I recently had the opportunity and privilege of speaking at the Nashville Baptist Association Pastors Conference.
One of the pastors made this comment about the Baptist and Reflector: “It connects Baptists all across the state.”
I had never really thought about it that much, but he is right. The B&R does connect Baptists no matter where they live in the state.
The B&R is one of the oldest Baptist state papers still in print. It has been the official newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention since 1921.
Though our print circulation has dipped over the years due to budget cuts in churches, we still mail out nearly 32,000 print copies each week. Add to that the paper’s presence in its virtual format and stories on the website (www.tnbaptist.org) and we are reaching as many or more Tennessee Baptists as we did 10 years ago.
That’s quite an accomplishment considering the plight of print publications. Some newspapers have gone out of business while other major secular papers have gone from daily to three times a week.
In the April 23, 2009 issue of The Tennessean, Bob Smietana wrote an article about the survival of Baptist state papers. He interviewed me, along with a few other editors.
The general consensus was that Baptist papers will survive because they are “niche” publications.
That is basically how I view the B&R. We are not the newspaper of the Southern Baptist Convention. We are the newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. We include stories about the SBC but our primary focus has been and will continue to be our Tennessee Baptist churches.
That’s why we exist.
We want to tell the story of Tennessee Baptists. We want to connect Baptists in Mountain City to Baptists in Memphis and all points in between.
Hopefully, we are doing that.
TBC President Fred Shackelford, pastor of Springhill Baptist Church in Paris, has been a friend and supporter of the paper for a long time.
He says this about the B&R:
“If Tennessee Baptists want to stay connected to what God is doing in our state, the Baptist and Reflector is an indispensable tool. I am so thankful for the gospel-driven, inspirational news that the B&R has provided me since my involvement in the TBC.”
And, I didn’t even have to pay him for such a wonderful endorsement. It came from his heart.
Over the years, the B&R staff (which I feel is the best of any state convention paper around, and yes, I am biased on that topic) has produced many stories that have uplifted the name of Jesus Christ.
We have shared stories of how God has used Tennessee Baptists and our churches to spread the good news of Jesus Christ all across Tennessee, the nation and the world.
Numerous people have told me in the 24 years I have served on staff that an article which appeared in the B&R inspired their church to do something similar to advance the cause of Christ. That’s what we are about. We are a newspaper and have to print stories our readers need to be aware of, even when they are unpleasant, but our positive, uplifting stories are always a priority.
Last year I was asked by someone if I could point out how the B&R has led someone to Christ.
I honestly didn’t have any examples to say that it has happened. I believe God has used the B&R as a tool to open doors for evangelism. I know people regularly place their copies of the paper in the waiting rooms of doctors and dentists when they are through with them. And, on occasion, we run a plan of salvation. Who’s to say God has not used that to touch a non-believer’s heart?
But just last week, we did learn how the paper “connected” a church in Cookeville with a small church needing help in Holladay. See page 16. The result of that connection was 14 professions of faith and 10 baptisms.
Praise the Lord!
We welcome new readers to this week’s issue. I hope you will join our “family of subscribers.” For those faithful readers, who keep turning the pages each week, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
We are your state paper and we value your prayers and support. We could not exist without you — our faithful and loyal readers.