In this special edition of Radio B&R, TBMB leader Randy Davis discusses the SBC sexual abuse scandal that broke during the month of February and abortion legislation that is impacting our country and our culture.
Randy Davis: … But the picture of the state law makers in New York when they passed the bill where you could have an abortion performed at the point of birth, it was not only the law itself that is hellish, and demonic, and against life, but what really told the tale of where our culture is is when these lawmakers celebrated the passing of this bill as if they had won the Super Bowl.
Chris Turner: Hello, and welcome into this special monthly edition of Radio B&R. I’m your host, Chris Turner, director of communications, and this is our monthly update with our executive director, Randy Davis. Randy, welcome into Radio B&R.
Randy Davis: Thank you so much, Chris. It’s good to be here.
Chris Turner: Well, February might be a short month on the calendar, but it was a packed month as far as happens not only in our own state, but around the SBC. Of course, the big headliner in February nationally was the SBC sexual abuse report that came out in the Houston Chronicle and just kind of a continuous flow of information from that. Just from your perspective, what do you feel that there’s a positive that has come out of that maybe or maybe where we need to go as Southern Baptists from there?
Randy Davis: Well, I think that the subject needed a bright light to be shined on it. I think the fact that any child is abused anywhere, under any circumstances should grieve us all to the very core. I think it is hellish. I think it is demonic. I think the predator does this kind of deed is going to attempt to go wherever there are children, and we need to do all we can to help our churches. I think if there is any kind of silver lining, the silver lining would be the awareness of churches to look inwardly at themselves to say, “Are we doing everything we can to be a safe place?”
Chris Turner: Yeah. You know, we recently did a podcast with Vicki Hulsey, our children’s ministry specialist, and William Maxwell, our TBMB business administrator. You know, one of the things that Vicki talks about it that, especially in smaller churches, she often hears, “Well, we know everyone who works with our children and youth,” and she throws out statistics that the majority of the predators are actually someone who has a trust relationship with that child. They talked about the importance of background checks and some of those other things, but that’s something we’ve been working with churches for a while on.
Randy Davis: Yeah. This whole thing did not catch us by surprise or off guard. It’s not like we’ve had to put together suddenly tools to help our churches become safer places. We’ve been doing that for probably 15 years in helping churches just go through a checklist of how to make their churches safe from the time you receive a child into your care, doing background checks on your workers. There’s a whole list of things, and we’ve got some good resources easily accessible for our churches, that if they would just look at the five or six documents that have been produced and made easily accessible, then they would absolutely become safer, if they’re not already doing the items that are on these checklists.
Chris Turner: Yeah. You can find those resources at BaptistAndReflector.org. There have been a number of articles that we’re done by Vicki and others over the month of February. Those have been compiled and put in one place there, so be sure and check those out. One of the other things that really came out of that was not only the importance of background checks, but just for a church to have a policy in place … and it’s not just for children. The policies protect the staff, and volunteers, and others, because you’ve talked about that this is good that the light has shown, but we have hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of people across the Southern Baptist Convention working in our churches that minister to our kids every week. We wanna make sure that they stay safe.
Randy Davis: Absolutely. You don’t wanna put a good person in a position of being falsely accused of something because of their lack of following the protocol that keeps them safe. So, it’s very important that we keep these hundreds of thousands of volunteers that work with our children and youth equipped and knowledgeable to be wise of serpents and harmless as doves.
Chris Turner: Yeah. You mention that. It also makes me think about just the general attack that there seems to be on children and babies and some of the abortion legislation that’s come out in February nationally, some of the other states, New Jersey and New York. Just talk a little bit about the importance of protecting that life and why it’s just so important that we Christians make a stand on this point.
Randy Davis: I think it is only on one side, we need to be very involved in foster care, adoption, and looking at how we can pour our lives into children that are not cared for in our society. The Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home has got the favor of the state of Tennessee on it without receiving any state funding in the foster care arena. They now have helped churches that have members that have become equipped and trained in foster care. We now have 80 children that are in place in foster care through Tennessee Baptist churches.
Randy Davis: On the other side of the coin, the protection of the unborn, I don’t think we’ve been in a slumber. It’s been an issue, but for years Christians have felt like there’s nothing we can do about it in the US. But the picture of the state law makers in New York when they passed the bill where you could have an abortion performed at the point of birth, it was not only the law itself that is hellish, and demonic, and against life, but what really told the tale of where our culture is is when these lawmakers celebrated the passing of this bill as if they had won the Super Bowl. I did not understand that reaction, apart from the evilness of abortion.
Randy Davis: Now, there are states, other states, that are passing similar laws. I thank God that in Tennessee our lawmakers are looking at certain bills to do just the opposite. We don’t know whether those bills are gonna flesh out, but I praise the lord that we have some lawmakers that are taking advantage of the Yes On 1 amendment that was voted on by Tennessee several years go to give our constitution the ability to pass laws that protect life. I saw a survey that was done in Facts and Trends Magazine just a few days ago that showed a I think it was a 9% shift from those that were pro-life and those that were pro-choice the pendulum swinging in the direction of the pro-life.
Randy Davis: Years ago, 40 years ago, doctors and scientists were saying that it was just a mass of flesh in the womb, that it was not a person. As time has passed, God has given us the ability to demonstrate that life really does begin at the place of conception. So, it’s not just a matter of a woman’s right to choose. I think it is absolutely abortion is murder, and we are nearing the place, even after a child comes through the birth canal and is birthed, that at that point, if the child’s still living, they can put the child to death in some circumstances. That is a godless kind of culture and society that can do that. My mother suffered with Parkinson’s for 20 years, and the last few years of her life were horrible. I think as our culture is going toward headlong toward infanticide, they will begin looking at the other end of life.
Chris Turner: Yes. They will.
Randy Davis: They will begin saying, “You know what? That life is too expensive,” and there’ll be a great groundswell of support for us choosing when life ends, instead of God choosing when life ends.
Chris Turner: Yeah. We use that expression slippery slope, but this really is one of those where when a human being is not acknowledged until we as a society determine when we acknowledge that, that really on the front end of life, but then you look on the back end. When we start to determine that that person has no intrinsic contribution they can make to society, then they become obsolete and taking up space. When we start going down that road, which we kind of have done that, especially with this post birth bill that’s been signed, we really are getting on some dangerous, dangerous ground, especially with the value of life. You know, we have not only in front of our state some legislation’s being considered, but Iowa has signed the Heartbeat Bill and some other things like that. Praise God there is some movement towards really putting some teeth in fighting back with where we are.
Chris Turner: Fortunately, with all that’s gone on we were able to just slip away for a couple of days as a TBMB staff and get off to our Linden Valley Conference Center and just focus. We’ve talked about there’s a lot that goes on, but we have a responsibility to our churches, to the ministry the lord’s given us to help our churches be strong. Just as our staff retreated and kind of did some spiritual reflection and some prayer time and then just some planning, what is one or two things that came out of focus week for you that you feel that were just big positives for us?
Randy Davis: Chris, I think that just like Jesus came apart from the disciples and from the rigors of everyday ministry and routine, when we get a part like that, it’s just a different dynamic, a different environment. We’re fortunate to be able to go to places like the Linden Valley Baptist Conference Center on the Buffalo River or to Carson Springs Baptist Conference Center over near Newport on English Mountain and have a good, relaxing retreat. It’s always a time when we sharpen our strategies and we do things to help our staff become better equipped in serving our churches.
Randy Davis: My one take away from this past retreat, as I watched our team communicate, and collaborate, and share, and just be together, was that we’ve got a great team. We’ve got some people that are really specialist and experts in their field. We can serve our churches in such a variety of ways that are beneficial and added value. The Cooperative Program and Golden Offering makes it possible that most of the time these churches have no kind of fee to pay. It’s just that we wanna serve them. My takeaway from this most recent focus week was we’ve got a really good staff, and I’m honored and proud to serve with every one of them.
Chris Turner: Yeah. You mentioned the Golden Offering and Cooperative Program. February can be kind of that month that transitions from after the first of the year and things start to pick up. Where do you see where we are with Golden Offering and then with Cooperative Program?
Randy Davis: Well, Tennesseans have unified around the Golden Offering. In the past five or six years we’ve seen giving through the Golden Offering for Tennessee missions increase by 26 or 27%. It’s far outpacing other similar offerings like that. Every dime of it stays here in Tennessee. It is used for compassion ministries. It is used for leadership development. A large portion of it goes to church revitalization and church planting. So, it’s a relevant kind of offering, been around a long time, but it really is growing. It’s grown from about 1.4 million roughly to almost 1.9 million. This year we are on pace to come close to setting a record, if we do not set a record, so I’m thankful for the way Tennessee Baptists have responded to our Golden Offering.
Chris Turner: Yeah. Our goal is just north of 2 million, and boy, I was just actually in Knoxville yesterday doing a Golden Offering video for a church plant over there. I mean, they’ve gone from a Bible study to they have about 160 now coming to church. So, some great things happening in our church planning and church revitalization. On the other hand, we have Cooperative Program, which is our systematic way that we give that supports Southern Baptist missions locally, statewide, nationally, internationally. Just talk a little bit about where we are with Cooperative Program.
Randy Davis: Well, a friend of mine aptly described the Cooperative Program as a missions mutual fund. I mean, where else can you give a dollar and that dollar supports missionaries around the world, and seminary students, and compassion ministries, and speaking into the culture, and supporting ministries and missions right here at home, like our Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, and our universities, and children’s home, adult homes, foundation. We are running slightly behind where we were last year in our Cooperative Program giving, but we’re still several percentage points above our budget needs at this point.
Randy Davis: You know, I would like to say this about Cooperative Program giving. It is purely at the discretion of our churches. They are autonomous. I appreciate every one of them that participate in the Cooperative Program, giving support. As a pastor for 34 years, I absolutely made sure that our churches were giving as much as they possible could, and two of the churches I’ve pastored here in Tennessee are both … have been at the 10% level in their Cooperative Program support. But from time to time there are churches that have some very real reasons that they have to slack off in their Cooperative Program giving. It may be that they’re in the midst of a financial downturn. There are parts of our state that are really impoverished, and they’re not experiencing an economic boom. They’ve been experiencing an economic bust for the last several years.
Randy Davis: Then there are sometimes that churches have a disagreement with the direction of the SBC or the Tennessee Baptist Convention, the Tennessee Baptist Convention, that umbrella that includes the Tennessee baptist Mission Board and all of our agencies and ministries, but what we like to do here at the TBMB is just listen, to hear what those concerns are. I really invite folks to call me up on my cell phone, to call my office, and let’s just sit down and talk, because if it is a financial crisis the church is in, we might have resources to help them through that, to strategize about a stewardship plan to help grow some disciples. We just wanna serve them in that arena. We’d like to know when there are some philosophical differences that would cause them to put the pause button on their Cooperative Program giving.
Randy Davis: I was just with a great, young pastor that had one of those concerns, and we were able to talk through that concern. So, the Cooperative Program is approaching the century mark, and here at the Tennessee Baptist Churches have given over $1.2 billion through the Cooperative Program throughout its history. It is still an ingenious, miraculous plan, and we love talking to people about it, to enhance it, to sharpen it.
Chris Turner: Yeah. We have some resources that are really becoming available, Matt told us, our new stewardship and Cooperative Program, a guy that’s putting together some promotional things, some great videos. You can find them right now on our Tennessee Baptist Mission Board Facebook page, but on the TNBaptist.org/cp site you’ll also be able to find those resources that are up. These are just short videos. As much as anything, many of them explain what Cooperative Program means, what it means to be a cooperating Baptist financially for reaching the world for Christ. Many times we’ve said any way you slice it Tennessee is a mission field with the international peoples that are here, but this really is an opportunity for us as Tennessee Baptists to reach the end of the Earth. Where we might not be able to support a missionary individually, collectively we can support over 5,000. So, definitely check those resources out.
Chris Turner: One of the last big things that hit in the short month of February was we sent DR teams all over the nation and all over the world, but we now have a need right here in Tennessee with the flooding that happened over in the Knoxville area and a number of people that have been displaced. Just talk a little bit about what our DR teams are doing there and just the importance of … Well, it’s obviously another way that Golden Offering helps is with the disaster relief, but there are some special ways people can help with that. Just talk about how our DR teams have responded, not only outside of Tennessee, but in Tennessee.
Randy Davis: Well, if I could go outside of Tennessee for just a moment, we are still responding in Texas to Hurricane Harvey. We’re continuing with the rebuild project there. The same thing of Maria. After Maria, we’re continuing the recovery and rebuild effort in the little island of Dominica. In Puerto Rico we are continuing the rebuilding effort. I could go on and on about the activities we’ve had just in the last 12 months. Our DR people have been responding well to a lot of different needs that are out there. The recent floods, the February floods impacted all across the state, from Savannah to Morristown, and Knoxville, Cheatham County, and Ooltewah, Spring City, Sneedville, Tri-Cities.
Randy Davis: Knoxville was one of the hardest hit areas, and we’ve had crews working in these areas and setting up to work in these areas for time to come, because there was a lot of destruction caused by those floods. By the way, I’ve been in contact with my counterpart in Alabama, Dr. Rick Lance. The devastating tornadoes of this past weekend that took the lives of so many down in Alabama, our hearts go out to them. We’re praying for them. We stand by ready to help there any way that we possibly can.
Chris Turner: Yeah. I think it’s one of the things Wes Jones mentioned this morning is that we’ll be looking to send some Tennessee disaster relief teams down to Alabama and possibly over into Georgia. So, it has been a very active couple of years with disaster relief. I know that we had Baptist collegiate ministry teams in North Carolina helping with flood recovery back over Christmas, and we have some I believe going over spring break.
Randy Davis: That is a bright spot, Chris, the fact that young adults are being mobilized by the hundreds. There haven’t been just a few teams. There have been close to 200 kids, students, university students responding in North Carolina and South Carolina, Puerto Rico, Florida. Just this week and next week, over the next few weeks, we’ve got teams from our BCMs going out.
Chris Turner: Yeah. You know, disaster relief is such a practical way to serve your neighbor, while at the same time it opens up so many doors to spiritually impact people. Again, February was just a short month, but a busy month. March is shaping up to be quite a month. We would appreciate folks praying for our Baptist collegiate ministries. We have a bunch of our collegiate students that will be traveling around the globe, participating in spring break missions, and then here in Tennessee, and then in other places that have been hit. So, Randy, anything else on February that you feel like would be helpful for Tennessee Baptists just to kind of have an idea of where we are, where we’re going, and what we’re looking forward to in this next month?
Randy Davis: Well, we are absolutely focused. The primary focus is how are we impacting with the gospel of Jesus Christ this mission field called Tennessee? February’s a good reminder that we’re always gonna have distractions. We’re always gonna have things provided to us, be it a natural disaster or some man-made disaster, like the sexual abuse crisis. But we must stay focused on the great commission. There are always gonna be things that will seek your attention more than the thing that our attention must remain on constantly, no matter what’s going on around us. That’s reaching Tennessee with the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s what we’re gonna be doing in March, like we were in February, in spite of everything going around us. How can we serve churches that are reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Chris Turner: Amen. That is a good place to end. We are definitely praying for churches across Tennessee to reach their communities, and be sure and pray for those in your community. Let’s find ways that we can cooperate. Randy, thanks for giving us an update for February.
Randy Davis: Honored to do it.