I’m not one for clichés because too often they’re worn through and carry little meaning. However, sometimes they convey a concise bit of truth that is relevant in the moment.
Here’s one: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Tennessee Baptists stand at the dawning of a new era. We as a network of churches have pursued the Five Objectives for nearly a decade, having affirmed those objectives at the 2014 Summit in Brentwood.
If you’ll recall, those objectives focused on what we at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board refer to as the reaching objectives (evangelism/discipleship, church planting and church revitalization), and resourcing objectives (giving through the Cooperative Program and the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions).
The Five Objectives have served us well, helping us focus on important initiatives. But we are coming to the end of those initiatives, and it begs the question, “What’s next for Tennessee Baptists?”
That is the question we will begin to answer at the Summit next month when we gather at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, near Memphis.
As we move in that direction, this quote form Mark Bradley is very much in the forefront of my mind. “The mark of a godly man is that everything he does is God initiated.”
Shortly after I became executive director, I wrote a column titled, “Our Greatest Need as a Convention.” I believe my thoughts from 11 years ago summarize where we currently are as a convention and offer a way forward. Below is what I wrote that day:
Over the last 10 months, I have often been asked what the greatest need of the Tennessee Baptist Convention might be. Here is the answer: Personal and corporate revival that is birthed in a desperate hunger for God and God alone.
Our greatest need is not vision, organizational restructuring or strategic planning, as vitally important as those things are in fulfilling The Great Commission.
Indeed, we must give our attention to vision, realignment and strategic planning. But the fuel and fire for all we do must come from a brokenness of our hearts so that we might know His heart. We are talking about a brutally honest repentance that leads to real holiness. Our pride, arrogance and selfishness must be crucified and radically replaced with genuine humility.
Living in a state of three-to-four and one half million people who have no relationship with Christ, we must confess that we cannot begin to reach them through our own strength. We need such a movement of God that unity of purpose becomes an ever-present reality among Tennessee Baptists.
The common denominator that makes us an uncommon denomination will be a complete surrender to the Lordship of Christ.
There is no room at the cross for territorialism, disunity, axes to grind or personal agendas. As a convention of churches, the choice is clear: Die to self and exalt the Lord, or simply die.
Things have definitely changed in a decade, but the need we have is still the same. Dying to self and exalting the Lord; this is where we must begin.
We will launch the Acts 2:17 Initiative when we gather at Summit. You will have the opportunity to speak into the future priorities of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. It is vitally important that you attend. We need your input. The Acts 2:17 is an intentional effort to allow God’s vision for Tennessee Baptists to rise to the surface through Tennessee Baptists.
I closed that column 11 years ago with an invitation for people to read II Chronicles 7:14, then act in humility. “Let us fall on our faces and seek His face, praying for revival.”
We still need revival. We need a massive movement of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the believers who gather in our churches. Please, take time over these next 30 days to pray, humble yourself, repent of sin and seek God. Come to Summit as a conduit for the grace God wants to pour through you.
“We can do more together than apart” gets categorized as a Cooperative Program cliché. However, it too is a relevant truth because God desires that His people work in unity for His glory, the advance of His Kingdom and for the benefit of a world that desperately needs to know Jesus.
And that definitely is a change for the better.
It is truly a joy to be with you on this journey.