By Randy C. Davis
President & Executive Director, TBMB

It was a day to remember, May 6, 2013. It was the day I met, “The GOAT.”

True, not everyone would agree that he’s the greatest of all time, but what is irrefutable is what Nick Saban accomplished during his years at the University of Alabama. Being from Alabama and being a lifelong Crimson Tide fan, it was an honor for my brother and I to meet him in 2013 at a banquet to which we were invited.

Rob and I arrived early and were positioned to meet Coach Saban when he also arrived about 30 minutes before the event. We greeted one another, took photographs, and then he asked where we were from. We explained Tennessee and Arkansas, respectively, but that we grew up on the Alabama Gulf Coast. With great enthusiasm, he immediately talked about recruiting Julio Jones and other great players from the coast. “Fertile ground” he called it. The conversation lasted about 20 minutes.

If you approach Bryant Denny Stadium on Alabama’s campus, you will pass the statues of former Bama coaches Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas, Paul “Bear” Bryant, Gene Stallings and Nick Saban. The common denominator with these five coaches is that they’ve each won at least one NCAA Football National Championship. The Crimson Tide have had other great coaches, but statues are reserved for national champions. 

Randy C. Davis

Interestingly, there is a pedestal reserved next to Coach Saban’s statue for the next National Champion coach. Obviously, Nick Saban is not, and never was, the mission. The mission of the University of Alabama athletics is to win national championships. Anything less falls short of completing the mission.

There is a lesson to be learned for followers of Christ, and specifically for us as Tennessee Baptists. We would do well to remember that the Great Commission is the mission. Anything less falls short of completing the mission.

You may respond, “Well of course that is the mission.” You answer well but consider the distractions we fall into that cause us to fall short of that mission. How many churches grew in numbers because a popular or charismatic person was the pastor then plateaued or decline when he left? Or maybe involvement wanes when a favorite program is eliminated. Or maybe buildings, processes or traditions change. We’ve all seen, and been a part of, situations where we thought the focus was on the mission, but circumstances change and expose the gap between our focus and the mission.

Back to Coach Saban and the mission of Alabama football for a moment. It is true that he has garnered success landing five-star athletes because he’s “Coach Saban.” He’s the personality they’ve seen for years, and to them he is the face of success.

However, the success in Alabama football is that their vision is elevated from him — the personality — to the program’s mission. Truthfully, it will be interesting to see with Coach Saban’s retirement and the coaching transition if the mission remains intact or if distraction will disrupt the unified purpose driving the program toward its mission.

As a Tennessee Baptist Convention and for us here at Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, we stand at a time of transition throughout 2024. Several new ministry opportunities have been identified by Tennessee Baptists through the Acts 2:17 Initiative that require change for both the convention and its mission board.

It is also our 150th Anniversary this November as a state convention. It is a time to remember how God has used us in the past, but it is also a time to look forward. We’re facing transition. While we celebrate the past, the question is, “Will we embrace the past more than the mission that compels us forward?”

No, Nick Saban is not the mission. Neither are we, or that upon which we sometime focus that become distractions. The pursuit of Jesus and the pursuit of bringing others to a saving knowledge of Him are the mission. Let’s make sure we keep that main thing the main thing.

It is a joy to be with you on this journey.

© Tennessee Baptist Mission Board

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