By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
BRENTWOOD — When Randy C. Davis left the pastorate of First Baptist Church, Sevierville, in 2010 to become the executive director/treasurer of the Tennessee Baptist Convention he had no expectations as to the ease or difficulty of the task he was undertaking.
As he enters his fifth year at the helm of the TBC, Davis noted the last four years “have been one of the richest spiritual journeys of my life.”
He observed that the learning curve of a new role and the challenges facing Tennessee Baptists “have driven me to hunger to know the heart of God like never before.”
In an interview with the Baptist and Reflector a month into his new role in 2010, Davis said his “number one priority is building relationships and meeting with our pastors, churches, and members.”
Davis has accomplished that as evidenced by more than 180,000 miles driven and approximately 350 speaking engagements over the past 48 months.
“I have been encouraged by the incredible pastors, leaders, and laymen I have met across our state.
“We are blessed with some of the greatest people in the world in Tennessee,” Davis affirmed.
The TBC exec has met many of those people in the last six months.
In January Davis launched “Praying Across Tennessee, a plan to have prayer rallies in each of the 95 counties in the state.
The events, which have been held in about two-thirds of the counties up to now, have been “an unexpected source of great encouragement,” Davis observed.
“We wanted to meet with a few people in every county to pray for the lost and for God to give us revival,” he continued.
Instead, the 65 rallies held so far have attracted about 4,000 people, Davis said.
He noted that in each county he has discovered small pockets of people who were already praying for a “mighty outpouring of God’s spirit.” The response of the people has been very encouraging, Davis acknowledged. The prayer rallies will resume at the end of July and continue through early November.
Davis observed that one of his biggest surprises over his first four years was the rapid decline spiritually in today’s culture.
Close behind was the realization that “Tennessee is far more of a growing mission field than I realized,” he said.
Davis also has been surprised that only in the past few years has much been made of the lack of effectiveness in impacting lostness across the Southern Baptist Convention. He acknowledged some people may be offended by the discussion of the lack of evangelism but the facts speak for themselves.
“When we see a 33-35 percent decline (since the 1950s) in impacting people with the gospel we’ve got to be honest in admitting where we are,” he said.
One of Davis’ first tasks as executive director was to get a Vision 2021 team formed by convention vote. The task of the team was to develop a vision and plan for the convention in the years ahead.
The team presented its report in 2012 and a transition team was appointed to implement the approved plan but their report was moved from last year’s convention to this year’s meeting at Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood to give more time for discussion and time to understand the ramifications of the report.
Though it has taken longer than Davis anticipated he is convinced that “we have a clear direction we need to go as a network of churches. The 2012 report and the transition team report to be presented this fall has really assisted me in discovering best how to serve our churches,” he said.
Davis cited things that have been highlights of his ministry over the past four years.
He is grateful that “there is a rapidly growing recognition of our need for revival” in the state.
“I believe people in Tennessee are beginning to understand that lostness locally is as important to impact as lostness globally.”
He noted that the 1-5-1 Harvest Plant initiative is beginning to take off in the state. “It has the potential of being a game changer in helping to reverse our decline in baptisms.”
Davis noted that after the official launch of 1-5-1 at the TBC annual meeting in Chattanooga last November, more than 700 groups “have been planted beyond the walls of our churches.”
In addition, he continued, 740 people have professed faith in Jesus Christ and have been baptized through these groups.
“Most of these people probably would not have gone to one of our churches but our churches went to them and we’ve seen an impact.”
Davis also cited the completion of the Missions Mobilization Center in Mount Juliet and the construction of a new chapel at Linden Valley Baptist Conference Center in Linden as major accomplishments. Both facilities were constructed without incurring any debt, he stressed.
The recent sale of the Baptist Center in Brentwood also has been important, Davis continued.
The sale was a positive statement about “our desire to be good stewards of our Cooperative Program dollars,” he noted.
Over the past four years the TBC staff has been reorganized with many of the staff dispersed on the field in different regions across the state.
“I feel good about the utilization of our resources and people, aligning them with our goal of making Christ known by serving churches,” Davis said.
Davis said his only disappointment has been his observation that “we as Baptists can sometimes get easily distracted from Great Commission work.”
The TBC leader also observed that “we are living in an extremely urgent moment in history. We must heavily lean on one another and not away from each other,” he observed.
The Cooperative Program
While Cooperative Program giving has not increased substantially the past four years, Davis remains optimistic about the CP giving channel which has funded missions and ministries in Tennessee and around the world since its adoption in 1925.
He observed that Baptists have always given to needs. “When Tennesseans see a great need they will respond,” he affirmed. “I’ve seen Cooperative Program dollars at work across the board up close and in person. It remains the most effective way to finance an Acts 1:8 strategy in fulfilling the Great Commission,” he acknowledged.
“If the Lord can capture the hearts of our people with a vision of reaching our children and grandchildren I believe the mission dollars will flow like never before,” Davis added.
Looking back, looking ahead
Davis noted that all he wanted to know four years ago was “what the Lord wanted to do with my life. My calling is to the Lordship of Christ.”
He said he has no reservations about his decision to leave the pastorate for the TBC. “I would make the same decision again because the call of the Lord to do what I’m doing now was so clear then. I can’t imagine it being any less clear four years later.
“Admittedly it was painful to leave Sevierville, the pastorate, and our comfort zone, but it is not about our pain or our comfort. It is all about being obedient to Jesus.”
He is especially grateful for the support given to him by his wife Jeanne during their 38 years of ministry. “The greatest encourager I’ve had in this work the past four years has been Jeanne,” he affirmed.
His passion for reaching the lost is greater than ever before. “There is a generation of children and younger teenagers in Tennessee — 90 percent of whom will not come to know Jesus as Savior unless there is a dramatic shift in our impacting lostness.
“I will give the rest and the best of my life to serving Tennessee Baptists so that shift can occur within the next five to 10 years,” he pledged.