By Larry Robertson
TBC President, & Pastor, Hilldale Baptist Church, Clarksville
In a few days Tennessee Baptists will gather in Brentwood for this year’s Summit. I ask that you make every effort to pray for and participate in this 140th annual session.
Our theme this year is “Whatever It Takes,” representing the mindset and missional conviction necessary to breach the lostness of our state and beyond. I am expecting this year’s gathering to be a catalyst for deeper Great Commission passion, participation, and penetration.
I was in a meeting of Southern Baptist leaders from across the country recently where a pastor from another state said matter-of-factly that state conventions are now irrelevant and not worthy of our support. To be honest, I’ve heard that kind of talk before but I still cringe when I hear it.
Having served on state convention staffs in Alabama and Tennessee, perhaps some would say I have a biased opinion about the value of state conventions. I like to think I have an informed opinion.
As an involved Tennessee Baptist pastor and a longtime supporter of cooperation, I am convinced that we will always be able to do more together than apart. Our state convention serves Tennessee Baptist churches with the goal of widespread church health, evangelistic impact, and missions mobilization. No other entity within Southern Baptist life is prepared to give that kind of strategic and missional leadership to the local churches of Tennessee. If state conventions went away tomorrow, Southern Baptists would have to create another organizational structure to fill the perilous vacuum that would be created.
There are some state conventions in the nation that are mostly funded by the North American Mission Board and, thus, NAMB largely directs their work. That is not true of the southern state conventions. Understandably, most of the money for Southern Baptist missions comes through the state conventions of the south. So it stands to reason that we need more churches and healthier churches in the southern states if we’re to have long-term engagement on mission fields as Southern Baptists.
Almost 90 percent of our churches are plateaued or declining while our population continues to explode. This is why the Tennessee Baptist Convention is casting a vision of principled priorities that will dramatically change the spiritual and moral landscape of our state in years to come. But that vision will only become a reality if we do it together.
Change only happens through those who are involved. So don’t forfeit your voice by your silence or your vote by your absence. Nov. 11-12 will prove to be critical days for our cooperative efforts in Tennessee, North America, and the world.
Will we always be completely satisfied with everything about our state convention? Probably not. I don’t always like everything my wife cooks for dinner, but I’m always glad to be at the table. Let’s come together as a family, love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, and seek God’s heart for the future of Tennessee Baptist life.
I sure hope to see you in Brentwood!