By Lonnie Wilkey
HENDERSONVILLE — Bruce Chesser, who was elected as the new president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention in November, is excited over the convention’s current direction.
His motto for the upcoming year? “Don’t mess it up,” Chesser said with a smile.
“Our state convention is in great shape under the leadership of Randy C. Davis,” observed Chesser, pastor of First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, for the past 10 years. In addition, Chesser continued, the past presidents of the convention have done “a great job” in focusing attention on the need for evangelism and discipleship.
“Basically, I want to maintain a spirit of brotherhood in the convention that has gone on for a long time,” he said. “The convention is not broken. It is in good shape.”
Chesser, who was unopposed for the presidency during the recent Summit held at First Baptist Concord in Knoxville, plans to continue the focus on evangelism, but from a different perspective. He would like to see a renewed focus on the use of Sunday School or small groups to reach those who have no relationship with Jesus Christ.
“Sunday School worked for a long time before someone decided it wouldn’t work,” Chesser said. “We have lost something (Sunday School/small groups) that made us strong,” he added.
The Hendersonville pastor said his desire is to see “every church rethink” its Sunday School or life group program. “Every Sunday School class could do a better job of engaging people who are not involved,” he observed.
Chesser said he thinks younger pastors and staff members don’t fully understand the importance of Sunday School and how it can be used “to bring energy and growth to a church.”
Sunday School is especially important in the life of smaller churches, he affirmed.
“If you enroll lost people in Sunday School, a significant number will be saved. I want to help pastors of small churches see how they can utilize an organization already in place to create excitement and to grow.”
In addition, Chesser is a strong believer in church revitalization. He related that First Baptist, Hendersonville, is looking for churches to help revitalize.
“We want to go into a struggling church that wants help and walk alongside them,” he said, adding that the goal is to see the struggling church get stronger and continue its ministry on its own.
Though Chesser did not seek the role of president, he said he was willing to serve when first approached about the possibility. In addition, Chesser said he has a “good staff” who will be able to “handle things” when he is on the road handling his responsibilities as president. “It would be hard to do without a good staff,” he affirmed.
Chesser said he has the full support of his church and family, which includes his wife, Joy, two sons — Justin and his wife, Meredith Chesser, and their 4-year-old daughter, Ruthie, of Montgomery, Ala., and Travis Chesser of Nashville.
His desire is to serve as president to the best of his ability. “We love Tennessee and we love Tennessee Baptists,” he affirmed. B&R