By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
The number of registered messengers was low by East Tennessee standards — 1,211, but attendance at some sessions neared or topped 2,000 people. The decision to add a worship service to Summit on Sunday night proved to be a “home run.” Tennessee pastor and Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines delivered a powerful message. Combined with a testimony from University of Tennessee football great Todd Kelly Sr., and music by the Tennessee Men’s Chorale, those who attended left the sessions with their “cups full.”
Todd Stinnett planned a Pastors Conference that honored the backbone of our Tennessee Baptist Convention — bivocational pastors. Each of the speakers brought messages on an “unsung hero” of the Bible. Tennessee bivocational pastors often are unsung heroes. Many people assume that because they have other employment they are only “part-time” pastors. There is no such thing. Being a minister of the gospel is a 24/7 job.
I have now attended 28 annual meetings and I can’t remember a business session that was as “peaceful” as the one in Sevierville. Some might say that means people don’t care. I disagree. I honestly think that the majority of Tennessee Baptists have caught the vision of the Five Objectives that were introduced to the convention by Executive Director Randy C. Davis and were adopted at the 2014 annual meeting.
More than ever before, Tennessee Baptists are seeing that we have to get beyond our differences and focus on reaching the more than three million people in our state who are lost and going to hell. Tennessee is a missions field. No one is coming to us to help us win the lost. We must be up to the challenge of seeing at least 50,000 Tennesseans annually saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship by 2024. Monumental task? Yes. Impossible? No, not when God is in it.
Thursday (Nov. 24) is Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays of the year.
Too many times in our hectic, busy schedules, we fail to pause and thank God for what is really important to us. I maintain every day should be Thanksgiving — a day to praise God for the many blessings He gives to each of us. Unfortunately, I don’t always practice what I preach. And that’s a sin on my part.
We often allow Satan to enter our minds and thoughts and remind us of what’s not right with our lives — ailments, jobs, marital issues, wayward children, and the list can go on forever.
When that happens, we need to give Satan a not so gentle push out of our minds and focus on the blessings. We tend to focus on the minor problems. In my case, I have an issue with my knee that will require surgery in December. My knee hurts but compared to friends I know who are battling cancer and other life-threatening diseases, my knee problem is not so bad.
LifeWay Research released a study last week that revealed when Americans count their blessings at Thanksgiving, God gets most of the credit. Nearly two-thirds (63) percent indicated they give thanks to God that day. The other one-third or so give thanks to family and friends. I feel bad for them. They’ve missed the boat. God is the one who deserves our thanks. He’s the one who allows us to wake up each day.
As Thanksgiving approaches, count your blessings and as the song says, “name them one by one. And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”