News for the week of Friday, November 1, 2013

A Year for Soul-Searching
By Lonnie Wilkey
editor, Baptist and Reflector

The Vision 2021 Transition Team, along with Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Director Randy C. Davis, made a bold and courageous decision last week.

They voluntarily chose to delay a vote on the Transition Team’s report which will be presented at The Summit Nov. 11-13 in Chattanooga. See story on page one and a column from Transition Team chairman Chuck Groover on page 4.

Critics will say they delayed it because they felt it would not pass. I honestly don’t believe that’s the case. I know most of the people on the Transition Team really well. They are not the kind of men who will run from a confrontation and there would have been opposition on the floor of the convention against their recommendations. They are firm in their beliefs and they would have defended their recommendations without reservations.

I believe they decided to delay it because during meetings across the state and other correspondence from Tennessee Baptists, they truly sensed Tennessee Baptists are not ready to make such a drastic decision.

They listened to what was being said. Give them credit. I have been around situations where people have said they want input but when input is given it has been ignored. Dr. Davis and the Transition Team listened to what was being said and they understand more information and education must take place during the coming year in order to help Tennessee Baptists make an informed, responsible decision when it comes time to vote in 2014 at Brentwood Baptist Church (next year’s site of The Summit).

Let’s face reality. The Transition Team’s report “shakes things up” in the Tennessee Baptist Convention. It will no longer be “business as usual” in our convention.

There seems to be a lot of consternation about moving toward a 50/50 distribution of funds with the Southern Baptist Convention. Don’t blame the Transition Team for this. Messengers to the annual meeting of the Tennessee Baptist Convention have said this is what they want. Did they fully understand it when they voted for it?

Apparently not because some of those who favored the idea then aren’t so sure about it now when they see that a favorite TBC ministry might lose funding to make it happen.

I will be brutally honest. I was not totally in favor of the 50/50 distribution of funds with the SBC when it was overwhelmingly approved by messengers last year, but I will support it to the best of my ability.

It’s not that I am against SBC missions. People who know me know better than that. But sometimes it seems that we forget the reality that lostness abounds in Tennessee, not just in Africa or Asia or some other continent. We tend to lose sight that the Great Commission includes Tennessee.

We also lose sight that every other state convention gives to SBC missions and ministries. No other state sends money to Tennessee to help us reach the lost in our state. If we don’t do it, it won’t get done.

Approximately one out of every two people you encounter in your daily walk in Tennessee will die and go to hell. As our leaders have told us, this is unacceptable for us as Christians. We cannot stand idly by and allow this to happen in our state without trying to impact these people with the life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

I think that most people who say they are in favor of a 50/50 distribution of funds with the SBC think that the entire 50 percent that goes to the SBC will go to the International Mission Board to support missionaries. Of course, everyone is in favor of that, but that does not happen.

The SBC has its own distribution formula. The IMB would not get all the CP dollars from Tennessee. That’s just the way it is.

I think we should strive toward a 50/50 distribution at some point but it should be based more on receipts from our churches.

If churches would give at least 10 percent of their income through the Cooperative Program this would not even be an issue. We would have money to fund all our ministries.

But over the past two to three decades CP giving from our churches has dropped from an average of about 10 percent to slightly over 5 percent today.

I praise the Lord for those churches in Tennessee that continue to fund Cooperative Program ministries with 10 or more percent, but I fear too many of our churches have dropped to the 5 percent level or even lower. That must change if we are to impact the lostness in Tennessee and around the world.

Ultimately, what the Transition Team is trying to do is to help guide Tennessee Baptists in helping to reach more people in our state with the gospel.

Baptisms have been on a steady decline for years even though we have more people in Tennessee than ever before. As Scripture tells us, the fields are white unto harvest.

So, what’s next.

Even though messengers won’t vote on the Transition Team report this year, it is imperative that Tennessee Baptists go to The Summit in Chattanooga and get as much information as possible.

Then, ALL Tennessee Baptists, including myself, must pray and do some serious soul-searching over the next year.

Do we really want to impact lostness in Tennessee and if so, how are we going to do it?

Dr. Davis has said many times recently, “Business as usual will not work.” He’s on target with that assessment.

The Transition Team welcomes feedback. Let them know some of your ideas on what Tennessee Baptists can do to reverse the trend of declining baptisms so that we can begin to make a dent in the lostness of our state.


Search your soul and pray about what you can do. It will take all of us doing our part praying, witnessing, going, and giving to make a difference. B&R


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