Kenny Rager, and Josh Schmidt. This may sound crazy, but it was almost like being at a youth camp for a week—I was sad to see it end. I grew closer with these brothers and I truly thank the Lord God for them. This just underscores a reality in our life that we must seize—friendships and partnerships are gifts from God. I laughed this week. I joked around this week. I was serious this week. I had a blast this week. I’m afraid we take life too serious sometimes, and this week reminded me that friends are necessary even as we labor hard in ministry. I made a lot of new friends that I intend to keep up with. I don’t want to take my friends for granted and I desire to make many more friends because of the value they are to me.
6. Trainings are way more than just information!
These evangelism trainings that we do are certainly compact moments of a lot of information given out—but that is not all that they are. Here’s what I observed and experienced: fellowship, laughter, encouragement, affirmation, strategizing, partnership, refinement. The next time a training event is hosted in an area near you, let me challenge you not to dismiss it based on the topic or content alone, because there is so much more involved. How could God use you at one of these trainings to encourage another pastor, AMS, or church leader? You may contribute more than you receive. I can assure you of this, I observed that trainings are way more than just information.
7. The Cooperative Program is the best!
The ability to put on these evangelism trainings is made possible because countless Kentucky Baptist churches sacrificially give to the cooperative program. Indeed, CP funds the international and national mission efforts so that countless people groups can be reached with the gospel. Praise the Lord! It also makes possible evangelism trainings to be put on from Hardin, to Owensboro, to Glasgow, to Bardstown, to Dry Ridge, to Campton, to Somerset. These evangelism trainings spark a fire, train the trainers, and energize the mission of pastors and church leaders that will go back to their churches, and in turn, turn their communities upside down with the gospel! I really believe souls will be saved and ministers will be called out because of opportunities like RESET, whereby church leaders discover the energy to run that next mile where they see progress. Thank you Kentucky Baptist for giving so that we can do these trainings. I benefited from them as a pastor—and now I want to steward them as your mission board staff member for the glory of God and the salvation of many! I needed this RESET.
Onward, Christian Soldiers!
Ian P. Carrico