CHATTANOOGA — Messengers to the 149th annual meeting of the Tennessee Baptist Convention overwhelmingly endorsed the Acts 2:17 Initiative, providing direction for the future of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, beginning in 2025.
The Acts 2:17 Initiative was launched at last year’s annual meeting at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova and continued with a series of listening sessions that continued throughout the early part of 2023.
A task force, chaired by Nashville pastor Jay Hardwick of Forest Hills Baptist Church, worked diligently throughout the year to “draft a vision that would focus the energy, efforts and resources of the network of Tennessee Baptist churches, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board and the institutions fostered by the Convention into the immediate and extended future of the Convention following the 150th anniversary of the TBC in 2024.”
Hardwick informed messengers that the task force “wanted to seek the Lord and that is why we emphasized prayer and wanted to hear from Tennessee Baptists.” He noted that more than 1,000 Tennesseans participated in listening sessions and another 500 church leaders completed surveys.
As a result of that survey, the task force members learned that nearly 500 Tennessee Baptist churches are without a pastor at any given time. “The pipeline is dry. Pastors are hurting — and quitting — like never before . We couldn’t just hole up in a room. … We needed to hear from the Lord and from you,” he said.
The recommendation is as follows:
The Acts 2:17 Initiative Task Force respectfully recommends that the messengers of the 2023 annual meeting of the Tennessee Baptist Convention affirm and adopt the following Vision and Priority Statements to guide further planning for the work of the Convention and its related ministries beginning in November of 2024 and beyond:
A collaborative network of spiritually healthy churches reaching Tennessee and beyond for Christ so that:
Every pastor is connected and supported for healthy ministry;
Every member has an active plan for spiritual maturity;
Every child has a home and gospel foundation;
Every parent has a biblical vision for their family;
Every church has growing leaders called to ministry;
Every city has effective, multiplying churches;
UNTIL every Tennessean hears the gospel.
Task force member Joel Pigg, pastor of Salem Baptist Church, Trenton, noted the word “every” hit him “like a bolt of lightning. We (ourselves) can’t save anyone, but working collectively we can tell everyone about the gospel,” Pigg said.
Task force members addressed the various aspects of the four priority statements in the recommendation: Fueling Church Collaboration, Catalyzing Spiritual Maturity, Transforming Family Impact and Confronting Mental Health.
Dwayne Lewis, church planting specialist for the Nashville Baptist Association, observed that if churches collaborated to assist other churches, “we would see more churches strategically planted and more churches revitalized,” he said.
Nashville pastor Jeff Mims of Judson Baptist Church, Nashville, cited the importance of prayer and discipleship. “If we work on prayer and developing disciples, our churches will grow,” he said.
Team member Martha Pitts of Germantown Baptist Church, Germantown, stressed the need to empower families. “We need to develop discipleship tools for parents and caregivers,” she said. It’s time to stop talking about the ills of society and start talking about solutions, Pitts added.
Cliff Marion, pastor of First Baptist Church, Covington, addressed the mental health crisis facing churches today. He cited statistics that two out of every five pastors last year considered quitting or were facing burnout.
“That is unacceptable. Something is wrong,” he said. “This is a big deal for churches. We have to turn back the tide of pastor burnout and mental health issues.”
Messengers were given the opportunity to discuss the motion. Pastor Todd Haley of Oak Grove Baptist Church, Mount Carmel, thanked the committee for their work, but urged messengers to vote against the recommendation.
“We have lost and dying people who need to hear the gospel,” he said. “We need revival. We need to be focused on the Great Commission.”
Hardwick responded that the task force simply came up with a plan for the next five to seven years for Tennessee Baptists to meet needs in the state with the ultimate goal of sharing the gospel with every Tennessean,
The recommendation passed overwhelmingly with only one or two dissenting votes. B&R