The economy was struggling, inflation was climbing and the unemployment rate was soaring. In fact, unemployment in Scott County was running at more than 20 percent. And that’s when I got a call from Doug White, pastor of First Baptist Church, Oneida, and a former chairman of the TBMB board of directors.
“Brother Randy,” he said. “I just wanted you to know that we’ve decided to raise our Cooperative Program giving from 10 percent to 11 percent just to spit in the eye of the devil!”
That was about a decade ago and Pastor Doug’s comment made a lasting impression on me. Here was a pastor of a church firmly anchored to its missional commitment while sitting in the eye of an economic storm.
Rather than withdraw or retreat, which would have been easy to do, they pressed on believing an investment in Kingdom work was the wisest course of action. They did not shrink away from the challenge set before them.
Here we are 10 years later and we find ourselves sailing into strong economic headwinds once again, but the spirit of White and FBC, Oneida, shines through so many churches that comprise our network of churches called the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
There is a commitment to Great Commission work in Tennessee and around the world. There is a resolve to press forward during historic inflation and an economic downturn like we’ve not seen in decades.
Through it, Tennessee Baptists gave generously over the past year to fund mission work across our state, nation and world.
The result: Tennessee Baptists gave a record amount through the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions to the tune of more than $2.2 million, while also giving $34,791,766 through the Cooperative Program. Those are final totals for fiscal year ending Oct. 31.
The Tennessee Baptist Convention ended the year as the second most Cooperative Program giving of all state conventions partnering with the Southern Baptist Convention.
We came within a fraction of a percent of meeting our $35 million budget goal.
On behalf of the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes, the Tennessee Baptist Adult Homes, Union University, Carson-Newman University, Tennessee Baptist Foundation, Harrison-Chilhowee Academy, and the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, along with the Southern Baptist Convention and thousands of missionaries serving around the world, thank you for your incredible and faithful financial generosity.
And on an extremely personal note, I want to say thank you. I couldn’t be prouder to be a Tennessee Baptist.
I am amazed at God’s grace extended through your generosity that translates into ministry.
Children needing a foster home have found one through TBCH. Missionaries can concentrate on sharing Jesus rather than being concerned with raising their own financial support.
University students are receiving a quality Christian education while nearly 400,000 students at state-supported universities have a gospel witness on their campuses through Baptist Collegiate Ministries. Churches in decline are provided revitalization tools and new churches are being planted across our state and beyond. Flood victims in Kentucky and hurricane survivors in Florida are being cared for because of your Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief teams.
Cooperative Program giving supports all this kingdom ministry and more. We truly can do more together.
Our current economic challenges aren’t the first financial crisis Tennessee Baptists have faced, only the latest. Through it all we’ve proven to be a faithful people who rise to the occasion and are generous in our response.
I’m not excited about what may lie ahead economically but I am encouraged because I know Tennessee Baptists will rise to the need. My hope and prayer is that the same kind of unmitigated enthusiasm that marked First Baptist, Oneida, will spread with faithful certainty in the days ahead.
It is a joy to be with you on this journey.