By David Leavell,
President, Tennessee Baptist Convention
I know you see it. At least, I hope you see it. Tennessee is becoming increasingly lost with each passing year. More people who don’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior. More people without hope. More people without divine forgiveness. Tennessee grows approximately 60,000 people a year. Last year, Tennessee Baptists baptized 20,302 people. That is the lowest number of people baptized since 1986. That’s 30 years folks. The reality is that something has to change! We must get on our knees in prayer, allow the Holy Spirit of God to burden our hearts, and open our mouths to share the life-giving message of Jesus Christ.
That’s where the 3:16 Challenge comes in. I venture to say that almost every Tennessee Baptist knows John 3:16. It truly is the gospel in a nutshell — the greatest verse in the universe! My challenge is for EVERY Tennessee Baptist to share John 3:16, once a week, with a lost person, with the intention of leading them to a personal faith in Christ. The only way Objective One, (to baptize 50,000 people a year and set them on the road to discipleship by 2024), can ever be accomplished is by the blessing of God and the obedience of God’s people. We must move the responsibility of this Objective off the shoulders of the pastors and into the pews. Pastors must lead by example. Hear me. But sheer numbers dictate that an effort of this magnitude must be shared by everyone who calls on the name of Jesus!
How do we share the gospel? The gospel is more of a conversation than a presentation. Relationally, engage people and talk about John 3:16. How? The outline given by author and former pastor Max Lucado is simple. He loves. He gave. We believe. We live.
He LOVES. “For God so loved the world … .” God loves you. You are the apple of God’s eye. He created you, made you in His image, and sustains you.
He GAVE. “He gave His one and only Son … .” God sent Jesus to earth to announce and provide for our salvation. “We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sin” (Colossians 1:14). “That whoever believes in Him will not die … .”
We BELIEVE. “That whoever believes in Him will not die … .” “If we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in our heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, we will be saved” (Romans 10:9-10). This is also a great place to incorporate your personal testimony of your conversion experience.
We LIVE. “But have eternal life.” Eternal life is today and forever. Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Jesus fills us with His Spirit at conversion and prepares a place for us in heaven. Forgiveness, purpose, direction, security — all of these blessings come to us when we place our faith in Jesus Christ!
This is so simple that a child can understand. It is so significant, that Jesus can change our state from the inside out. As we take the challenge, we will find that God will do a fresh work in our lives as well.
Tennessee Baptists have developed a John 3:16 tract as a tool to help you in this challenge. Also, we have a business card version that can help you walk through the gospel with someone. The convention website, www.tnbaptist.org, has several videos available to assist you. One is an introductory video that can be played in your church to share the vision of the 3:16 Challenge. Another is a brief training video to encourage all Tennessee Baptists to share their faith in Christ. The third video is designed to help pastors incorporate John 3:16 during the public invitation at the end of worship services. I am available to preach and help train your church or association. It will take all of us to accomplish the mission.
I want us to make much of Jesus! This effort cannot be a “one and done” emphasis for a month or quarter of the year. We must join hands and hearts in prayer, accept the challenge, and engage our state with the life-giving message of Jesus from now until Jesus comes. We can do it! Jesus wants us to do it! So, let’s give Him glory by opening our mouths and sharing the hope that is in us. He is not here. He is risen!