By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
Tennessee Baptist churches baptize 23,499 new believers in 2014
BRENTWOOD — For the second year in a row, baptisms have increased in the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
As of March 26, 2,603 churches reported a total of 23,499 baptisms in 2014. Churches can continue to send in their numbers throughout the year so the number could actually increase.
It is the largest number of baptisms recorded by TBC churches since 2010 when baptisms fell from more than 23,900 in 2009 to 21,472. In 2013, TBC churches reported 21,979 baptisms.
TBC Executive Director Randy C. Davis observed that the numerical data concerning baptisms is very encouraging. “To know that our churches have won, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship more Tennesseans in 2014 than in any year since 2010 is a hopeful indication that we are heading in the right direction.
“There has been a significant increase over the last few years in the number of Tennesseans reached with the gospel through TBC churches. Let’s rejoice and celebrate these 23,499 souls that are now heading to heaven instead of hell.”
While the numbers are positive, Davis noted that “we are only just beginning on this journey toward the major objective of seeing at least 50,000 Tennesseans coming to faith in Christ, baptized, and being discipled to reach others.
“It must be the overwhelming and heartbreaking burden of a unified body of Christ-followers to reach our lost neighbors and the nations with the gospel. We want to thank all of our pastors and leaders in our churches for being passionate about the Great Commission work in our own communities,” Davis said.
He also expressed appreciation to the TBC staff who “has had a very sharp focus on assisting our churches in being equipped in evangelism and discipleship.”
Steve Pearson, evangelism specialist for the TBC noted that “not only has the downward tide been turned with an increase in baptisms by 7 percent over the previous year, but the evangelism effectiveness of our TBC churches also has increased.” He also observed that in 2013 the average TBC church baptized 5.99 persons per 100 worshippers. That number increased to 6.23 per 100 worshippers in 2014, he said.
“One of the most striking numbers reflected in 2014 are the number of baptisms recorded among the 1-5-1 harvest field plants. 1-5-1 is a TBC initiative geared toward churches starting off-campus efforts, including church plants, aimed at gathering lost people for the purpose of sharing the gospel.
“We recorded 1,184 baptisms among the hundreds of 1-5-1 plants started in 2014,” he said. “This accounted for the majority of our increase of more than 1,500 baptisms over the previous year.”
Bobby Welch, TBC associate executive director who helped launch the 1-5-1 effort, noted the increase in baptisms over the previous year is “absolutely amazing. That’s exactly how we can describe what the Lord Jesus has done through so many of our TBC pastors and church members by way of 1-5-1 and/or the principles and DNA of 1-5-1,” he said.
Welch recognizes that while some churches do not do 1-5-1 exactly, their efforts “have the DNA and principles of 1-5-1. They, too, have discovered a newfound acceleration through evangelism and discipleship indicated in part by one of the first big steps of discipleship, which is baptism.”
Welch also is appreciative of “so many who are rising to the challenge of winning our lost in Tennessee” and he noted that new churches and plants are an “extraordinary catalyst when done with New Testament evangelism as their priority.”
In 2014, the TBC added 168 new churches with 159 of them as church plants.