In 1998, when I became editor of the Baptist and Reflector at the age of 40, I had attended mid-year meetings of the Association of State Baptist Papers (now Publications) held during the SBC annual meeting with former editor Fletcher Allen. I didn’t attend my first winter annual meeting until the next year but I was very familiar with the work of ASBP.
Last week, I attended the most recent meeting held in South Carolina and I was one of the oldest and longest tenured people there. Being one of the “seasoned” editors, as I was described in the printed program, didn’t bother me. I just turned 65. It’s a fact. I’m old. I’m happy God has allowed me to live this long.
What bothered me was the stark reality of how far our Baptist state papers have fallen over the past 25 years.
Many Baptist papers in 1998 printed at least 40 issues or more annually and some printed every week.
Today, only one state paper (The Alabama Baptist) prints weekly.
The B&R is next, with 26 issues per year (bi-weekly), followed by The Pathway in Missouri with 21 issues a year.
One of Southern Baptists’ oldest and most distinguished papers was the Western Recorder in Kentucky. It no longer exists in any form. The Kentucky convention has invested in an online publication called Kentucky Today.
Other historic publications such as the Christian Index in Georgia and the Florida Baptist Witness no longer have a print issue. Many other papers such as the Baptist Courier in South Carolina, the Biblical Recorder In North Carolina, the Baptist Standard in Texas (which at one time was the largest state paper in the Southern Baptist Convention) and the Baptist Messenger in Oklahoma have moved to magazine formats and now print monthly or less, along with online publications.
The other state papers are either online only or print monthly or even quarterly.
Every paper, every state has had to determine what was best for their situation.
I am grateful that Tennessee Baptist Mission Board leadership still values the Baptist paper as a means of informing Tennessee Baptists about the ministries and needs in our state and around the world.
That does not mean the B&R will always be in a print format, but for now, it, along with the stories on our website, continue to receive strong support from readers across the generational spectrum.
We are reaching Tennessee Baptists through the print and online articles and we are making an impact.
Danny Sinquefield, Harvest Field 1 team leader for the TBMB, is working with churches across the state to mobilize them to minister to the thousands of people who will be moving to Tennessee for Ford’s Blue Oval City project.
He shared the story of Ben Cowell, who served on the staff of Germantown Baptist Church, Germantown, who read about the Blue Oval City in the B&R and felt God’s call to be involved. Cowell is now pastor of Brownsville Baptist Church near the epicenter of Blue Oval City. The article in the paper stirred his heart, according to Sinquefield.
A state paper is more than providing news and information. In the hands of God, it can be a tool to inspire and motivate people to ministry that will bring glory to God and ultimately expand His kingdom.
My mission in the remaining time of my ministry as editor of the B&R (and, no I am not announcing my retirement) is to help lay the groundwork to keep the paper vital to the work of Tennessee Baptists for years to come, just as it was in 1835 when the first issue of The Baptist (the forerunner of the B&R) rolled off the press.
Please help. Send the paper to leaders in your church and encourage people to read the paper, either online or in print. We have readers who send us funds on occasion to send the B&R to people and churches that cannot afford the cost.
The Baptist and Reflector is not my paper. It is a tool God has given all Tennessee Baptists.
But like any tool, it is only effective when used. B&R