Chad Fugitt had quite a memorable year as president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. During his presidency, he resigned as pastor of Central Baptist Church in Corbin and accepted the pastorate of Ormsby Heights Baptist Church in Louisville. That move, along with his presidency, came in the midst of a global pandemic.
His term as KBC president will end at the November Annual Meeting. Here he reflects on his presidency.
What did you learn about the KBC during your presidency that you didn't know beforehand?
I have been involved in KBC work for many years. I think the reality that has been most assuring for me to see up close and personal is the biblical fidelity and fervent passion for the lost to be saved that is being displayed by our KBC staff. In a day when so many are calling into question SBC leadership and their devotion to God's Word, our staff stands strongly on the Word. Faithful- ness to the scriptures is always the first priority. That faithfulness leads the staff to think and strategize and live out the reality of the Great Commission.
What goals have you achieved during your presidency?
I'm not sure that goals and 2020 have anything in common. But the call to serve as the president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention is a call to serve the churches. In May, we held our first virtual mission board meeting. Hosting over a hundred mission board members via Zoom was an incredible work by our KBC staff and a great day at the same time.
I've also tried to make myself available to our KBC staff and the churches of the convention. The role of president is a role of servanthood. I'm grateful that I've had that opportunity to serve the churches of our commonwealth.
What is the best advice you received during this past year?
Be present. Actually the advice was, "Always be in the room for the meetings and the work of the convention." In 2020, I've had to settle for simply being present! Many of our meetings have happened online. Being present helps you to understand what is happening in the life of the convention and how we can best serve the churches of our convention.
What advice would you give to presidents in the years ahead?
I would advise future presidents to take steps to reach out to churches and leaders in our state and, in particular, give younger pastors opportunities to serve in our convention.
The pastor is the "gatekeeper" of the local church. When pastors are given the opportunity to see all the wonderful things our KBC is doing, they will wholeheartedly challenge their church to engage in this work through serving in the events, coming to the equipping conferences and giving to the Cooperative Program.
That was my experience as a young pastor in my 20s. I had no idea the amount of good our convention was doing in the state until I was asked to serve by Kentucky Baptist presidents. My eyes were opened in so many ways from the people who were having their lives transformed at Crossings camps to the missionaries who were serving faithfully in the hills of eastern Kentucky. God is working and moving in this state, we simply need to join Him in this great work.
What lessons did you learn as a result of the coronavirus? How did you cope with pastoring and being the president during the pandemic?
There's only one word I can use to describe 2020: unprecedented. Everything that is happening with the coronavirus is simply unprecedented.
In late August, the virus attacked my home — both my kids and myself tested positive for the coronavirus. We were fortunate that while we had a couple of weeks of sickness, we were able to heal and bounce back when others were not so fortunate. The coronavirus is real.
I have been greatly encouraged by the churches of our state through these unprecedented days. When we came to a place where our churches weren't able to meet in person, I think a lot of people wondered what would become of us.
Baptists hold firmly to their traditions and the radical waters we faced were difficult to navigate. And yet, our churches rose up to the challenges. We couldn't have in-person worship, but that didn't stop our folks from worshipping via livestreaming or on social media.
We couldn't go out to do evangelism like usual, but our churches have continued to see people come to saving faith in Christ.
We couldn't take up an offering, but our churches continued to give to support their local congregations and the work of the Cooperative Program.
The coronavirus forced all of our churches to get out of their comfort zones. I think many people did not think we would be successful in doing so, but we have. Pastors and churches have become innovative and creative. The gospel cannot be bound. Watching churches work through these difficulties and having the privilege to serve a great church through this pandemic has filled my heart with gratitude to the Lord for all He is doing in these days.
What can Kentucky Baptists do to encourage and assist full-time and bivocational pastors?
When I was experiencing my call to gospel ministry, I went to my pastor and asked him about the call to ministry. He told me: "Chad, if you can do anything else in all the world, go and do it." My pastor wasn't discouraging me to forsake my calling. He has been one of my great- est encouragers across the years. But he knew the difficulties of ministry. He knew the heartaches that goes with pastoring churches. He knew the hardships that pastors and their families are called to make. Pastors are called of God to take up a monumental task when they are called to follow him into pastoral ministry.
I think the best way that Kentucky Baptists can encourage their pastors is simply to love them and their family well. Be a genuine listening ear for your pastor. Offer to watch his young children one evening so he and his wife can go out on a date. Handwrite a note of encouragement, sharing with your pastor how God is using him in your church. These are small things, but they are enormous things for your pastor.
Bivocational pastors are the heroes of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Kentucky is a rural state and the majority of our churches are smaller congregations that are led by bivocational pastors. These are men who are working 40-60 hours a week and pastoring a local church — all while taking care of their families at the same time. And yet they are the heartbeat of the churches of this commonwealth.
Churches with bivocational pastors need to come to the side of their pastor by offering to give him help in his calling. Step up to help by making hospital visits, checking on the elderly in the church and making visits to new attenders. Help your pastor by making things easier on him at the church. Notice all the little things that he's doing that someone else could do and assign folks to help and do those things. Bivocational pastors are busy, so anything you can do to slow life down for them and be a blessing will make a big difference in their ministries.
What encouragement can you give to Kentucky Baptists to be more faithful in giving to the Cooperative Program?
I'm a product of the Cooperative Program. I was brought to Christ through the witness of a college student who was set ablaze for the glory of Christ at a university BCM.
I was discipled by a KBC church who loved and poured themselves into me. I was educated at Clear Creek Baptist Bible College and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Both of these institutions are funded through the Cooperative Program. God has richly blessed me to see the work of IMB missionaries in international contexts and churches being planted right here in the
states through NAMB. Whenever there's some kind of crisis or natural disaster, disaster relief teams are already there because they are funded to be there by the Cooperative Program.
There are really no limits to the amount of the work we can accomplish together when we join to give to the Cooperative Program. I believe every church should seek to give at least 10 percent of their undesignated offerings to the Cooperative Program. There's no scriptural command for churches to do so, but there is some good old-fashioned wisdom to it. How can we go to our people on Sunday and ask them to tithe to the church when the church is holding back in its giving to missions?
We can give to the Cooperative Program as an example to our people. You might be a long way from 10 percent in your giving. Maybe you could add 1 percent a year until you get there.
There's no question the investment is a worthy one. There's no question that God is using the CP to equip ministries to reach myriads of people with the gospel. The only question is simply this — are we part of this great work?