CHATTANOOGA — An emphasis on 1-5-1 Harvest Plants brought perhaps the most culturally diverse group of messengers ever to the annual meeting of the Tennessee Baptist Convention held at the Chattanooga Convention Center here Nov. 12-13.
The annual meeting drew 1,333 registered messengers from 532 churches, the largest number of messengers since 2007 when 1,506 messengers registered for the annual meeting in Kingsport that year.
The Chattanooga meeting also attracted a large number of visitors, with a total attendance of about 1,815 people.
Messengers heard messages from TBC President Dean Haun, SBC President Fred Luter, and Chattanooga pastor Robby Gallaty. See stories throughout this issue.
Major items of business included the adoption of a $36.5 million budget, the election of Larry Robertson, pastor of Hilldale Baptist Church in Clarksville as TBC president, and much more.
Messengers also received a written report and heard from various members of the Vision 2021 Transition Team. Messengers will have an opportunity to have more input on the report this year and vote on it at next year’s annual meeting in Brentwood.
Messengers heard numerous reports, including a major emphasis on the work of the TBC Executive Board on Tuesday evening (Nov. 13). TBC Executive Director Randy C. Davis’ report included a focus on Harvest Plants and an announcement of a plan to pray across Tennessee in 2014.
1-5-1 Harvest Plants is an initiative to impact lostness in Tennessee. Davis told messengers, “We must reach the harvest fields of Tennessee. Together we can impact lostness.”
During the Executive Board report, a video was shown with testimonies of pastors and others who were involved in piloting 1-5-1 this past year. Many of the plants started in 2013 had representatives at the evening session who were recognized during Davis’ presentation.
Churches were encouraged to sign up to begin harvest plants in 2014. The 1-5-1 is a commitment to starting no less than 1 plant in the year, making an effort, with the Lord’s help to reach, win, and baptize 5 people through each plant, and planning on each plant multiplying itself by starting another plant by the end of the first year.
“Plants” can consist of branches (extensions of existing on-campus Bible studies), groups (similar to branches but not connected to any other program of the church), or churches (a new work that will carry out all the functions of a church).
Bobby Welch, TBC associate executive director, told the B&R earlier this year that “all of these plants will be focused on reaching lost people where they live, work, and play.”
Davis cited statistics demonstrating the need for a kingdom impact in the state.
He noted there are an estimated 3.65 million people in Tennessee who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
In Tennessee, 30,000-plus people die and go to hell each year, he continued, adding that just in the three days of The Summit (Monday-Wednesday), statistics reveal that 400 people will die in the state without accepting Jesus Christ as Lord of their life.
Despite the population of the state more than doubling since 1948, baptisms in 2012 by Tennessee Baptist churches were the lowest since then.
To illustrate the need to reach the youngest generation, Davis brought 10 children from the Chattanooga campus of Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes to the platform. He took the hand of one of the children and led her from the group. He told messengers that trends show that only one of 10 children today will come to know Christ as Savior.
“Unless churches wake up from their slumber and regain a passion to fulfill the Great Commission, only one of 10 children will come to know Jesus.”
Davis acknowledged that he does not know how long it will take to turn around this “nosedive” in the number of baptisms in Tennessee. He introduced Tennessee Baptists to the “Salvation Bell” which has been placed on the back of an older truck with more than 100,000 miles on it. The truck and bell (which is on loan from First Baptist Church, Sevierville) will be driven to every county in the state in 2014, Davis said.
“We are going to all 95 counties in Tennessee to ring the Salvation Bell and we will be praying all over this state (see list below). That’s where it starts,” Davis stressed.
The TBC leader read a quote from former president John F. Kennedy at his inaugural address in 1961: “United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do … for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.”
“Tennessee Baptists, the only thing we need to fight about is hell and the devil over lost souls. We must join our hands together for the next generation,” Davis said.
Larry Robertson, pastor, Hilldale Baptist Church, Clarksville, was elected as president of the TBC. He ran without opposition.
Robertson was nominated by Roc Collins, pastor, Indian Springs Baptist Church, Kingsport, who noted that Hilldale gives 10 per- cent through the Cooperative Program and three percent to the association. Collins added that in Robertson’s 11 years as pastor of the church, attendance has grown from 800 to 1,400 people meeting on two campuses. Finally he noted that Robertson has started or supported six churches and Hilldale is planting two churches now.
Steve Freeman, pastor, Grace Baptist Church, Springfield, was elected first vice president of the TBC. He also ran without opposition.
Freeman was nominated by Allan Lovelace, pastor, Waterville Baptist Church, Cleveland. Freeman is the outgoing president of the TBC Pastors Conference and Lovelace is the new president of the Pastors Conference.
Lovelace noted that while Freeman has been pastor of Grace it has seen 600 additions to the church in five years. He also has served with Robertson on a church staff so they already enjoy a partnership.
Brent Moore, pastor to adults, First Baptist Church, Clarksville, was elected second vice president in a race against Todd Stinnett, pastor, Lebanon Baptist Church, Talbott. Moore was elected by 228 votes or 53.8 percent of the vote.
Moore was nominated by John David Laida, pastor emeritus, First Baptist, Clarksville. He noted that Moore is young and would represent the younger generation who needs to be reached by the convention.
Stinnett was nominated by David Williams, pastor, Hillcrest Baptist Church, Morristown. He described Stinnett as a bold leader, a passionate preacher of the gospel, and a friend of Tennessee Baptists.
The TBC Executive Board presented a budget of $36,500,000 for 2013-14. The amount is $500,000 below the 2012-13 budget, noted Greg McFadden, chairman of the budget committee and pastor of First Baptist Church, Humboldt.
He noted they were “reeling in” the budget in order to “be strategic in reaching lostness in Tennessee.”
Messenger Chris Young of Union Baptist Church, Lexington, made an amendment to the budget to delete the subpoints of the recommendation which deal with the percentage distributions between the TBC and the Southern Baptist Convention. He later agreed to withdraw his amendment.
Of the approved budget, 58.75 percent will go toward TBC missions and ministries while 41.25 percent will be forwarded to the SBC.
Transition Team report
The Vision 2021 Transition Team presented its report in written form to messengers. The report also was published in the Baptist and Reflector in the Oct. 2 issue.
In order to provide for more dialogue over the next year, the Transition Team announced in late October that it would delay a vote on the report until the 2014 annual meeting in Brentwood.
Chairman Chuck Groover of Victory Baptist Church, Mount Juliet, said the Transition Team intended to make its recommendations and allow a vote to be taken this year but agreed to take another year to continue discussions with Tennessee Baptists.
“Our only desire has been to know God’s vision for His people, Tennessee Baptists,” Groover said.
“We need to continue our discussions as to how God is leading us to meet the challenges before us,” Groover said.
“We need unity in the vision God is revealing to us,” he added.
Groover encouraged Tennessee Baptists to e-mail their thoughts and suggestions to the Transition Team at Vision2021@TNBaptist.org.
Davis agreed with the decision to delay the vote for a year.
“Further discussion will do nothing but sharpen our walk together,” he observed.
Several members of the Transition Team spoke to the report.
Among them, Bruce Chesser, pastor of First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, said the team “listened and learned” as they walked through the process for many months. “It is our prayer that together we dream a new dream and catch a vision for what the Lord has for us — to be a people to impact lostness,” he said.
“We want to impact our cities, state, nation, and world for Christ. We are just trying to figure out the best way to do that,” Chesser added.
Danny Sinquefield, chairman of the Vision 2021 Team that brought the report to the convention last year, led a time of concerted prayer.
He challenged messengers to extend the prayer over the next 52 weeks to seek the Lord’s will for the convention.
Convention messengers approved a new five-year partnership with the Send North America Denver Coalition. The partnership will begin Jan. 1, 2015 and run through Dec. 31, 2019.
Tennessee Baptists will work with North American Mission Board missionary Dave Howeth to assist in church planting efforts.
Tennessee Baptists heard a testimony from Jackson pastor Ben Mandrell, who has resigned from Englewood Baptist Church, to become a church planter in Denver.
Messengers approved three resolutions including one in support of the passage of Amendment 1 to the Tennessee Constitution.
The resolution, presented by messenger Leroy Davis of Nina Baptist Church, White Pine, offers support for Senate Joint Resolution 127 which proposes an amendment to the Tennessee Constitution to confirm that “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.”
It also noted that SJR 127 “further retains the rights of the people of Tennessee, through their elected representatives in the General Assembly to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion and the protection of life.”
SJR 127 will be brought before Tennesseans to consider as “Constitutional Amendment 1” on the November 2014 ballot.
The resolution resolves that messengers “urge all Tennessee Baptists to work vigorously toward the passage of pro-life Amendment 1 in November 2014 as one step toward the protection of life.”
Messengers also adopted the traditional resolution of gratitude and a resolution which “affirms the actions of Tennessee Temple University (in Chattanooga) in embracing Southern Baptist doctrine and Tennessee Baptist life.”
• Messengers approved the reports of the Committee on Committees and Committee on Boards with no changes.
• Changes to the Constitution and Bylaws were approved which changes the terminology from “grand divisions” to “grand regions,” standardizes the reference to the name of the organization, and a change in the duties of the Historical Committee, eliminating reference to a staff position that no longer exists.
• Recognition was given to the Tennessee Baptist Foundation which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and Woman’s Missionary Union which is celebrating its 125 anniversary. The convention also recognized Gary Coltharp who will be retiring as TBF president next March and Union University President David S. Dockery who will transition into the role of chancellor next year.
• Messengers voted against a motion from messenger Bobby McCord of First Baptist Church, Decaturville, requesting the Executive Board to study “negative designated giving” which would allow more funds to be used for TBC ministries and keep funds from SBC entities that “promote doctrines in which we have serious disagreements.”
• Messengers elected Cal Hampton, pastor, Green River Baptist Church, Waynesboro, to deliver the 2014 convention sermon, with Clarksville pastor Larry Robertson as alternate.
• First Baptist Church, Hendersonville was approved as the site of the Nov. 14-15, 2017 annual meeting.
• Messengers heard a number of reports from TBC institutions and entities.
— Article includes reporting by Connie Davis Bushey, B&R news editor.