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News for Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Editorial — Reflections
2013 Summit: A Glimpse of Heaven?
By Lonnie Wilkey
11/20/2013
editor, Baptist and Reflector

The 2013 Summit, which included the 139th annual meeting of the Tennessee Baptist Convention along with the Pastors Conference and a host of related meetings, has come and gone.

From a business perspective, not much happened. While many had anticipated the report of the Vision 2021 Transition Team, action on the report (which was distributed at the annual meeting and printed in the Oct. 2 issue of the B&R) was delayed until next year.

I believe that was a good decision. It gives another year for Tennessee Baptists to attempt to fully understand the implications of the report and for the Transition Team to make any “tweaks” should they deem them necessary.

Other business was routine. We adopted a budget of $36,500,000, which is $500,000 less than the 2012-13 budget which we did not meet. Again, a wise decision was made to reduce the budget in light of the fact we came up short of meeting this year’s budget.

A $36.5 million budget is certainly within reach of Tennessee Baptists if we will “cooperate” together to meet missions and ministry needs in our state through the Cooperative Program. We say we support it. We defend it. Now, it is time to actually fund it through intentional, increased giving.

Dean Haun, outgoing president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church, Morristown, did an outstanding job as president this year, both before and during the convention. He was a good choice for the position as is incoming president Larry Robertson, pastor of Hilldale Baptist Church, Clarksville.

Robertson is no stranger to Tennessee Baptist life. He was reared in Savannah and was baptized and licensed and ordained into the ministry at Hopewell Baptist Church there.

He formerly was evangelism director for the Tennessee Baptist Convention and has been pastor at Hilldale for 11 years, a church that consistently ranks high in both baptisms and CP giving in the state. He will lead Tennessee Baptists well in 2014 and he will be ably assisted by two quality vice presidents, Steve Freeman, pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Springfield, and Brent Moore, minister to adults at First Baptist Church, Clarksville.

Tennessee Baptists were challenged to capture the vision of 1-5-1 Harvest Plants in order to reach and disciple more people in Tennessee.

TBC Executive Director Randy C. Davis also introduced an effort next year to pray across Tennessee, ringing the “Salvation Bell” in all 95 counties in Tennessee. Just think of the impact that could have on our state as people gather in their own communities to pray for their lost friends, family members, and folks they do not even know.

The worship experiences this year were outstanding. Messages were excellent and timely, capped by the closing sermon preached by SBC President Fred Luter, who challenged Tennessee Baptists to share the gospel because Jesus is the only thing powerful enough to change a nation plagued by increasing depravity and moral decadence.

Add to it the worship that took place during the Pastors Conference and it was an incredible week.

What set this year’s annual meeting apart from previous years was the cross-cultural element.

The 2013 annual meeting in Chattanooga provided a glimpse of what heaven will look like.

While we have had participation from African Americans and ethnic groups in the past, nothing matched their involvement in Chattanooga. This year’s vice president (Michael Ellis) is an African American pastor from Memphis. One of the primary speakers (Luter) is an African American. Blacks and whites sang together in the closing session; Hispanics were on the program; and we even had two prayers spoken in Spanish. It truly represented what the convention must look like in future years.

If the TBC does not gain more younger, culturally-diverse churches, it will eventually cease to be relevant.

We must continue to integrate the Tennessee Baptist Convention. This involves including a younger generation of ministers and lay leaders in addition to the cultural diversity.

God is bringing the world to Tennessee and we must be prepared to introduce that world to Jesus Christ. That will involve traditionally Anglo churches being receptive to people of color in their churches as well as helping to start more churches for ethnics. Sometimes language barriers prohibit many ethnics from attending Anglo congregations.

This may come as a shock to some folks, but heaven won’t be filled with only Anglo Southern Baptists.

We need to learn to love one another and work with one another now because one day we will worship our King, Jesus Christ, together in heaven.

The future of the Tennessee Baptist Convention is bright.

Continue to pray for our convention as we seek to reach the more than 3.6 million people in our state who are lost and will spend eternity in hell unless they turn their lives over to Jesus Christ. 

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