“Current Reality” is a term used in church consultation that describes how things are in the present, right now. The Barna research study, “State of the Church,” cited data showing that one in three practicing Christians did not stream their own, or any other, church service during the study period of April and May of 2020. For pastors and church leaders, this is disappointing news. However, the great thing about the current reality is that it can be changed.
If this past weekend is any indication, then I am encouraged by the state of the church in Kentucky. This past Sunday I filled the pulpit for Pastor Nick Sandefur for two morning services at Porter Memorial Baptist Church in Lexington. Porter is currently experiencing forty to forty-five percent of their pre-COVID Sunday morning attendance. Prior to the temporary pause of in-person services, Porter was seeing a Sunday morning attendance of around 1,000 people. This past Sunday they had around 450.
The church is showing understanding toward those who do not yet feel comfortable returning to in-person gatherings while at the same time making positive steps to begin regathering their small groups and other ministries. At the same time, the atmosphere in the services was vibrant. In the second morning service, they baptized a college student who was part of the church’s campus ministry of thirty to forty students. Those students were in the service as well, safely socially distanced of course on the first few pews.
Another KBC church, Middletown Baptist in Berea, pastored by William Dooley reported their fourth baptism in the past three weeks. Bro William prayed at the beginning of the COVID lockdown that God would make this a spiritually fruitful time in the life of their congregation. The baptism this past Sunday serves as a continued answer to that prayer.
Another of our Kentucky Baptist pastors texted me over the weekend describing his plans to ramp up their outreach efforts. I received an email from another of our bi-vocational Kentucky Baptist pastors reporting a salvation that occurred in their church this past Sunday. He told how a young person in their twenties attended church at the invitation of one of their members and received Jesus, turning from a life of sin and brokenness. One additional pastor reported that attendance is not what it was before COVID, but it is returning, and that giving remains strong.
These are only a few of the great things that are happening in some of the 2,360 Kentucky Baptist churches. Yes, we have been through a challenging time that has uprooted our normal church routines. Yes, attendance is not what it once was and likely will not return to pre-COVID numbers for months to come. And yes, planning and leading church services in this environment is complicated. But God is faithful.
God is at work in Kentucky Baptist churches. The gospel is still good news. People are still ready to hear this message and respond by faith. Certainly, Kentucky Baptists must acknowledge the current reality, but we must not let current reality stop our Great Commission efforts.
We must also prayerfully, corporately, and with great confidence in God and His gospel continue to try and change the current reality and reach more people for Christ.
DR. TODD GRAY is executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.