By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
BRENTWOOD — At the beginning of this year, Randy C. Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, had an ambitious goal.
His desire was to ring the “salvation bell” and to lead prayer rallies in every county of the state. And though the weather was not always cooperative (three rallies had to be rescheduled), Davis accomplished the goal on Nov. 3 with the three remaining rallies in Davidson, Williamson, and Rutherford counties.
The idea behind the rallies was to bathe the state in prayer and to pray for the vast lostness in the state.
It is estimated that half of the state’s nearly 6.5 million people do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Davis acknowledged that the rallies exceeded his expectations.
“My original goal was to gather with a few people at or around their county courthouse and pray over the state,” he said.
The rallies, however, were much better attended than expected as more than 5,000 people attended the 95 rallies.
“We had as few as 8-10 people and as many as 160,” Davis said.
The rallies featured a good mix in attendance between ministers and laity, he noted.
Davis said he was not really surprised by the number of laity who attended. “Our rank and file laymen are longing for God to do something in our state that only He can get credit for,” he said.
He noted rallies in the smaller, rural areas were usually better attended. In one of those locations, Davis recalled, an attendee came to him and said, “Thank you for coming. We sometimes feel like we’ve been forgotten.”
Davis also noted that recognizing public service officials and ministers in each county helped to generate positive perceptions of Tennessee Baptists.
It did not take Davis long to discover that even before the first rally was held in January that there were “pockets of people passionately and desperately praying for a great spiritual awakening.
“That has been the most positive takeaway from this journey,” he observed.
And, he found that not only Baptists were praying for him.
He told of a lady he met in Paris who was not a Baptist but faithfully read her neighbor’s copy of the Baptist and Reflector each week.
“She told me that she had been praying for me since she learned of the rallies,” Davis said. “That was special.”
During the year the Salvation Bell truck traveled more than 9,600 miles, from Memphis (far southwest to Mountain City (far northeast) and Polk County (lower southeast) to Lake County (upper northwest).
He is convinced, however, that the lasting results will be worth the effort.
First, “we have raised the awareness of Tennessee Baptists to the growing lostness that characterizes our state.”
Secondly, he continued, there will be “more people praying together for spiritual awakening in our churches.”
Davis is grateful that the rallies later in the year also provided an opportunity to further articulate the Five Objectives that were adopted by the Executive Board in June and will be presented to Tennessee Baptists in November at their annual meeting during the Summit to be held at Brentwood Baptist Church.
The Five Objectives are:
(1) Seeing at least 50,000 Tennesseans annually saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship by 2024;
(2) Having at least 500 Tennessee Baptist churches revitalized by 2024;
(3) Planting and strategically engaging at least 1,000 new churches by 2024;
(4) Realizing an increase in local church giving through the Cooperative Program that reaches at least 10 percent by 2024; and
(5) Realizing an increase in annual giving for the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions that reaches at least $3 million by 2024.
Davis was able to share more the Five Objectives as he had opportunities to talk to ministers and laity after the rallies.
He noted he was encouraged by those he met to continue to “head in the direction that the Five Objectives point us to.”
Davis described the prayer rallies across Tennessee as one of the “richest experiences of my life.
“I love our state and I am very thankful to be able to go to each one of our counties and to pray with precious followers of Christ.”