Transitions and changes are not the same. That’s important to keep in mind when considering the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
The 2018 SBC annual meeting was a watershed for Southern Baptists. Most of the national news related to Southern Baptists was not good prior to the convention. It would be easy to gravitate toward the negatives, but I choose to focus on the positives.
And that’s where transition and change come in.
Transition is the migration from what is to what is to become. I see our denomination transitioning, but it’s always gone through transitions. It’s a dynamic entity. A transition that I noted during the convention was a renewed sense of personal and corporate accountability. We also saw a transition in seating our most ethnically diverse convention leadership ever. That rightly reflects the growing diversity within our SBC network of churches. I also noticed a transition in demographics. Our convention is getting younger, not older.
What I did not see at the convention was change. Change is “altering or making radically different.” Southern Baptists have not changed our vision to be a group of Bible-believing, Jesus-exalting, gospel-preaching churches committed to pursuing the spiritually lost and fulfilling the Great Commission.
That encourages me so here’s how I am personally responding in the wake of SBC 2018.
I will pray for the new SBC president, J.D. Greear. These are challenging days, and Dr. Greear needs wisdom to lead our convention. It is our responsibility to pray for him.
I will keep doing what I’ve done for more than 40 years, which is supporting our International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries and our Southern Baptist entities both in word and deed. This includes supporting our various missions offerings and being fully committed to the Cooperative Program. For Great Commission success through our vast national network of churches, we must stay engaged together.
However, the primary focus of God’s calling on my life is in Tennessee, through the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board in serving the good churches that comprise the Tennessee Baptist Convention. This is my front-line mission field and make no mistake, it is a mission field, just as each of the other 49 states in the U.S.
Here in Tennessee, with nearly four million spiritually lost souls, more than 145 global people groups and oppressive poverty, we have so much to do in reaching our state for Christ. The challenge would be overwhelming except God continues to reveal He’s working through Tennessee Baptists.
For instance, All Nations Camp, which Tennessee Baptists support through the Cooperative Program and the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions (GOTM), saw 155 children and teens make decisions for Christ. More than 400 children from seven different ethnic groups attended. It was a little slice of heaven.
Tennessee Baptists are celebrating 40 years of disaster relief ministry this month. It would be impossible to know the spiritual impact recorded in heaven as a result of this most practical of ministries.
There is a great unity among TBC entities that include educational institutions, adult and children’s homes, Baptist Hospital and the Tennessee Baptist Foundation. There is a spirit of cooperation for bringing people to Christ through the platforms of these ministries.
I believe we have a clear mission and direction. We are committed to making Christ known by serving churches. Over the past several years we have streamlined our staff and ministries to focus on those things that most support a church in being salt and light in its community.
No successful endeavor is accomplished without a cooperative effort from all involved. As noted in the report of the Great Commission Resurgence Report of 2010, the preferred and primary means of supporting our SBC network of ministry and missions – the SBC “ecosystem” as IMB President David Platt has called it – is through the Cooperative Program, as it has been for 92 years.
Cooperative Program math is amazing. If churches even slightly increased their CP giving, there would be significantly more millions of dollars collectively available for Southern Baptists to do missions on every tier of the Acts 1:8 local, regional and “ends of the earth” model.
And beyond the Cooperative Program, here are some encouraging ways churches and individuals are investing in Tennessee missions:
– Through associational work where groups of local churches are having an impact in a concentrated geographic area.
– Through the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions. GOTM is to Tennessee what the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is to the International Mission Board. Every penny is vital in supporting some highly impactful ministries.
– Through giving directly to the work of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. This giving option has been in place for decades and has been a vital source of support that supplements the work of Tennessee Baptist missionaries beyond the Cooperative Program.
True, there has been a lot of transition in Baptist life over the past several years and especially this year. However, our commitment to reaching Tennessee and reaching the nations for Christ is unchanged. In fact, that passion to see people saved, baptized and set on the road to discipleship burns brighter than ever.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Randy C. Davis is president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)