This month's Western Recorder gives testimony to the fact that Kentucky Baptists are excited to have Dr. Todd Gray voted to be the executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
Todd is well-known from border to border in the commonwealth through his work to encourage and inspire Kentucky Baptists to be evangelistic. Todd doesn't just ask people to be evangelistic, he models it in his daily life."Leading Well" is the theme of this issue, so it's fitting that we profile Todd Gray as an exemplary leader.
John Maxwell says that encouragement is 51 percent of leadership, and anyone who has spent any time with Todd knows that he is an encourager. When you have a one-on-one conversation with Todd, you'll leave encouraged. When you hear him speak in a seminar, you'll leave inspired. When you hear him preach, you'll be challenged. And when you hear him witness to someone waiting in line at a fast-food restaurant or at the gas pump at a convenience store, you'll be motivated to share your faith, just as he does.
Bottom line is this — he practices what he preaches.
My friendship with Todd began in 2011 when he was pastor of First Baptist Church in Oak Grove. I was keenly aware of the outstanding work Todd was doing at his church. Three years earlier, our newspaper company decided to launch a newspaper in Oak Grove, and I was asked to develop the product and oversee the operation. There are 9,000 residents in that community which is home to the Fort Campbell military installation — yet the only newspapers in the area were sparsely-circulated dailies in Hopkinsville and Clarksville, Tenn.
Oak Grove is not your typical community — it has no schools in its corporate limits, and 50 years ago it was little more than a group of mobile homes, so it doesn't have the historical "roots" that you associate with cities. That's due primarily to the transient nature of constant military transfers.
The challenges to ministry were significant. The divorce rate in the community hovered at the 60 percent level; families had great struggles managing their finances, the business climate was littered with liquor stores, pawn shops and strip clubs. Deployments for the 101st Airborne Division were common — resulting in thousands of soldiers departing for overseas duties. The military numbers grew, yet Oak Grove First Baptist was in constant flux because of the frequent transfer of military families to other assignments.
Those were huge challenges Todd embraced as God continued to grow Oak Grove First Baptist. Sensing that the Lord had another assignment, Todd became the KBC regional consultant for the western part of the state in 2012. He worked with more than 400 churches and pastors, leading training events and preaching revivals and supply preaching on Sundays — the Kentucky equivalent of the Energizer Bunny.
When I was elected president of the KBC in 2013, one of my first calls came from Todd, who invited me to join him for a day as he traveled through the region meeting with pastors. He was excited about what the Lord was doing in his region and wanted me to get a glimpse of it.
When the announcement was made he would be nominated for the executive director position, Todd's comment was "pray for me." A humble request that's a biblical expression of a strong leader.
I look forward to what the Lord will do among Kentucky Baptists. Evangelism will be at the forefront of discussions whenever Todd Gray is around. That's because it is not just what he does, but it's who he is. And we should all be heartened by his unequivocal support of the Cooperative Program.
Readers will see other examples of "leading well" in this issue. We're excited to share the stories of two bivocational pastors who, despite their busy schedules, lead well in their congregations. It's estimated that at least 60 percent of the pastors of KBC churches are bivocational, so hopefully these stories will encourage others in similar positions.
"The Kentucky Baptist Convention is blessed with an outstanding group of bivocational pastors," said executive director-treasurer Todd Gray. "These men are fulfilling their calling by serving Jesus in a church and in a vocation from which they draw a portion, or all, of their income. I meet monthly with eight to 10 Kentucky Baptist bivocational pastors in order to learn from them and to discover how KBC can better support and serve them in their role. Some of the greatest church turnaround stories in our state involve a bivocational pastor who answered a call to serve in a church of 15 or 20 people and by God's grace has seen the church grow and recover its desire to reach their community with the gospel."
We'll also highlight the leadership efforts of Sunrise Children's Services and others in addressing the needs of this state's most vulnerable children. You'll read how Kentucky has made significant strides in adoption and foster care, and Kentucky Baptists will be encouraged to be active participants in improving the lives of children not just for the near future, but for eternity.
This issue also looks at the importance of public policy work done on behalf of Kentucky Baptists. It's not a partisan work, but a kingdom-focused work. Tom Troth pastors a KBC church in Frankfort but also represents Kentucky Baptists in expressing our viewpoints to state government leaders. The public policy aspect is significant because there are key decisions facing this state, such as the battle for life as well as revenue concerns which may result in another push for casino gambling. Then there is the race for governor as well as other constitutional offices being on the ballot.
Understanding the importance of current issues and events for the future direction of this state, the Western Recorder and the Kentucky Today website strive to keep Kentucky Baptists informed. Kentucky Today provides timely accounts of time-sensitve stories that affect Kentucky Baptists. Western Recorder focuses on in-depth stories detailing how God is working among Kentucky Baptists. Each has its place, and together these two sources provide accurate, encouraging and informative news so Kentucky Baptists can lead well.
Chip Hutcheson is interim managing editor of the Western Recorder, a monthly magazine of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.