There are moments in life that are so obviously important that they need not scream to be recognized. The magnitude of their presence halts the daily hustle and quietly demands that we notice, and reflect, and determine that the nostalgic moment becomes a prelude to something greater.
I believe God has granted to Tennessee Baptists such a poignant moment and we must pause to understand its significance to our past, but more importantly, to our future.
Last Monday (May 22) the staff of your Tennessee Baptist Mission Board walked into the new Church Support Center, marking the end of what amounted to a 10-year pilgrimage. Relocation was an arduous process, but one in which God graciously led us to build a beautiful building in a strategic location in Franklin, repeating the grace we believe He extended to our Tennessee Baptist predecessors when He led them to building in Brentwood in the 1960s. The 45-year increase in the value of that property provided the possibility of Monday’s moment.
But this is not an end to the journey but a beginning. Walking into that building with our staff gave me a shot of spiritual adrenaline that made me feel as if I were toeing the line waiting for the starter’s pistol to fire. I am more eager than ever to run this race set before us and I want Tennessee Baptists to join in the journey. The building is a launch pad.
Our new building — your new building — is inspirational. For starters, as soon as you walk in the entrance there is a floor to ceiling graphic that reminds us that our purpose is to “GO!” Our ministry to churches goes out from this building and into the missions field that is Tennessee. That message is everywhere in this building. Prominently displayed is our directive that the “Tennessee Baptist Mission Board is a Christ-centered, field-focused Great Commission organization created by Tennessee Baptists to serve Tennessee Baptist churches. We value relationships, innovation, stewardship, and excellence.”
The Church Support Center is the definition of excellence, but it is more than that. This building is the essence of our strategy. We decentralized our staff more than three years ago to get “missionaries” into the field to work closer with you to reach our state for Christ. Notice, in the title of this building the word “SUPPORT.” This place is not a denominational headquarters. We take joy in cooperatively serving the bride of Christ along with local associations to advance the Great Commission. We are here to support and serve, not command and control.
Notice also that your TBMB values stewardship. The old Baptist Center in Brentwood was 88,000 square feet. The Church Support Center is 32,000 square feet. Ministry needs have changed so we’ve changed staffing to maximize Cooperative Program and Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions funds. That building was shackled with $1.5 million in deferred maintenance. This building will actually save $150,000 per year alone in energy costs.
And, we moved into this building debt free thanks to the funds available from the sale of the Baptist Center.
It is indeed appropriate to take a moment and reflect on God’s goodness extended to us in in the past, but it is also appropriate to take this same moment and take stock of what God expects from us in the future.
I am deeply burdened by the spiritual lostness I see every week as I travel from one end of our state to the other. While there is much good work being done in communities through churches across our state, we simply aren’t keeping up with the population growth. Our goal as Tennessee Baptists to see 50,000 people saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship annually isn’t some arbitrary number. Tennessee grows spiritually more darkened each passing year that we don’t annually reach that number or beyond. How I pray the Holy Spirit will revive us with a renewed burden for the lost that drives us into the fields for reaping a harvest.
Wednesday after we moved in to the Church Support Center, our staff divided into small groups and prayerwalked the building and the grounds. We prayed that everything that takes place in this building would be done to advance God’s Kingdom across our state. I have no interest in this building becoming a monument to Baptist sustainability. I pray this place will be a tool Tennessee Baptists have to magnify the name of Christ resulting in the sweet salvation of the people around us. That’s what I believe God expects from us in the future.
Our ribbon cutting will be another poignant moment, but once the ribbon is cut and the starter’s pistol fires, our actions that follow will determine whether it was a nostalgic moment or a prelude to something greater. Let’s begin here, in this new place, creating the path that guides our posterity deeper into the richness found in joyfully and obediently fulfilling our Lord’s command to “go and make disciples.”
It truly is a joy to be on this journey with you.