LOUISVILLE – After two consecutive years of increases, the baptism count fell slightly in churches that are part of Kentucky’s largest religious organization.
The Kentucky Baptist Convention reported 13,681 baptisms last year, down 675 from the 14,356 reported in 2015.
However, the actual number of baptisms could have been significantly higher than reported because close to 20 percent of Kentucky Baptist churches didn’t participate in the annual count.
Hillvue Heights Church in Bowling Green led the state again last year with 505 baptisms, followed by The Creek in London with 232, His House Ministries in Mayfield with 126, Chin Mission Church in Bowling Green with 113, and Crossland Community Church in Bowling Green with 96.
The Warren Association of Baptists, based in Bowling Green, reported 1,213 baptisms, the highest number of any association in 2016. It was followed by the Louisville Regional Baptist Association with 846, Central Kentucky Network of Baptists with 589, and Daviess-McClean Baptist Association with 433.
The latest additions bring the total number of baptisms to 183,059 since 2005.
“While we rejoice in these baptisms, we realize that we must do more,” said Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director Paul Chitwood. “These aren’t just statistics. These numbers represent real people who are making decisions about their eternal destinies.”
The 750,000-member organization had seen a downward trend in baptisms over the past decade until 2014 when numbers began to rise. Chitwood said he’s hopeful last year’s decrease will be short lived.
“I am calling on our 2,400 Kentucky Baptist churches to double-down on their evangelism efforts,” he said. “There’s no doubt we’re living in challenging times, but I believe Kentucky Baptists are up to the challenge.”
Under Chitwood’s leadership, the Kentucky Baptist Convention has been helping churches to focus on reaching people through evangelism, starting new congregations, helping to revitalize older churches that have plateaued, and by promoting ethnic diversity.
On Monday and Tuesday, the Kentucky Baptist Convention is hosting an evangelism conference in Elizabethtown to inspire and train church leaders from across the state on ways to effectively share the gospel.
"I hope to see the state baptism numbers move back beyond 14,000 souls this coming year and then beyond that number in years to come,” said Todd Gray, head of the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s evangelism team. “I believe the key to that happening is with fired up, Spirit-filled, soul-winning pastors who are setting the pace for those who fill the pews. It can happen.”