CHATTANOOGA — Joshua, a story of conquest, includes “a word from the Lord to us tonight,” stated Dean Haun, Tennessee Baptist Convention president, at the TBC annual meeting here.
“Convention, it is a challenge to us not to slow down, to back off, or to put evangelism on the back burner. It’s a challenge for us not to cower in the face of an ever-increasing secular society,” stated Haun at the Nov. 12-13 annual meeting.
The story of conquest should lead us to understand “There is Land That Yet Remains,” he said, which was the title of his message based on Joshua 13:1-13.
Just like the children of Israel trying to conquer the Promised Land, Baptists today say there are too many obstacles to reaching their church’s community or to reaching their state.
“We know what God has told us to do. We know that He has told us to reach our state, our communities, but (we say) there are too many roadblocks in this 21st Century today to try to reach people for Jesus,” he noted.
The children of Israel responded to their obstacles by forming three groups — those who wanted to return to Egypt, those who wanted to stay in the wilderness, and those who wanted to follow God’s direction and conquer the land, said Haun, who is pastor, First Baptist Church, Morristown.
“Every church within the Tennessee Baptist Convention is in one of those three camps today,” he declared.
Haun noted that the Israelites were being led by Joshua and Caleb and God “has given us Joshua and Caleb” through the leadership of Randy C. Davis, TBC executive director, and Bobby Welch, TBC associate executive director.
Though our past is great, Tennessee Baptists can’t stay where we are despite the fragile economy, challenges, or risks, he added. When the children of Israel ignored some of God’s commands, they wandered for 40 years and missed “God’s best for them,” observed Haun.
“That’s not what God wants for His church and that’s not what God wants for this convention.”
In the case of the Jewish people, God waited for the next generation to conquer the Promised Land.
He noted that Tennessee Baptists should consider four principles to “understand God’s message to us as a convention, where we are tonight and yet where He wants us to go.” Those principles are opportunity, organization, obedience, and omnipotence.
Though Joshua was about 100 years old he was chosen by God to lead the children of Israel to complete the effort to conquer the lands, Haun observed.
“Jesus says to us, Open your eyes and look at the fields for they are ripe for harvest. And He’s saying to us tonight, it’s time to wake up Tennessee Baptists. You’ve seen some good things happen, you’ve had a great history but … there are communities yet to be reached, churches that need to be started, ministries that need to begin, people who need to be saved, buildings yet to be built, money yet to be given, ministry yet to be done. … He has much, convention, for us to do.
“Tennessee Baptists, let’s stop looking at our society as post-Christian, woe is us, we’re in the minority now, and let’s start seeing it simply as pre-Christian.”
Haun spoke of 1-5-1 Harvest Plants, the evangelism and discipleship strategy of the TBC of starting groups or church plants, reporting that his church had tried it with success.
This strategy gets Baptists outside the four walls of the church, he noted.
On the point of organization, Haun noted that Joshua 13:2-6a, 7-13, is basically an organizational chart for the strategy of conquering the lands.
The Tennessee Baptist Convention already is well organized, he noted, and includes 1,100,000 church members in 3,000 churches, 67 Baptist associations, 18 associational clusters, seven Harvest Fields, and three grand regions.
“Organization and strategy, what we’ve been doing here these last few days, is biblical,” he observed.
“Listen, God has strategically placed your church right where it is so that you might … reach the lost around your church with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Don’t get mad if you are not doing anything and God raises up another church or ministry that starts reaching people for Christ,” declared Haun.
Another principal drawn from the Scripture is obedience to God, which is not optional and disobedience results in missing God’s best, Haun stated.
For instance, the children of Israel didn’t completely follow God’s direction. They let some of the native people live with them, and that caused them problems.
He noted that it is sad to see churches fighting and arguing among themselves and with other churches and making priorities of their personal comforts and tastes.
One of the reasons First, Morristown, started the Biker Church, Medical and Dental Clinic, Mobile Bus Ministry, and Media Trailer is to reach people who would never come to First, Morristown, he said.
The Biker Church has recently drawn more than 100 people to its Thursday night service and has baptized 33 people in the last year.
“We are one generation away from losing our state … unless we take the gospel to the next generation,” said Haun.
Finally, God’s omnipotence or power should be requested through prayer though it also comes in response to the obedience of Christians, he noted. His power is needed to drive out the enemy, he added.
“I believe our future is exciting,” said Haun, and that Randy C. Davis has been called by God “to lead us into a new era in our convention.
“Let’s conquer that land in the name of the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ,” concluded Haun.