Seriously, if you’re a Tennessee Baptist and you want to be a part of what I believe will be the best-ever annual gathering of Tennessee Baptists, you need to be in Sevierville next week.
This is going to be a Summit meeting like you’ve never experienced and I am indebted to the pastors and laypersons serving on the Arrangements Committee. They took to heart the feedback messengers offered after last year’s Summit at First Baptist Church, Millington, and decided to incorporate many of those suggestions into this year’s program.
For instance, you suggested we include more worship opportunities during our time together so we are kicking off the Summit Sunday evening with a community worship service we’re calling the Tennessee Reunion. Several area churches are relocating their evening service to the Sevierville Convention Center to enjoy the Tennessee Mens Chorale and the preaching of Tennessee Pastor and current SBC President Steve Gaines. That begins at 6:30 p.m., includes a fellowship immediately following the service, and is open to all of you.
The Arrangements Committee also made two key decisions that reshape our time together and will offer, I believe, a unique experience for those coming to the Summit.
First, the decision was made to streamline business sessions into two sessions. It is recommended that messengers be in their places and ready to go as soon as both Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s sessions commence. We have some significant items to discuss and that need action like the recommendation from the Executive Board’s board of directors to change the name of the Executive Board to “Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.” This name change in no way impacts the name of our network of churches, the Tennessee Baptist Convention, only the Executive Board ministries. Look for a column from me in your messenger bags and I’ll also mention more about this before we vote. In a nutshell we need to make this change because Tennessee Baptist Mission Board better reflects our reality as Tennessee Baptists. Tennessee is a missions field any way you slice it. The Great Commission is our missions calling and to be the TBMB will make it ever clear that Tennessee Baptists are engaged in reaching people for Christ.
Another important order of business is the adoption of a unique missions opportunity for Tennessee Baptists to engage our five largest metropolitan areas in what we are calling, “City Reach.” Some of our strongest missions-minded churches are in our rural areas and some of our greatest missions fields are in the growing cities. If we are going to see our state spiritually transformed, we need to see a significant change in the spiritual condition of these population centers. There are other important business items that will need our attention and we’ll need to get started promptly each day.
A second action the Arrangements Committee took to complement the streamlined business sessions was to offer more breakout sessions. Surveys indicated that messengers wanted more opportunities to gain insight and training that could help them and their churches in their ministries. I am excited about the number and quality of the breakouts. We’ll lead into those with a session by Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, discussing church revitalization. Following Dr. Rainer we’ll move into back-to-back breakout sessions where you will have the opportunity to pick two more sessions covering a broad range of topics designed to support your ministries.
And let’s not forget hearing God’s Word preached by great men of God. The Pastors Conference has a strong lineup you won’t want to miss and I’m especially looking forward to Gary Jared, senior pastor of Chattanooga’s Stuart Heights Baptist Church, bringing our annual convention sermon.
Finally, and possibly the best reason to come to Summit — we need to see and encourage each other. In the past I’ve expressed how I believe the Summit is like a family reunion and I love family reunions. In fact, it is a family reunion of God’s people. We live in an increasingly difficult culture growing more resistant to the gospel. Folks, we are God’s messengers to the world, not just to the Summit. We need to come together to worship, fellowship, focus, encourage, and leave energized and determined to see our state turn to Christ through the preaching of the gospel and service to spiritually lost Tennesseans.
Like I said, I expect it to be our best Summit ever, so, y’all come! I can’t wait to see you.
It is a joy to be on this journey with you.