CORDOVA — Bartholomew Orr, pastor of Brown Missionary Baptist Church in Southaven, Miss., challenged Tennessee Baptists to join together for the sake of the gospel. Preaching the convention sermon from Ezra 7:27-28 during the final session of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board’s annual Summit, Nov. 16 at Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, Orr reminded the crowd that God has been faithful.
God brought us through a pandemic, Orr said, and now we have “a time of opportunity, a time of revival and a time of awakening.”
Orr also reminded worshippers of the task before them. While Ezra was called to beautify the temple in Jerusalem, Tennessee Baptists have been called to beautify the church, but we cannot have a beautiful church “if it is full of broken people,” Orr said. “To beautify the temple, we must beautify the people, and to beautify the people, we must return to the word of God.”
To fulfill the church’s task of restoring broken people, the church also needs the right team with the right leader, Orr continued.
Ezra was the right man to lead the people back to Jerusalem because he was a man with a message, a man with means, and a man on a mission.
Orr reminded Tennessee pastors that, like Ezra, they have a message for this time. By God’s grace, Tennessee Baptists are also people of means, Orr said. “We serve a God who has made us a people of means in spite of recession and inflation,” Orr said. And Tennessee Baptists have a mission to proclaim the gospel of Christ.
But Ezra could not do the work God had called him to do alone, Orr said, and neither can Tennessee Baptists. Ezra 7:28b reads in part, “And I gathered some of the leaders of Israel to return with me to Jerusalem.”
“Our greatest days are ahead,” Orr declared. “For success, we must know our roles, follow the rules and complete our responsibilities.”
In Ezra 8:15, Ezra had examined the list of those scheduled to return to Jerusalem. No Levites had volunteered, Orr explained. Ezra empowered the leaders to find Levites and others who served in the temple to join the team.
“Our teams need dreamers, thinkers and doers,” Orr said. “We need those who preach the gospel and those who tote the water and cut the wood. We need folks who stand at the door and those who pick up the trash. On God’s team, we need everybody because on God’s team, everybody matters!”
Orr also encouraged listeners to follow the rules. “If we follow the rules, God will protect us,” Orr said. He defined the rules as worshiping God consistently, fasting humbly and praying persistently.
Finally, Orr encouraged Tennessee Baptists to complete their responsibilities. Ezra and his team were responsible for transporting gold and other materials more than 900 miles from Babylon to Jerusalem. Those on the team needed to “be brave and protect the treasure,” Orr said.
Likewise, God has given Tennessee Baptists the responsibility to protect the treasure of salvation He has given us, Orr said.
To do this, Tennessee Baptists must remember they are stewards not owners; they must be sanctified, not worldly; they must be submissive not stubborn; and they must serve with the end in mind.
“Are you ready?” Orr asked. “Tennessee, are you up for the journey? Let’s do this together!”
To a standing ovation, Orr declared, “We can’t be divided, but together we can reclaim our families, regroup as believers, rebuild our congregations, renew our fellowships, revive our souls, resurrect sinners, revitalize our communities and receive the blessings of God!”
“Together, we can meet needs, seize opportunities and solve problems. Black and white, arm in arm, we can see 50,000 baptisms in a single year. We can see churches revitalized and churches planted. We can see an increase in giving,” Orr said.
“What a time! What a task! What a team! What a triumph!” Orr concluded. “Let’s do this together!” B&R — Lovell has written about Baptist work for more than 20 years. She lives in Spring Hill.