Dan Summerlin, pastor of Lone Oak First Baptist Church of Paducah will be nominated as Kentucky Baptist Convention president when the KBC annual meeting convenes Nov. 13 at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington. He currently is the only announced candidate.
A former KBC first vice president, Summerlin has served as pastor of Lone Oak First Baptist since 2002. The convention is set to be held at the Paducah church in 2013. If elected, Summerlin would be the first president to preside over an annual meeting in his home church since 1961 when the convention adopted its current name.
Q: If you are elected KBC president, what would be your primary hopes and goals for the coming year?
I hope to encourage pastors and churches to be focused on what churches are called to do. We need to focus on prayer, proclamation and presenting the gospel to lost people around the world.
Q: It has now been two years since the Kentucky Great Commission Task Force report was approved by KBC messengers. What is your assessment of how those recommendations have been implemented?
The convention voted to accomplish a 50/50 split (with shared expenses) within 10 years. It now appears we will be ahead of schedule. This year our CP giving was up for the first time, and we are seeing more churches beginning to give more. According to the SBC Executive Committee report, Kentucky Baptist giving to CP from 2007-12 has risen 15.01 percent, which is one of the highest, while many states in the Deep South actually decreased their giving during that same time period. It is a process, but looking at the results, it is encouraging what is taking place.
Q: The KBC Mission Board staff has undergone significant changes in recent months with the reorganization plan instituted by Executive Director Paul Chitwood. What are your thoughts on the reorganization as a whole, and how do you feel it has been received by Kentucky Baptists?
First, it is always difficult and painful to reorganize any organization. Making changes for vision purposes can be the most challenging to the organization. That being said, it appears that the reorganization is working well.
I have talked to some KBC staffers who accepted the early retirement, and they had positive words on the way it was handled. Some state conventions and other organizations going through restructuring appear not to have gone smoothly, and the results were conflict and chaos, which we did not have. We are indeed blessed.
Throughout the state, I have heard many positive comments on the KBC strategy for helping local churches achieve their goals through the use of KBC advisors and consultants.
Q: Do you believe further changes are necessary to ensure the convention fulfills its newly stated mission?
Currently there is a committee researching the relationship between the KBC and its agencies and institutions. As of this writing, the committee has met once, and it is too early to know what they will find and present to the convention.
Q: Kentucky Baptists’ Cooperative Program gifts rose in 2011-12, the first such increase in four years. If you are elected KBC president, how would you encourage church leaders to continue the upswing in CP giving and keep that momentum going?
By example and by encouraging people to give through the Cooperative Program; by reminding people it is about missions and evangelism. Monies given through CP reach not only the unreached people groups around the world, but also help Kentucky Baptist churches reach Kentucky for Christ.
Q: One of the primary responsibilities as president is to appoint three individuals to the KBC’s Committee on Committees. What criteria would you use to make your appointments?
I would appoint conservative Kentucky Baptists who love and understand the role of the KBC and CP.
Q: How do you identify yourself within the current political/theological spectrum of Baptist life?
I am your basic conservative Southern Baptist pastor serving in a local church.
Q: What do you consider to be Kentucky Baptists’ greatest strengths? Why?
I have said this before, but our strength is in the number of strong leaders throughout the state. I am constantly amazed when I serve on a committee how many strong qualified leaders, both ministers and laity, are represented. Second, there is a vision to win our state, reach our nation and proclaim the gospel around the world. Third is the passion. There is a passion here for being a part of Kentucky Baptists. In some states, one cannot find that passion to be a part of the state convention which we have here. There is identity to being a Kentucky Baptist.
Q: What do you consider to be Kentucky Baptists’ greatest challenges? Why?
I believe our greatest challenge is the same challenge that all state conventions, associations and even our national convention are facing: Our challenge is to reach the future generation for Christ and disciple them. Many churches know that in 10 years they will close their doors. They are slowly dying because more people are dying physically than are being born spiritually. Nationwide we are seeing high school graduates leaving the church in great numbers, and that will lead to a crisis of leadership in the future.
A director of missions recently told me that he didn’t know what his association would do in five to 10 years because so few people under 65 are participating in associational life, and they are beginning to cancel much of the work. We must start looking at the future and plan accordingly for the work to continue. That will be the one of the greatest challenges for churches. (WR)
Western Recorder issue date: November 6, 2012.