By Michael Sams
Chair, TN Baptist Mission Board
Following last week’s meeting of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, I drove to Bardwell, Ky., to be with my 85-year-old father who was at the point of death. Thankfully, I made it in time to spend the last few hours of his time on earth with him.
Early on Wednesday morning (April 26), I watched as my dad opened his eyes wide and looked with amazement toward the ceiling. It was if he saw something or someone standing there before him. As his eyes fixed on whatever was before him, a peaceful look covered his face. He then took his last few breaths and that was it. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had in my life. What I witnessed was extraordinary and comforting. Dad was gone, but I knew where he had gone. He had just stepped across the threshold from this life in to the glory of our God. I know with absolute assurance that my dad is right now in the presence of Jesus Christ, his Savior. Dad is in Heaven, not because he was a Baptist deacon, a Sunday School teacher, and a faithful church member who tried to do good to all he met in life. My dad is in Heaven because long ago he repented of his sin and put his trust in Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord. I am so thankful for the hope that my father had and my family shares in Jesus Christ.
Many who read this know the hope of which I speak. We have been assured by this hope. We have been comforted by this hope. We have sung about this hope, preached about this hope, and been encouraged by this hope. Yet, across our state we are surrounded by people who know nothing of this hope. They are people who live without hope because they live without God each day. All they have is what is in front of them. Their hope is in this life and the things of this world. Sadly, when that is gone — so is all hope. As Tennessee Baptists, we cannot be okay knowing that we are surrounded by such hopelessness in our state. The Holy Spirit of God will not let us be okay being surrounded by this hopelessness. We must do something to change it.
Thankfully, Tennessee Baptists, under the leadership of Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the TBMB, are beginning to do some things to try and bring a living hope to the hopelessness that exists across our state. We have adopted the Five Objectives. We have made strategic changes to organize around our purpose and objectives. We have even changed the name of the Executive Board to the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. All of those things are great. However, none of those things mean anything if we, as Tennessee Baptists, are not a people together on mission to reach this state for Jesus Christ. We must be a people that not only talks about missions, but is missional — every Christian, every church, every association, every Tennessee Baptist doing all he or she can to bring the hope of Christ to our hopeless state.
The Apostle Paul expressed in his letter to the church at Rome the truths we must exemplify and embody if we are to truly be a missional people.
First, we must acknowledge our obligation. We are debtors, a people under obligation, to preach the gospel to all people in every part of our state. The Great Commission is not the “great suggestion.” Jesus did not say, “Go, if you feel like it. Go, if it is convenient. Go, if the conditions are favorable.” Jesus just said, “Go.” As Tennessee Baptists we must go and preach the good news of Christ across this state. Our Lord has commanded us to go. People need us to go.
Second, we must be aware of our opportunities. Paul said that, with everything inside of him, he was “ready” to preach the gospel in Rome. Paul was sitting “on go.” He was looking for an open door and a green light from the Holy Spirit. There are opportunities across our state for every Tennessee Baptist and every Tennessee Baptist congregation to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to hopeless people across our state. We need to pray for God to open our eyes to these opportunities and give us the courage to seize them when we see them.
Finally, we must anticipate the outcome of sharing the gospel. Paul was eager to get to Rome for one reason. He believed in the power of the gospel to transform lives. He was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ because he believed it was the power of God to salvation. The gospel has the same power today as it had then. It can still bring life to those who are spiritually dead. The gospel still has power to rescue the perishing. It has power to give hope to the hopeless. However, the power of the gospel will never been seen or felt unless it is shared in the power of the Holy Spirit with people who need to hear it.
My prayer for my life, my church, and for Tennessee Baptists is that we will learn from Paul’s example and become a missional people who are committed to seeing hopeless people come to know the hope that we know and share in the saving power of Jesus Christ.