LOUISVILLE–For God to use a young man raised in “the hood” on Chicago’s South Side to cross racial and ethnic boundaries in Appalachia is amazing enough.
Add to that Lance Lofton changing denominations because of the impact of Baptist Campus Ministries. Teaching Sunday school and going on a mission trip with an eastern Kentucky church. His involvement in a new multi-ethnic church in West Louisville. And, studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
When you sum it up, the result is a stirring story of Cooperative Program dollars in action. Gifts from the unified giving program support such Southern Baptist initiatives as BCM, missions and seminaries.
“Lance spent his entire college career at a Southern Baptist church and learned biblical Christianity is bigger than ethnicity,” said Curtis Woods, associate executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. “Today he’s living out a missional imperative.”
Lofton’s story starts in a lower middle-class neighborhood in Chicago. Raised by a single mother and his grandmother, Lance’s only exposure to church came when relatives took him on major holidays.
Ironically, a friend who liked gangs and other unhealthy activities invited Lance to his youth group. At age 16 Lofton accepted Jesus as his Savior at a Presbyterian church.
That changed after he enrolled two years later at Kentucky State University and encountered Woods, then BCM director at the Frankfort school.
Woods become a mentor, challenging Lofton to be certain of his biblical beliefs and that he comprehend the meaning of a Christian world view.
In addition, the former BCM director emphasized choosing a church based on its theological convictions and Southern Baptist practices. That convinced Lofton to join mostly-white Memorial Baptist Church in Frankfort.
“I wanted to get the most out of my college experience and felt it would be better to get plugged into a local church,” Lofton said. “I was fine with Southern Baptist beliefs. Doctrine wasn’t a stretch at all—faith, grace, a lot of that was the same.”
The state Cabinet of Health and Human Services provided financial assistance with his college studies. So, after graduating in May of 2011, Lofton moved to Mount Sterling to fulfill a two-year commitment to the state.
Soon after, Lofton joined the Baptist Worship Center. Although it only attracted 30 to 40 on a good Sunday, the social worker saw an opportunity to get involved.
“I wanted to serve,” Lofton said. “I didn’t want to go to a church and just sit in the pew. It was all about doing life with people. I built some solid relationships there. That’s what kept me there.”
George Drake, director of missions for the Red River Baptist Association, is also a member of BWC. Drake said Lofton’s easy-going manner made it easy for him to fit in as the church’s first-ever African-American adult member.
“He’s just an energetic young man and has a great personality,” Drake said. “Our folks just connected with him. It wasn’t a challenge at all.”
Lofton taught the youth Sunday school class and Sunday evening Bible study. He joined a seven-member team on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic last September. In response to his final sermon, a Dominican resident accepted Jesus as Lord.
The mission trip gave evidence of the calling God had placed on his heart during college: to get more biblical training.
“I was hands-on already,” said Lofton, who after graduation intends to continue in social work while serving as a bivocational pastor. “I just wanted to back it up with solid theology and Southern Seminary seemed to be the place to do it.”
When Lofton enrolled last August, the Red River association paid $300 of his tuition, part of an ongoing practice to set aside money in its budget to help young men further their biblical education.
As soon as Lofton moved to Louisville, he got involved in another Baptist church. The multi-ethnic New Breed Church held its public launch service Jan. 19.
Lofton helps lead New Breed’s small groups and serves on the hospitality committee. He is also chaplain for the track squad and baseball team at Shawnee High School.
Woods said his protégé has made a strong impact on the KBC.
“Everyone fell in love with him and his love for the local church, outreach and evangelism,” Woods said of Lofton’s college days, which included serving as BCM president.
As for the most meaningful thing he has seen God do in his life, Lofton quickly names his BCM experience as a highlight.
“That was groundbreaking for me,” Lofton said. “Just the timing of BCM and the ministry opportunities and how it changed my heart and me as a person—that makes me what I am today. That ministry was so important to me.”
Ken Walker is a longtime freelance writer for the KBC Communications Department.