By Randy C. Davis
President and executive director, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board

“Change” is an interesting word. A quick check of a dictionary app offers more than 10 definitions and all of those except two deal with some aspect of transition or transformation.

A few definitions that stand out are: “to make different;” “to make a shift from one to another;” and “to give a different position, course or direction to.”

Tennessee Baptists are changing. We are shifting from the Five Objectives to the Acts 2:17 Initiatives, setting a new course and heading in a new direction toward what we believe is God’s preferable future for our network of churches.

This transition represents monumental change. It is a transformation of both the stated work of Tennessee Baptists and eventually for us here at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. However, I believe the change allows for the collaborative and collective Great Commission work of Tennessee Baptists.

When did this change — this shift — begin?

You could say it began in the months leading up to the 2022 Summit held at Bellevue Baptist Church when Tennessee Baptists were called to prayer with the purpose of seeking God’s preferable future for Tennessee Baptists. When messengers gathered that November in Cordova, they participated in the first of over two dozen listening sessions that stretched from that convention meeting into late spring 2023.

Randy Davis

Some might say change started when messengers adopted and strongly affirmed the report of the Acts 2:17 Initiative Vision Team in Chattanooga last year

Others might say change doesn’t truly begin until the ten Acts 2:17 Work Groups currently meeting complete their work by next month.

Still others may see the possible approval of the 2024-2025 Cooperative Program Budget at our upcoming November convention in Murfreesboro as being the moment of change.

Or, others still may say change happened way back in November 2014. That’s when TBC messengers adopted the Five Objectives at the Summit at Brentwood Baptist Church. That was indeed change, but each Objective carried a 10-year-target date of 2024, signaling more change on the distant horizon.    

Exploring when change began is interesting, but we’ve caught that horizon. Change is here. Transition is now the most important step of change.


Jeff Iorg, the new SBC Executive Committee president and former Gateway Seminary president, describes the difference between change and transition as: Change being the new circumstances introduced into organizational life while transition is the emotional, psychological and spiritual adjustments people go through when change is implemented.

Change was initiated and affirmed when grassroots Tennessee Baptists definitively identified through surveys and focus groups opportunities to seize and problems to solve, together in collaboration, and then clearly affirmed that direction last November. Transition toward that change has occurred over the last 18 to 24 months, and will continue, as the work of ministers and laypeople from across the state work to clarify, prioritize, strategize and articulate new ministry opportunities that will soon mark a new way forward for our TBC network of churches.

Everyone — everyone — has a role in transitions. Many across Tennessee are involved in the work groups. The rest of us can, and should, pray that God’s wisdom, clarity, and direction will saturate our brothers and sisters working so diligently on our behalf. And then, we must all be ready to participate when called on to lay hand to plow and do the important work of implementation.

This entire process of transition reminds me of a recipe my wife, Jeanne, makes. She makes the best pound cake in the world. The eggs, flour, sugar, butter, cream cheese and other ingredients are whipped, stirred and poured into the pan.

Determining the right ingredients and the amount of each is critical. Mixing them together can make a temporary mess.

Then there’s the waiting. The waiting is always the hardest part, but when you smell it coming out of the oven and taste that golden deliciousness, you recognize it was worth the effort and worth the wait.

I believe that describes the transition period in which we find ourselves.

The Acts 2:17 Initiatives process will come out of the oven sometime mid-to-late summer 2024. It will be right. It will be good. And it will have come through the hands of Tennessee Baptists from the heart of God.

Please bear with the cooks. They are still in the kitchen and there is a purposeful mess in there. It’s called transition.

However, I have smelled the goodness baking and I promise, our “We Serve Churches Cake” is on the way!

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

© Tennessee Baptist Mission Board

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