In this episode, TBMB leaders Randy Davis warns pastors not to be “Old Cowboys,” and give a summary of actions taken by the TBMB Board of Directors. Hint: Baptist Collegiate Ministry is on the march and expanding.
Randy Davis: Preach the word. Our culture is craving men that will go into the pulpits, open their Bible, and preach with a thus sayeth the Lord, God.
Chris Turner: Hello and welcome into this edition of Radio B&R. I’m your host, Chris Turner, director of communications here at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, and this episode is our monthly update with our executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, Randy Davis. Randy, thanks for being with us and welcome in.
Randy Davis: Thank you so much, Chris.
Chris Turner: Well, April is a big month for us around here, just because we have our board meeting that happens twice a year, April and September, and so we actually just finished that yesterday. So this is all really front burner stuff. It was a great board meeting and a busy board meeting. Just give us a little bit of how you perceive the board meeting these couple days.
Randy Davis: I think, number one, there’s such an incredible spirit of unity. We’ve got 99 board members, counting president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention we have 100 positions filled on our board. The spirit of it is just one of unity. On Monday nights, we normally have a supper, and we just have what we call reports from the field. People start telling about what God is doing, and God inhabits the praise of His people. So many incredible God testimonies shared by our board members and staff, and it is just an incredible time. It makes for a good spirit the next day.
Chris Turner: I was going to say, it really sets the tone. I think that as that thing gets rolling, that’s a train that could just roll down a track as one testimony after another. It is fun to hear geographically how the Lord is literally moving across Tennessee in so many different places. As we moved Tuesday into the actual business session of the board, there was several things that came out of that, that was a busy time. One of the big things that came out of that was some news about our Baptist Collegiate Ministries in a couple different places.
Randy Davis: Well absolutely. Most all of this has been in the works for quite some time, but we closed in the month of April on a piece of property over at the BCM at Tennessee Tech. It is a piece of property adjoining Tennessee Tech, and of course, Tennessee Tech BCM has just really exploded with growth. It’s been solid for a long, long, long time. Now we’re able to buy this piece of property to expand the reach there quite a bit, give them more room.
Randy Davis: We’ve also been in discussions about a project at the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at the University of Memphis that I think is a game changer. I think when that thing is off the ground and running, it is going to take our work there to a whole new level, and it will serve as a prototype for other BCMs, not only in Tennessee, but across the nation. We are in the study phase of replacing our BCM building there with a four story dorm that would house 120 students. On the first floor will be meeting space and possibly some businesses that line up with our values, like Chick-fil-A. Then those 120 students will be in a pretty in depth, intensive discipleship program during their time as students at University of Memphis, so that when they graduate with whatever the degree their going after, they will be fully devoted followers of Christ that are well equipped to have an impact on the world.
Randy Davis: Our administrative committee met on Monday afternoon. Monday morning we got a call about a piece of property we’ve had our eye on beside our BCM building at the University of Tennessee at Martin. The call was that it was now available.
Chris Turner: Wow.
Randy Davis: It was a former fraternity house, and because of its availability, and our board voted to purchase it for $275,000. Depending on how much renovation we can do to that fraternity house, there is strong possibility we could begin what we want to do in Memphis much sooner at the University of Martin. Jeff at Memphis and Morgan Owen at Martin are just two of the best disciplers of students that I’ve had the privilege and joy of knowing. So those are pretty strong developments. I have often bragged about the incredible opportunity we have on our campuses. Nearly 400,000 students across this state on our campuses, coming from all over the world, and we have about 20 missionaries, ministers, working through BCM on these campuses, and it’s one of the richest missionary opportunities we have as a mission organization.
Chris Turner: Yeah, it’s a big opportunity for Tennessee Baptist. I think that one of the things about these properties opening up and then becoming so strategic is the work that’s gone before, the insight and the way God provided 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago for some of the properties where our BCMs are located are in the hearts of some of these campuses. Thousands of students walk past those buildings every day. Tennessee Baptist are really in the heart geographically on those campuses, where we have a great opportunity to minister and the Lord is just continuing to bless that. You also made a big announcement about some issues related to sexual abuse and what it is that the next step for Tennessee Baptist, as you see it. You mentioned last month, talked about how we as Tennessee Baptist have been helping churches with this type of issue for 20 years. Just resources, and then preparation and counseling, and helping them know how to have a safe space when children or anyone else comes to their church, but you’ve now gone the next step. Talk just a little bit about what you’re doing with that.
Randy Davis: Well, we announced to our board yesterday about the formation of a sexual abuse prevention and response task force. This task force is going to be having the responsibility to help eradicate sex abuse in any church, as well as helping churches know how to respond in a biblical way as well as a legal way when that kind of thing does happen in relationship to their church. Like you mentioned, we’ve been doing this for over two decades, but now’s the time that we’re going to be working with the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home.
Randy Davis: I’ve had a couple of conversations with Greg McCoy. We’re on the same page. Greg is the president there over at Children’s Homes, and their whole mission is to protect children. Now while the Children’s Homes nor the mission board can, because of polity or practicality, can be on the front line of protecting the children, the churches are. So we want to do all we can to protect them. The purpose of the task force is to look at all of the tools we have in the tool box right now, to look at some that may be available that aren’t in the tool box, and examine it and then to pass the very best tools we can on to our churches in equipping them to prevent child abuse.
Randy Davis: Also, we know that this, there’s been much discussion in the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. JD Greer, the president of the Convention, as well as Russ Moore, with the ERLC and Lifeway, have been attempting to formulate some new materials to make churches safe places, safer places than they already are, and caring places for both victims and also in prevention. So we’re looking forward to examining everything we can possibly look at to say what are the best tools we can use. That’s the purpose of this task force.
Chris Turner: Yeah, and we do have some resources that are available. There are a couple of articles that we ran back in March, first part of March, on the Baptist & Reflector that relate to this issue. Then we have a great podcast with our business administrator, William Maxwell, who has helped churches from a legal and administrative perspective with this for years. Then also Vicki Halsey, who is our child ministry specialist, that conversation with them offered some great ideas as well. So you don’t have to wait. If you’re listening, you can go back out and see some of the things we’ve already got going.
Chris Turner: Board members also really expressed to you a concern about two other things, mental health of pastors and reaching men with the gospel and discipling them. Just touch a little bit on that, and just why those really seem to be issues of concern with them and obviously everyone else.
Randy Davis: The last hour of our board meeting, we had a forum where our directors could share anything and everything on their hearts. It was a great time of brainstorming. No other agenda except tell us what’s on your heart and your mind, ask any questions. And the two things that we probably spent the most time around are the two that you mention.
Randy Davis: One is a there’s a great concern about the pastor leaders of our churches knowing how to take care of themselves mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally. I really believe that burn out is a major issue. Matter of fact, before we started recording this podcast, I got an email from a pastor looking for some help in the area of burn out. When a pastor starts giving of himself, like a really good pastor will do, he’s going to be emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally spent. That’s what he does. He gives himself away constantly. If he doesn’t know how to healthy take time away and replenish what he’s giving out, then there’s a disaster around the corner.
Randy Davis: Most of ministry leaders that fail morally deal with burn out first. It’s either burn out where they are going at it too rapidly and not practicing sabbath, or is boredom. You’ve got King David with his sin with Bathsheba. The Bible says while other men were out at war, he was at the house. Satan can use that idle time to lead you in a path you don’t want to go. So we do have a deep concern for the well being of our pastors and we are going to be doing all we can to help our pastors stay fit or get fit, whether that’s physically, spiritually, emotionally, or mentally, just to be a help.
Randy Davis: The other thing the board members discussed was of course how to reach men and how to disciple men, how to help men feel like they have a place in the body of Christ where they can grow, where they can be themselves, where they can address issues that they’re facing all of the time. In conjunction of that, one of the sweet ladies on our board brought up pornography and the devastating effects of pornography. So my encouragement to our churches is don’t think of these things as taboo. Focus on your pastor’s health, focus on the fact that you’ve got to do some things to help men overcome what they’re facing and to be men in this culture that diminishes the value of manhood.
Randy Davis: There are a lot of tools out there that people can find to use to help them reach men, and disciple men, and equip men. So I’d certainly encourage our churches to write us, to email us, and we’ll be happy to point them in that direction.
Chris Turner: Well, along those lines, you just released your column yesterday in the Baptist & Reflector that is titled Somebody Has to Tell the Pastor He’s Not a Cowboy. So you do offer four points of unsolicited advice, as you say in the column, to pastors and really to anybody else, because unfortunately a lot of times church members see their pastor as the old cowboy staying in the saddle until it’s all over with. You just suggest that’s never going to end well in there, but talk a little bit about the four things that you encourage pastors to really pay attention to, and the whole idea of not being that lone ranger.
Randy Davis: Well much of what I say grows out of 34 years of pastoring and knowing the deficiencies in my own life and the struggles in my own life, but I believe it begins and ends with prayer. That cannot be something that we just teach about or read about or preach about. That’s got to be something we incorporate into our own daily lives. I’m talking about both quality and quantity. I say in the article that any man mightily used of God is a man that is well acquainted with passionate, persistent, and agonizing praying. Nothing is more important than your intimacy with the Lord. Out of that intimacy will grow power in the pulpit. Out of that intimacy with the Lord will grow His direction, His vision, and I think prayer is one of those things that’s incredibly valuable.
Randy Davis: The second thing I talk about is speak up. Preach the word. Our culture is craving men that will go into the pulpits, open their Bible, and preach with a thus sayeth the Lord, God. Certainly the culture is dark, but that doesn’t mean that our preaching must be diminished because of the darkness of the culture. The strongest preaching you’ll find in the Bible, the strongest prophetic voices, were voices that were at a time that the culture was dark, people need the gospel, and they’re craving this kind of biblical, courageous yet compassionate preaching. I don’t think anybody will go in the pulpit and preach about the subject of hell, and preach like they’re glad people are going there. I think it ought to really break our hearts.
Chris Turner: Well, and it really does come down to that thing that if the only way that we are going to see cultural transformation is if it happens from within the heart. The only way that that happens in any form of truthfulness is through the gospel, through a heart transformation that comes from a relationship with Christ. So to withhold that from the culture is actually doing the greatest disservice to the gospel as far as us being Christians in the culture. So the gospel is the thing that people around us need. So when you say speak up, that’s not a word just for pastors, but it certainly is a word for all of us.
Randy Davis: Absolutely.
Chris Turner: What else? You had two more points on your column.
Randy Davis: Well, one was show up. The pastor is not the CEO. I know the Apostle Paul told us in Ephesians to equip people for the work of the ministry, but that doesn’t excuse us from our role as shepherds. Some of the greatest influences I’ve had in my life were men that would preach to thousands of people on Sunday, but as I was with them in their churches I noticed that children knew their name. I noticed that they knew the name of every custodian. I noticed that they were shepherds, not just proclaimers of the word. I think that if God’s called you to pastor, then you need to show up, be there with your people when they’re going through bad times and good times. It gives validity to what you say in the pulpit. I think it was Maxwell that said people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. The title pastor is far more about a towel, where you wash feet and not just wear some mantle that you have given yourself. It’s a calling of the Lord.
Randy Davis: The last thing I shared with, I hope, many pastors is that they need to absolutely rest up. Pastoring is not only a high calling, it is a grind. In the pew, people have the perception of the pastor never needs a vacation. I mean all he does is preach on Sundays and maybe Wednesdays. So why does he need any kind of vacation or any kind of time away? A pastor feels like he has to constantly justify his role. A pastor needs to build in the discipline of daily they’re going to come apart and be with the Lord, weekly they’re going to have a day off. To have two days off in a weekend is highly unusual, but they’re going to at least have a day off where they rest and they unplug.
Randy Davis: I had a wise layman once come to me at the last church I served, and said, “Brother Randy, would you do a time study?” I had never done a time study. I’ve worked since I was 12, not paying attention to a time sheet. I’ve pastored since the month I turned 20 and I never paid attention to what kind of time I was investing. I just did what I needed to do, much to my own detriment. Understand I’m not bragging, I’m sounding out an alarm. Most pastors can put in a 50 hour week and not blink at it. This time study I did revealed that I had some weeks, during the four to six weeks that I did this, where 70 hours were being put in. But here’s the deal. It’s not just a matter of ticking off time, it’s what you’re doing with that time.
Randy Davis: Even the study and the preparation for Sunday, you know that you’re going to have a crowd there whether it’s 20 people or 2,000 people. You’re going to have their attention for 20, 30, 40 minutes. They expect to be fed from the word of God. You’re admonished in the Bible to rightly divide the word. That takes time to prepare, to exegy, to illustrate, to apply the scripture. You put a lot into it, but on top of that you get a call, you go to the hospital, there’s a family facing a trauma that they had never anticipated, and you’re spending time with them. You’re standing in the gap for them.
Randy Davis: The last 18 months I was in the pastorate, I went through the loss of young families in our church of babies. Not miscarriages, miscarriages are bad enough by themselves, but I’m talking about children that were born and within a matter of immediately or days after, they were still born or they died soon thereafter. I did four of those funerals. When you walk as a shepherd with a family through that, you pour your heart into it and it drains you. Multiply that and you can add on all the people that gripe and complain and expect the pastor to change the light bulbs and fix things, and fix their broken lives. They’ve done a poor job of parenting their kids, but their kids should be 18 and 19, they expect their pastor to somehow miraculously fix it, and all of that takes its toll on the pastor. I would encourage the pastor to take time off. I would encourage our churches to really make sure that their pastor is healthy and taking the time he needs to recharge. They will be glad in the long run.
Chris Turner: Yeah, and that really goes back to that conversation you were having with board members about just the mental health of pastors and you had written an article on that last year after the young pastor, early 30’s from out in California, committed suicide and left behind a really young family. We just kind of saw that and some other instances in 2018, and just the burden that you’ve had for that and certainly just with the phone calls and conversations you have throughout the week. So, it’s not something that’s theoretical. It is a reality. We have pastors that are stressed, on the verge of burn out, or at the point of burn out, and they really need to exhale and be able to have some space to take care of themselves. I don’t think God ever expects us to sacrifice our families on the altar of ministry or missions.
Randy Davis: That’s a good word. I appreciate that, Chris, because it reminds me what I just talked about was pastors taking care of the flock. His first ministry, his first calling is to take care of his own family. We just came out of a staff meeting here and there was a prayer request because one of our staff members here in Tennessee had a 12 year old son try to take his own life just recently. Our pastors are dealing with a whole lot, even in their own families. We need healthy churches and healthy pastors that walk together through these times and appreciate that we all put on our pants the same way. We all have the same struggles.
Chris Turner: Well that’s a good word. You think about pastor appreciation day, that’s great, but boy it would sure help a pastor if he was appreciated 365 days.
Randy Davis: It would.
Chris Turner: Anyway, well that’s a good wrap for April. It’s been a busy month. May is no less busy around here, and then of course we’re just six weeks away from Southern Baptist Convention. So it’s hard to believe it’s already May 1, but Randy thanks so much for the update and we’ll look forward to hearing what we’ve got going in May.
Randy Davis: All right. Thank you so much, Chris.
Announcer: Thank you for listening to Radio B&R, a podcast production of the Baptist & Reflector, the official news journal of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. This and other episodes can be downloaded at baptistandreflector.org/radiobr. The ministries of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board are supported through the cooperative program and gifts received through the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions. For more information visit tnbaptist.org.