Tennessee Baptists began a journey 15 months ago to understand God’s preferable future for our great network of churches. The Acts 2:17 initiative launched at the 2022 Summit held at Bellevue Baptist Church.
Thousands of data points were collected from Tennessee Baptist pastors, ministers and laypeople from Memphis to Mountain City and from Dyersburg to Ducktown. The objective: Understand what God was saying to His people about the ministries in which we should engage to accomplish His Great Commission vision through Tennessee Baptists.
A diverse group of your peers then spent months distilling that information and grouping it into a vision for the future of Tennessee Baptists, which is to be…
“… A collaborative network of spiritually, healthy churches, reaching Tennessee, and beyond for Christ so that:
• Every pastor is connected and supported for healthy ministry…
• Every member has an active plan for spiritual maturity…
• Every child has a home and gospel foundation…
• Every parent has a biblical vision for their family…
• Every church has growing leaders called to ministry…
• Every city has effective, multiplying churches…
• Until Every Tennessean hears the gospel.
It’s a massive vision; a God-sized vision. It’s a lot to digest. However, the success of such a God-guided vision doesn’t move forward without a grasp of, and a commitment to, a single word: Collaboration.
That word doesn’t just describe an immediate process, but a necessary culture if Tennessee Baptists, their churches, associations, and TBC entities are to reach new heights of Great Commission effectiveness.
My friend and TBMB colleague Steve Holt recently offered an astute observation that is worth sharing. “Collaboration is a partnership, a union,” he said. “It’s the act of producing or making something together. To collaborate is to commit to the possibility of producing an outcome greater than one developed in a silo. The root meaning of collaboration is to ‘labor together.’ ”
Steve went on to ask a rhetorical, yet penetrating question: “What would it look like to be a network of churches that other churches asked to be a part of?”
We do not have to speculate what that network might look like. It’s who we’ve been over the course of our 150 years as a convention.
Some of the greatest Christian hospitals were built by collaborating Baptists. There are universities and seminaries across our country that were built by Christ-followers collaborating over “what if” ideas.
The greatest missionary sending agencies in the world were built by men and women in Baptist churches working together in collaboration under God’s direction. They didn’t always agree on secondary issues, but they agreed on the core issues, and they agreed they needed to work together to accomplish great things.
It goes on: Orphanages. prison ministries. church planting movements, all from collaborative groups of people that cast such a clear and powerful vision that folks on the sideline said, “I want to be a part of that and I will give my life, resources and energy to see that vision become a reality.”
Scripture reads, “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it” (Habakkuk 2:2).
And we’re off and running. Acts 2:17 workgroups were formed in January and are currently pouring themselves into fleshing out the Acts 2:17 Initiatives adopted at the Chattanooga Summit last November.
Great Commission-minded people from your churches have finished their first of several meetings to bring finish carpentry to the framing done last year.
It’s the early stages so please pray for your peers, and then be ready and willing to participate in the process when called upon. Pray also that God will pour out His Spirit once again so that we, as Acts 2:17 reads, “dream dreams and have visions” that lead to the planting of ministry trees whose shade will be enjoyed by future generations.
So let’s talk about our future, with the Lord and to each other in a rigorous yet civil way that leads to seizing Kingdom-expanding opportunities and meeting needs in the world around us, setting a standard that the rest of the world will notice, and possibly want to emulate.
It is a joy to be with you on this journey. B&R