By Randy C. Davis
TBC Executive Director
I love family reunions. It’s a chance to gather with folks who share a bond and for whom (hopefully) you care a great deal about. That, to me, is what the annual gathering of Tennessee Baptists feels like.
This year’s Summit was held at First Baptist Church, Millington, and in his words of welcome, FBC Pastor David Leavell referred to the gathering as a family reunion. I couldn’t agree more. Tennessee Baptists share a bond in the Lord Jesus Christ, and are a people about whom I care a great deal.
Our theme this year was, “Reach NOW … Whatever It Takes.” It is based on the first of the Five Objectives adopted and affirmed at last year’s Summit. As I hope you are becoming more aware, that objective is to see at least 50,000 Tennesseans annually saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship by 2024.
I said in my report and I say again, that is an impossible goal – unless God intervenes and uses Tennessee Baptists to “Reach” the 3.65 million spiritually lost people in our state. It is easy to develop tunnel vision on all that needs to be done, but for me, the Summit was an opportunity to pause and celebrate what God has done in just this past year. I left Millington praising Him and encouraged about where we are as a network of churches.
We celebrated and reported that we saw 1,500 more people baptized this year than the year before and that we planted 151 new works, significantly more than has ever been planted in one year in our convention’s history.
We celebrated record giving to the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions. We celebrated the 180th anniversary of the Baptist and Reflector, the 90th anniversary of the Cooperative Program, and the 35th anniversary of Tennessee Baptist partnership missions.
We celebrated a record attendance at the ministers’ wives luncheon and the fact that we had more than 950 messengers, more than we had last time we gathered in West Tennessee and an indicator that our convention is heading in a healthy direction.
We celebrated the service of Bryant Millsaps and Kenny Cooper, two faithful men who are retiring from service to the Tennessee Baptists Children’s Homes and Tennessee Baptist Adult Homes respectively. We celebrated the encouraging reports from our other ministry partners and how God is blessing them.
We celebrated the Five Objectives report by featuring stories of changed lives from across our state. From the sleepy little hollow of Crawford to the most violent neighborhood in Memphis, lives are being changed because the gospel is being shared and it is because Tennessee Baptists’ giving through the Cooperative Program and Golden Offering is enabling it to get to the hard places.
And mostly, we celebrated Jesus. The Summit began with the Pastors Conference where Bellevue Pastor Steve Gaines lined up one Christ-exalting, worship-saturated, Bible-focused, preacher-encouraging speaker after another, and it concluded with the call for unity from outgoing TBC President Michael Ellis, pastor of Impact Baptist Church in Memphis. I amen what Michael said: “When the believers are unified the Father is satisfied.” I believe we were unified during our time together, and I believe the Father was satisfied.
The people of First Baptist were fantastic hosts, and I’m so very proud of our TBC Executive Board staff for doing such an incredible job in preparation to ensure an excellent gathering.
I’m proud to be a part of this family of Tennessee Baptists and I look forward to our reunion next year in Sevierville. Between now and then, let’s return to our respective fields and labor for the glory of God and the exaltation of the Son. Let’s be ever vigilant to share the name of Jesus every where we go. Let’s be intentional about leading others to Him. And then let’s gather next November to celebrate the harvest our great God will provide. It is truly a joy to be on this journey with you.