CORBIN, Ky. (KT) – The concept behind the BREAK ministry that allows public school students to be taught the Bible started more than 100 years ago, reached its zenith in the 1950s and has been fought through the United States Supreme Court.
Even organizations that have fought against religious freedoms have signed off on it if three basic requirements are met:
-Parents or guardians must request it.
-Classes must be held off school property
-Schools may not support it in any way (such as financially or with teachers).
Meet those guidelines, says John Lowder who heads up the southeastern Kentucky BREAK ministry that operates in three school districts with great success, and you’re in business.
Lowder, a member of Central Baptist Church in Corbin, said his vision would be for every Kentucky Baptist church in every community in the state to be a part of a BREAK Ministry. It’s his opinion that the public elementary schools in the United States are the richest mission field in the world although it can be done in kindergarten through 12th grade.
“Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against the church,” he said. “We see ourselves as part of the church, accountable to the church. Look at those last two verses in the book of Matthew, the Great Commission, it talks not evangelism but a discipleship call. That’s what this program is.”
Lowder said there was a time in history when Sunday School was not part of the church and many thought it was wrong.
“Now we look at Sunday School and it’s everywhere. If a church doesn’t have Sunday School, it’s not worth its salt. The same thing happened with Vacation Bible School and AWANA, which wasn’t endorsed by Baptist churches. Now look at those programs. My vision is for the same thing to happen with Bible release time.”
While BREAK - an acronym for the Bible Release-Time Education Association of Kentucky - in the Corbin area focuses on small class sizes in a hollowed-out bus that has a set of 25-foot bleachers on each side, there are other options, Lowder said.
In Manchester, a philanthropic group that helped children with dental and health needs, wanted to aid the spiritual side of life. They set up a grant so that the BREAK group there can hire the school to bus the children to another location for classes. They will bring in a 100 or more students to a facility owned by churches, Lowden said.
In Williamsburg, Main Street Baptist Church is adjacent to the elementary school and students are walked into the church for BREAK classes. “The church is embracing it,” Lowden said.
Volunteers and teachers have come from inside the churches to teach students one day a month throughout the school year. Central Baptist has several volunteers and children’s pastor Josh Pollitt teaches and is on the BREAK board.
Last month, 201 students made professions of faith in the southeastern Kentucky BREAK ministry’s last session. Participating churches made decision cards with one side sharing the ABCs of salvation and other side being a response card with three options: 1) I am already saved; 2) I want to give my life to Jesus and be saved; and 3)I am not yet ready to give my life to Jesus. Almost 300 of the students responded.
Lowder has been operating BREAK since 2006 after incorporating in 2005. He said God “literally put this in my heart.” He had a left the farm and a career in computers when God called him to be a home missionary.
Lowder said he was meeting with a group of doctors for a Bible study when one of them asked for prayer because they were moving from the suburbs into town. Lowden asked them if they would consider moving to a property next to Corbin Elementary.
Dr. J.D. Blankenship and his wife, Janet, agreed to the move and then became dedicated to the program. When it came time for class, they cleared out their living room and dining room for students to have a place to learn a couple of times a week. Janet even became a teacher, Lowder said.
“You can have a house, a bus, transport them to a church or anything else as long as you follow the three guidelines,” he said. "We are the solution, not the problem. It needs to be grassroots."