By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
Editor’s Note: See an article on Ellis and the ministry of Impact Baptist Church in the Frayser community of Memphis.
MEMPHIS — The new president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention downplays the fact that he is the convention’s first African-American president.
“Being selected president is not about Michael Ellis. It’s about what God is doing,” said Ellis, pastor of Impact Baptist Church in the Frayser community of Memphis.
“In one year I have the responsibility to accomplish what God has designed for me and for His purpose for allowing me to be elected,” he continued.
Ellis observed that after his one-year term is complete that he does not want people to look over his tenure and say, “Michael was here.”
“I want to fulfill God’s mission for me and to help the convention accomplish something substantial,” Ellis said in an interview with the Baptist and Reflector following his election on Nov. 11 during The Summit held at Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood.
Ellis said he wants to focus on the Five Objectives that TBC messengers adopted during the annual meeting.
The Five Objectives, which are the vision of TBC Executive Director Randy C. Davis, focus on substantially increasing baptisms, planting new churches, revitalizing existing churches, and increasing contributions through the Cooperative Program and the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions by 2024.
Ellis also noted that he wants to be a “catalyst” in helping others see the TBC as a convention that “cares about everyone.”
The TBC is an inclusive convention and is not a respecter of church size or color, he observed.
“Every church is on its radar,” Ellis said.
“I want to continue to help bring the convention together so it will look like the kingdom of God,” he continued.
Ellis said he has been a Baptist all his life, having grown up in New Orleans near New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He also watched the ministry of New Orleans pastor Fred Luter who would later become the first African-American president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“I didn’t know he was Southern Baptist but I knew there was something different about the ministries of his church. As I got to know him, I knew the difference was the Southern Baptist Convention focus on missions, evangelism, and outreach.”
When Ellis (who is retired from the Navy) was transferred to Millington he later became involved with Mid-South Baptist Association and Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova.
He became the organizing pastor of Impact Baptist Church and became involved in the life of the denomination. In 2012 he served as vice president of the convention. His service that year “opened my eyes” to what the convention can accomplish.
“There is a lot that we can do together to make our state and country a better place to live,” he affirmed.
Since becoming a Southern Baptist, Ellis has become an advocate for the state convention (and SBC) with all ethnic groups.
“I told Mike Day (former director of missions for Mid-South Baptist Association) that “when I find something good I want to tell everyone about it.
“That’s where I’m at,” said the new TBC president.
He emphasized that he is grateful for “a convention that is receptive to change and for an executive director who has a heart for change.
“I didn’t come into Southern Baptist life to be a president or vice president. I came into it because I liked what I saw.”