Messengers approve new name for Executive Board, elect Freeman
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
SEVIERVILLE — Messengers to the annual meeting of the Tennessee Baptist Convention approved a new name for the Executive Board and elected Springfield pastor Steve Freeman as their new president.
The two actions were among many that took place during Summit: The Gathering of Tennessee Baptists held Nov. 13-17 at the Sevierville Convention Center.
The final unofficial registration tallied 1,211 registered messengers from 503 churches throughout the state. The numbers do not reflect the total number of people who attended various sessions. On Nov. 13, there was an estimated 2,000-plus people who attended the worship service led by Steve Gaines (see story here) and a concurrent Hispanic worship service.
Registration exceeded the 953 messengers from 322 churches who attended last year’s Summit in Millington and the 1,172 messengers who attended Summit in 2014 in Brentwood.
Messengers also adopted a $35 million budget, approved changes to the constitution and bylaws, adopted four resolutions without discussion, entered into a City Reach partnership within Tennessee, and heard inspiring messages and multiple reports on what God is doing throughout the state.
Executive director’s report
Prior to the report of the Executive Board (now Tennessee Baptist Mission Board) Executive Director Randy C. Davis gave a treasurer’s report. During the 2015-16 fiscal year more than $61 million was received through the TBC with more than $55 million given “sacrificially by the churches and individuals,” Davis reported. He informed messengers that Cooperative Program (CP) gifts reversed a three-year trend with a 2.2 percent increase in giving. CP gifts also exceeded the budget by $356,850 or 1.04 percent. In addition, Tennessee Baptists gave the second largest amount ever ($1,713,258) through the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions.
The convention recognized the churches that had the largest CP giving per attendee, CP giving percentage of budget, and CP giving total and the churches which had the best GOTM giving per attendee and total offering.
During the Executive Board report, Davis updated messengers on the progress of the new Church Support Center that is slated for completion in May 2017. He reported the new 32,000-square-foot building just south of Franklin is “greatly streamlined” from the former 82,000-square-foot facility in Brentwood. “When we are finished, the building will be completely paid for by the proceeds from the sale of our old building,” he said.
A proposed budget of $35 million for the 2016-17 budget year was presented to messengers. The recommendation calls for 45.52 percent to be allocated to the Southern Baptist Convention with 54.48 percent allocated for state missions and TBC institutions. Both Davis and Steve Marcum, chair of the budget and ministry committee, told messengers that the percentage allocations keep the TBC on target to a 50/50 distribution of Cooperative Program funds with the SBC by the 2018-19 budget year. There were no amendments and the budget was approved the following day with no discussion.
In discussing the proposed name change of the Executive Board to Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, Davis said the name has historic roots, noting the Executive Board was once known as State Mission Board before becoming the Executive Board in 1918.
Davis noted Tennessee is a missions field that is growing. “The new name is concise and communicates what we’re about,” he said.
The TBC leader added that the word “executive” referred to only a portion of what the Board does. “We are not a bureaucratic organization,” he continued.
Davis stressed that the new name refers only to the former Executive Board. “We are still the Tennessee Baptist Convention.”
Messengers overwhelmingly approved the name change.
Steve Freeman, pastor, Grace Baptist Church, Springfield, was elected president without opposition. He was nominated by Eric Stitts, pastor, Bayside Baptist Church, Harrison.
Stitts reported that during the past nine years of Freeman’s leadership of Grace, 1,108 people have joined of which 539 have been baptized. Grace gives 9 percent of its gifts through the Cooperative Program and recently assisted a church in Italy which has grown and even joined the TBC. The effort supported the Tennessee/Italy Baptist Partnership, continued Stitts.
Freeman mentors younger pastors, added Stitts. In the denomination, Freeman has been chair of the Executive Board (now Tennessee Baptist Mission Board), vice president and second vice president of the TBC, and president of the Tennessee Baptist Pastors Conference.
Michael Crandall, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church, Dyersburg, who served as second vice president this year, was elected vice president in a ballot vote with Kylan Mann, pastor of Central Baptist Church, Martin. Crandall received 363 votes (64 percent) to Mann’s 205 votes (36 percent).
Crandall was nominated by Mike Hickman, pastor, First Baptist Church, Dyersburg, and Mann was nominated by Danny Sinquefield, pastor, Faith Baptist Church, Bartlett.
Todd Stinnett, pastor of Black Oak Heights Baptist Church, Knoxville, was elected second vice president without opposition. He was nominated by Dean Haun, pastor, First Baptist Church, Morristown. Stinnett is the outgoing president of the Tennessee Baptist Pastors Conference.
Committee reports adopted
Reports from the Committee on Committees, Committee on Boards, and the Committee on Constitution and Bylaws were all adopted without amendments or discussion. Names of individuals nominated by the Committee on Committees and Committee on Boards were printed in the Sept. 14 issue of the B&R. Messengers were given an updated list prior to the vote reflecting minor changes since it was originally published.
The Committee on Constitution and Bylaws, chaired by Frank Freels, a member of First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, presented two recommendations. The first dealt with the adoption of an amended and restated Constitution and Bylaws which will become effective upon an affirmative vote of the messengers to the 2017 annual meeting of the TBC. The majority of the restated governing documents do not actually change the governance of the convention, but only updates language and reorganizes existing items in an easier to read format. Changes that do affect at least somewhat the governance of the TBC are: resolutions process to identify the purpose of a resolution and a means for someone submitting a resolution that is not considered by the committee to be brought back up; changing the procedure so that a committee member or director, when changing grand regions, may complete their term of service beyond the current year; removal of a committee member (a new process as there had been no process to remove a committee member if it was warranted); removal of a TBMB director (same as for committee member above). The changes also reflect changing all references of Executive Board of the Tennessee Baptist Convention to Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
Messengers voted to begin a new volunteer mission venture called City Reach which will involve reaching the largest metropolitan areas in Tennessee. City Reach is a planned volunteer mission venture with the five metro associations in Tennessee (Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga, and Clarksville). City Reach will kick off with Knoxville in 2017-18, followed by Nashville the next year, according to Kim Margrave, volunteer missions specialist. Each site will have a two-year implementation period so there will be some overlap, she added.
“We are asking each of you to see Tennessee as a missions field and join us in reaching these cities,” she said.
Davis also challenged churches to become involved in City Reach. “Some of our healthiest churches are located in the rural areas of our state. Our major cities are rapidly changing. We need to be light to them,” he said.
Phil Young, director of missions for the Knox County Association of Baptists, shared with messengers that though the city has been named the most Bible-minded city in the nation, only 19 percent of the population is involved in church. In addition, 39 percent of Knoxvillians identify as Nones (no religious affiliation) and 41 percent identify as Dones (those who have left church). There are also 120 different nations represented in Knoxville and in the inner city, one out of four people live in poverty.
“We are excited about what God will do through City Reach over the next couple of years,” Young said.
Messengers approved four resolutions with no discussion. Among them was the traditional resolution of gratitude as well as resolutions on “Prayer for our Nation,” “K-12 Christian Education,” and “In Support of Israel.”
The resolution on prayer called for Tennessee Baptists to commit to “pray diligently for our president, elected and appointed officials, civil servants, law enforcement, first responders, and military” as well as for those who are “spiritually lost, for the healing of our nation, and for revival (II Chronicles 7:14).”
The resolution on Christian education affirmed Christ-centered education and the establishment of additional Christ-centered K-12 schools and Christian home schooling networks. It also affirmed teachers, administrators, parents, and students “who choose to follow God’s leadership in their lives by participating in public schools.” In addition it also encouraged all students, whether in public or private schools or homeschools, “to demonstrate a lifestyle of salt and light as they engage in kingdom work.”
The resolution in support of Israel resolved to support “the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign state and reject any activities that attack that right by promoting economic, cultural, and academic boycotts against Israel.” It also called for Tennessee Baptists to pray for Israel “and for all nations of the Middle East, that God would change hearts and bring peace through the work of grace in His Son, Jesus Christ.”
Only one motion was presented during the miscellaneous business session which was held on Nov. 15. Steve Tiebout, pastor of The River Community Church, Cookeville, moved that “all parameters and requirements by which committee nominees are automatically rejected be voted upon by messengers of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and published for all to know.” Tiebout said the motion was to “allow all churches, large or small, to have a voice in which requirements and parameters are used to determine who should be invited to participate in leadership in the Tennessee Baptist Convention.”
The Committee on Arrangements moved that the motion be referred to the Committee on Boards and Committee on Committees to discuss during their joint orientation meeting in December. The motion also called for Tiebout to be invited to attend the meeting “to discuss his purpose and desired outcome of the motion.” The motion was approved by messengers.
Carson-Newman University coaching legend Ken Sparks addressed the convention’s theme, “Connect Now … Whatever It Takes.” The day before his theme interpretation Sparks announced his retirement after 37 years as Carson-Newman’s head football coach. Sparks, a member of Manley Baptist Church, Morristown, ends his career with a record of 338-99-2. He is the fifth winningest college football coach in history.
In introducing Sparks to TBC messengers, convention president Roc Collins of Kingsport noted that Sparks would never shine the spotlight on himself. “He would rather be measured by impact on the lives of young men and coaches who have been part of the Carson-Newman family,” Collins said.
Davis also spoke in honor of Sparks, noting that just this year 20 members of the C-N football team came to know Jesus Christ as Savior.
Sparks reminded Tennessee Baptists of “why we do what we do.” He noted that God created, called, and commissioned His people to walk down “victory road,” as described in I Peter 5:5-11. “Let’s make sure we give God the glory. Come on church. Go down the victory road. No excuses,” Sparks challenged.
Tennessee Baptists were inspired and encouraged by five messages, beginning on Sunday night in a “Tennessee Reunion” service led by SBC president Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova. See story on page 5. Convention president Roc Collins, pastor of Indian Springs Baptist Church, Kingsport, delivered the annual president’s address while Gary Jared, pastor of Stuart Heights Baptist Church, Chattanooga, delivered the convention sermon. See stories here and here.
Two SBC entity heads also challenged messengers.
O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, based in Dallas, Texas, spoke on the centennial celebration of the entity which services many Southern Baptists.
He spoke of the two youngest generations of people in the United States he referred to as the lost generations.
Members of these generations, according to sociologists, are searching for five things — a meaningful relationship in life, immediate gratification, something for nothing, guilt-free living, and prosperity.
Instead of accusing them, Christians should “look at them through the eyes of Jesus. … We are the only ones who have the answer to the five burning needs of their hearts. That’s not preacher talk. I can prove it to you in one verse of Scripture,” said Hawkins.
He referred to Ephesians 1:7 — “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”
The meaningful relationship they seek is with Jesus, immediate gratification is received when a person asks God for redemption, something for nothing is found through the blood of Jesus’ death, guilt-free living is received through God’s forgiveness of sins, and prosperity is found from the riches of God’s grace, Hawkins concluded.
Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, spoke on church revitalization. While he affirmed church planting, he noted that “we cannot, we must not give up on the rest of the churches.” Rainer cited statistics which reveal that 90 percent of churches in the SBC are “either declining or growing at a slower pace than the community they are located in.”
Rainer observed there are four traits of churches once in decline that are now experiencing revitalization.
Prayer. “Do we truly believe in the power of prayer to revitalize churches?” he asked. He encouraged Tennessee Baptists in churches that need revitalization to pray for three minutes a day and to love one another and those outside the church.
Pastors who lead with courage. Rainer said it has never been more difficult to be a pastor than it is in today’s society. He encouraged pastors to remain true to their calling. “God did not call you in vain. If you are not being criticized, you are probably not leading.”
Outside the walls. Rainer said that revitalized churches are intentionally moving outside the church walls. They are committed to a weekly outreach focus and also have a consistent monthly outreach and a semi-annual or annual outward focus, he said. “To revitalize, churches must reach beyond themselves.”
The power of groups. Rainer said it is proven that someone who is in a small group (Sunday School, life group, etc.) is five times more likely to stay active in church than someone who only attends worship service. “Churches that are revitalizing understand the power of the group.”
Other convention activities/actions
- Signed partnership papers with the Baptist Convention of New England. The partnership was adopted at last year’s Summit in Millington.
- Tennessee Baptists observed the 125th anniversary of Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes. Davis presented a plaque to TBCH President Greg McCoy.
- Special recognition was given to TBC staff members Gary Rickman and Phyllis Bates who have announced upcoming retirements. Together they have almost 70 years of service to the convention.
- Messengers approved a report from the Committee on Arrangements. Bruce Chesser, pastor of First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, will preach the 2017 convention sermon. Grant Gaines, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Jackson, will serve as alternate. The 2020 annual meeting will be held Nov. 10-11 at Brentwood Baptist Church, Brentwood.
- Rich Wallace, a military veteran and layman at First Baptist Church, Sevierville, led a special recognition of veterans during the opening session on Nov. 15.
- During the report of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board on Tuesday evening, the Board recognized churches which led the state in baptisms last year and honored IMB missionaries with Tennessee ties who took the Voluntary Retirement Incentive offered by the IMB.
- Messengers heard a number of reports from TBC entities reflecting the work that God is doing all throughout Tennessee.
The 2017 Summit will be held Nov. 14-15 at First Baptist Church, Hendersonville.
— Connie Bushey, B&R news editor, contributed to this report.