CHATTANOOGA — When Greg McCoy, president of Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home, was asked why Christians should be involved in compassion ministries, McCoy said the answer comes from the only source that really matters.
“We’re told all through scripture that there’s a group of people (that we are instructed to care for),” said McCoy. “Those are vulnerable people. Those are widows, those are the stranger, the alien, the refugee … (and) special-needs adults. Those are children who can’t take care of themselves.
“So, why should we be involved? Obedience,” he said.
McCoy’s answer came in response to a question asked by Fred Shackelford, pastor of Ellendale Baptist Church in Bartlett, during a panel discussion at the 2023 Summit. Shackelford served as the moderator for the discussion.
McCoy was joined on the panel by Bill Gruenewald, president of the Tennessee Baptist Foundation and Mark Anderson, president of Tennessee Baptist Adult Homes.
Anderson reminded the Summit attendees that being involved with compassion ministries is a way of a taking the desire to do something good and then putting those thoughts into action.
“It’s one thing to have empathy for somebody else and imagine what it would be like to be in their shoes,” said Anderson. “But compassion is taking it a step beyond that and actually being compelled to do something about it.
“Our staff in our group homes are doing something about it all day, every day,” Anderson said.
Gruenewald explained how the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s Acts 2:17 Initiative is connected with compassion ministries in a variety of ways.
“Our goal as a convention is to see every person in Tennessee hear the gospel,” Gruenewald said. “Well, the way we look at it, we want every Tennessee Baptist to think about leaving a legacy through their estate, to give 10 percent or more to help their church, to help the convention reach the world for Christ.
“That’s how you can do it,” Gruenewald added. “And we can help you do that.”
Each of the three panel members invited Summit attendees to visit their respective instutions in order to not only see their dollars at work, but also to get a firsthand look at how lives are being positively impacted by these ministries.
“There is no substitute for being in the home and meeting the people who are being cared for through your cooperative program dollars, your Father’s Day Offering dollars (and other offerings),” Anderson said. “Those dollars are going to helping people.”
“I wish that I could ask you to come and be direct care providers,” Anderson said. “Our insurance won’t let me let you do that, but you can certainly come and work alongside our staff to provide care and support and just nurture the personalities of the men and women who live there.”
The panel members said they appreciated the prayers of Tennessee Baptists for the institutions. Beyond that, however, there are other ways to provide support, Gruenewald noted.
“God calls us to give,” said Gruenewald, “and we all should be givers. I see our role as helping the church find enough resources that they can do compassion ministries, not only in their town, but across our state and around the world. That’s what I feel our role is at the foundation. We’ve been doing it for 85 years.”
McCoy noted that the work of compassion ministries can often be challenging, and he encouraged the Summit attendees to pray that the workers remain energized.
“The young people that we serve, they do not win a contest to get to come and live with us,” McCoy said. “So, they have stuff that they bring with them, trauma issues. As you pray for them, please also pray for the people on the front lines of our ministry, including our houseparents and our foster care parents. They need energy, they need wisdom, they need patience, they need help. You can pray those things for our team.”
Anderson requested similar prayers for his team.
“Doing something means you’re working — and yes, it’s hard work,” Anderson said. “So, please pray for my staff that they don’t just become so fatigued as they give and give and give. … It can be a drain. So, please pray for my staff. They’re top-notch. I would love for you to meet every one of them.” B&R — Video of the panel discussion can be viewed in its entirety at tbcsummit.org.