Enlightening CP Tour provides glimpse of how it benefits Kentucky

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — Twenty Kentucky Baptists saw firsthand the benefit giving through the Cooperative Program has in the state when they participated in a Kentucky Baptist Convention four-stop CP Tour May 14.

Organized and coordinated by Michael Cabell, the KBC assistant to the executive director for convention relations, the group of pastors and lay leaders learned how giving advances the Gospel – which contributes to salvations, discipleship growth, caring for people impacted by disasters and ministering to children.

The tour started at the Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM) building on the Eastern Kentucky University campus. Cabell briefed pastors, deacons, WMU participants and missions committee members on the history of the Cooperative Program, which traces its beginning to Murray, Ky. “The best things in the world come from Kentucky,” he said.

CP will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year, and Cabell noted in that time more than $20 billion has been invested in Gospel ministry through the program.

Each tour stop highlighted how the Cooperative Program is instrumental in its work.

• Jake Hancock, who leads BCM work at EKU, said its ministry involves sharing the Gospel with students, making disciples, fostering their spiritual growth and helping develop “really good church leaders. We exist because the church exists,” he said. “We want to hard-wire students into churches.”

Hancock noted college campuses are the most strategic mission fields in the world. “We have students from all over the world coming into one hub. We get to make disciples who then make disciples.”

BCMs have a presence on 35 Kentucky campuses, with a goal of expanding to 50 in order to minister to the 250,000 students on those campuses.

Three students gave testimonies of how BCM at EKU had been instrumental in their spiritual growth. One senior said it has been “transformative in my walk with the Lord and with my local church.” He recounted how he moved from being in direct opposition to living a Christian life during his freshman year to actively pursuing a deep relationship with the Lord.

Two other students told how BCM has fueled their desire to share the Gospel with fellow students and strengthened their connection to a local church.

The BCM has a worship service every Tuesday night and feeds students a free meal on Thursdays — both serving to draw nonbelievers so they will hear the Gospel.

• At the Rockcastle Association in Mt. Vernon, KBC President Randy McPheron told the group there are 22 churches in that county with a population of about 17,000, and “there are a lot of people who are not saved.” He said many of the pastors are bivocational, “but it is full-time work.”

The association hosts a “Give Hope” program that distributes hundreds of backpacks at Christmastime.

He said some residents have told him that if it wasn’t for that event, they would not have anything for Christmas. “We always get a number of people who respond to the Gospel — there have been as many as 85 salvations and the lowest has been 12 to 14.”

Harold Best, one of KBC’s six regional consultants, explained how that group meets the needs of pastors and churches and discussed the numerous resources they have available, including deacon training; preaching workshops; Church Prepared sexual abuse response prevention and care for survivors; church revitalization; conflict resolution; and Calling Out the Called, an effort to raise up new pastors.

Andrew Eaton discussed the need for church planting and replanting, talking about a church plant in northern Kentucky reaching a Middle Eastern population. Bowling Green has the second-highest Bosnian population in the U.S., second only to St. Louis, so that is a prime planting opportunity.

Eaton noted in Johnson County, with a population of 25,000, there are only two KBC churches. In Nicholas County and the city of Newport, there is no KBC church. “We have opportunities to plant and replant,” Eaton said.

Church planter John “Boo” Smith, a bivocational pastor in Manchester, told the group that on any given Sunday the attendance in 22 KBC churches in Clay County runs 900 to 1,000. “Out of 20,000 people that is sad. There is a vast number of people who need the Gospel — they need love, compassion. Everything we do is about cooperation and kingdom work. There is a need for church planting in Kentucky.”

Smith said the Lord has blessed work there — in his church last year there were 27 baptisms.

• At KBC’s Disaster Relief (DR) warehouse in Stanford, DR Director Ron Crow conducted a tour showing the extensive capabilities that DR has to minister to people in times of disaster.

Noting that DR brings “hope, help and healing,” he said many don’t know what DR work entails.

“We’re Gospel centered,” he said. “In times of disaster, our mission is to come and help. We’re a blessing to them, but God blesses us.”

He said DR workers are often asked why they are helping people they don’t know. “We tell them because that’s what Jesus did.” He told of one city where DR went to help in a minority area. One resident said, “We’re Black — you’re White. Why are you helping us?” As a result of DR work, a leader in that area told Crow, “You have no idea what your team has done to help racial relations here.”

Crow said DR opportunities have resulted in “people getting out of the pew and into the field.”

DR also works to encourage local churches. “We try to connect people to their local church.” After helping a family, DR gives a Bible to the residents and prays with them.

Crow said it’s important for people to pray for the safety of teams as they travel and work, and to pray for Gospel opportunities.

• At Sunrise Children’s Services residential center in Danville, Marissa Walker said the facility can house 27 boys on campus, ranging in age from 6 to 18. The facility has plans to expand so it can house an additional nine teenagers.

Walker, who is program director, treatment director and therapist, led the tour group through three areas where residents are housed. “A lot come here and don’t leave because there is nowhere to go. The kids here have suffered the most severe trauma.” She said the Danville location is unique because it provides psychiatric care for its residents.

“We have one of the best programs in the state in terms of psychiatric care,” she said, adding that the age group of 13-17 has the greatest need. “They are the hardest to love, hardest to place — they don’t know how to love. But we love them and take care of them.”

She said churches are welcome to visit the facility and provide activities and opportunities for the residents.

Walker said the residents are all from Kentucky and that Sunrise can bill private insurance companies. “That opens us up to so many kids we can serve,” she said.

Those who took part in the Cooperative Program tour voiced how much it helped to see how CP is fueling so many ministries as Kentucky Baptists work Together for the Mission.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article originally appeared in Kentucky Today.)

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