This past spring, while sitting outside a Circle S station in Tell City, Indiana, awaiting our second service, I asked our guest speaker that day to consider accepting the role of president of the International Mission Board should it be offered.
While no clouds scrolled back from the sky, nor did the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove upon our Chevy Suburban, I did sense the presence of God’s anointing on a man obviously burdened to reach the nations with the gospel. Yesterday, that guest speaker was announced as the official candidate for the IMB.
I’m doubtful there will ever be a monument laid at that gas pump, but I do believe the election of Paul Chitwood will eternally impact the kingdom far more than any ballot cast during Tuesday’s midterms. That prediction is true for a number of reasons:
Having worked closely with Paul on a variety of denominational issues within our Commonwealth, I’ve seen him interact with numerous people both inside and outside church walls, pastors large and small, intellectuals and everyday Joes, and what I’ve found is "Dr. C” has a unique gift to connect with people from all walks of life. In fact, I’d say he’s as gifted in that area as anyone I’ve ever met. Seminary professors, missionaries on the field, denominational influencers, whoever: I’ve observed him break down barriers on numerous occasions in order to foster understanding. With a denomination as diverse as ours, that kind of relational insight will be invaluable whether or in Richmond or Riyadh, Nashville or Naples.
While our political world seems devoid of statesmen during this time, I believe our Southern Baptist sphere has just nominated one of the best in a generation. Dr. Chitwood possesses an innate sense of how to articulate the times in which we live to brothers and sisters across the denominational spectrum. Even when conversations become necessarily difficult, Paul has time and again called us back to our mission as heralds of the good news. Imagine someone with advanced governmental and administrative abilities coupled with a skill set to communicate complex issues in a simple way: now imagine that individual merged with a kingdom heart. That’s Paul Chitwood.
From humble beginnings in the foothills of Jellico, Tennessee, God has set Paul Chitwood on a path only the Lord could have paved. At every stop along the way, from trustee chair to foster care, he has supported the mission of our Lord through the strategy of our Cooperative Program, the idea that we are better together. No one is a greater champion of SBC causes than Dr. C. I believe God has raised him up for such a time as this.
While I’m sad for our commonwealth, I’m excited for the nations. Let them be glad, because an effectual calling is coming their way.
Barry E. Fields is pastor of Hawesville Baptist Church in Hawesville, Ky.