By Steve Freeman
President, Tennessee Baptist Convention
Hello Tennessee Baptists!
Another Christmas season is in the books! If your experience is anything like mine, it seems as though Christmas rolls around much faster each year and before you know it — it’s all over! The excitement and anticipation of the season is a wonderful experience … then it’s all done! Life simply returns to “normal” and the normal “everyday” routine seeps back into our lives. The “post-Christmas” question is “what are we supposed to do now?” This is why I am so thankful for the Bible because it provides for us, as God’s children, every answer to every question that we may have in our lives. This certainly includes an answer to the “post-Christmas” question!
Consider the “excitement” of the first Christmas — after the long-awaited and prophesied Messiah had been conceived in the virgin womb of His chosen mother, after Mary and Joseph had persevered through the scandalous scrutiny of “being found with Child” during their engagement, after the long-awaited and anticipated birth of their unique first-born Son, and after the appearance of the angelic hosts announcing the birth of Jesus to wise men from the East and shepherds “abiding in their fields keeping watch over their flock by night” prompting them to “go straight to Bethlehem then and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us” (Luke 2:1-15, Matthew 2:1-2).
The question became for Mary, Joseph, and the wise men, “What are we supposed to do now?” After the excitement of the Christmas season subsides, after we have focused for weeks (and months) on the birth of Jesus Christ, what should we do today?
Well, I believe that we can still gather the answer to this most important question by examining the shepherds’ actions after they experienced their supernatural interaction with the Christ child. The Bible says in Luke 2:20: “The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.”
Wow! Let me quote most preachers that encounter and seek to expose a “nugget” of biblical truth — “That will preach!” I believe that we ascertain a few “post-Christmas” instructions from the actions of the shepherds. First, God’s people should (and must) glorify and praise the Lord for all we have “heard and seen” in our lives. Certainly, those who have been saved by the gospel cannot help but to praise and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ! The psalmist said, in Psalm 150:1-2: “Praise the Lord! … Praise Him for His mighty deeds; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.” As Tennessee Baptists, let us be expressly active to this command throughout our “post-Christmas” season of life and ministry.
Lastly, I believe God’s people should (and must) proclaim the gospel. It’s that simple! The Bible says in Luke 2:18: “And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.” Often times we express who we believe to be the first missionary of the gospel. Some might credit Paul as the first, while others may insinuate that Peter carries the title. However, I believe that this passage of Scripture sheds light on the very first missionaries — the shepherds! It is obvious that they were extremely active in sharing their experience with Jesus with “all!” What an example for us as Tennessee Baptists! We must follow the example of the shepherds in telling “all” Tennesseans the Good News so that they might “wonder at the things which were told” by Tennessee Baptists!
We have a lot of ground to cover in this coming year. As we press onward in our Five Objectives, I am issuing the following challenges to all Tennessee Baptists. First and foremost, let us collectively share the vision of “17 in ’17,” that is, every church winning a minimum of 17 lost people to Jesus, baptizing them, and setting them on the road to discipleship.
Second, we cannot forget the tragedy that has befallen the eastern part of our state over the past few weeks. I am issuing the challenge for every Tennessee Baptist to sacrifice $20 for our disaster relief work in Gatlinburg (Sevier County). Furthermore, I am asking that every church consider taking a short-term mission trip to this area for the purpose of rebuilding. It will take the exhaustive efforts of all of us in order to rebuild these affected communities — both physically and spiritually. I have entitled this campaign #twentyfortragedy and I believe that together we can accomplish all that the Lord has called on us to do! Please remember to also lift up the families affected by the horrific bus accident in Chattanooga as we continue to walk alongside of them and minister to their needs.
Lastly, I am issuing a “Harvest Day” challenge for every church in our convention. Not only do I believe this a key ingredient to accomplishing “17 in ‘17” but I believe that God desires to use the “gift” to the church of vocational evangelists! So please, as you are planning out your spiritual endeavors for this year, please include one Sunday as a “Harvest Day” Celebration on your church calendar.
I am so honored to serve Tennessee Baptists this year as your president, and I am so looking forward to all we do together in fulfilling the only mission that has been given by our Lord (Matthew 28:19-20). So, with that being said, “Merry Post-Christmas” and Happy New Year!