On Nov. 15, 2018, the Lord called Dr. Paul Chitwood, one of Kentucky’s finest servants, to lead the largest mission-sending organization in the history of Christianity, the International Mission Board. Kentucky Baptists celebrate his new role while mourning the loss of our beloved leader and friend.
In 2011, God used multiple leaders across our state to revision the cooperative mission work of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. As you know, our family of churches comprises 2,400 local bodies which calculate to about 750,000 members. We are, in fact, the largest Protestant denomination in our beloved commonwealth. After the economic recession impacted our nation in 2008-2009, cooperative missions giving began to suffer. In wisdom, KBC messengers called for a Great Commission Task Force to assess missions spending. The GCTF concluded that KBC would reallocate its cooperative program dollars to a 50/50 split within 10 years. Shortly after this declaration, KBC Executive Director-Treasurer Dr. Bill Mackey announced his retirement. There was a call for an immediate search committee to begin work on finding the next executive director-treasurer. The search committee was announced, calling Dr. Paul H. Chitwood, senior pastor of First Baptist Mount Washington and professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, to serve as a committee member.
Within God’s beautiful providence, the committee members, seeing Dr. Chitwood’s humble and keen leadership skills, asked him to consider the gigantic task of potentially leading the mission board staff toward a leaner business model. John P. Kotter writes, “Transformations often begin, and begin well, when an organization has a new head who is a good leader who sees the need for a major change. If the renewal is the entire company, the CEO is key.” After extensive interviews, the Mission Board elected Dr. Chitwood as executive director-treasurer. Hindsight reveals that God gave Dr. Chitwood the visioneering eyes to “see what could be and should be.”
Under the executive leadership of Dr. Chitwood, in close cooperation with the administrative committee and mission board, KBC mission board staff was reduced to hasten the messenger decrees. The reduction allowed KBC to achieve the 50/50 split seven years prior to the 10-year proposal. KBC messengers rejoiced at Dr. Chitwood’s display of courageous and convictional leadership. Like any great leader, Dr. Chitwood reshaped his executive leadership team, eventually bifurcating the previous role of assistant executive director into associate executive director of convention relations and associate executive director of convention operations. Both positions perform a unique organizational leadership service on behalf of our churches. Dr. Chitwood also appointed four additional team leaders who would work alongside the executive office as a team of equals. In fact, one could say that every mission board staff member has equality of being while operating in various role distinctions.
At this juncture, the mission board staff encompasses four teams that make up the 1Team of the Kentucky Baptist Convention: Missions Mobilization; Evangelism, Church Planting & Collegiate Ministry; Church Consultation & Revitalization, and Executive Office. Since the teams have been established, we have pursued the Great Commission fueled by the Great Commandment all over Kentucky and the world. Our passion is shaped by our mission statement, namely, Kentucky Baptist Convention: Created by Churches, for Churches, to help Churches reach in Kentucky and the world for Christ. That mission will not change even though our strategy might be tweaked to meet the growing needs of an ethnically and geographically diverse constituency. We love our churches. We remain committed to seeing our churches strengthened in the faith (Acts 16:5). We will not lose momentum.
One of my former seminary professors, the late Howard “Prof” Hendricks said, “The test of leadership is not what happens when you are present, but what occurs when you are gone.” God used Dr. Chitwood to weave together a leadership team tapestry that is second to none. As a community of servant-leaders, we know that every thriving service organization is consistently re-evaluating their work product to remain competitive.
Dr. Chitwood’s seven-year stewardship over cooperative missions has placed every member of our team in an even greater position to extend our reach.
Thanks, Dr. Chitwood!
Curtis A. Woods, PhD, is co-interim executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention in Louisville, Ky.