By David Leavell
President Of The Tennessee Baptist Convention / Senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Millington
You may have expected me to say football time in Tennessee, but for me, the Summit is much more important! For me, hope springs eternal for both but only that which we have done for the Lord will last. I love being a part of a gathering of like-minded churches on mission with God. I love the fellowship with other pastors, ministers, and men and women of God at the Summit.
Many times, it is the only time in a year that I get to see old friends and some of the Lord’s choicest servants. I love the inspirational worship services, the strong preaching of God’s Word, the challenge to become more for Jesus, and reports of the fruit that God is bearing among our cooperative efforts. It is a joy-filled gathering.
The theme this year is “WIN TN.” In 2016, Tennessee Baptists baptized and set on the road to discipleship 20,302. The angels rejoice over those who come to personal faith in Christ. And the church should rejoice as well! We praise God for each of these individuals saved by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In 2017, we saw an increase in those baptized! Southern Baptists are currently in a 17-year decline in baptisms, so this increase is noteworthy. Last year, we saw approximately 20,719 in Tennessee. This represents a 2 percent increase — 417 more souls than the previous year! Praise the Lord! Now, the rest of the story. Tennessee grew approximately 60,000 people in that same 12-month period.
So, our state is more lost this year than last and more lost last year than the previous year. This holds true all the way back to about 1950. So, the time is now to “WIN TN.” We must focus on the “fields that are white to harvest.”
That is why I have been crisscrossing the state, from Mountain City to Memphis, preaching, promoting and pointing people toward the John 3:16 Challenge. If we are ever to WIN TN, it is going to take a concerted effort on behalf of all Tennessee Baptists. Currently, we don’t have the active evangelistic work force to see Tennessee come to Christ. Only about 10 percent of our membership has ever shared Christ personally with someone else, according to research. How can we reach Tennessee with the gospel? Every person in our pews, sharing the love of Jesus regularly in the normal traffic patterns of life.
The John 3:16 Challenge is for every Tennessee Baptist to share John 3:16, once a week, with a lost person, with the intention of leading them to personal faith in Jesus Christ. Imagine the gospel conversations. If we all took the challenge, the gospel would be seeded into Tennessee as never before. People would come to faith in Christ in increasing number and we could reach the goal of Objective One which is to baptize and set on the road to discipleship 50,000 Tennesseans annually by 2024. It has been such a joy to meet so many of you this year. Good hearted believers, all across the three grand divisions, serving Jesus faithfully. Let’s don’t stop with our affinity for one another, let’s double down on the Great Commission! Let’s make disciples until Jesus comes!
This year’s Summit will be a missional gathering, encouraging you in the high calling of Jesus Christ. Don’t miss a thing. It begins Sunday night at 6 p.m. with a worship service at West Jackson Baptist Church with Pastor H.B. Charles, Jr. It continues with the Monday Pastor’s Conference. This alone is a great time of inspiration. Our Summit will begin on Tuesday and continue into Wednesday, November 13-14, 2018. I look forward to seeing you there!
Keep the SON in your eyes.