Plans for the Western Recorder to transition to an annual magazine marks a significant change for a legacy Baptist newspaper that has been around for nearly two centuries.
I first became acquainted with the Western Recorder in the 1980s as a student in what was, at the time, one of Kentucky Baptists' colleges. As we know, Baptist life is not immune from change. While the Western Recorder is changing its publication schedule to meet a different need, I'm grateful its ministry will continue.
Over the 30-plus years that I've read the Western Recorder, what I've enjoyed most has been the regular updates from ministries I was helping support with my tithes in a Cooperative Program-giving church.
Staying informed about the work of Oneida, Sunrise, Crossings, Clear Creek, WMU, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief and the Kentucky Baptist Foundation helped me better understand and appreciate the privilege of being a part of Kentucky Baptists' Great Commission family.
Regular updates about what God was doing in sister churches, our associations and Southern Baptist entities have been an ongoing cause for prayers of petition and thanksgiving. For years, through the articles of Bill Mackey, I followed the work of the KBC staff as it ministered to and alongside of the churches. Then, in God's providence, but much to my surprise, I authored a few hundred of the regular updates on the work of the KBC Mission Board staff during the years I served as executive director-treasurer (2011-2018).
When I began serving with the International Mission Board more than two years ago, spending time perusing the latest issues of the Western Recorder was both a connection to home and a regular stroll down memory lane.
I praised God when I read about the number of salvations during another summer camp season at Crossings and about another graduating class at Oneida. Reports from each annual meeting of Kentucky Baptists would leave me homesick but grateful.
I have also been grateful for the stories that provided glimpses of the labors of our overseas missionaries and the successes God was giving them as they poured out their lives for the sake of the lost among the nations. Indeed, "like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country" (Proverbs 25:25).
Thankfully, with the availability of Kentucky Today, websites and social media platforms, I'll still be able to stay informed about the Kentucky Baptist ministries I know and love.
Though it may take a little more effort than turning the pages of a newspaper or magazine, the truth is, Kentucky Baptists have more information readily available from their cooperative mission entities than ever before.
While you await the annual meeting edition of the Western Recorder, let me encourage you to remain connected to the ministries that are sharing help and hope in Kentucky, across North America and to the ends of the earth.
Paul Chitwood is president of the International Mission Board.
The Western Recorder has an outstanding legacy of informing, inspiring and challenging Kentucky Baptists to engage in the Great Commission.
Recently my youngest grandson, Nate, was visiting with us overnight. During his prayer with me, he prayed that the people of his country would come to Jesus. Then he prayed, "God, help the people of China to come to Jesus. God, help the people of Russia to accept Jesus…" I learned later that he has interest in wars and had learned about many countries. He made the connection with the Great Commission and people of these countries.
It may be that his church, which gives about 22 percent to missions through the Cooperative Program and 11 percent to associational missions, helped him understand that sharing Jesus is important.
Due to COVID-19, political issues and riots in the streets, it was easy to lose my focus on the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ to the nations. My grandson's prayer helped me to recapture my mission focus and love for all people.
The Western Recorder has helped Kentucky Baptists by informing them about the educational, benevolent and missions work of the KBC and the SBC. In the late '80s and early '90s, Kentucky Baptists were the first to partner with Russian Baptists following the fall of the Berlin wall. The Western Recorder played a key role in informing Kentucky Baptists about the mission opportunities and reporting about people and churches being transformed by Jesus Christ.
Also, the Western Recorder focused on sharing inspiring stories of missions involving individuals, churches, KBC agencies and institutions as well as SBC entities.
As a young pastor at FBC Whitesburg, we took a picture in front of the church during our Vacation Bible School. Later, during a meeting at the Baptist Building, I dropped the photo off at the office of the Western Recorder during lunch. The next week the VBS photo filled the entire cover page of the Western Recorder. The members at Whitesburg were amazed. They thought the people in the Kentucky Baptist Building did not know that they existed. They were greatly encouraged and later expanded Vacation Bible Schools, resulting in three mission churches that became church plants over the next several years.
Sharing the stories of mission work can inspire believers to visualize missions and respond to needs and God's call. Sharing stories of transformed lives helps to keep the focus on missions and the harvest. The harvest is the supply line of people who may receive the call of God to ministry and missions. It was a privilege while serving with the KBC to be in the churches and then report how God was at work in those churches through the weekly executive director-treasurer article in the Western Recorder.
The Western Recorder had a distinct ministry of challenging Baptists to engage the mission of our Lord. C.R. Daley was known for his editorials. When something took place in Baptist life, people were interested in how Dr. Daley would respond. He would provide an insightful evaluation and usually a creative approach to the issue as a trained Bible scholar. When there were opportunities in Baptist life, he would challenge Kentucky Baptists to rise to the occasion.
It is easy to get caught up in our own ministries and ignore the world for whom Jesus died. Since retirement, I have had the privilege to serve as a part-time consultant with Fruitland Baptist Bible College. It is an important ministry, but my greater assignment is sharing the gospel with the world. The Bible makes it very clear how much God loves the world in John 17:23, "I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me."
Leaders at every location in Baptist life should welcome the privilege of utilizing every creative and biblical means to help Baptists to focus on the Great Commission. God's heart is for the people of the world. Thanks, Nate, for helping me see the hand of God through your eyes. Kay and I love Kentucky Baptists and the leadership of your executive director-treasurer, Dr. Todd Gray. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, let us encourage one another to keep the focus on the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Dr. Bill Mackey served as executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention from 1998-2011.