TBMB Executive Director Randy Davis spent just a few minutes with the Radio B&R crew discussing several emerging issues in the SBC including the recent SBC Executive Committee meeting that generated headlines regarding the ERLC, concerns surrounding the 2020 SBC Pastors’ Conference and the launch of the Conservative Baptist Network.
Chris Turner: Hello and welcome into this edition of Radio B&R. I’m your host, Chris Turner, director of communications, and today our guest is Dr. Randy Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. Randy, thanks for being with us.
Dr. Randy Davis: Well, I’m honored to be here, Chris. Thank you for having me.
Chris Turner: Well, we usually do kind of a month monthly wrap up of things that are going on across Tennessee Baptist Convention and then beyond. But this is a bit of a special episode that we’ve talked about doing to address some of the big news items that are going on across the Southern Baptist Convention, that you’re being asked about by pastors and many of our state missionaries are being asked about. So we thought we’d just dedicate this episode to talking about several of those items.
Chris Turner: The biggest is, you were just recently at the Executive Committee meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention and heard Dr. Floyd roll out his vision between now and 2025. Just talk a little bit about what Dr. Floyd said that really made an impression on you and how you feel about the direction that Tennessee Baptist can go. Especially in relation to our five objectives and what you feel like it’s really a rally cry.
Dr. Randy Davis: Well, it was more than just hearing what he had to say. It was feeling what he was saying. I’ve seldom seen somebody pour their hearts out like Dr. Floyd did about these… Similar to Tennessee Baptist Convention’s five objectives, he laid out five bullet points of leading Southern Baptist to where I think we need to be heading. And it was clearly, passionately, courageously articulated.
Dr. Randy Davis: It had to do with seeing an increase in full-time, fully-funded international missionaries overseas. Seeing a growth of 500 by 2025. That is remarkable visionary leadership. And he and Dr. Chitwood are all together about this. It’s a passion and a hope of Dr. Chitwood to see this become a reality.
Dr. Randy Davis: But not only the 500 new IMB, fully-funded missionaries, but also a net growth of 6,000 Southern Baptist churches by 2025. This is not only new church plants, but also like-minded evangelicals that are Baptistic in their nature and operation and belief system coming along and being a part of us.
Dr. Randy Davis: He also looked at the possibility of making a great plea, an appointed plea, to call out the called. You know, when I was saved, I also heard not only from the pulpit a pastor that was calling people to Jesus, but I heard a pastor calling people to a life work of ministry. Those that are called to preach and serve as missionaries and serve on church staff, giving their lives to a call of God on their lives. To call out the call.
Dr. Randy Davis: Dr. Floyd was also very passionate about our focus on those 12 to 18 years of age. Back in the early seventies we saw better than 150,000 in that age bracket coming to know Christ on an annual basis. Now we are barely above 50,000 in that age bracket and we’ve mentioned here on many, many occasion that if trends continue for that generation, only one out of every 10 of them will have a personal relationship with Christ. Once they get past 18 years of age, nine out of 10 will not know Christ.
Dr. Randy Davis: There’s a great rallying cry for us to focus on that demographic and go after them with the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is an urgent, urgent need. And then one of the thing that Dr. Floyd mentioned was an increase in Cooperative Program giving by $50 million by 2025. This would mean a greater sacrifice, a greater point of really supporting what we see are priorities. And here in Tennessee, we’ve been saying since 2014 that one of our goals was to see the percentage of every church increase in Cooperative Program giving because it supports the Southern Baptist ecosystem in a way that nothing else can.
Chris Turner: Yeah, and you’ve talked about how even that percentage increase in Cooperative Program that moves towards 10%, then when it gets to 10%, how many millions of dollars that actually adds to the entire ecosystem. Especially money that goes to the IMB. That the most efficient way to continue to supply those missionaries overseas is to see that steady growth, not only in the Cooperative Program, but then that level sustain. And that really is where our funding is most reliably from is it not?
Dr. Randy Davis: Oh, it is. And it’s the only funding that supports what David Platt called the Southern Baptist ecosystem.
Dr. Randy Davis: We have a kid that enrolls at Tennessee Tech. He meets somebody there involved in our BCM that introduces him to the Lord. He decides to go on his first mission trip through the BCM, possibly in a call out for disaster relief response. During this time he’s maturing in his faith. He fills the call of the Lord in the missions. And those that are called are called out. He decides to go to Southern Baptist Seminary when he finishes degree work at Tech. And at that seminary, the Cooperative Program pays about 37% of his tuition. The Cooperative Program financially back the BCM, where he came to know the Lord on that college campus. Then when he gets overseas, almost 40% of the support for our Southern Baptist missionaries comes through the Cooperative Program. So it is a missions mutual fund that is having great impact.
Chris Turner: Yeah. Not to mention that it also helps support Southern Baptist disaster relief, and then really in Dr. Floyd’s vision, the 6,000 new churches across America. And you know, NAMB’s funding coming through Cooperative Program. So that’s one of the reasons we’ve had such a significant emphasis on the Cooperative Program. Not so much just to see that money increased for the sake of it increasing, but knowing that it is the lifeblood of Southern Baptist missions.
Chris Turner: So one of the other things that came out at the Executive Committee meeting last week that really has gone back and forth over the past week is just the dynamic between what the board of directors of the Executive Committee talked about. And then the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission. Just talk briefly about what’s a bit of the issue there and what Southern Baptists, Tennessee Baptists, really need to know and be thinking about regarding that?
Dr. Randy Davis: Well it is just beginning. There was a press release today that the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention has released the members of this study committee. There’s one trustee that’s from Tennessee that is on that committee. Ron Hale. Be praying for each one of them.
Dr. Randy Davis: The Executive Committee is the Southern Baptist Convention. They’re not the same as every other board for the Southern Baptist entities. When they meet it is the Southern Baptist Convention meeting. Until we get to June. So in between the larger conventions, they are doing the work for us. So they have the right to ask the questions. How this plays out in the weeks ahead, we’ll just have to stay tuned. I understand the concerns. I understand the questions. Much of it is motivated by blog sites that in my opinion are less than truthful. But nonetheless people have some concerns and I hope they can reach a place to having some meaningful dialogue to get to a place of continuing to work.
Dr. Randy Davis: I appreciate the ERLC, the tone and tenor of late. They’re focusing on things like abortion in a stronger manner than ever before. And so there’s some things that here in Tennessee are very important to us. They applauded the law that the governor signed concerning the protecting evangelical adoption agencies that can deny same-sex couples. They don’t have to facilitate the adoption from same-sex couples. That’s now the law. There are plenty of other agencies that will accommodate that. But for those that are standing on the book, that are Christian, and they say they just can’t facilitate that kind of adoption, it was a strong measure and I appreciate Dr. Moore in the ERLC applauding this measure and helping with it.
Chris Turner: Well, one of the other things that came out at that meeting that might’ve… Well, some people picked up on it, was the issue at the Pastor’s Conference this June. The way that it’s currently scheduled and some of the debate that’s gone back and forth with people that either were or are or originally were scheduled to speak. And obviously a lineup that is not traditionally where we’ve been with the SBC Pastor’s Conference. Just briefly tell us a little bit about what the issue is and then what your perspective on that is.
Dr. Randy Davis: Well, I think you mentioned it. The big issue is that there are some people in the lineup that are contrary to where we are doctrinally. They have some ideas. They have some practices that seem to be pretty far from what we hold as basic Baptist doctrine. The president of the Pastor’s Conference is free to invite whoever he wants to invite. No Cooperative Program funding is used for the Pastor’s Conference. Then we have a right to choose to go and attend or not to attend the Pastor’s Conference.
Dr. Randy Davis: I appreciate the EC as having discussions with the Pastor’s Conference president Dr. Uth, from First Baptist Orlando. And he has asked for 40 days instead of a couple of weeks and really he’s called his church to prayer. He’s called all of us to prayer and I was very thankful for that kind of direction. And the folks at the Executive Committee, the president of the SBC, have all agreed to that kind of extension and I think it gives everybody an opportunity to respond instead of just react. So I think it’s a good thing.
Dr. Randy Davis: When my children were growing up, we took our daughters to the Southern Baptist Convention and they loved it. They loved the exhibit area. They called it the Baptist Halloween and they’d go from booth to booth and they would collect their candy and whatever else they were giving out. They sat in the business sessions and they would listen intently. But the highlight for the family was the Pastor’s Conference. The music, the preaching. We all just absolutely loved it. But if you were to ask my girls now, who are 38 and 40, what they loved about the SBC and attending it, they would tell you it was the Pastor’s Conference. So it grieves me that we are having this consternation around the Pastor’s Conference and I would ask everybody to pray for leaders at the Executive Committee and leaders at the Pastor’s Conference, that some accommodations and compromises would be made that would preserve the unity and have a doctrinal integrity to it.
Chris Turner: One of the other things that came out at the meeting of the announcement that with the partnership between NAMB and IMB, which poses some exciting opportunities and really brings together some resources there. Just talk a little bit about that. I know Dr. Chitwood at the IMB is a personal friend of yours, and just the direction things are going with that.
Dr. Randy Davis: Yeah. The idea of sin relief coming on board and on line I’ve heard from Dr. Easel and Dr. Chitwood, and the primary focus is going to be on fundraising to finance sin relief efforts. Which includes disaster relief, our crisis response, adoption, foster care, meeting the needs of the impoverished around our country through some ministry centers that are going to be constructed in 20 cities around the nation. And Baptist global response has been the IMB’s version of disaster relief as they responded to earthquakes and tsunamis and so many things that happen the globe. But they’re combining their efforts and primarily the fundraising efforts.
Dr. Randy Davis: This has not been fleshed out in great detail about how it will work. And I am a tremendous fan of Southern Baptist disaster relief and I think for almost half of a century a brand has been built and an expectation has been laid out [inaudible 00:15:21] and our reputation has been built, that when there’s a disaster, Southern Baptist are going to show up. And in many occasions they will beat FEMA to the site. I just feel like we’ve got a reputation that is stellar across the country and so we’re waiting to see how things flesh out in the weeks and months ahead with the new paradigm that is being presented by NAMB and the IMB.
Chris Turner: Well, all of that really culminated in a week where we saw the foundation or formation of the Conservative Baptist Network. And it quickly got some traction and was picked up with several of the bloggers, different news agencies and stuff. How does the CBN play into where we are as a Southern Baptist Convention, especially as we start the march to our annual meeting down in Orlando this year?
Dr. Randy Davis: Well, I think there’s a couple of things. Number one. There are those that fear a liberal drift within the Southern Baptist Convention. I don’t think there’s a liberal drift within the SBC. I think there are some issues that would give the appearance of a liberal drift and some things we need to be very, very vigilant about.
Dr. Randy Davis: I was with about 20 of our pastors on Monday of this week in the Western part of our state. Some guys that I love dearly, I trust their hearts. They’re wise. I love it every time I’m with them. And some of these concerns were voiced by these guys that are leading our churches. So I think there is a concern about a liberal drift. As long as we’ve got the Baptist faith and message as an anchor and we really do not give it lip service, but it governs how we respond and how we lead ourselves. I think that’s very, very important.
Dr. Randy Davis: The second thing is when people begin feeling disenfranchised and they don’t feel listened to and they feel disrespected, then they’re looking for someplace to go. And I think that the Conservative Baptist Network, a part of it, is the idea that they want some place that they are not going to be disrespected. That they’re going to come together because they share some concerns. That’s the great thing about Baptist life. We are an autonomous bunch of people from every church to every agency. We are autonomous from every state convention, from every association. We are autonomous. So I do not get the feeling that those that are a part of the Conservative Baptist Network want to leave the Southern Baptist Convention. I just think they want to make sure they’ve got a seat at the table and can influence and they can be heard.
Chris Turner: Well, one thing that definitely Southern Baptist Convention had nothing to do with was the coronavirus, which, it’s just top of news on all the websites, news websites and cable news and all that. We just released an article today on the coronavirus and should we be fearful of it. And so you made some comments in that article about really where we are. We actually had a phone call from one of our churches yesterday that was concerned about, what do they do related to it. We obviously can’t quit assembling ourselves together, but just from your perspective, what would you tell Tennessee Baptists about dealing with coronavirus and where we are right now in Tennessee?
Dr. Randy Davis: Well, I think common sense should absolutely lead us and guide us. I think that we here at the TBMB are watching this very carefully because we’ve got a lot of children’s camps coming up this summer. And we’ve got a students going out on mission and we’ve got partnerships with Guatemala and Germany and elsewhere. So we’ve got a responsibility to be careful with the people that we’re sending out, with the people that we’re responsible for. I do not believe that… Panic would be the worst thing to do. We don’t need to call off assembling for worship. We don’t need to stop gathering together.
Dr. Randy Davis: There’s no magic in this. We just need to keep our hands washed. We need to be careful and show some common sense as we go about this thing. My wife and I are taking a trip exploring a partnership missions with somebody outside the mainland U.S. in just about two weeks and we’re still planning on making the trip. But we’re going to be very careful and we will do everything we can to keep ourselves safe. And I believe that’s the biggest deal is let’s watch it. Let’s be careful as we observe what’s happening and follow it closely. Then we will be issuing some advice to our church leaders and associational leaders, as I know that many others will be doing also. So I think the biggest thing to do right now is not to panic or to be gripped by fear over this. Just be cautious.
Chris Turner: Yeah. And one of the things you mentioned in the article was that we have a relatively low risk of that impacting us here, but we do have international missionaries serving around the world that are in places that could potentially be, or currently are, having an issue with coronavirus. And so a good strategy for us is to pray for our personnel overseas and then for doors to open up that this issue might make people more receptive to the gospel.
Chris Turner: Well, that’s a lot going on. It seems like there’s a lot of things to distract us, but you would probably encourage us to take another course of action other than being distracted by the periphery.
Dr. Randy Davis: Well, it certainly is. I’ve read lately in Nehemiah chapter six and Nehemiah is one of my favorite books. I think it’s the greatest leadership book that has ever been written and it was written by the Holy Spirit. In the book of Nehemiah, Nehemiah is on the wall. He’s almost completed the work. The only thing he hasn’t done yet is set the Gates, but he’s being tempted to come down off the wall. They want him to go to the Plains of Ono, which was a pretty sweet place to go. But his response was, “I’m doing a great work. Why should I come off this wall?”
Dr. Randy Davis: I think when you go back to the five objectives of Tennessee Baptist, seeing more people saved and baptized and sent on the road to discipleship, planting more churches, seeing churches revitalized and giving generously to support great commission and great commandment work at home and around the world. Let’s not be distracted from all of the things going on around us to keep us from the main thing being the main thing. Let’s keep at it.
Chris Turner: Well that’s a great word for us to end on. Keep our eye on the ball and just stay after it. Well Randy, thanks for spending a little bit of time with us to address some very real, very relevant issues in the SBC, and just remind us to keep our focus on our harvest field.
Dr. Randy Davis: Thank you so much, Chris.