LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director Paul Chitwood is warning that tightening finances could force churches to make significant cuts, including in the amounts they give to local associations.
“Already, most of our associations are struggling financially and are in an ongoing decline,” Chitwood told the KBC Mission Board on Monday. “A financial tsunami threatens to wash away many of our associations if intentional steps are not taken.”
As leader of the state’s largest religious organization, Chitwood sounded the alarm about declining finances as older Christians, who are the most committed to giving, pass away.
The KBC is also is feeling that pinch, which was reflected in the Mission Board’s adoption Monday of a $22 million Cooperative Program budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which is down $500,000 from the current fiscal year.
“Like Joseph interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh, we must warn the churches and help them to prepare for the years of famine,” Chitwood said. “As a Mission Board, we must keep our budgeting in check and remain light afoot as an organization, ever pressing to do more with less and stretch the missions dollars further than ever.”
Chitwood said most associations are already struggling financially and that the outlook appears grim. Some smaller ones, he said, may need to consider merging.
“I believe the window of opportunity stands open for many our associations to combine their resources, thereby increasing the numbers of churches and their capacity to hire a strong, missional leader as a Director of Missions (DOM),” Chitwood said. “But this window will not remain open for very long.”
Chitwood said “the sand beneath our feet is shifting as wave after wave of cultural change comes crashing against the church. But, thanks be to God, the house of God has been built upon the rock and even the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
In remarks to the Mission Board, Chitwood said the rapidly changing culture in the U.S. promises to make the work ahead more difficult than what lies behind.
“We live in a society and under a rule of government that is racing headlong into moral chaos and running away from the religious liberties sought by those who first made pilgrimage to this land,” he said.
Chitwood told the church leaders serving on the Mission Board that they are the Ezekiels and the John the Baptists of the present day, charged with the call to repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ. He recalled a visit to the African bush when a van carrying him and four other preachers got stuck on road that had been turned into a virtual mud pit by heavy rains.
“The five of us preachers piled out, leaving only the driver in the van,” Chitwood recalled “We began to push. Sometime later that night, or to be more accurate, in the wee hours of the next morning, we emerged from the mud onto a gravel road and were able to climb back into the van and ride. We were different, however, in fact hardly recognizable. We were caked literally from head to toe in red African mud.
“The work to which God has called us is often messy work, figuratively and literally,” he said. “And it’s getting messier. Some of us may end up with so much mud on us that we are hardly recognizable.”
For now, Chitwood said, Kentucky Baptists have momentum and are still moving along a good pace when it comes to making our voices heard in Frankfort on moral issues.
“In our state, 750,000 people identify themselves as Kentucky Baptists and 1 million people identify themselves as Southern Baptist,” he said. “A voting block of one-fourth of the population doesn’t go unnoticed on matters like gambling expansion, religious freedom, or a traditional definition of marriage. So far, we have been able to hold the line on these issues even as we beg God for the passage of legislation that would protect the lives of unborn children.”