When only about 10% of the churches in your association are served by full-time pastors, you need a strong bench of biblically qualified men to fill the pulpits of the churches. That is the case with the Three Forks Baptist Association in eastern Kentucky, led by AMS Jamie Reynolds.
In 2005, two local church pastors recognized this need and began an effort to train local men to prepare and preach biblical sermons. This would specifically be a help to congregations that were without a pastor. When Bro. Jamie became the associational leader, he quickly recognized the value of this program and kept it going.
Three Forks Association, which includes forty-three churches in four far eastern Kentucky counties, calls the program CAPS, which stands for Cumberland Area Pulpit Supply. The CAPS group meets once a month for a year. They teach hermeneutics (how to study the bible) and homiletics (how to prepare a sermon.) The group meets in the evening after finishing the workday. The men do an hour of hermeneutics, eat supper together, then have an hour of homiletics. After the second or third month, they have a participant preach a 15-20-minute sermon where they receive a gentle evaluation. Jamie said, “The only thing they ‘ding’ them on is if they missed the point of the text.”
Two long-term area pastors teach the course, and local church leaders view it as an important part of the success of this Kentucky Baptist association.
Occasionally someone will challenge the premise that pastors need to have trained preachers serving congregations. They have heard someone say more than once, “Didn’t Jesus use uneducated men?” Jamie answers, “Yes, they were uneducated, but they were not untrained.” Jamie and the other leaders in Three Forks Association are fulfilling the mission of Jesus in making disciples and the command of Paul in 2 Timothy 2:2 to train faithful men. They also encourage those who can attend Bible College and/or seminary, and some have.
Since 2008, the CAPS program has been used to train ninety men to prepare and preach sermons. Most of them remain lay preachers in the area, but several of them have gone on to become pastors of area churches. Today, seven of the churches in the association are being pastored by men who have completed the CAPS program, and some have completed it more than once.
Bro. Jamie said one of his favorite parts of the yearlong training is watching the men discover that they can get a sermon for themselves out of the Bible. They do not have to go online or to a book of sermons to find something to preach on Sunday morning. One of his favorite stories is of a CAPS graduate who had church members say that his preaching is better now than ever before. This pastor is experiencing the joy of studying Scripture and preaching it.
Kentucky Baptists are partnering in an initiative known as Calling Out the Called. It is a collaborative effort with Kentucky Baptist churches, associations, agencies and institutions and KBC mission board staff to ask God to send laborers to fill the ministry positions in Kentucky and then equip those whom God is calling. The CAPS project in Three Forks Association is a model that we all can learn from when it comes to helping those who are answering the call to ministry.
Please join me in praying for God to call out men across Kentucky who can step up and preach in many of our smaller churches, and for leaders like Jamie Reynolds who are using their resources and their calling to make sure these men have the basic toolkit they need to get started in fulfilling their calling.