By David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
JEFFERSON CITY — As they prepared for the East Tennessee Rally for Christ at Carson-Newman, the leadership team at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board said they wanted the event to have a two-pronged purpose: To ignite the believers and offer hope to the spiritually lost.
By the time the rally came to a close, it was clear that both objectives had been met: The saints were stirred and the lost were found.
The rally, held at Holt Fieldhouse on the C-N campus on the night of Sept. 8, drew more than 900 attendees, who were treated to a night of praise, worship and encouragement. The evening also featured several life-changing decisions, including three professions of faith, three commitments to baptism and one rededication.
Roc Collins, strategic objectives director for the TBMB, said the rally was everything he had prayed it would be — and then some. “I’m terribly excited about it,” said Collins. “I mean, I am just tore-up excited about it. … It was such a huge success that we feel confident in calling it the First Annual East Tennessee Rally for Christ. We definitely plan to do this each year.”
Carson-Newman newly-elected president Charles Fowler said that he, too, was delighted with how the rally turned out.
“It was thrilling to watch the Holy Spirit work mightily in the lives of those attending the rally,” Fowler said. “This was the first time we have hosted an event like this, and it was a hallelujah moment for me and our entire community. Carson-Newman University is blessed through the partnership with the churches of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. This rally was just one expression of what occurs when we work together.”
The rally in East Tennessee was one phase of the TBMB’s plan to host such events across the state. The TBMB has held yearly rallies in West Tennessee for the past four years, and ultimately hopes to have one in Middle Tennessee, too, Collins said.
The event at Carson-Newman set a high bar for future rallies in terms of attendance and excitement, Collins said. “I believe the largest crowd we’ve ever had at the West Tennessee rallies was 800,” he said. “So, to have 905 (the official headcount) on a Sunday night is just incredible.”
Collins said it was easy to sense just how excited the Carson-Newman community was about hosting the event.
“Carson-Newman didn’t just welcome us; they became partners with us — absolutely fantastic partners,” said Collins.
Indeed, the leaders at Carson-Newman made it clear that the school wanted to do more than simply host the rally. They wanted to be involved.
“If we cannot partner in the gospel with Tennessee Baptist churches, then we have no partnership,” said Fowler. “The gospel of Jesus Christ has transformed us and by so doing established not only our shared identity in Christ but our opportunity to share in the proclamation of Christ.
“So, when opportunities are presented (for us) to partner together with Tennessee Baptist churches in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, we will stand ready to help,” said Fowler.
Collins said the rally’s two-themed approach created a unique feel for the event. “It was intentionally a rally for us to encourage the saints to go forth and witness — as well as presenting the gospel in a crusade type setting,” he said. “We really tried to do both of those things. And it was a huge success.”