By Lonnie Wilkey
FRANKLIN — As COVID-19 cases begin to rise throughout the state, Tennessee Baptist churches will rise to the occasion, said Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
In a pre-Thanksgiving video update (view the video HERE), Davis acknowledged the spike in COVID cases.
Davis observed he has seen it in a personal way through a conversation with his neighbor who works in an ICU unit at a Nashville hospital. “She says it’s as bad as it’s ever been before,” he related.
“Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard of more lay people, more ministry leaders and more pastors having tested positive for COVID,” he added.
“Many of them are suffering greatly because of it,” Davis said. “Thankfully, some cases are very mild and it’s a matter of a week, two weeks and they’re back at it, but there are a lot of people experiencing some very severe symptoms, and we want to be praying for each other during that time.”
He added Nov. 23 that “since the recording and release of that update, we have lost more good pastors and ministry leaders to COVID.”
Davis observed that whether or not government mandates are issued about the size of gatherings or how people should behave, “nobody cares more for their communities than the local church.
“Tennessee Baptists have always been there, whether it’s orphan care or disaster relief or building great educational institutions or planting churches across the state, Tennessee Baptists have always risen to the occasion. And this is another time we’re rising to the occasion. As the ministry opportunities avail themselves because of this pandemic, we have been responding and we will be responding. Thank you for all you’re doing for the cause of Christ.”
He acknowledged that 2020 has been the “year of survival” and he predicted it will be more of the same in 2021 but he added that most people feel “we will be emerging from this pandemic” in the coming year as well.
The TBMB leader exhorted Tennessee Baptists to “stay together and support one another.
“I believe 2021 will be a time of assessing where we are,” Davis said. “Whatever the pruning that has taken place that God’s been doing, whatever new ministries that we have learned through this pandemic, however we have learned how better to do small groups and worship, I believe that’s going to serve us well as we assess where we are at the moment. And then wherever you find yourself after we get out of this pandemic, that is the place you begin from.”
Davis reiterated a message given by convention president Bruce Chesser, pastor of First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, who has challenged Tennessee Baptists to not “compare yourself to whatever the numbers may have been prior to March of 2020. Just realize that where you are right now is where you need to start building from.”
Davis also is convinced that “we’re going to see an advance of the gospel in the future like we haven’t seen in many, many years, I think our churches are going to be in a healthy place and they’re going to be growing in the days ahead. And it is my honor and the honor of our Tennessee Baptist Mission Board staff to do everything we can to help our churches during this time and post pandemic.”
During this difficult season, Davis exhorted Tennessee Baptist laity “to support your pastor. Be there for your other ministry leaders. Encourage them. This has been an extremely difficult time on our shepherds, the people that really care for their flocks. And so, do all you can to encourage and love and help your pastors and ministry leaders as they walk through this very unusual unprecedented time for any of us that are alive today.”
He observed that what churches do today will determine their future destiny.
“We must decide to work together, to be together, to love one another, to serve our community and to be everything we can be in the power of Jesus Christ. … Love the Lord and trust Him,” Davis said. “Love one another deeply, love and serve your communities and share the gospel at every turn because that is where our hope is. ” B&R