By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
BRENTWOOD — This year’s annual Summit, scheduled for Nov. 13-17 at the Sevierville Convention Center, will mark the second anniversary of the adoption of the Five Objectives that were approved by messengers at the 2014 Summit at Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood.
The Five Objectives are long-range goals for the Tennessee Baptist Convention. They are:
Objective 1: Seeing at least 50,000 Tennesseans annually saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship by 2024.
Objective 2: Having at least 500 Tennessee Baptist churches revitalized by 2024.
Objective 3: Planting and strategically engaging at least 1,000 new churches by 2024.
Objective 4. Realizing an increase in annual local church giving through the Cooperative Program that reaches at least 10 percent by 2024.
Objective 5: Realizing an in-crease in annual giving for the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions that reaches at least $3 million by 2024.
Of the Five Objectives, the one that appeared to be the most difficult to define was church revitalization, leaders who have been working in that area since 2014 agreed.
While statistics reveal that approximately 75-80 percent of the churches in the TBC are either plateaued or declining, most are hesitant to admit they need help. Or, at least that used to be the case, said Bob Brown, church revitalization specialist for the TBC.
“When we started two years ago we discussed whether we should use the term ‘church revitalization,’ ” he recalled, noting that word seemed to be a “stigma” for many congregations.
“We are now seeing that it (church revitalization) has become a much less inflammatory term. Churches are now embracing revitalization,” Brown said.
TBC Executive Director Randy C. Davis agreed. “Five years ago churches were reluctant to admit they needed help,” he said. “Now, churches are embracing the need for revitalization.”
Larry Murphy, director of missions for Madison-Chester and Crockett Baptist Associations and a TBC church revitalization specialist, said more churches are beginning to see that they “can’t run from the reality of the number of churches that need to be revitalized.”
During the past two years the TBC has implemented a task force to support church revitalization efforts in the state and employed three part-time specialists (Brown, East Tennessee; Murphy, West Tennessee; Kevin Minchey, Middle Tennessee). In addition, John Parrott, bivocational ministry specialist, helps bivocational pastors see the need for church revitalization as well. The task force, led by Steve Holt (TBC church services director) also sponsored several church revitalization conferences and other events across the state and have more planned throughout 2017.
Efforts are beginning to net results. Approximately 212 churches throughout the state have indicated they are in some stage of revitalization.
Task force leaders agreed that it is hard to define when revitalization is complete. Most agree it is an ongoing process. The first step, however, Brown said, is that churches must be willing to admit that they need to be revitalized in order to reach their communities for Christ.
Davis said he is encouraged by the conversations that are taking place. “Churches that are on their death bed or in ICU may have hope because someone is trying to say they care,” he observed.
“It’s been a seismic cultural shift that churches are willing to rise up and say there is a need for church revitalization,” Davis added.
Holt noted that “it is exciting to be a part of this revitalization movement as churches assess their current reality and move toward God’s preferred future for their congregations.
“Every church could benefit from a season of reflection and assessment,” Holt observed.
He noted there is a multitude of resources available to churches in the area of revitalization. For more information, contact Holt at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 615-371-2019.