LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Kentucky Today editors posed a series of questions to Severns Valley Baptist Church Pastor Bill Langley, the only announced candidate for president of the Kentucky Baptist convention. The election is set for Nov. 15 at the KBC’s annual meeting at Florence Baptist Church. What follows are the full questions as presented and Langley’s verbatim answers.
Kentucky Today: Would you please share with us your conversion experience?
Langley: It was my joy to grow up in a godly Christian home with two amazing parents. They were members of the church I now have the honor of pastoring, Severns Valley Baptist Church, in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. On a Sunday morning in January, when I was eight-years-old, the church was observing the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. I wanted the cracker and juice, but my parents wouldn’t allow it. When I asked why I couldn’t participate, they quietly whispered, “We’ll talk about it when we get home.” Of course, we talked about it when we got home! I brought the subject up before we were finished eating lunch. That afternoon, my parents helped me understand the Lord’s Supper is a special service that is only for Christians. That opened the door to a thorough discussion of what it truly means to be a Christian and their sweet presentation of the gospel. So, as an eight-year-old boy, I repented of my sin and accepted Jesus Christ as my own personal Lord and Savior.
Kentucky Today: What is the single biggest goal you would like to accomplish as KBC president and why is it important to you?
Langley: Having pastored for more than 30 years, I have seen and experienced much. As so many others, I am incredibly burdened by what I observe on the national landscape. Tides are turning, momentum is shifting, and it seems as though our nation is, literally, sprinting away from God. The challenges for pastors and churches, today, are many, and they are becoming increasingly intense. However, where there are great challenges there are also great opportunities! “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it!” (John 1:5 ESV) If elected as president of the KBC, my goal and number one priority would be to do all I could to encourage pastors and church leaders to take advantage of every opportunity in evangelism and discipleship. This is not a time to “hold the fort.” This is a time to advance and enlarge the kingdom!
Kentucky Today: One of the responsibilities of the KBC president is to appoint committee chairs. What criteria will you consider in making these appointments?
Langley: As it relates to churches I have pastored, for many years, I have considered the “Three Cs of Leadership” that have been so well articulated by Bill Hybels: Character, Competence, and Chemistry. Regarding character – do they affirm and consistently live by strong biblical values? Regarding competence – can this person do what we are asking them to do? Regarding chemistry – is this person the right “fit” for the team? This is, by and large, the grid I would use in making leadership selections for the KBC.
Kentucky Today: We’re living in a time of great social upheaval. We saw one example of that when the Supreme Court made gay marriage the law of the land. How bold do you think the KBC president and Kentucky Baptists in general should be in engaging the culture on social, ethical and moral issues?
Langley: Our nation is in a moral free-fall. We are seeing conservative, Bible-believing Christians and churches under attack like never before. Two years ago, Severns Valley Baptist Church underwent a complete re-write of the church’s constitution and bylaws. We had to specifically address what the Bible teaches concerning current hot topic issues, such as the sanctity of life, marriage as a union between a man and a woman, homosexuality and gender identification struggles. These were things most churches never even thought needed to be addressed when they originally adopted their constitution and bylaws. I will do all I can to help educate pastors and church leaders about what can be done to fortify the biblical stand their church takes in its community. Above all, my goal will be endeavoring to see that, as we engage the culture (and we must), we do it in the fullness of grace and truth.
Kentucky Today: The Cooperative Program has proven itself as an incredible evangelistic tool for spreading the gospel around the world. What would you do to encourage churches to increase their giving through CP?
Langley: I am a strong advocate of the Cooperative Program for a very pragmatic reason: We can do much more together than we can do by ourselves. In my opinion, the challenge we face is in doing a better job of sharing the wonderful accounts of people who are being reached as a direct result of missions and missions giving through the KBC. The people in our churches want to be a part of these incredible success stories. So, I will do all I can to help us be even more effective in communicating what Christ is doing in response to our mission efforts. Then, I will ask church leaders to look at what they are currently giving and earnestly pray and consider increasing their support.
Kentucky Today: Kentucky Baptists are people of the Bible, and they look for leaders who share their high view of scripture. Would you please tell us about an experience from your past that reflects your commitment to God’s word?
Langley: This past Sunday, I had people approach me, following each of our morning worship services, and thank me for not shrinking back but boldly proclaiming the truth of God’s Word. It is always my goal to make sure that, as God’s people, we can grasp the practical application of the biblical message to our everyday lives. For more than forty weeks, I have been preaching through the Gospel of John and, as of today, we are only half way through the book. Verse-by-verse exposition of God’s Word is definitely hard work but, without a doubt, it produces the best fruit. About a year ago, I preached a series of messages I called, “Collide,” in which we looked at several contemporary issues that are colliding with biblical faith. Our people need to know how to “struggle well” with these issues, and that only comes from a deeper understanding of and commitment to God’s Word.
Kentucky Today: Most everyone would agree that personal evangelism is crucial to winning the lost. Would you please tell us about one of your greatest successes in the area of personal evangelism?
Langley: Most of my personal evangelistic opportunities spring from following up individuals and families that have visited our church. However, I constantly want to be aware of the opportunities the Lord places before me on a daily basis. Recently, following a terrible car accident, I was able to lead a husband and wife to Christ. The joy on the faces was incredible, as they took their public stand for Christ in baptism. Their appetite for God’s Word is insatiable! Helping them grow as disciples is blessing me as much as it is blessing them!
Kentucky Today: We hear a lot about things like apathy in the church, like worldly ideas invading the church, like the need for greater financial commitment on the part of Christians, like the intrusion of government on religious liberty. What do you consider to be the biggest issues and challenges facing Kentucky Baptists today?
Langley: Every week, when I stand in the pulpit to preach God’s Word, I realize I am speaking to four different groups of people. Paul spells this out in 1 Corinthians chapters 2 and 3. They are, the spiritual Christian, the carnal Christian, brand new (or baby) Christians, and those who aren’t Christians at all. I do my best to have a word for each of these groups in every message. Billy Graham has estimated that as many as 50% of the people we preach to on a weekly basis do not have a personal relationship with the Lord. Obviously, only God knows the heart of each individual, but I think it is safe to say there are many “lost” people on our church rolls. For that reason, it is difficult for churches to take a united stand on so many of the key issues facing our state and nation today. I’ve already spoken to the fact that, as followers of Christ, we are being pushed more and more to the margins of our society. In the end, I’m not sure that is a bad thing. Perhaps this will have a winnowing effect in separating the chaff from the wheat. History has proven Christianity can handle persecution, but the jury is still out on how well it does with comfort and prosperity. We must challenge our people to count the cost as it relates to following Christ. Only then can we do a more effective job of making disciples.
Kentucky Today: What do you believe Kentucky Baptists should be doing today to ensure some degree of religious liberty for their children and grandchildren tomorrow?
Langley: Regardless of your political views, as Kentuckians, we can count ourselves very blessed to have a Governor who is unashamed and unapologetic about his faith in Christ. His walk with Christ is inspiring other Christian government officials to be brave in their walk as well. This may provide us with a window of opportunity to see legislation passed and signed that would protect our religious liberties. We must pray for our government leaders. In addition, we must be lovingly bold in speaking to and defending the unalienable rights given to us by our Creator.
Kentucky Today: What would you do as KBC president to fight for the sanctity of life, whether that be for the unborn or the elderly?
Langley: For 31 years as a pastor, I have been a strong advocate when it comes to the sanctity of life. Severns Valley has a committed, ongoing relationship with a crisis pregnancy center in our area. Many of our people volunteer and serve to raise awareness as well as funds for this great ministry. Whether it relates to the unborn or the elderly, I will sound the clarion call, challenging people to “choose life!” (Deuteronomy 30:19)