LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) – Kentucky Baptist pastors who want to be more intentional about evangelism have a new tool at their disposal.
The Kentucky Baptist Convention created an Evangelism Associate position who will be fulltime in the field and working one-on-one with pastors and Associational Ministry Strategists, beginning June 16.
The position will provide one-on-one coaching with pastors, produce or provide evangelistic resources and do evangelistic modeling that includes going door-to-door with the pastors. In other words, they will be a consistent source of evangelistic encouragement.
Kenny Rager, a former pastor who has actively served in convention life in the KBC in numerous capacities including as a coach for KBC church planters, was hired as one of the associates. He and Andy McDonald, a KBC church evangelism strategist, will each cover half the state.
“It’s good to have another person working the western part of the state,” McDonald said. “Kenny is a pastor, he has a pastor’s heart, and he’s ready to serve the churches. We want to help the pastors keep the thermostat temperature at hot.”
Todd Gray, the Evangelism director for the KBC, said the goal is to assist pastors and churches in evangelism.
“We want to help pastors grow evangelistically and we needed more help in the field. The highest level of impact happens one-on-one,” Gray said. “Kenny and Andy will be field-oriented.”
Many times, Gray said, the day-to-day duties of a pastor often come at the expense of evangelism.
“Every pastor wants to be more evangelistic than he is,” Gray said. “For a number of reasons, one has to do with workload, it doesn’t happen. They are filling their week covering bases of the (day-to-day) job requirements. If they fail in any of those areas, they’ll hear complaints. If they fail in evangelism, nobody complains. Saved people don’t complain and lost people don’t complain.”
However, there is a great need to address evangelism in Kentucky, Gray said.
Since 1980 the number of baptisms has been on a downward trend, Gray said. In 1980 there were 20,000 baptisms and the most current statistical year is about 12,000.
“There have been some bumps here and there but, generally speaking, it’s been on a continual decline,” he said.
Pastors need encouragement, training, ideas, resourcing and modeling, Gray said.
“If we are in the community and in homes sharing the gospel then we should anticipate an eventual harvest of people coming to faith,” he said.
It also goes beyond doing those important good deeds like fixing porches or handing out bottles of water, Gray said. Becoming evangelistic requires a different type of hard work but with far greater rewards.
“If you’re doing a good job sewing (gospel) seed, you should anticipate a harvest,” he said. “If we haven’t planted the crop, we shouldn’t anticipate much of a harvest.”
Rose Hill Baptist Church Pastor Matt Shamblin, the chairman of evangelism and church planting committee, said the KBC is on the right path.
“As other state conventions are doing away with evangelism departments, the Kentucky Baptist Convention is expanding its evangelist department in order to help equip churches to better evangelize their communities and to help reverse the continued decline of baptisms among Southern Baptists.”
Shamblin said across the convention they are doing away with evangelism departments and the role of state director of evangelism.
Meanwhile the KBC marches forward with what Shamblin calls “a multi-faceted approach that really comes at the task of evangelism in many, many different ways.
“The KBC is doing more in evangelism than any evangelism department in the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Shamblin was at one time the state director of evangelism in West Virginia.
“It’s certainly not that pastors don’t know how to do what our evangelism department is teaching,” he said. “It’s not from a lack of education that the role is needed. It’s really a need for encouragement and someone who constantly talks about that in order to make it a priority.”
Shamblin said “pastors are like general practitioners and these guys are specialists.”
The Evangelism Associates have outstanding track records in the area of evangelism, Gray said. They can provide best practices and important training, along with the necessary resources, to make becoming an evangelistic church easier. “As the pastor goes, so goes the church,” he said. “We want to help those who want to become better at being evangelistic.”
McDonald has been working for more than 20 years in various capacities of evangelism as a staff person and will be available to pastors east of Louisville. “Andy is personally evangelistic, a humble leader and good with pastors,” Gray said.
Rager, a native of Owensboro where he currently lives, is another well-known commodity in Kentucky with strong evangelism chops. His area will be west of Louisville.
His grandfather, L.C. Gray, was a powerful evangelist who preached throughout western Kentucky.
Rager is working on his doctorate at Southern Seminary. His project for the education doctoral work was a program he developed to train adults who had never led anyone to Christ, Gray said.
“Kenny is highly relational and has a great reputation in the state,” Gray said.
Rager has also pastored and planted churches and evangelism was always at the heart of his ministry. Gray said if you ask him when he last witnessed to somebody, the answer would probably be today.
“That’s his normal practice,” he said. “Kenny has the right skill set.”
Rager said when Gray talked to him about the position with the KBC, he immediately had a rush of excitement because of his passion for evangelism.
“Pastors are hard workers and ministry is tough,” Rager said. “This is a great tool, a resource that Kentucky Baptist pastors have available to them if God leads them to use it.”
Rager’s love for evangelism is evident. He said it comes because of the last words Jesus said before ascending into heaven.
“He said to make disciples of all the nations,” Rager said. “That makes it kind of a big deal. My job is to help churches reach Kentucky for Christ.”
Rager and his wife Taran, who have four children, have been married for 12 years and have experienced ministry together. They are eager to make the shift from local church ministry into the denominational role.