LOUISVILLE — Southern Baptist churches in Kentucky reported significant growth in membership in 2013, adding more than 26,500 believers to their rolls.
The growth further strengthens the Kentucky Baptist Convention, which already was by far the state’s largest religious organization with some 750,000 members.
“We thank God for each of our new members, and look forward to seeing them impact Kentucky and the world for Christ,” said KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood. “We’re truly humbled to see the Lord bless the work of our churches in every part of Kentucky, whether tiny rural communities or large urban centers.”
Actual membership growth could be significantly higher, considering that nearly 20 percent of the state’s Southern Baptist churches didn’t submit annual reports with statistics on new members.
Churches that did submit paperwork reported a total of 13,970 members added by baptisms and 12,597 who transferred from other congregations for a total of 26,567.
The 2013 growth followed a strong 2012, when 14,984 member were added by baptism and 12,710 transferred in for a total of 27,694.
“Those totals are especially eye-catching when you consider they exceed the populations of cities like Ashland and Paducah, the regional hubs of eastern and western Kentucky,” Chitwood said. “We have seen enough people added to our churches to fully populate a mid-size Kentucky city.”
Hillvue Heights Church in Bowling Green led the state last year with 571 baptisms. Valley View Church in Louisville was second with 142. Severns Valley Baptist Church in Elizabethtown reported 108. And First Baptist Church in Somerset reported 102.
Churches in the Warren Baptist Association, based in Bowling Green, reported a total of 1,065 baptisms and 809 transfers from other congregations. The Long Run Association, based in Louisville, reported 755 baptisms and 1,029 transfers.
The growth not only strengthens Kentucky’s Southern Baptist churches spiritually, but gives them more clout on moral and political matters important to Christians.
The Cincinnati Enquirer, the Courier-Journal and USA Today carried a story reporting that Southern Baptists make up more than 1 million of Kentucky’s 4.4 million residents, and that almost half of the state Senate and more than a third of the House identify as Baptists.
“I’m thrilled that Southern Baptist churches are being so successful in their outreach to Kentucky,” Chitwood said. “We need to keep in mind, this is not about numbers. It’s about introducing the lost to Jesus. It’s about changed lives. It’s about the hope of Heaven.”