By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
FRANKLIN — Six months into his role as director of evangelism for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board has heightened Roc Collins’ determination to reach the state for Jesus Christ.
Shortly after accepting his new role Collins learned that baptisms last year (2016) had dipped from the previous year — 22,672 in 2015 to 20,455 in 2016, a decrease of about 10 percent.
“Our numbers had been in the 21,000-plus range for the last several years,” he observed. It was “disappointing” to see the number of baptisms in 2016 drop below the 21,000 mark, Collins acknowledged.
“It reminded me that the task is greater than I thought it would be, but at the same time, I am committed to re-emphasizing the importance of evangelism in our state and seeing people baptized and set on the road to discipleship.”
Collins and the TBMB evangelism team is committed to seeing Baptists in Tennessee excited about reaching the lost, equipping them to evangelize, and engaging them to be soul winners.
And, it all begins with prayer, he said.
Collins said plans are in place for prayer tours by the end of the year to establish prayer outposts to engage churches across Tennessee in praying for the lost. He defined a prayer outpost as a designated church that has agreed to pray for lostness in Tennessee on a weekly basis.
“As we set up prayer outposts and begin to fervently pray, we will begin to have a number of prayer rallies across the state where we will seek to excite, equip, and engage with lost Tennesseans,” Collins said.
He noted that the number of people in Tennessee who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ is nearing the four million mark.
“We need to renew an excitement among the Baptists in our state to evangelize the lost,” Collins stressed.
Then, “we must equip Tennessee Baptists with resources and techniques” to become more evangelistic, he continued.
Finally, Tennessee Baptists must be excited and equipped enough to leave the four walls of their churches “to engage their communities” and find “an entry point” for having “a gospel conversation,” Collins said.
He admitted some frustration to not knowing for sure how much, or even if, baptisms are truly down because a lot of churches still do not complete an annual church profile (ACP). “While the number of baptisms in 2016 appears to be in decline, we know many churches did not provide a report. We may not be in decline.”
“Getting an accurate count of baptisms is essential for us moving forward and piercing the darkness in our state,” Collins said. He acknowledged that some church leaders believe that keeping track of numbers is unnecessary, but he disagrees. “At the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board we believe that every number represents a soul and every soul is important to our Lord.”
Collins exhorted churches to report their baptisms as they occur. A space has been added to the form churches use to send in Cooperative Program gifts that enables churches to report the number of baptisms they have had during the previous month.
No number is too small, he stressed. “I rejoice with a church that baptizes one as much as I do with a church that baptizes 1,000.”
He encouraged all Tennessee Baptists — from the pulpits to the members in the pews — to get excited about evangelism. “We need a burning heart for evangelism from the pulpit that reaches the pew and overflows into the community.”