We carefully listened.
And now I want to prayerfully respond on behalf of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
Several of us from the TBMB have recently engaged with over 500 Tennessee Baptists during nearly two dozen listening sessions across our state. We initiated these sessions with the sole purpose of learning from you and using what we heard to shape how we as a mission board serve your churches. For us, “We serve churches” is more than just a mission statement that hangs on a wall. It is our mission.
In a previous Clarity column, I reported the top concerns, challenges and opportunities you expressed during those sessions. Much of what you communicated strongly affirmed the TBMB current direction. However, the dialog opened our eyes to opportunities we must immediately address to serve your needs.
Your list and our responses will continue evolving in coming months, keeping the gospel at the center of all our ministries.
Apathy. Frankly, the only effective action against apathy is passionate prayer. Churches desperately need a fresh wind of Holy Spirit power. I believe apathy and indifference will only be eradicated in the lives of Christ-followers through genuine brokenness, repentance, humility and seeking the heart of God through prayer.
As Tennessee Baptists, we agreed in 2014 that our First Objective is to see at least 50,000 Tennesseans saved, baptized and set on the road to discipleship annually by 2024. That goal is impossible by man’s ability, but it is imperative if we are to see any change in the spiritual condition of people across our state. However, I believe it is achievable if God’s people will seek God’s face through humble, passionate prayer asking for God’s desire to be accomplished through them.
The culture. Contemporary culture is washing over us with the subtlety of a tsunami. In response, the TBMB has already begun researching the development of a guide to assist pastors, parents, Bible study leaders, children and student ministers navigating cultural landmines. We want to engage a godless culture while holding firmly to biblical convictions and expressing Christ-like compassion.
Church revitalization. Almost a decade ago the TBMB began developing customizable resources to uniquely assist churches in beginning a revitalization process. Well over 350 Tennessee Baptist churches have experienced documented and measurable progress toward revitalization, moving us toward our Objective Two goal of seeing at least 500 churches revitalized by 2024.
To serve even more pastors and churches and to ascertain the number of churches we serve in this area, the TBMB is adding a Church Revitalization strategist. No TBC church should feel alone after possibly years of decline. We’ll be partnering with associational mission strategists to assist churches that desire help.
Reaching the next generation. There is a renewed focus by SBC leaders to reach children 18 and younger. Frankly, we’ve been sounding this alarm for almost a decade. TBMB is addressing this through the many NextGen and GenZ conferences we’ve held, and we are seeing an increased attendance. We recently developed a video resource that discusses all the generations and the information shared on children, youth and Millennials is especially helpful. We will continue our development in this critical area.
Discipleship. I recently saw a statistic that reported Southern Baptists have baptized 7.1 million people in the last 20 years, yet worship attendance has not increased. Honestly, most of us have done a poor job in systematically “making disciples” that in turn “make disciples.” We’ve recently made some staff adjustments to more intentionally help churches in this area. Part of that initiative is to cultivate and recommend for churches the best discipleship tools, methods, and processes.
Pastoral leadership. I talk to pastors every day who are overwhelmed. Some feel ill-equipped to face the demands of today’s pastorate. Unfortunately, the toll is high and the numbers filling the “pastoral pipeline” is running low.
Our pastors are heroes. They are frontline personnel and the role of the TBMB, and other TBC entities, is to come alongside every pastor – regardless of church size – and help them accomplish their God-given vision for their respective ministries. The TBMB has initiated two specific responses to support pastors and ministers. The first is the Ministry Training Institute. MTI is currently in development and, when launched, will provide online, practical training and equipping for ministry leaders.
Also, the Pastor Care Initiative will be launched mid-2020 and will focus on the health (mental, emotional, physical and spiritual) of the Pastor. I see this as a most critical initiative. I love our pastors and desire to pour our collective resources into developing healthier pastors who lead healthier churches.
Friends, it is easy to look out and see the storms raging around us; to feel overwhelmed and sinking. But let’s look through the gusty winds and driving rains and keep our eyes on the Savior. He loves His disciples, He loves His church and He loves the spiritually lost. He’s got this. Let’s plow ahead with great hope.
It is truly a joy to be on this journey with you.