COMMENTARY

Kentucky Baptist pastors leaning in

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Leadership is not best learned from books or in a classroom but instead in real-life and real-time scenarios such as our commonwealth finds itself in right now.

One of the outcomes from the COVID-19 experience will be that Kentucky Baptist churches will witness their pastors giving heroic leadership as they seek to honor the governing authorities, Romans 13:1-5, while at the same time shepherding the flock assigned to their care, 1 Peter 5:1-4.

That reality is being played out this very day from Paducah to Pikeville and from Fulton to Florence and in every church community in between. Here are just a few of the representative Baptist pastor heroes I have observed the past couple of days.


Dan Summerlin, pastor of First Baptist Lone Oak,
is leading the church to care for the church. Not only have they moved to exclusively online worship services for this coming Sunday, but they have also put a plan in place to care for their people. All senior adults are receiving a phone call to check on their condition and assess their needs.


Each Life-Group leader has called their entire life-group for the same purpose. Bro Dan, like most Kentucky Baptist pastors, understands the essential nature of leaning in on pastoral care during times of crisis and he is seeing to it that the church is being cared for during this time.


Matt Shamblin, on the opposite end of the state at Rose Hill Baptist in Ashland
, has found a way to deliver solid preaching to some of their most senior adults. Pastor Matt acknowledges that there are several octogenarians in his congregation. One dear saint is 102 years old. This group may not be tech savvy as it relates to viewing Facebook platformed, or YouTube provided services.

So, Pastor Matt, along with a stellar group of helpers, is providing DVDs and fresh-baked cookies for this segment of their congregation. Whoever coined the proverb, “Necessity is the mother of invention” must have had situations like the coronavirus and the response of pastors like Matt Shamblin in mind.


Jeremy Pellum, pastor of Hurstbourne Baptist in Louisville
, is providing Hi-Tech and Hi-Touch while practicing safe social-distancing. Last night I viewed Jeremy’s message to the congregation where, in about 10 well-planned minutes, he provided a helpful devotional, an explanation of the prayer list, and a summary of the church’s ministry plan for the immediate future, all filmed with the familiar pulpit and choir loft and stained glass in the background.

Jeremy, like all Kentucky Baptist pastors, is driven by the desire to honor the calling of Jesus on his life while serving the congregation that he loves.


Nate Bishop, pastor of Forest Missionary Baptist in Louisville
, has found a new way to communicate with regularity and consistency to the multi-generational congregation he serves. Using a reasonably priced service called Flocknote he can easily text, email, and robocall the entire church membership.

They are also providing their normal “Dare to Care” food distribution service via drive-through instead of by the normal means of folks coming into the building to receive these needed supplies. Pastor Nate is seeing the need, seeking the Lord, learning from his ministry friends, and doing what must be done to meet the demands of the moment.


Nick Sandefur, pastor of Porter Memorial in Lexington,
shared by way of a Facebook announcement some of the fluid plan that is coming together for their church. They are suspending all regular ministry at the church except for their benevolent ministry. They are hosting a blood drive at the church this coming Saturday.

Most importantly they have responded to an urgent need in their community. UK Health Care reached out to Pastor Nick in need of childcare for their medical personnel. Nick and Porter Memorial were glad to respond to this need and opened their facility to the hospital. Pastor Nick’s example is one more of the heroic ways that Kentucky Baptist Pastors are helping churches navigate through unprecedented times.


Modern day heroes are ordinary people who respond in extraordinary ways to the need of the moment. One day in the future, when COVID-19 is a distant memory, these Kentucky Baptist pastors will be held in high esteem by their churches and communities because they did not shrink back from the challenge, but instead leaned in and met real and pressing needs under difficult circumstances.

If anyone wonders why I love Kentucky Baptist pastors, then the stories of these men and 2,355 just like them should answer that question.


Thank you, Pastor, for leading well.



TODD GRAY is executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

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