By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector

cityreach_knoxvilleBRENTWOOD — Reaching Tennessee for Christ will involve reaching the largest metropolitan areas in the state, according to leaders within the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

To help accomplish that goal, City Reach will be launched during this year’s Summit Nov. 13-17 at the Sevierville Convention Center, pending approval from messengers at Summit. City Reach was approved by members of the TBC Executive Board during their Sept. 14 meeting at Brentwood Baptist Church.

City Reach is a planned missions partnership with the five metro associations in Tennessee (Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga, and Clarksville), said Kim Margrave, TBC volunteer missions specialist.

Knoxville will be the first City Reach locale. The official dates for the effort will be 2017-18. Each City Reach site will have a two-year implementation period so there will be some overlap, she added.

City Reach will enable churches across the state to “walk alongside the local Baptist association to help them within their existing strategy,” Margrave said, adding that projects in each location will be determined by the local association.

The TBC will assist by providing promotion and training events, Margrave said. “If we can reach the population centers, it impacts the rest of the state,” she noted.

“Through City Reach we have Tennesseans working together in accomplishing the Great Commission task of reaching Tennessee,” said Randy C. Davis, TBC executive director/treasurer.

Davis said the initiative has four major objectives:

(1)     To help Tennessee Baptists learn about their cities and the unique Great Commission opportunities in each of the five metro areas.

(2)     To see churches strengthened, revitalized, and planted in the midst of the state’s five largest cities by other churches from across Tennessee.

(3)     To see unity and fellowship among the state’s network of churches and associations enhanced by working together more closely than ever “in our own backyards.”

(4)     To help churches experience a much lower cost missions trip while realizing high Kingdom impact.

Davis observed that each year TBC churches send medical, construction, sports, and evangelism missions teams across North America and internationally.

“While maintaining a heartbeat to reach people across the globe, let’s take those same type of missions teams and reach people across our state,” he suggested.

“Through a strong partnership with our associations and churches, I believe City Reach has the potential for long-term, measurable impact on spiritual lostness,” Davis said.

Davis noted that 25 percent of the state’s 6.5 million citizens live within the city limits of Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga, and Clarksville.

“We believe that all of our TBC churches can participate in a missions project in one of these five major cities,” Davis said.

Imagine churches in Ducktown and Dyersburg joining together in Knoxville to assist in a meaningful missions project. Think about a youth group from Johnson City being able to have an international missions experience with Muslims — in Nashville, he added. The scenarios are endless, Davis said.

“By the grace of God, the potential of City Reach is really unlimited,” Davis observed.

Phil Young, director of missions for Knox Association of Baptists, said he is excited to have Knoxville selected as a City Reach site.

“At first glance, Knox County may not appear to be a ‘mission field’ as we often understand that term,” Young observed.

Yet only 19.26% of Knox County residents actively attend a Christian church. In addition, 39% identified themselves as “Nones” having no affiliation with any type of religious group; and 41% identified themselves as “Dones” – the “dechurched” who have become fed up with the church and are leaving it, Young related.

He noted that Knox County is home to people from more than 120 different nations. “Within the city limits of Knoxville, one out every four people live in poverty. So, Knoxville is a place where missions partnerships are essential to building intentional relationships to reach the estimated 200,000 lost people with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” the DOM said.

“By connecting churches from across the state with churches and ministries in Knox County, partnerships will be formed that will focus on reaching people in Knoxville who are not in a relationship with Christ and His church. It is our prayer that these partnerships will continue as Knox County churches mobilize to be on God’s mission in other City Reach focus cities in the years that follow,” Young continued.

He noted he is appreciative of the partnership with the TBC to mobilize missions teams from across the state to be “missionaries” in their own communities. “I am excited about the impact that City Reach will have on Tennessee,” he said.