PIKEVILLE, Ky. (KT) – Kentucky's largest religious organization gathers in Pikeville next week, likely making an impact on the local economy and the spiritual lives of residents.
"We realize it's a boon for Pikeville hotels, restaurants and other businesses to have so many people coming to town, and we're pleased to be helpful in that way," said Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director Paul Chitwood. "But the greatest impact we could hope to have on Pikeville will come from our coming alongside area churches to share the gospel with the people who live there."
Kentucky Baptists have been snapping up hotel rooms for weeks in anticipation of the 181st Kentucky Baptist Convention Annual Meeting and Hope for the Mountains crusade.
The convention, which represents 750,000 Southern Baptists in the state, reported some hotels have already flipped the no vacancy sign, leaving many to scramble for accommodations.
Pikeville City Tourism Director Jimmy Taylor said thousands of Kentucky Baptists occupying hotels and patronizing local restaurants and shops is going to have a big economic impact, especially at a time when tourism is at a lull.
“It’s like a little blessing before Christmas,” said Taylor.
Kentucky Baptist messengers and guests will gather at the Eastern Kentucky Exposition Center on Nov. 13 to set the course for future mission and ministries that seek to serve the state’s 2,400 Southern Baptist churches.
Jordan Gibson, Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce president, said it’s not every weekend an organization as large as the Kentucky Baptist Convention comes to town.
“It’s just a huge benefit to our community,” said Gibson, “especially when we can sell out entire hotels.”
Working with Pike County Tourism and local business, Gibson said it’s taken a year to coordinate all the moving pieces that make an event like this happen.
“This is one of the first, bigger conferences we’ve been able to secure,” Gibson said. “It can be a challenge to coordinate, but we’ve got a good group of people who can make things happen.”
Two days before the annual meeting, the Kentucky Baptist Convention will present Hope for the Mountains, a crusade featuring evangelist Jon Reed on Nov. 11 at the expo center. The event is free to the public and kicks off at 6 p.m. with a 600-voice choir and worship music by the Jason Lovins Band.
“Sunday alone they are anticipating 4,000 people in downtown Pikeville. It’s going to be an unbelievable,” Taylor said.
Chitwood said he is looking forward to many coming to faith at Hope for the Mountains and continuing the celebration on Tuesday by sharing all the good work Kentucky Baptists are doing in the name of Christ.
"We are excited to be able to report on the growing impact of our churches," Chitwood said, "and that God continues to use their labors to bring the lost to Christ and give birth to new Kentucky Baptist churches across the state."
The Kentucky Baptist Convention reported 13,681 baptisms in 2017, and its member churches gave more than $21 million to help support ministries and missions aimed at reaching Kentucky and the world for Christ.