You may be overrun with Christmas activities and see a busy 2019 blowing in like a thunderstorm racing across a Kansas prairie. Last minute gifts, parties, travel to be with loved ones, and on it goes. We get to this point of the year and it seems we try to squeeze about six months of activity through the funnel of a couple weeks. We seldom slow down or stop long enough to remember.
Remember. The word is an active verb that describes bringing to one’s mind an awareness of something from the past.
Unfortunately, we move so quickly through life that we tend to forget (verb; to put out of one’s mind, cease to think of or consider). God knows we’re like that which is why He commanded throughout the Old Testament for His people to, “remember the Lord their God” and the great things He’d done on their behalf.
Last week I recorded a Radio B&R podcast where I took a few moments to remember all that God has done through Tennessee Baptists and the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board during 2018. I gladly admit the overwhelming goodness of God initiates a response of humility and gratitude. God is good all the time.
For instance, I am encouraged by what I see happening in our Tennessee Baptist churches; the focus of our pastors and laypeople. More people are talking about evangelism and baptisms. Every baptism is vitally important because each one represents a soul heading to heaven instead of hell. Sharing the good news and seeing people saved is why we exist as Christians, churches and mission agencies. Our purpose is to make Christ known.
I feel Tennessee Baptists kicked it up a notch in 2018 and God blessed, that’s why we saw a 2 percent increase in baptisms over the previous year.
I am excited by the growth we experienced in 2018 in our ethnic diversity as a state convention. We’ve seen a Russian church added, an Ethiopian church, a Somali church and a couple of Arab speaking churches become a part of our network in addition to many other nationalities.
A number of years ago a national publication referred to Nashville as “Little Kurdistan.” Well, we’ve had a strong Kurdish population for 30 years, but it’s been in the recent months that we have seen our first Kurdish church planted. I believe we are reflecting more than ever the diversity of peoples we’ll see in heaven and certainly the diversity of people now living in Tennessee.
I’ve been saying that any way you slice it Tennessee is a mission field. Tennessee and the entire south are heading spiritually in the direction of New England and Western Europe. I had a conversation a few years ago with Jeff Iorg, missiologist and president of Gateway Seminary. By his estimate, he believed that within five years Tennessee will look more like Colorado, and in 10 years more like California.
We’re seeing it. People are coming here from all over the world. We’re rapidly changing demographically. We need to think and act like cross-cultural missionaries. I see churches across our state embracing that mentality. We need more of it.
Speaking of kicking it up a notch, we saw Tennessee Baptists kick it up a notch in Cooperative Program and Golden Offering giving for Tennessee Missions. Thank you for your generosity. Remember, we don’t give to the Cooperative Program, we give through it. That money you give flows through the state convention and on to support compassion ministries, children’s homes, seminaries and global mission enterprises. Last year we exceeded our budget and saw a 2 percent increase in Cooperative Program giving.
The Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions is to Tennessee what the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is to international missions and what the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering is to North American missions. By God’s grace and the generosity of Tennessee Baptists, the Golden Offering has grown more than 25 percent over the last five years. Every dollar of it is used for missions and ministries right here in Tennessee. It is the primary funding mechanism for church planting and church revitalization in our state, as well as compassion ministries.
God has been so good to us as Tennessee Baptists this year. I’d strongly encourage you to listen to the podcast as I was able to touch on so many more areas in which God has moved in our state than what I have space on which to reflect here.
But I want to leave you with a challenge for 2019. Tennessee Baptists, let’s lean on the Lord like never before; to trust in His power and not in our power or our might. All the glory, and praise, and honor goes to Him. I also challenge you to lean on one another and to really go out of your way to cooperate with each other to advance Great Commission work. I believe the Lord will honor that and bless that. And honestly, it’s just a lot more fun when we do things together.
Merry Christmas! It is truly a joy to be on this journey with you.