Becoming More Honorable

Becoming More Honorable

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

It takes a special individual of both breed and brand to truly impact the world. The fact is, many will live their lives comfortable and content to never break any molds or “step outside the box,” as they say. Most believers understand that God has called us out of this world to be lights and to be different, but that means being uncomfortable (James 1:2-4). We don’t like that aspect of faithful walking and at times the fire inside us and the will to go on is at the verge of being snuffed out. On every side we are surrounded by a raging current of mainstream ideologies and beliefs that drown the masses sweeping them closer towards eternity—unprepared. That familiar and depressing reality can discourage and frustrate us to the point of tears. Preachers, elders, and leaders are constantly fighting these feelings as they huff and puff under the weight of it all. Christian fathers and mothers anxiously worry about that painfully uncertain future their children will battle. Young people are plagued with convincing thoughts that a faithful life is all but impossible today. How can we make an impact? You may wonder what difference you could possibly make as you observe such a powerful and evil force. Here is the bad news, it’s hard. But here is the wonderful news; it’s worth it! God has given us an instruction manual on how to become mighty misfits in a culture that rejects righteousness. There are permanent footprints left by the feet of godly men throughout history, and their tracks lead to victory for those that choose to follow them.

For example, there is the trailblazer and zealous disciple, Paul. He serves as an inspiring nonconformist when he abandons his previous life of riches, respect, and comfort. His courage, faith, and determination can produce a powerful stirring in our spirits. If that man with the thorn can overcome fear and defeat the devil’s endeavors, despite his own weakness, then by the grace of God we can too. Our lives can leave an impact and they can serve as beacon of light for generations to come. 

Notice how Jabez demonstrates this point in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. Within a lengthy list of family lines that make up the sons of Judah, Jabez breaks the mold. While numerous names are given, there is something more to be said of Jabez. He stands out as one who was “more honorable” than those who were before him in verse 9. Though his name means “son of my sorrow,” a label associated with affliction, he refuses to let this name define his future. 

The key to his success is given in the following verse which says, 

Jabez called upon the Lord saying, ‘oh that you would bless me, your hand be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not give me pain!’ And God granted what he asked.”

 That verse is loaded with valuable lessons for this age and every age to follow. 

Lesson one: 

Don’t interpret your future by looking at your past. 

It doesn’t matter what family you were born into or how you were raised. We all have been given at least three common blessings. If you are made in the image of God, and you are, then that means you have talent, opportunity, and a life. The amount of talent, number of opportunities, and quality of that life is irrelevant. You have everything you need to succeed which is precisely what our Father desires. 

Lesson number two: 

Only God can grant you gainful glory.

 Jabez  established his lasting legacy and was victorious because he understood one thing. God is the God of impartiality. He offers a heavenly hand to help the stereotypically weak and sinful human break the stereotype. The cards of life you hold in your hand mean little to the God who owns the deck. Jabez, Paul, and many faithful others understood the weakness of humanity. Their lives are a statement and a confession— God can help anyone rise above the crowd. He can help you achieve the only recognition that counts and give you the precious gift of a future with certainty. The path to victory is a narrow one according to Matthew 7:14. Few have found it and few have finished it, but with the right Guide it can definitely be done. Are you unsure of your current location? Look down at the tracks you are following, and the guide  walking with you. If you are holding the hand of the Savior— you can be sure you’re going in the right direction. Allow that comfort to strengthen you and break out of whatever mold you are in. Let God use your weakness and failures to leave an eternal mark on a world that needs it. There is no congregation that can’t grow, no Christian that can’t improve, and no unsaved person that doesn’t deserve the chance to hear that life changing message of the cross. There’s a great day coming, and that should provoke some excitement as well as motivate us all to diligently and fearlessly work until then.

Your Dash

Your Dash

Tuesday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

(pictured with his dad and brother to his right)

Caleb Fudge

About a month ago I was sitting at a funeral, my dad was doing the ceremony, and he said something that stuck with me. A guy named Ron Tranmer wrote a poem, and said to sum it up: “When we go to a gravestone we often look at the dates on the stone, but we should look at the dash. The dash serves as an emblem of our time here on earth, although it is small, the dash has touched so many on this earth between our years.” I had never heard this before my dad quoted it, and I think there is a bigger message in this poem.

I want you to take a moment to think about your dash….. Most likely you thought of a big moment in your life, or even a sad time or a time you wish you could redo. As I was thinking of my dash I got caught up thinking about all of my accomplishments and accolades that I forgot about how much I’ve affected others with my dash. I think about Jesus and how he affected and helped so many people. One of the moments that came to mind was when Jesus feeds the 5000 (Mat. 14:13-21). Jesus went out of his way to do something for others. 

One thing that comes to mind when reading this passage was the tornado. I can remember coming here to BG (Bowling Green) after the tornado hit. I had no idea the destruction that was done, because I was in my house when it hit. But when our group was driving around the community and giving some water, food, clothes, or anything to someone that needed it, they were so thankful and relieved that they were getting food. I imagine the 5000 people were grateful when Jesus brought them food.

Our dash also is going to have some times where we wish we can go back and redo a bad decision. Just recently I had a Blue Stars Camp for DCI in March, and one of the teachers said this statement that I will always remember. “Every single time you do a rep of something you make a green marble and a red marble from how that rep was. Whenever it comes to showtime and you are about to do a show, you have the bag of all of these marbles, and for that show your run will be based on either the green or red marble that you chose.”

If we think about our life and how many decisions we make daily, that would add up to be a lot of marbles. Other people are going to remember you from those decisions, green and red. When you pass away and someone looks at your gravestone and looks at your dash, what do you want them to remember? Is it going to be a green or red marble?

The Entertainer And The Executioner

The Entertainer And The Executioner

Neal Pollard

They were born within four days of each other, both on the European continent. Both adored their mothers and resented their drunken fathers. Both grew up knowing real poverty. Both were incredibly intense and ambitious. Both were mesmerizing performers who commanded crowds. Both sported the same, strange mustache and bore a striking resemblance.

One became a comedian who made people laugh. The other became a dictator responsible for the death of millions. Neither were moral giants, but each used their influence for very different ends.

It doesn’t matter where or when one is born. To a certain degree, we do not have to be defined by the home we grew up in. Being poor is not an automatic determiner of either success or failure. Our looks are a neutral commodity. Our talents and opportunities are a blank canvas we choose to decorate as we please.

The parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 is a Divine reminder that we all take what God gives us and decide what we will do with it. Nothing is foreordained or forced upon us. We determine, both by action and inaction, to be a servant or slothful. What we must be aiming for is much greater and higher than earthly ambition, whether to be loved or feared by the world. Our purpose must be to be “a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21). The good news is that where, when, and how you were born is a fact, but it does not have to define you. If we empty ourselves of ourselves and let Him fill us, He will define us!

Unity Through Subtraction

Unity Through Subtraction

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

As Paul works his way through some of the challenges and issues the Corinth congregation was dealing with, he turns his attention to an awful situation. As he says, “It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife” (1 Cor. 5:1). This was being openly practiced at the congregation, and Paul compares how they were reacting to how they should react. Even if the congregation unanimously embraced this situation, the end result would not be unity in truth. As Moses said in his day, “You shall not follow a multitude in doing evil” (Ex. 23:2).

Paul rallies them to unite in doing what pleased God. This began with amending their hearts, mourning rather than being arrogant (2). It should be followed by removing this man from their midst (2). Based on the report (presumably from Chloe’s household), Paul already knew what needed to be done (3). While the term “church discipline” is not used in the text, that is the action. Paul uses such words and phrases as “deliver to Satan” (5),  “clean out” (purge, 7), “do not associate” (9,12),  and “remove” (13). Why was such a drastic action necessary?

“THAT HIS SPIRIT MAY BE SAVED IN THE DAY OF THE LORD JESUS” (5)

By withdrawing fellowship from him, the goal was to induce his sorrow and cause his repentance. This relationship was unrighteous, and it would cost him his soul if he did not end it. How uncaring is it to validate an unscriptural relationship, knowing what Scripture says about it? Paul is about to write that fornicators and adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God (6:9). 

“A LITTLE LEAVEN LEAVENS THE WHOLE LUMP OF DOUGH” (6-8)

Paul calls this the leaven of “malice and wickedness” (8). Allowing sin unchecked and unaddressed to continue in a congregation does not make the sin all right. It allows the influence of sin to spread throughout the congregation. Remembering that the church is the body of Christ (see chapter 12), how can the body act in rebellion to its head and still please God? For the purity of Christ’s body, this action must be taken.

THERE IS GUILT BY ASSOCIATION (9-11)

Paul expands this beyond just the situation of the man with his father’s wife. He says not to associate with the immoral, covetous, idolatrous, reviling, drunkard, or swindling brother in Christ (11). Even eating a fellowship meal with them sent them the message that they were okay living in rebellion against God. Remember, this is not about vengeance or angry resentment. This was about honoring God’s will in a matter that God’s word clearly addresses. 

IT IS AN EXERCISE OF DIVINE JUDGMENT (12-13)

This was not a matter for human courts, which in most civilizations do not legislate morality. This is an “internal matter,” a child of God “judged” by the people of God according to the will of God. God established the pattern. 

When I preached in Virginia and Colorado, the elders in both churches practiced church discipline. It was done in such a loving way, with the elders first going to the individuals in various sinful situations and pleading for them to repent. When they refused, the elders brought the matter before the congregation urging any and all with any influence and relationship to plead with them. When that did not work, they announced that it was necessary to withdraw fellowship from them. There was no angry or hateful rhetoric, no gleeful attitude that such an action would be taken. To the contrary, it was as sad and solemn a moment as I’ve experienced in the family of God. I am happy to say that I have witnessed on several occasions the ultimate repentance and return of some of these wayward Christians. That was the goal in every situation. It would seem to me that one of the most neglected, disobeyed commands among God’s people is the practice of church discipline. It is unpleasant, frightening, and unpopular, but it is what God commands. God knows what is best and what is the best way to handle every situation among us. We should always trust Him and submit to His pattern for handling every difficulty and dilemma among us. The end result is biblical unity. 

Bowl full of dough
Keeping It Together

Keeping It Together

Wednesday’s Article: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

Peter dropped a bombshell on the early church: “Everything’s about to end…” (I Pet. 4.7). For those early Christians, that meant death was close. Our natural reaction when facing imminent death is usually panic, followed by desperate attempts at self-preservation. History (even recent history) has shown us humanity’s trend when faced with potential calamity.

So, what does God expect us to do when we face the end? We’ll look at I Peter 4 for answers.

  • Be reasonable and self-controlled for the sake of our prayers (7). God can’t work with us when we’re freaking out.
  • Love each other with dedication (8). Love hides mistakes, and we’re full of them. When everything falls apart, we have to lean on each other.
  • Take care of each other without complaining (9).
  • Use your abilities to help each other (10-11). This could be through finance, words, or serving each other.

More could be said about this! The bottom line is that we can’t react like everyone else. When everything falls apart, we should stand out in a good way. We should be lights in a dark room. Our response to crisis could very well attract people stuck in darkness. We could not possibly help our fellow man more than by giving them the same hope we have!

CONCEALED CARRIER

CONCEALED CARRIER

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

To get your concealed carry permit for a firearm in Kentucky, you can expect to undergo a background check, complete gun safety training, and pay a fee. There is a minimum age requirement, and there are other conditions to meet while holding a permit (which can be revoked or suspended). Did you know that in 2020, there were over 68,000 permits either issued or renewed? Since 1996, well over one million have been issued and renewed here. What does all that mean? It means that there are a lot of people you run into on the road, in the store, and just about any other public place who are carrying and you don’t know it. 

I do not mention any of this to induce or participate in a Second Amendment debate. There is a different type of “concealed carrier” which Jesus does not approve of. He preaches about it in His sermon on the Mount. He says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mat. 5:14-16).  Jesus exhorts His disciples not to conceal the light of their influence.

It is impossible for a true disciple to conceal their influence (14). Truly, one can claim to be a follower of Christ in an affirming environment like at church services or around Christians. Yet, if we can be around people away from these “easy” situations and no one knows, from our speech, action, attitude, and presence, that we are a Christian, how much of a disciple are we? Jesus says it should be totally obvious to everyone!

It is unprofitable for a disciple to conceal their influence (15). What good is it to be a disciple if those characteristics are suppressed and concealed? A lamp might as well be a piece of furniture if it is covered up. All the knowledge of who Jesus is and what He means is useless if we do not apply that by sharing Him in our daily lives! 

It is dishonorable for a disciple to conceal their influence (16). Our “light” is connected to doing the good works of a disciple and others glorifying the Father by witnessing the fruits of our influence. If seeing Christlike influence at work honors God, what does the opposite do?

God needs us spreading the influence of Christ every day and everywhere. There is no “secret service” branch in the Lord’s Army, and He doesn’t want any “concealed carry” light-bearers! No, not practicing your righteousness to be seen of men. Instead, practicing righteousness openly and without shame as you conduct yourself among the world. 

Giving To The Least, We Give The Most!

Giving To The Least, We Give The Most!

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

He was eight years old when his parents divorced, leaving his mom with a total of eight children to take care of. The family needed financial help, so his mother contacted the church in the small town where they lived. The church provided them some assistance, and to show gratitude the woman and the children attended a few services. Soon, she took her family back to the denomination they were members of, but she had heard enough gospel preaching in that short period of time to become dissatisfied with the teaching she was now hearing. The preacher and an elder from that benevolent body of believers studied with and baptized the lady. Since this woman could not drive, different families from church would come and pick this large family up. This continued on. The boy and his siblings, nurtured in such an environment, were all influenced by gospel teaching and preaching. Many of them would also obey the gospel through time.

Then, he was a young husband and father, working for the Post Office, when he decided he wanted to attend a school of preaching and train to share the good news with others. Now, some decades later, he has spent years as a gospel preacher, professional counselor, missionary, preacher trainer, and professor. Not long ago, there was a vacancy in the pulpit of the church where he learned the gospel. The elders reached out to him and asked if he would consider taking the job. He did. Now, he is in the community preaching and teaching the lost and building up that body. Every soul he was won, every soul the countless men he has trained have won, and every one he has encouraged who has brought others to Jesus are all fruit to their account (cf. Phil. 4:17). 

The moral of this story is not to shame congregations into practicing the reactive “benevolence” they are solicited to provide by those “frequent fliers” who professionally panhandle. It is a reminder, though, that we all know people in our community who suffer losses and are in genuine need. God has always expected His people to be benevolent, individually and collectively. He tells the church at Galatia, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). James praises Christians as practitioners of pure religion who help those in need (Js. 1:27). Not everyone helped will obey the gospel, but when God’s people share the love of Jesus things like I’ve described will happen. Who knows how many will wind up on the Lord’s right side at the Judgment because we showed kindness and met needs, which opened people’s hearts to the gospel? Let’s find out! 

My Mouth’s Motivation

My Mouth’s Motivation

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

In Psalm 19:14 David says, “may the words of my mouth be acceptable in your sight.” In the previous verses of this chapter David writes about the perfect law of the Lord. Moved by the knowledge that the author of scripture is God almighty, David hopes that the words he speaks would be impacted by his knowledge of the Law. This is something we must long for as Christians. We know who the author of the Bible is, we understand the way we are called to live and speak, and that should influence our words. The Bible is very clear on how we are to speak.

Our words are a direct reflection of our faith. James 1:26, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” Do we call ourselves Christians but fail to control our words? James would say we are deceiving ourselves. Our speech is directly impacted by our religion. Our faith should change our speech and make it stand out from the world.

The Bible also gives us a very sobering warning in Matthew 12:36. Jesus says, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” On that day will we find justification or condemnation from the words we have spoken? We should use this knowledge to help guard our speech.

Scripture also tells us in Luke 6:45 that, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” We can know the condition of our hearts by what is contained in our words.

Our tongue has a way of getting us in trouble. Ever heard the saying, “keep your words soft and sweet because you never know when you may have to eat them”?We can do a lot of damage if we aren’t careful. On every car there’s this handy little device called a fuel filter. A fuel filter is in between your car’s engine and the gas tank. Its job is to keep all the sediment and dirt that accumulates in the gas tank over time from getting to the engine. Basically it keeps impurities from destroying your engine. Our words need a fuel filter between the mind and the mouth. Think about what we are about to say. Is it impure or harmful in any way? Then don’t say it.

President Calvin Coolidge was famously known as a man of few words. His nickname was “Silent Cal.” His wife, Grace Goodhue Coolidge, told the story of a young woman who sat next to her husband at a dinner party. She told Coolidge she had a bet with a friend that she could get at least three words of conversation from him. Without looking at her he quietly retorted, “You lose.” Coolidge understood very well the value of using only carefully considered words—and those being few in number. We filter our words and carefully choose them because like David, we understand who we belong to when we are Christians. God now owns our words and we use them to glorify Him in everything.

Psalm 19 is a beautiful tribute to the perfection of Scripture. Like David, each one of us should strive to let God’s word motivate us to live more like Christ in every way.

The Prime Objective

The Prime Objective

Such powerful words describe it.  The words “convert,” “save,” “restore,” “recover,” and the like depict the job God left Christians to do (cf. Gal. 6:1; 2 Tim. 2:26; Js. 5:19-20; etc.).  The awesome business of God’s people is to be builders in the kingdom upon a foundation originating in eternity (1 Cor. 3:9-15).  Each child of God is a private engaged in spiritual warfare against a tactician only God has the power to defeat (Eph. 6:10ff).

There is ample reason to be filled with excitement and dread at the task before us!  God has entrusted the business of snatching souls out of eternal fire and transferring people out of darkness into His marvelous light to us earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:7).  The moment we come out of the waters of baptism, we rise to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4).  That life entails culling out negative things, bad habits, poor attitudes, old ways of living.  Yet, it also calls for actions and ambitions that a non-Christian could not begin to comprehend.  The sign of genuine faith taken root is the desire to share the good news we ourselves have learned.

Soul-winning is the frontline focus of the family of God.  All else that we do should be an extension or support of this primary work.  Benevolence, though done simply for its own sake, can be a springboard of evangelistic opportunity.  Fellowship is designed to not only build up the saints, but be an atmosphere — be it worship or fellowship outside the corporate assemblies— that honors God and creates hunger and thirst for righteousness.  Non-Christians who come to our assemblies can then believe (cf. 1 Cor. 14:23-24).  They share our company, see the light of Christ in us, and want the joy and peace that the world cannot provide (John 14:27; Mat. 5:16).  

Everywhere we go, mingling in groups and having various associations, there are opportunities.  There is that person who seems to stand out from others who are more frivolously engaged in life.  There is the one who, when others have long shut their ears to truth, is open-minded enough and respectful enough of truth to believe and accept the Bible.  A song that is used in many soul-winning campaigns is Lead Me To Some Soul Today.  God is not going to “lay” anything miraculously on our heart, leading us through some direct operation to some particular person or to say some particular thing.  Yet, providentially, He can open doors that leads us to find the one in search of God’s way.  Our active desire should be to cultivate our hunger and optimism for this great, primary work of the church.

With all else to distract us or compete with our attention and affection, may we never forget the prime objective! We are saved to save (2 Tim. 2:2). Find the searcher and lead the lost! It’s why we’re here. 

“PREACHERS ARE PEOPLE TOO” (2 Corinthians 10)

“PREACHERS ARE PEOPLE TOO” (2 Corinthians 10)

Tuesday’s Column: “Dale Mail” 
(As Dale’s wife, Janelle, is in the hospital, I am “pinch-hitting” for him)
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Neal Pollard

Of course, we know that preachers are people but sometimes some may have a picture that preachers have super-spiritual abilities when tempted or troubled or that preachers don’t face the same challenges everyone else does. As one of my dearest friends, a preacher, is in a severe health crisis as I type this, he wasn’t insulated from illness more than a non-preacher would be. His wife, children, & other family are experiencing what every family does in these moments.

Paul reverses focus from Corinth (chapters eight and nine) to himself in what we identify as chapter ten. His words serve as a good reminder, first for preachers themselves but also for others who view the preacher. What important truths does Paul reveal here?

PREACHERS WONDER HOW THEY ARE COMING ACROSS (1-2)

Paul sought to urge them with Christ’s meekness and gentleness, but he appears to wonder if that was how they perceived him (1). He was concerned about what tone he would have to take when he saw them, between having some unnamed critics and risking his relationship with the church as a whole (2). While some preachers appear to relish the rebuke and scold approach, they are a distinct minority. Yet, every preacher labors under a divine order to “not shrink from declaring…anything…profitable” (Acts 20:20) and “not shrink from declaring…the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). That includes some challenging subjects, and preachers want to be faithful to that while obeying Paul’s instructions to be kind rather than quarrelsome, correcting with gentleness (2 Tim. 2:24-25).

PREACHERS ARE AT WAR WITH THE DEVIL (3-6)

I know preachers who served in the military, and they no doubt have greater personal appreciation for Paul’s military metaphor. Our warfare is not against the flesh, but our weapons mighty before God (3-4). Part of our work is destructive (4-5) and aggressive (5-6). There is a readiness and activeness apart of this work (5-6). We are not at war with members or other preachers. Paul will say in verse eight that his God-given work was for building them up and not tearing them down (8). But, when we stand against the devil, we know that we may have to stand against those who are ignorant of his schemes (2:11) and led astray by his craftiness (11:3). Yet, we should never relish this part of our work!

PREACHERS WANT TO BE UNDERSTOOD & ACCEPTED (7-11)

Paul knew what his critics said about him. They attacked not only his “preaching style” (cf. 11:6) but even his appearance (10). But, Paul hoped his writing and his words would help these brethren see his heart and better understand where he was coming from and who he was trying to be. I think the vast majority of preachers want that same thing. Each of us has plenty of quirks and flaws, in style and even personality, that become crosses we bear. However, our confidence is that most brethren are so charitable and can see past those impediments (4:7) and allow God to work through our imperfections to his glory.

PREACHERS WILL BE JUDGED AGAINST WHAT IS RIGHT, NOT
AGAINST OTHER PREACHERS OR CHRISTIANS (12-18)

It is apparently an ancient practice for preachers to measure their own success by what others have accomplished. Who’s had more baptisms, speaking engagements, local church growth, debates, books and articles published, recognition, etc.? It sounds pretty petty when read in print, doesn’t it? How much does God care about that? 

Paul writes, “We are not so bold to class or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding” (12). “But he who boasts is to boast in the Lord (Jer. 9:24; he also quotes this in 1 Cor. 1:31). For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends” (17-18). Let that resonate and sink down into my heart. God is the only measuring stick that matters. Our consuming obsession must be with being good stewards of the opportunities He puts in our laps (13).

Most preachers do not enter preaching for financial gain, fame and glory, or as an outlet for some frustration. We love the church, love God, love the lost, and love His Word. But, it is easy for anyone to lose their way or forget their original intentions. After all, we have our own struggles in the flesh and deal with our own humanity (12:7; Rom. 7:14ff). Some of God’s people may need the reminder of 2 Corinthians 10, and even more preachers may need it. Thank God for His wisdom, who was “pleased…through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). 

Some of the great local preachers in and around southern Kentucky