CLARKSVILLE — New Tennessee Baptist Convention president Larry Robertson has a distinction that few, if any, others can claim.
While some TBC presidents later became staff members of the convention, Robertson is a former staff member who was elected president. He was state evangelism director before accepting the pastorate of Hilldale Baptist Church in Clarksville in 2002.
Robertson said he is “humbled and honored” by his election on Nov. 12 to lead Tennessee Baptists during the coming year.
Noting that he did not seek the position when he was first asked if he would be willing to be president, Robertson said he told Roc Collins (the Kingsport pastor who nominated him) that he would “welcome the opportunity if God brought it about.”
Robertson described himself as a “local church guy who loves his denomination. I am excited. I love Southern Baptists and I love my faith family in Tennessee. I believe in who we are and what we stand for,” said Robertson, a native of Savannah.
The Hilldale pastor added that he is excited to be a “face and voice” for Tennessee Baptists. “I will be a cheerleader for evangelism, missions, church planting, and church revitalization,” he pledged.
One of his goals for the coming year is to see Tennessee Baptists unified and committed to impacting lostness in Tennessee and around the world.
He noted that the theology that brings Tennessee Baptists together at times can divide the convention as well.
“Let’s agree on the things that we can agree on. Instead of finding reasons to divide, let’s find reasons to lock arms and conquer lostness.”
Robertson also has a passion to see churches revitalized. He noted that across the Southern Baptist Convention nine out of 10 churches are plateaued or declining.
One caveat, however for revitalization to take place, is that churches must be willing to change in order to impact lostness in their own communities.
As churches are revitalized, church planting will be a natural after effect, Robertson said. “We have a lot of ground to make up,” he added.
When Robertson agreed in late summer to allow his nomination for president, he thought the one issue that Tennessee Baptists are currently dealing with would be over.
Messengers at the annual meeting in Chattanooga were to have voted on the report and recommendations of the Vision 2021 Transition Team but it was delayed for a year to give Tennessee Baptists more time to study the report and to have continued input.
Robertson, while he would have liked for it to have been dealt with this year, is in a unique position to help with clarity in regards to the report. He served on both the Vision 2021 team and the Transition Team.
“I look forward to being a voice this year to help clarify the report and the recommendations,” Roberston said.
Robertson said his experiences on both teams over a three-year period gives him a perspective most people will not have.
“I believe that if people can see the ‘why’ of the recommendations they will understand the ‘what and how’ to get there,” he observed.
He noted that Tennessee Baptists may have forgotten that it was not the Transition Team’s decision to recommend a 50/50 distribution of Cooperative Program funds between the TBC and the Southern Baptist Convention.
The state convention voted a few years ago to head in that direction, Robertson reminded.
“Our responsibility was to figure out how to get there,” he continued.
And to get there (50/50), things “cannot remain the same,” he affirmed.
Looking back at the Transition Team’s recommendations, Robertson still feels strongly they are “equitable. Everyone shares in the sacrifice.
“The end result is more resources freed up to impact lostness from Tennessee to around the world. I would think that’s what most people would want,” Roberston said.
The former TBC staff member knows that the responsibility associated with the position will involve more travel and time away from Clarksville, but he said his family and church are totally supportive.
“I’ve been incredibly blessed by the response of the church,” Robertson said.
He has one trait as a pastor that he wants to extend over into the broader Tennessee Baptist family.
“One of the values I have as a pastor is accessibility. I want church members to always know they can always reach me, either by phone, e-mail, or Facebook,” he shared.
“As much as possible, I want to be accessible to Tennessee Baptists this year,” he said.
He encourages Tennessee Baptists who wish to reach him during the year to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.