In the summer, the state forced a smaller school system to consolidate with a much larger school system nearby. The high school of the smaller school system no longer had a football team but was forced to become a part of the larger school’s football team. This was disturbing to the students of the smaller school because the year before the cheerleaders had gotten new cheer uniforms, pom poms and megaphones. The football players had all gotten new uniforms to wear. They felt like they were losing their identity.
So, what did they do? They went to the principal of the new high school and requested if they could still hold their own pep rally each Thursday afternoon. The principal of the new school approved their request.
Beginning in the fall on every Thursday afternoon, the cheerleaders and football players would wear the uniforms of the now defunct and closed up high school. The students of the smaller school would all show up in the gym wearing the colors of the now closed high school and they had a pep rally.
Imagine the scene as the cheerleaders led in cheers for their school. The fight song was played. Everyone cheered for their old school. But the team never took the field and never played a game. They held a pep rally and a celebration, but they never took the field! The pep rally was an end in itself, and it actually had no purpose!
Could I be bold enough to say that this is a clear picture of many of our churches across Tennessee? Every Sunday we come together for a pep rally that we call worship. We sing our “fight songs” of the faith. We raise our hands and clap our hands. We celebrate our team, often with great enthusiasm and vigor.
Yet, when the pep rally and worship ends, we never take the field. We do not go out into the harvest field where we are called to share the gospel and serve the people. Worship becomes an end in itself. What is the evidence of simply being a “pep rally” church?
First, our worship of Christ does not lead us to witness for Christ! We see this to be true in our own state. The Tennessee Baptist Convention has been in existence for 148 years. We have more than 3,000 TBC churches all across our state. We have two Baptist universities, numerous BCM ministries, and an overwhelming number of ministers of the gospel who serve our churches.
Yet, the 2021 American Belief Study indicates that five million Tennesseans are unchurched, while 60 percent claim to have no personal faith in Jesus. In fact, only 35 percent of Tennesseans believe Jesus is the only way to salvation and heaven.
We are called to take the field in Tennessee. The harvest is out there where the people are. Our neighbors and the people of our community are not coming to the church. Therefore, it is time for the people of the church to strategize and get out there and take the church and gospel to the people!
Second, our doctrine is not leading us to discipleship! We boldly proclaim that we are “people of The Book (Bible),” yet with all of our knowledge of Scripture, we are not following the clear command of Jesus to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations … (Matthew 28:19, CSB).” Two questions come to mind: Are you personally growing as a disciple of Jesus Christ? Are you personally helping someone else grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ?
Finally, Satan is using politics in our denomination to cause people to be distracted! As I travel across Tennessee preaching in associations and spend time with pastors, I am hearing more and more talk about our denomination and less and less talk about discipleship.
I am getting more questions about our SBC Executive Committee than I am about sharing and evangelism of our communities. We have a great denomination! Praise the Lord for our missionaries and our seminaries. However, we do not serve a denomination, but the Lord Jesus Christ. We can no longer allow Satan to distract us from reaching people and setting them on the road to discipleship. Tennessee Baptists, let us take the field together for the glory of God and make a difference in Tennessee! B&R