By Randy C. Davis
President & Executive Director, TBMB
The Christmas season in our culture has become a lot of things, and a good number of them have nothing to do with Christmas. Strip away all that has attached itself to the word, “Christmas” and what rises above everything else is the actual purpose of the Christmas season.
God was on a rescue mission.
It is the mission above all missions. It was an objective birth in the very heart of a triune God. Paul explains this mission well in II Corinthians 5:19 when he writes that, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has given to us this message of reconciliation.”
The entire Bible is rooted and grounded in the story of redemption. That timeless story has a miraculous and beautiful chapter that begins with a birth in a place called Bethlehem and ends with a resurrected life at an empty tomb.
Another chapter of the story opens with the Lord providing the Great Commission to His disciples, passing on to all Christ followers the mission of reconciliation. The chapter ends with the miraculous birth of the bride of Christ, the Church, on the Day of Pentecost.
You and I live in the next chapter that is currently being written through preaching the gospel, sharing the message of hope through the forgiveness of sin, and reconciling the spiritually lost to a forever Father.
A powerfully articulated mission inspires people to say, “I want to be a part of that!”
Networks of churches, denominations, conventions, all happen when like-minded churches embrace a common mission that generates passionate unity to accomplish said mission through purposeful collaboration.
For instance, John D. Freeman, a former executive treasurer of the Executive Board (now TBMB) of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, published a little study guide in 1935 titled, “Sunset and Shadows in Tennessee.”
In it he shares an interesting point about our origins as Tennessee Baptists: “The present state convention was organized in 1874 at a meeting in Murfreesboro called for the purpose of devising some means of saving Union University, then located in that town.”
At our first convention 150 years ago, we had a clearly defined mission. After organizing, the next order of business for this brand-new convention was to adopt Union University as an institution to be prayerfully and financially supported.
Union University was struggling at the time and could have closed its doors, but Tennessee Baptists seized the opportunity to overcome many diverse perspectives, demographics and doctrinal differences to accomplish the mission of saving a school. Now fast forward. That once fledgling school has become one of the most Christ-centered and foundationally biblical Great Commission advancing universities in North America.
A beautiful coffee table book titled, “Union University: Two Centuries of Christian Leadership,” looks back at that moment in Tennessee Baptist history and states, “In Murfreesboro, a group of Baptists undertook the mission to educate and prepare students for careers in ministry.”
Mission accomplished, and may it continue being accomplished for generations to come.
I look back on the journey launched in Murfreesboro by that group of Tennessee Baptists and I am inspired by their vision for the Great Commission and by their tenacity to pursue the ministry of gospel reconciliation. Mostly, I am awed by God’s faithfulness to involve Tennessee Baptists these many long years in the mission He birthed in Bethlehem on that first Christmas morning.
I want to be a part of that mission, and I want our children, grandchildren and generations to enjoy the shade of ministry trees we are now planting with the hope they will continue the legacy of sowing seeds for those beyond them.
This Christmas, may we remember we are a part of God’s mission story, and may we generously share the gift of that story with others who desperately need to hear the true meaning of Christmas.
It is a joy be with you on this journey. And from the entire Davis family, Jeanne and me, Merry Christmas!