By Randy C. Davis
TBC Executive Director
BRENTWOOD – During his report to the Executive Board of the Tennessee Baptist Convention at its March 25 meeting, Executive Director Randy C. Davis reflected on the past five years.
“It was five years ago this spring that God started preparing Jeanne and me to leave our beloved pastorate and begin ministry from a different place with a different perspective,” he said.
Davis was elected in June of 2010 to succeed James Porch as executive director. He began his new role on July 1.
“It’s been overwhelming to see how God has used our churches, associations, and TBC ministry and support staff together to accomplish great things over these last, nearly five years,” he told Board members.
He observed that it has not always been easy. “Because of strategic purposes and economic realities, we’ve navigated the difficult waters of eliminating more than 20 staff positions.”
At the same time, he continued, the Board has taken “definitive steps toward the convention-mandated goal of being at a 50-50 distribution of Cooperative Program funding while at the same time seeing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Southern Baptist Convention entities (North American Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, and GuideStone Financial Resources) no longer being utilized in Tennessee.”
Yet, despite obstacles, a great deal has been accomplished, he shared. Among the highlights:
• Vision 2021 was formulated and overwhelmingly adopted by our network of churches and the difficult process of developing a plan of implementation of Vision 2021 was received and initiated.
In the middle of a difficult economic time for Executive Board ministries, a multi-million dollar Missions Mobilization Center in Mount Juliet and a new 500-seat multi-use Chapel at Linden Valley Baptist Conference Center in Linden were both completed debt-free, thanks to tens of thousands of donated hours by Tennessee volunteers.
• The Baptist Center at 5001 Maryland Way was finally sold after a few failed attempts and the staff successfully transitioned into temporary administrative offices.
• 1-5-1 Harvest Field Plants was launched two years ago and has made its way across Tennessee and is now being employed in other states and in other countries as a way of multiplying churches and reaching the lost.
In addition, Davis has witnessed “our network of churches, without ambiguity, strongly affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message as the convention’s doctrinal statement of faith.” He also saw messengers elect Pastor Michael Ellis of Impact Baptist Church in Memphis as the convention’s first African American president last November.
Davis is also proud of the impact Tennessee Baptist churches are having on culture in the state. In November of last year, he observed that through “in large part the hard work of Tennessee Baptists being mobilized through their churches and associations to vote Yes on 1, we were able to pass a constitutional amendment that will result in far fewer abortions taking place in Tennessee.”
As he looks to the future he believes strongly “that our greatest work was the clarity that was brought first by our Executive Board and then by our messengers at the 2014 annual meeting to embrace the Five Objectives that will direct our work for the next 10 years.”
The TBC leader observed that the “pre-eminent, powerful, and most passionate call has been for us to see the great and growing spiritual lostness in our state. Thus, the First Objective is to see at least 50,000 Tennesseans won to Christ, baptized, and discipled annually by 2024.”
Progress is being made, he noted. “It is my joy to report that after a 40-year-plus decline, we have seen an increase of 1,500 more baptisms over the last two years,” he said, adding that the year 2014 saw “our highest number of baptisms in the last six years.”
In the area of church revitalization (objective two) the convention is partnering with associations, SBC entities, and others to help reach the goal of revitalizing at least 500 churches over the next decade, he said. Davis noted that in cooperation with the North American Mission Board, a church revitalization conference will be held April 20 at Sevier Heights Baptist Church in Knoxville. Another conference, in cooperation with LifeWay Christian Resources, will be held at Brentwood Baptist Church Aug. 31 – Sept. 2, he added.
The third objective of seeing at least 1,000 new churches planted and strategically engaged has gotten off to a good start, Davis told Board members. “It is my joy to report a record high total of 168 churches became a part of our network last year.”
In addition, he continued, the number of Hispanic churches in Tennessee doubled in one year.
“We’ve started more churches with a smaller TBC church planting staff and fewer dollars being invested in new works,” he said. He noted there were 70 1-5-1 Harvest Field church plants last year. “And we have names, addresses, and telephone numbers of each one of these new church groups” he said.
Davis also shared his thoughts on the fourth and fifth objectives which deal with resourcing Great Commission work — the Cooperative Program and the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions.
“After a decline of over two and a half decades, we are beginning to see the Cooperative Program level off and we have a great hope that it will begin moving forward,” Davis said.
“We believe one of the key elements in assisting Cooperative Program giving growth is to assist our churches in equipping disciples to understand biblical stewardship.”
He observed that since 2008, there are 900 million fewer dollars being given annually through Southern Baptist churches. “We will press on, without hesitation, toward the noble, necessary, and effective goal of 10 percent giving from our churches,” he said.
As for the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions, Davis said “we have been greatly encouraged” to see the Tennessee missions offering increase by about 7.3 percent over the last two years. He noted that the goal for the offering is to see a growth rate of 7 percent annually and 100 Tennessee Baptist churches participating in the offering for the first time in order to reach the GOTM goal of $3 million annually by 2024.
Davis readily admits that the Five Objectives are “no closer to reality than the Red Sea parting … or a crucified dead Savior walking out of a borrowed tomb thoroughly alive.
“That’s the point. With man it is unrealistic and impossible but with God all things are possible.”