Setting the course

Todd Gray presents his vision for Kentucky Baptists

By Brandon Porter

Published: September 1, 2019

The new leader of the Kentucky Baptist Convention is no stranger to church or convention leadership. For the past 27 years—half of his life—Dr. Todd Gray has pastored local churches and served them through the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

Gray, 54, presented his personal vision for leading the KBC to the KBC Mission Board staff on July 25.

"I see the KBC becoming the top service provider for a growing and diverse big tent convention as we partner together to reach Kentucky and the world for Christ," he said.

Gray broke the statement into four sections and spent a little more than a half hour unpacking it for the Mission Board members.

Improve our services

"If we're not getting phone calls from our pastors and church leaders then we're not being relevant to their ministry. We want to make ourselves relevant and helpful to the work that they are doing," Gray said.

Robin Cornetet

Evaluation is one path Gray believes will lead to relevancy. "I think KBC offers really good services, but our evaluation might not be as effective as it could be."

During his time as team leader of the KBC Evangelism, Church Planting and Campus Ministry team, he says they have relied on attendance and anecdotal comments to gauge the effectiveness of an event. He suggested a better way may be to measure how many pastors or church leaders implement what they learned at the training when they returned to their churches.

A changing culture creates a constant stream of changing needs. Gray believes KBC services can be improved by being more active in discovering the needs churches face and providing resources to meet the needs.

He pointed to the recent KBC church security conferences as a good example. He believes the conferences were well attended because they met a need with strong content.

Gray repeatedly said he wouldn't fear looking inward to make sure KBC staff and services offered were meeting the needs of KBC churches. "We want to be able to respond to the needs of our congregations."

He also stressed the need to train KBC staff in customer service best practices. "If you send an email to a KBC staff person and they haven't responded in 24 hours, something's wrong. We are busy, but the people and needs of KBC churches are our business and we want to serve them well."

Growing a diverse, big tent convention

The KBC commonly says it is comprised of 2,400 churches with 750,000 members. Gray said that while this estimate is close, an in-depth look reveals work needs to be done.

He pointed to the addition of 106 churches over the past 10 years, but said there is an attrition rate somewhere because the number of churches hasn't grown beyond 2,400. Gray said the actual number of churches affiliated with the KBC stands at 2,351 churches.

He believes the way to begin to increase the number of KBC churches is through church revitalization and planting new churches. "Only about 20 percent of the 4.5 million residents of Kentucky attend any church on Sunday morning," he said. "If every church in this state is revitalized, there will still be a need for new churches to reach Kentuckians."

Another avenue he wants to widen is that of diversity. Gray said there are only 76 African-American churches, 13 Hispanic churches, and 25 other language focused churches in the KBC. He said diversity must be a priority for the KBC as "we can do more when we're working together than any of us could do by ourselves."

Increase Cooperative Program giving

Robin Cornetet

Gray said that over the past seven years he had stayed intentionally ignorant about the destination of Cooperative Program dollars once they leave Kentucky. He reiterated a commitment to maintaining the 50-50 designation of Cooperative Program giving between the KBC and SBC entities.

However, he said he wants to investigate how the SBC funds are used once they leave Kentucky.

Specifically, he said, he wants to do as much as possible to help the International Mission Board in its mission to reach the nations for Christ. Referring to previous KBC executive director-treasurer Paul Chitwood, he said, "We know who's leading the International Mission Board right now. He's one of our own sent out from here. I'd love to see us send more dollars to the IMB. That may be through actual giving increasing or some other way, but I think we have a unique opportunity to get behind international missions."

To help increase CP giving, Gray intends to learn from what he called "Cooperative Program Champions." He said these are people who have led their churches to give faithfully and generously over the years.

"I want to interview and platform CP Champions. I'll learn best by sitting across a table and asking, 'Why do you

support the Cooperative Program? How do you lead a church to increase their support of the Cooperative Program? How did you convince the church this was a good thing to do?'"

Gray believes if the insights of CP Champions can be shared, there will be fresh inspiration concerning cooperative ministry and increased giving will follow.

He pointed to his personal experience of limited knowledge concerning the Cooperative Program as he pastored churches and joined the KBC. He said it led to a steep learning curve these past few years.

He wants to change that, specifically for KBC staff members. "Every staff person ought to have a 30-second speech, a three-minute speech and a 10-minute speech on the Cooperative Program and how it's used in Kentucky and beyond."

Impact through evangelism

It should come as no surprise that the leader of the group charged with KBC evangelistic efforts would have a passion to see it increased across the commonwealth. In fact, the ability to have greater evangelistic influence was one of the reasons Gray said he and his wife, Connie, were convinced God was leading him to this position.

He said as he's talked with pastors and associational missions strategists, most of them point back to the 2009 Find It Here campaign as the last time there was a strong emphasis on evangelism.

"I think it's time for another statewide initiative. I'd like to call it The Gospel to Every Home and we would make strategic efforts for our churches to reach all of the 1.4 million homes in Kentucky with the gospel message."

Gray wants the KBC to look within as well to strengthen focus on evangelism.

"We have a wonderful culture here on our staff. We have a hard-working culture. We have a church-centered culture. I believe everybody on the KBC Mission Board staff gets up every day to say how can we help churches reach the world for Christ. But I think, in all transparency, we don't have an evangelistic culture. I believe we could."

He believes evangelistic passion among Mission Board staff members would transfer to churches and associations.

Gray also said he would lead in a way that would elevate the office of evangelist. He believes the personal example of the Apostle Paul and his instruction to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:5 teaches his desire for pastors to be evangelistic and to lead the church to do the same.

He pointed to the words of a Joel Sutherland, a Georgia Baptist pastor and North American Mission Board consultant, who recently told Kentucky Baptist pastors: "There are no evangelistic churches. There are only evangelistic pastors. If an evangelist pastor leaves, and an evangelistic pastor doesn't replace him, the church will stop being evangelistic."

Gray's first day in the new role was Aug. 1. He says he looked to Psalm 32:8 to compose the vision. The passage inspired him to cast a vision requiring courage, training and obedient action to God.