With creative methods of evangelism, Tennessee Baptists are finding new ways to win…
We want to see people come to Christ and if that isn’t happening, then the spiritual condition of our state slides ever into the darkness of spiritual lostness.
The theme of Summit 2018 was to WinTN. Normally, a convention speaker would share a “Theme Interpretation” sermon, but this year we wanted to show the theme.
The stories represented on this page are vignettes of the videos shown throughout the Summit. They are the stories of people who shared the gospel and the people who received it and had their lives transformed by the Living Christ.
Please take a few moments to read the abbreviated versions here but it is worth a few minutes of your time to watch and download each of the videos. You’ll be encouraged by how God is moving in the lives of people across Tennessee.
— Chris Turner
TBMB Director of Communications
Snatching life from death
Cantrell — a former “strung-out street junkie,” as he puts it — has come to know the Lord, and is now sharing the gospel with virtually everyone who comes in his path. Cantrell’s main mission field is Buffalo Valley Inc., a recovery center that helped Cantrell get over his addiction.
Cantrell, a member of First Baptist Church, Hohenwald, returns to the rehab facility on a regular basis, and is leading the recovering addicts to Christ in a remarkably rapid manner.
“So many things are happening, man,” Cantrell said. “God is putting my family back together and these other families. I just know all things are possible through Christ. So, that’s the reason I’m so passionate about it. Just the joy of God and Jesus Christ in my life. It’s only by His grace, that I’m here today and I know that.”
Cantrell’s desire to share the gospel began to develop when he started attending an evangelism class taught by Tommy Hart, a member at FBC Hohenwald. Cantrell wasn’t exactly an expert in theology — to say the least — but he had a burning desire to share the good news that had changed his life.
“Here is a guy who turned from knowing nothing about the Bible — I mean, he couldn’t find Genesis or Revelation either one — but he knew what had happened to him,” said Hart. “And that was all he needed.”
Hart estimates that Cantrell has helped lead nearly 100 men to Christ.
Bert Spann, pastor of FBC Hohenwald, said the act of witnessing can be contagious, and that’s what is happening to Cantrell.
“The Lord is a living Lord who has personally changed lives,” said Spann. “And whenever I see and hear Him, changing my life and the lives of those around me, I can’t help but to share that story with somebody else. … And, that’s what’s going on at Buffalo Valley right now. These men are seeing and hearing Jesus Christ, and they’re telling their story to the next guy, who in turn tells their story to the next guy.”
“And, that’s how we win Tennessee for Christ,” he said.
Journey to Christ
It was through the BCM — at East Tennessee State University — that Aparna met her future husband. More importantly, it is also where she met Jesus.
Aparna (pictured above) was born and raised in India. She came to the United States to attend college and get a degree. But she actually received a lot more than that.
After arriving at ETSU, a friend of Aparna’s invited her to BCM, and she began learning about the Lord from ETSU BCM campus minister Jonathan Chapman.
“The thing that moved me the most were Jonathan’s words, and I believe that God spoke to me through Jonathan,” she said. “I was so overwhelmed — like how was I living all my life without knowing Jesus? And now I want more and more people to know how my life changed. I want everyone to know Jesus.
At the same time that the Lord was working in Aparna’s life, He was also working in the life of Mark Thompson, who had recently made a profession of faith through the BCM.
It was at the BCM where Thompson met Aparna — and there was an immediate attraction. The two fell in love and got married.
They likely didn’t realize that God was using their relationship in a special way, but that soon became obvious.
“When my family came to the US for my marriage, that’s when my pastor (Luke Temaj, the pastor of Faith Fellowship Baptist Church) met my dad,” Aparna said. “He took him out to Cracker Barrel and they talked a lot. And who knew a breakfast at Cracker Barrel could end up with my dad accepting Christ in his heart? That was amazing.”
Temaj said the sequence of events that led to Aparna and Mark’s relationship — and the lives that have been forever changed — is a display of God’s remarkable plan.
“Through that act of God’s gift, we see Aparna’s family come and visit the United States, and we, as the children of God, responded to the call,” he said. “We reached out to Aparna’s family, her dad received the Lord. That right there shows us how we need to respond, how urgent it is for us to share the gospel. The most important thing is that we need to win Tennessee for Christ.”
Hope in the midst of tragedy
Jibrell Jackson, a freshman football player at East Tennessee State University, experienced a life-changing series of tragedies last summer. He lost two of his sisters in the span of only a few weeks when they each were killed in separate car accidents.
But in the midst of his grief, Jackson found Jesus.
Jackson, who did not grow up in church, had started attending Bible Study and worship services just before the tragedies took place. And as he searched for peace in the situation, he learned more and more about the Lord — and ultimately became a believer.
“The first time we ever met Jibrell, you could tell he was searching and asking questions about Jesus,” said Jessie Tucker, a friend of Jibrell’s who played a key role in getting Jibrell involved in Bible Study. “And then tragedy struck him — twice.”
Jackson (pictured above) admits that he blamed God for the loss of his sisters. But his friends stayed close by his side, and the Lord continued to work in Jackson’s life.
One night, after Bible study, one of Jackson’s new friends, Amanda Tucker, felt the Holy Spirit leading her to talk to Jackson.
“The feeling was so overwhelming, I knew it was the presence of God,” she said. “So, I asked Jibrell if he knew Jesus and his answer was no. Well, he ended up accepting Jesus Christ that night.”
Jackson said he immediately felt a peace and a joy that had been missing from his life.
“The night when I decided to ask Jesus in my heart, it felt like I was so relieved,” he said. “It felt like I could just float off my feet. It felt like everything was just gone that I had held in for a long time.”
Jackson is now spreading his joy around campus, sharing the gospel with other football players and ETSU students essentially everywhere he goes.
“The last couple of months, me and my friends have been going all over campus, sharing our testimonies, bringing more people to faith and trying to win more people to Christ.”
Lynn Walker, who has been a pastor for 50 years, views evangelism somewhat similar to the mathematical format of exponential numbers. It’s all about telling one person, who tells another, who tells another and so forth.
“That’s always been in my mind from the very beginning, and I have shared from the pulpit many times,” said Walker, pastor at Rock Hill Baptist Church. “You win a person to Christ, and then that person wins others to Christ, and it’s an unending chain of events.”
Walker has seen this formula work in dramatic ways in the life of Fady Al-Hagal (pictured above).
Fady was a college student at UT-Martin when he first visited Walker’s church in the early 1980s.
Walker shared the gospel with Fady, and when Fady became a Christian, it set off a perpetual wave of salvations that remains on-going several decades later. Fady went on to become a pastor, and has led countless people to the Lord. And many of those people are now leading others to Christ.
“Had Fady not led us to the Lord, my wife and I, we would have continued down the destructive road that we were on,” said Brian Gass, the pastor at First Baptist Church, Howell. “We would not have come to faith, we would certainly not have been led into ministry, our children probably would not have grown up in a Christian home and been saved. And we would not have reached the dozens and dozens that we’ve reached through local church ministry, and certainly we wouldn’t have shared the gospel across Central Asia the way that we had the opportunity to do.”
Fady’s story of multiplication is a perfect example of how the perpetual sharing of the gospel can serve as the key to reaching Tennessee for Christ.
“We have a great opportunity to win Tennessee for the Lord Jesus Christ, and if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen because a story like ours can be repeated over and over and over again,” said Fady, pastor of The Shepherd’s Field Church. “A faithful man, carrying a burden to share the gospel, with a student, with a next-door neighbor, with somebody that may visit the church, or they may meet out in a Walmart somewhere.”
“That individual receiving the gospel, and the modeling of the gospel, they share it with somebody else,” he added. “I believe the ground is tender for us to win Tennessee because this story can be repeated over and over again, and many can come to Christ.”
From refugee to missionary
Mitsamphanh is the pastor of an international church, and he is reaching the nations for Christ right here in the heart of Tennessee.
Mitsamphanh’s family came to the United States when he was four years old as refugees from the country of Laos. His family was “adopted” by a local church, and his life — as well as the lives of his family — were forever changed.
“We came here, with nothing but the clothes on our back,” he said. “We didn’t know any English, and had never heard of Jesus. … My parents were Buddhists, and when we came to the US, we settled in Nashville, and a local church reached out to my family, and loved on us, and helped my parents to learn English, helped them to find jobs, helped us to really get started.”
Mitsamphanh said the church “loved us well” — and through that, his family began to understand the life-changing details of the gospel.
“Through their act of kindness and love towards my family, my parents became followers of Christ, and began to take us to church, and each one of us came to know Christ in our own time.”
Mitsamphanh got saved at age 13 while attending All-Nations camp. Now, as the pastor of an international church, he says he is seeing the same wonderful events that happened to his family take place in the lives of others.
“The last few churches that I’ve pastored have had people from Nepal, from Bhutan, people groups from Burma,” he said. “And so many of them have come as refugees. We’ve seen many families give their lives to Christ. Many families have turned from Buddhism, from Animism,from spirit worship, and see them now serve the Lord.”
Mitsamphanh has a firm understanding that — as Tennessee Baptist Mission Board executive director Randy C. Davis often says — “any way you slice it, Tennessee is a mission field.”
“We can reach the nations (here) because the nations have come to the state of Tennessee,” Mitsamphanh said. “We have an opportunity to be able to love on, and share the gospel with, people from countries where it is difficult to get missionaries in there, where the gospel is not accessible. God, in His sovereignty has brought them here to our doorsteps.”
-By David Dawson
Baptist & Reflector