At the end of the day on May 20, the members of the team working at what has been called the Baptist Center will leave the building for the last time and watch the doors close on 45 years of ministry.
We’re moving, ending one chapter in Tennessee Baptist history and beginning a new one. Our building in Brentwood has been the hub of the ministry of the Executive Board of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, and it has served us well.
Interesting thing about this building and its location in the middle of one of America’s best cities; there wasn’t much around here when it was built. A generation of insightful Baptist leaders decided to purchase a piece of property at the edge of a horse farm and construct what was then widely recognized for its architectural design. It would have been impossible for them to predict the importance of this location, but they catapulted our cooperative work as Tennessee Baptists to a new level of influence and effectiveness.
They were extending the pioneering legacy that has now marked Tennessee Baptists for 140 years.
And so we, the current employees of the Executive Board, find ourselves standing at one of those milestone moments in our history, astutely aware of our responsibility as stewards of our heritage. What legacy will we leave for the generations that follow us?
Those thoughts have crossed my mind often as we have prepared to transition to a new base of operations. I’ve been amazed at the work of our team as it has sorted, packed, and discarded four-and-a-half decades of “stuff” — much of it interesting, some of it useless, a portion of it still useful.
We are leaving 88,000 square feet and moving into 21,000 square feet; less than 25 percent of our current space. You don’t downsize like that without making some hard decisions and setting some priorities. The pruning process is never easy, but I believe the hard work of pruning will result in a growth of effectiveness and efficiency that will advance the kingdom work we are called to do.
Our vision statement is, “Making Christ known by serving churches.” Our desire is to see more Tennesseans than ever before reached with the gospel of Jesus. Just as we discarded many stored items that are no longer useful, so we will stop doing activities that are no longer effective in the way we serve Tennessee Baptist churches.
Why? Here’s our reality: There are 3.65 million people in our state who have no saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. What does that spiritually lost condition really look like when it has a face? Well, Tennessee has the nation’s second-worst prescription drug addiction problem. We’re the nation’s second-leading producer of crystal methamphetamines, are now known as the buckle of the “Meth Belt,” and heroine trafficking is rapidly on the rise. Tennessee is the easiest state in the Southeast in which a woman can get an abortion — so much so that out-of-state abortion providers have set up shop here and offer discounts to people traveling more than 50 miles. We have hundreds of children every year taken into foster care as a result of broken family situations.
Friends, Tennessee is not the buckle of the Bible Belt. In fact, it really isn’t a church field. It is a missions field.
May 20 will be a nostalgic day for our team as we walk away from the building that has very much been a part of our past, but May 21 will be the first day of our future. We are as committed to the advancement of the gospel across our state as much as our pioneering forefathers have been over the past 140 years.
Let’s walk together for the cause of Christ, extending a legacy of faithfully serving our Savior as we faithfully serve the people of our state.