By Randy C. Davis
President and executive director, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board
Let’s get real for a moment. There is a relentless barrage of daily bad news circulated through news outlets and social media. It is saturated with a great deal of misinformation, rumor, innuendo and flat out lies born in the pits of hell.
A lot of it lands on my desk, or at least in my inbox. Unfortunately it tends to also bleed over into congregations which is why I welcome the opportunity to dialog with anyone about issues that concern TBC churches and their leaders.
Such was the case when leaders from Wheelerton Baptist Church (WBC) asked to meet with me. The church is in a small community not far from the Alabama-Tennessee state line.
The pastor and deacons were concerned about issues related to the Southern Baptist Convention. We blocked two hours at the TBMB Church Support Center here in Franklin to have some frank conversations.
However, when I greeted Paul Mason, a distinguished 82-year-old pastor, he had a radiant, contagious smile, and I immediately knew there was something different about this kind and happy gentleman. “I decided we can talk about the other things later,” he said. “I want to focus on the positives of what God is doing at Wheelerton.” (See photos on page 1 and story on page 2).
Instead of bringing the deacons I was expecting to accompany him, he brought a 19-year-old rising University of Tennessee sophomore and WBC’s VBS director. Bree Johnson and Jodie Lewter shared his countenance. We talked for two hours and enjoyed lunch as the three of them shared with joy what God was doing in and through their church. The story lifted my spirit.
In 2019 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wheelerton averaged around 40 in worship. Fast forward to Sunday, July 18, more than 90 gathered for worship.
In 2019, the church saw four precious souls saved, baptized and set on the road of discipleship. Two people followed suit in 2020. However, so far just this summer, more than 20 people of all ages have come to Christ through salvation and baptism, including Bree.
Fortunately, I can report that mixed in with all the useless news that begs for my attention, there is story after story of what God is doing through rural churches in Tennessee. Wheelerton is not an isolated case. Our state missionaries have been hearing for months the same kind of stories from every quarter of our state.
To some degree, 2021 has been like emerging from a tornado shelter trying to understand what damage the pandemic caused, and it caused a lot of damage. But during a season that cast a long shadow, God was planting and growing something new, and the good news about the advance of the Good News is welcome news.
There is always going to be a flood of bad news. That is how Satan works to divide us and cause disunity. However, what if we all made the kind of decision Pastor Paul made and choose to focus on what the Lord is doing right where we are? Good news about what God is doing — God news — will lift your spirit and change your perspective. More importantly, it will fuel your desire for more good news.
Simply put, my two hours with my three new WBC friends was the best “issues” meeting I have had in the last 11 years, and I welcome many more. Feel free to call, text or write anytime you want to share some God news. Believe me, it only stokes our fire here at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board to fulfill our mission of serving churches.
And it is stories like Wheelerton that make it a joy to be with you on this journey. B&R