By David Leavell
We Baptists are a peculiar people! We are saved by grace, called by God into community, and sent for kingdom advancement. Over the years, God has used us in special ways to bring His fame and renown across this globe.
I have the privilege of serving on the Administrative Committee of the Executive Board for Tennessee Baptists. Because of that area of service, I have had the opportunity to think extensively about the proposed name change from the Executive Board to the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. After reflection, I believe this is an idea whose time has come.
We don’t enter into this proposal lightly. It has been 100 years since a name change for this group was entertained. So when changes are made, they must be intentional and clarifying. I believe this proposal better frames the work of Tennessee Baptists and gives immediate clarity for our gospel service. Keep in mind this name change does not affect the Tennessee Baptist Convention. That name will not change. This proposed name change affects the entity currently called the Executive Board. Here’s why I believe the proposed name, “Tennessee Baptist Mission Board,” is important to who this entity is.
Tennessee explains the primary area of our FOCUS. Focus is important. Churches and denominations die for lack of focus. While we work beyond the borders of our state in places like Guatemala and Montana, and while we have cooperating churches in Mississippi, Alabama, Virginia, and New Jersey (Look it up; I promise we do!), we understand that if we do not reach Tennessee for Christ, we have failed in our cooperative calling.
Baptist explains our theological IDENTITY. I am a Christian first and foremost, but I am unapologetically Baptist as well. I am Baptist by birth, heritage, and most importantly conviction. Anything we do for the name of Jesus flows through our mutual understanding of God’s Word. This identity frames our cooperative Great Commission endeavors. I am not ashamed of Christ or of being a Baptist.
Mission explains our PURPOSE. There have been many times that I wish we were called “Missionary Baptists” rather than “Southern Baptists.” One explains our calling while the other explains a regional designation. I think we would all agree that our regional self-description falls short in light of the Great Commission and the world. Our founders probably had no idea how God would use our denomination for kingdom advancement. Mission establishes the work of the Executive Board and gives it a foundation from which to work, i.e., a missional distinctiveness that gives clarity to decision making.
Board explains our AUTHORITY. This group functions on behalf of Tennessee Baptists 363 days a year. This is a $34 million dollar missionary enterprise annually. We must function with gospel excellence and financial/business excellence as a group of believers assembled from across our state.
In one sense, a name change is a small thing. A name change doesn’t change function necessarily. Yet on the other hand, a name change can bring clarity and intentionality that positions us for the 21st Century. Over the years, God has used us in special ways to bring His fame and renown across this globe. May we never be content with what God has done. Let’s continue forward in kingdom advance. Tennessee needs Jesus. I’m for anything that seeks to clarify that mission which is why I support a name change to Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.