By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
R.B.C. Howell first published THE BAPTIST (the forerunner of the B&R) in 1835. Howell, who was also pastor of First Baptist Church, Nashville, recognized that church growth in those early years of the United States and Tennessee was limited by lack of communication. His solution was to start a newspaper.
In former editor Wm. Fletcher Allen’s history of the paper, Telling the Truth in Love, Allen observed that Howell “launched a well-written and constructive paper” that had a circulation of 1,600 subscribers that first year.
Allen said Howell “seized on the truth that a newspaper, prepared and distributed in a timely fashion would break down barriers of isolation.”
Ten years after the first issue of THE BAPTIST, Howell wrote, “The religious press is a noble engine for the dissemination of truth and the establishment of proper morals. … The living voice may arouse generous emotions, may produce high and holy determination but it soon passes away. … Not so, however, with the printed page. It lives and talks to present and future generations.”
The Baptist and Reflector continues to tell the story of Tennessee Baptists.
Three years ago the Baptist and Reflector conducted a survey that overwhelmingly indicated readers of the publication want Tennessee Baptist news first and foremost and they want it both in print and electronically.
We have tried to deliver on all counts. Our print circulation is stable at nearly 23,000 subscribers and a print readership of 56,250 (according to newspaper standards). We also have a strong website (baptistandreflector.org) readership with more than 191,000 user engagements over the past 12 months.
The paper has been recognized by the Baptist Communicators Association with more than 10 writing, design, and photography awards in the last three years. We continually seek ways to make the paper even stronger and more effective. The paper has dealt with some tough issues including addiction, social media, and domestic violence. More topical issues are planned.
We are in the midst of an effort to increase circulation (both print and website usage) that, in turn, will enhance the paper’s effectiveness in reporting how Tennessee Baptists and TBC churches are involved in Great Commission work. Yellow Creek Baptist Church in Cumberland Furnace recently added 55 subscriptions under the church leadership plan.
Pastor Phillip Chambers explained why. “It’s real easy to get focused on the ‘Jerusalem’ where we serve and not be aware of what’s going on in the ‘Samaria and uttermost parts of the Earth.’ Some days we can feel all alone like Elijah.
“The Baptist and Reflector brings precious encouragement from the Lord that we are not alone and it keeps us abreast of what’s going on across the state, nation, and world. Because the B&R makes such an impact on me, I felt it was critical for those in leadership at Yellow Creek to be encouraged, informed, and challenged as we press forward on our mission. Even if I had to pay for it out of my own pocket, I would do so. I believe it’s that important.” May his tribe increase!
In 2014, Tennessee Baptists overwhelming affirmed the Five Objectives as the Kingdom goals we wanted to pursue as a body of churches. Those Five Objectives relate to seeing a marked increase in annual baptisms, number of churches being revitalized, increase in new churches and increases in both Cooperative Program and Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions giving. Every issue of the Baptist and Reflector shares stories of how Tennessee Baptists are impacting spiritual lostness and advancing God’s Kingdom.
As an editorial staff, we are doing what Tennessee Baptists have indicated they wanted. We want to see our subscription and website usage increase over the next few years, not for the sake of numbers, but to help Tennessee Baptists see how their Cooperative Program giving is impacting lives.
We need the help of our current readers and our churches in enlisting more readers and subscribers.
Sunday, Aug. 27, is set aside as Baptist and Reflector Day on the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board calendar. We are asking churches that don’t provide papers for their members to order free copies of the Aug. 23 issue. This is an excellent way to let your members see what the B&R is all about. An individual subscription is only $15 for one year. A church rate of only $10 a year also is available.
If your church subscribes for those who ask for it, order some extra copies for members who have joined in the last year or so and may not even be aware that the paper is available.
You can order free copies online at www.tnbaptist.org/brday or mail the form found on page 8 of this issue.
The Baptist and Reflector is not my paper. It belongs to every Tennessee Baptist. I thank you, our loyal readers, for being a part of the B&R family. Help us to draw in more family members!