3 things that make Oneida Baptist Institute great

Last week, hundreds of elementary, middle, and high school students began a new school year at the Oneida Baptist Institute. I had the honor of preaching at the staff worship service as this team of dedicated servants prepared for the year to begin. As I participated in the service, I was reminded of three things that make Oneida Baptist Institute great.  

Oneida’s Mission Makes It Great

In 1900, James Anderson Burns opened a school in Oneida to bring Christian education to the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. The school’s mission statement later became “Education for Time and Eternity,” communicating the idea that they exist not just to educate students but to point them toward the giver of everlasting life. For over a century, OBI has taught countless numbers of boys and girls what it means to be a follower of Christ. While many students come from the local community, others are boarding students who come from across the state, nation, and world to attend Oneida Baptist Institute. These students receive a quality education, attend daily chapel services, and learn responsibility by working a job on campus. Students’ lives are being transformed because of the ministry of Oneida Baptist Institute.

Oneida’s Staff Makes It Great

The faculty and staff of Oneida Baptist Institute are truly missionaries in the mountains. A man named Ricky shared a testimony that several years ago he spent his vacation volunteering at OBI. Before the conclusion of the two weeks, the Lord called him to serve full-time at OBI. Like Ricky, every staff member has been called to this mission field. They range from long-term faithful servants like Denise Spender, who received recognition for 30 years of service to couples like Jacob and Anna who were experiencing their first day on the job. The entire staff is encouraged by the strong and humble leadership of President Larry Gritton. He is a special leader who frequently applauds the sacrifice and faithfulness of the people who make OBI a special place.

Oneida’s Donors Make It Great

During their opening worship service, a designated prayer time was held for friends and donors of the school. Since Martha Hogg’s gift in 1899 of 10 acres of land to build the school upon, God has used donors to play an important role in the life of OBI. Some gifts are small. One precious lady gave multiple times over a series of years and her gifts totaled less than a dollar. Other gifts are very large, like the former student who donated millions of dollars to construct a new dormitory. Still, every donor is equally celebrated. The faithfulness of its donors has allowed OBI to remain a bright light in the darkest of times.

Oneida Baptist Institute’s largest donor is the Kentucky Baptist Convention, giving over $7.5 million in Cooperative Program dollars to OBI in the past 20 years. Generous donors like the KBC have enabled local students to pay less tuition today ($0) than they did in 1900 ($1 a month). When your Kentucky Baptist church gives to the Cooperative Program you are helping provide Christian education to mountain children and boarding students at Oneida Baptist Institute.

With a great mission, dedicated staff, and generous volunteers, the Oneida Baptist Institute is a shining star of our cooperative work as Kentucky Baptists. Thousands of students whose lives have been transformed at the Oneida Baptist Institute would testify that we are #BetterTogether.

I spent a day at Crossings: Here are 3 things that make it great

When I tell most people the name of my hometown, they give me a puzzled look. When Kentucky Baptists hear of my hometown, they respond with a grin.

Bagdad, Kentucky.

Bagdad serves as the home of the longtime Kentucky Baptist camp, Cedarmore. I grew up just a few miles from the camp and spent my childhood attending camps, retreats and other events on its campus. However, the Cedarmore of today far exceeds the Cedarmore of my youth.

At the kind invitation of Lance Howerton, I recently had the opportunity to spend an entire day at the Crossings Camp Cedarmore location. I wanted to soak in an entire day in the life of a camper, so I arrived early and stayed way past my bedtime to get that full Crossings Camp experience.

When I arrived on campus, I observed 697 campers and their chaperones busily making their way to and from breakfast. I learned this is a typical number of campers, as Crossings drew approximately 18,000 guests to their Cedarmore and Jonathan Creek locations over the course of the summer. As I drove past the church vans lining the parking areas, I noticed the diversity of the places they were from… Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan…. Panama City Beach, Florida!

What would prompt a church from Panama City Beach to drive 700 miles to Bagdad, KY, for summer camp? Furthermore, what is it that draws 18,000 campers from seventeen states to come to Crossings?

After spending a day at Crossings, I realized three important reasons people come here:

1. Servant Attitude

Crossings is the Chick-Fil-A of the summer camp world. Graciously serving others is infused into the minds of their entire staff. From the full-time, year-round staff to the summer college students, they exceed all expectations. Serving others is not just the logo on their shirt, it is the culture of the camp. The amazing summer staff work incredibly long hours, but they demonstrate joy in what they do. If your view of millennials is that they do not work hard, then you have not met the more than 50 college students serving at Crossings. They have learned well from full-time personnel like Lance Howerton, Seth York, Bert Lace and Mike Wolfzorn who find joy in meeting the needs of their guests.

2. Gospel Infusion 

Church leaders can be confident that when they bring their students to Crossings, they will repeatedly hear the gospel. The worship services, large group studies, small group studies and church connect times all work together to form a blanket of gospel saturation.

I even witnessed a summer staffer named Emma from Central Baptist in Winchester sharing the gospel as part of a cookie decorating class. The gospel is infused throughout the entire camp experience. The Lord has moved mightily in response to this focus and this summer Crossings has seen over 900 campers cross over from death to life by trusting Jesus as Savior. At least another 700 students surrendered their life to ministry. In their 23 year existence, Crossings has seen over 10,000 campers give their lives to Jesus.

3. Exciting Activities

Crossings has learned the balance of how to provide an abundance of gospel opportunities while facilitating many exciting activities. Students can choose from points of interest (POIs) such as zip lines, bazooka ball, archery tag, fishing, hiking and much more. The recreation lake is equipped with slides, zip lines over the water and my favorite—the blob. Campers have no shortage of activities to help make this one of the most enjoyable weeks of their year.

Kentucky Baptists can be proud of Crossings and the transformation that has occurred with Cedarmore and Jonathan Creek. When your church gives to the Cooperative Program, you help support this important ministry.

Excellent service, gospel infusion and exciting activities all add up to a camp where churches enthusiastically want to bring their students. Weeks fill up quickly and next summer may approach 20,000 campers. And it all takes place in Jonathan Creek and Bagdad, Kentucky.

Beat that, Panama City Beach.

4 reasons to take your teens to the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting

The blessing of attending this year’s SBC Annual Meeting was made even more special because I had the wonderful opportunity to attend with my wife and children. In the past, I have observed other pastors attending with their families and it encouraged us to involve our teenagers in this year’s gathering.

It was such a positive experience that I want to share four reasons why I think you should consider bringing your teens to future SBC Annual Meetings:

1. They Realize They are Not Alone. There is something about entering a convention hall with 10,000+ other Southern Baptists that helps a person realize the magnitude of being part of the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. Teenagers may at times wonder if there is anyone out there who believes like them but attending the SBC Annual Meeting helps remind them there are literally millions of Christians that support evangelical Christian values.

2. They Gain a Greater Understanding of the Cooperative Program. Hearing celebrations from missionaries, seminaries, church planters, and evangelism initiatives provides the opportunity to see how we are better together when we cooperatively fund ministries. Walking around the exhibition hall allowed my teens to converse with ministry representatives. An IMB missionary talked with my daughters for 20 minutes about future missionary opportunities. Sadly, every day we bury CP champions, and we need to do all we can to raise up a future generation of CP champions.

3. They Witness the Commissioning of International Missionaries. For me, the highlight of every SBC Annual Meeting is being involved in the commissioning of international missionaries. At this year’s meeting, 52 Christians were sent out by SBC churches through the IMB to help reach people in unreached people groups in some of the world’s most hostile places. Witnessing this moving service will hopefully leave an indelible mark on the lives of teenagers.

4. They Have an Opportunity to Participate. Southern Baptist polity gives each person an equal right to speak and vote on decisions of our convention. My teenager casting their ballot to vote carries the same power as that of a seminary president casting their ballot. While that may be scary for some, it is a beautiful picture that the Southern Baptist Convention is led by equal messengers and not a hierarchy of power.

*Bonus – this is not part of my list since my teens have not participated in it, but SBC offers Youth on Mission service opportunities for teens to help the local area. Hopefully, we will be able to check out those opportunities in the future.  Next year’s convention is in New Orleans. I hope to see you— and your family— there!

5 reasons why I joined the Kentucky Baptist Convention staff

He plays with his eggs as he sits across the breakfast table from me. He is not going to eat them, but he does not know quite how to respond to the awkward silence. We have talked about sports and about our families but I know neither of those topics are what he really wanted to meet about. I can tell he wants to ask a question but is trying to determine if it is appropriate. Wanting to be gracious, I say, “I know you are wanting to ask me something so just ask.” He smiles and then blurts out a question I have heard multiple times: “So why did you leave a church you love to join the KBC?”

It is a fair question. For nearly 15 years I had the wonderful privilege of serving one of the great churches of our Kentucky Baptist Convention. The church was gracious to my family and generous in their support of me. I loved the people I served and the ministers I served with. It was exciting to see the church grow both in attendance and in their love for missions. I came to the church as an eager 27-year-old and was blessed to have a tremendous experience. Then, four months ago today, I left the pastorate to begin a new position with the KBC.

As I pondered his question, I could think of at least five reasons for why I left a wonderful church to join the Kentucky Baptist Convention staff.

Kentucky Baptists Have Impacted My Life

Many of the good things in my life are because of Kentucky Baptists. My family was first invited to church by a Kentucky Baptist Sunday School teacher. I was baptized by a faithful Kentucky Baptist pastor. I fell in love with preaching at a Kentucky Baptist camp. At 15 years old I preached my first sermon in a Kentucky Baptist pulpit. My first church mission trip was with a Kentucky Baptist ministry. I attended a Kentucky Baptist college. I was an evangelist supported by many Kentucky Baptist churches. My mentor is a former Kentucky Baptist Convention president. I am a devout Kentucky Baptist because of the investment they have made in my life. When approached with the opportunity, I considered it a great privilege to serve in a role to help my beloved Kentucky Baptist Convention.

Kentucky Baptists Demonstrate We are Better Together

I have always had a high view of partnership ministry. As a result, I was very proud that our church gave 11% annually to the Cooperative Program. I am convinced that we can do things together that we could never do alone. There is not a single church that could care for 800 foster children, plant dozens of churches, lead a robust disaster relief organization, distribute gospel materials to every home in our state, or place campus ministers on every major public university campus. Our partnership through the Kentucky Baptist Convention allows us to do all of this and much more. In a recent presentation to association leaders, Dr. Todd Gray reminded me of a quote by John Maxell that says, “We can go faster alone but further together.” I want to live my life pursuing the Great Commission and I believe the only way we can reach that goal is by working TOGETHER.

Kentucky Baptists Have an Influential Voice

Kentucky Baptists are the leading anti-abortion voices in our state. The Friends of Life KY Initiative, our advocacy for a constitutional amendment supporting life, and employing a journalist who writes exclusively on sanctity of life issues are all evidence of our commitment to protecting the most vulnerable of God’s creation. Additionally, when the state government threatened religious liberty, it was faithful Kentucky Baptists who rallied to make sure ministries like Sunrise Children’s Services were protected. The Kentucky Baptist Convention provides a needed prophetic voice in our commonwealth.

Kentucky Baptists Have Unrivaled Unity

We may not agree on everything, but by and large, Kentucky Baptists have done an excellent job of avoiding the divisions that some Christian groups experience. That is a monumental celebration in a state convention with 2,300+ churches led by a diverse group of pastors. Our unity allows our convention to focus on gospel ministry instead of putting out fires.

Kentucky Baptists Love Kentucky

When Kentucky has needs, Kentucky Baptists respond. When tornadoes devastated West Kentucky, Kentucky Baptists answered the call to help their hurting neighbors in a tremendous fashion. Generators were donated, chainsaw crews enlisted, meals prepared and generous financial gifts distributed because of faithful Kentucky Baptists. Each year, hundreds of hurting foster children from broken homes are cared for by Kentucky Baptists through our Sunrise Children’s Services agency. In Clay County, local children receive free Christian education because of our partnership with the Oneida Baptist Institute. Funds are distributed to help Ministry centers throughout our state serve people with food insecurities. We are a convention of churches who love the people of our state.


I loved serving as a pastor, and I now love serving as a member of the Kentucky Baptist Convention staff. At that breakfast table, my friend asked, “If you love the church so much, why did you join the KBC?” My response was, “I joined the KBC BECAUSE I love the Church so much.” This affection is not just for one singular local church, but rather, the broader church as a whole. I desire to see the church as the worldwide followers of God be strengthen, so that together, we can fulfill the Great Commission. I am glad to serve in my new role to play a small part in helping that happen.

Will God ever judge me for my sin?

In 1999, Cornelius Anderson robbed the manager of a St. Charles, Missouri, Burger King at gunpoint when he was attempting to make the restaurant’s night deposit at a nearby bank. An eyewitness reported the armed robbery to police and Cornelius was soon arrested, convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison. Shortly after his conviction, he was released on bail while his appeal was being considered. Cornelius lost the appeal, but because of a clerical error he was never picked up and taken to prison. Apparently, the Missouri Department of Corrections mistakenly thought he was already incarcerated. 

Over the next 13 years, Cornelius Anderson lived a normal life. He got married, started a business, voted, and renewed his driver’s license. He went on living his life as if the conviction and sentence had never happened.

In July 2013—13 years after his conviction—Cornelius Anderson was scheduled to be released from prison. It was on his discharge date when the Missouri Department of Corrections realized he had never been in prison. A warrant was promptly issued for his arrest, and he was subsequently picked up by authorities.

His lawyer said he always told Cornelius this day was coming. He knew that eventually Cornelius would have to pay the penalty for his actions.

For many of us, because we may not receive swift punishment for our sin, we may wrongly assume that there will be no penalty for our sin. Like Cornelius, we may erroneously think that life is going well and that we have escaped judgment for our actions. However, just as his lawyer reminded Cornelius, the Bible reminds us that a day of judgment is coming.

Do not be fooled — just because God may delay the judgement for our sin, it does not mean he has eliminated the judgment for our sin. Peter wrote these words to remind us of the purpose for God’s delay:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 1 Peter 3:9-10

While God is patiently waiting for people to repent, we are still reminded that His judgment is imminent.

The good news is that there is a way for us to avoid punishment for our sin. When we trust Jesus as our Savior, the Lord accepts Christ’s atoning death on the cross as the payment for our sin. The debt accumulated for our sin is marked paid in full if we accept His redeeming work of grace.

So today, my brothers and sisters, do not keep living like the penalty our sin deserves will never be enforced. Rather, follow Christ, trust in Him for salvation from the coming judgment and encourage others to do the same!

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