By Eva Wilson
When the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists was founded 75 years ago the door began opening for the Southern Baptist Convention to become a national instead of regional denomination.

The 2021 annual meeting will celebrate KNCSB’s 75th anniversary. It will be held Oct. 11-12 at Webster Conference Center, Salina, Kan. The 75th anniversary celebration was scheduled to be held in 2020. But it was postponed to the 2021 KNCSB annual meeting due to the coronavirus crisis.

KNCSB began in November 1945 when four churches met to form the Kansas Southern Baptist Fellowship. The meeting was held at First Baptist Church, Burden, Kan.

The Kansas Convention of Southern Baptist Churches was organized March 19-20, 1946, at First Baptist Church, Chetopa, Kan.

The new convention petitioned to join the Southern Baptist Convention in 1947.

After much debate, the Kansas convention became a cooperating constituency of the SBC in 1948. This action broke the comity agreement with Northern Baptists in which Southern Baptists had basically agreed to work below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Acceptance of the Kansas convention opened the door for Southern Baptists to become a national instead of regional denomination.

N.J. Westmoreland served as the convention’s first executive director.  He was pastor of Emmanuel Southern Baptist Church, Coffeyville, Kan.

Soon after the Kansas convention was formed, attention turned north to Nebraska where Southern Baptist churches began to form in the mid-1950s. Southview Baptist Church in Lincoln is the oldest Southern Baptist church in Nebraska. It constituted Sept. 11, 1955. The convention added Nebraska to its name in 1973.

In November 1968 the convention reached the most critical point in its life when its loan agency, the Church Loan Association, was on the verge of bankruptcy.

Monumental efforts by Southern Baptists in Kansas-Nebraska, as well as gifts from the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) and other state conventions helped the convention overcome the crisis.

KNCSB Executive Director James C. “Pat” McDaniel played a major role in leading the convention to overcome the church loan crisis. He served from 1970 to 1976.

  1. Rex “Peck” Lindsay became executive director in 1977 and served until Dec. 31, 2009. He has continued to serve on the KNCSB staff since then.

KNCSB acquired Webster Conference Center, Salina, Kan., in 1981. WCC has played a key role in reaching and discipling people for Christ. Many outside groups also use WCC.

Doyle Smith played the key role in KNCSB acquiring Webster Conference Center.

Smith was the long-time pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Great Bend, Kan. He had many roles including KNCSB president, president of the WCC board of directors and president of the Kansas-Nebraska Southern Baptist Foundation.

Smith quickly became a key influence in KNCSB soon after arriving in Great Bend in 1972.

“Doyle became the most influential person in our convention,” Peck Lindsay said.

Smith died Oct. 20, 2015.

Lindsay retired as executive director Dec. 31, 2009, and Bob Mills succeeded him. Mills had served as KNCSB director of missions since 1998.

As KNCSB celebrates its 75th anniversary, the face of Nebraska and Kansas is changing as the ethnic population grows, especially Hispanics. Hispanic leaders are being trained to reach this growing population.

The first Hispanic was elected to a KNCSB office during the 2019 KNCSB annual meeting. David Martinez was elected vice president. He is KNCSB ethnic church-planting strategist and associate pastor of Northern Heights Baptist Church, Norfolk, Neb.

KNCSB’s 75th anniversary year in 2020 brought major changes. Bob Mills, KNCSB executive director, announced his retirement plans during the Mission Board meeting Friday, March 6.

That was immediately followed by the coronavirus crisis. The virus known as COVID-19 was circling the globe and became a pandemic.

Many Kansas-Nebraska Southern Baptist churches were immediately pushed into a new way of doing ministry.

Some churches began airing their services through such avenues as YouTube and Facebook Live. Small-group meetings were held online using Zoom.

A number of Kansas-Nebraska churches held drive-in services in their parking lots.

Schools, colleges and universities were closed during spring break 2020. So KNCSB collegiate ministries also found themselves doing ministry on line.

When restrictions began to ease, churches were reminded that they were facing a new normal.

Renowned church leader Carey Niewuhof warned churches against reembracing “a model of ministry designed to reach a world that no longer exists.”

Bob Mills retired Feb. 28, 2021, and became the part-time KNCSB director of church health. David Manner succeeded Mills and is the fifth executive director in KNCSB’s 75-year history.

Manner joined the KNCSB staff in 2000 as director of worship and administration. He became associate KNCSB executive director in 2012.

KNCSB is going forward into the future in a world that changes almost daily. But “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 (HCSB)