By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
NASHVILLE — The directors of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board approved a $35 million Cooperative Program budget for 2021-22 and a partnership with the Hawaii/Pacific Baptist Convention during its Sept. 15 meeting at Forest Hills Baptist Church in Nashville.
The directors also voted to extend the City Reach partnership for another year so that volunteer mission work can be emphasized in the Clarksville area in a joint effort with the Cumberland Baptist Association. The bulk of City Reach Clarksville was scheduled last year but it was interrupted by COVID-19. The extension will run through Dec. 31, 2023.
City Reach was approved by Tennessee Baptist Convention messengers in 2016 to reach the urban areas in the state’s largest metropolitan areas — Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga and Clarksville.
All three recommendations will be presented to messengers for approval at the annual business meeting held during The Summit, scheduled for Nov. 14-17 at Brentwood Baptist Church, Brentwood.
The proposed budget is the same as the current 2020-21 budget, said Clay Hallmark, pastor of First Baptist Church and chairman of the budget and ministry committee. The budget recommendation includes the $35 million goal and the budgets for the TBMB and the convention operating budget.
“There is a lot of financial uncertainty anticipated for the rest of this year and next year,” Hallmark said. “Nobody can predict what the economy is going to do. Yet, church members and churches all over Tennessee have responded with consistent generosity, with missionary zeal and a love for sharing the work of the gospel,” he added.
“We pray that in the coming year, our Cooperative Program giving will remain strong and even increase,” Hallmark continued. The portion of the CP budget allocated to the Southern Baptist Convention will remain at 47.5 percent, the same as this year.
In other business, the directors elected Victoria Tillman as the chair-elect. She will serve as chair of the Administrative Committee next year and assume the chair at the end of the 2022 annual meeting. She is an attorney in Knoxville and a member of Bell’s Campground Baptist Church in Powell, where her husband, Keith Tillman, serves as lead pastor.
Tillman was nominated by Hallmark who observed that she has served as a director since 2017 and has chaired the Collegiate Ministries Committee for the past two years. “She is a great leader who always asks the right questions and offers solutions,” Hallmark noted.
Current chair-elect Marty Comer, pastor of Sand Ridge Baptist Church, Lexington, will become chair following this year’s Summit, succeeding Glenn Metts, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, Seymour.
TBC president reports
Tennessee Baptist Convention president Bruce Chesser, pastor of First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, shared with the directors that while there is “a health crisis in the world, Tennessee Baptists are healthy.”
Because of the pandemic, Chesser served two years president instead of the normal one-year term. Chesser said as he traveled across the state and met pastors and institutional leaders, he learned so much more than he had previously known about Tennessee Baptists. “It’s been a blessing,” he said.
Chesser encouraged directors, along with pastors and church leaders across the state, “to not let the culture determine the conversation when we gather on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings.”
Executive director’s reports
In his report to the board, Randy C. Davis, president and executive director, noted that as the pandemic has continued during 2021, the year has been both great and difficult.
“It has been a great year on many fronts,” he noted. “I have been hearing about baptisms all across our state. Churches that have not baptized anyone in two or three years have seen nine, 10 and 12 baptized. We have seen churches of all sizes having revivals.”
Davis is a strong supporter of churches turning in their Annual Church Profiles (ACPs). “I am really anticipating seeing what those numbers (of baptisms) are. … When you see 20,000 or 25,000 or 30,000 people saved and set on the road to discipleship, that’s 20,000, 25,000 or 30,000 individuals who are not going to hell,” he said.
“Financially, it’s been remarkable to see what God has done this year and last year. Our CP giving has been tracking ahead of last year and ahead of budget. We are very thankful for that.”
Davis reported on ministries the TBMB have rolled out this year, including banquets for bivocational pastors, the School of Prophets for younger pastors and Shepherd Care to provide counseling for ministers undergoing stressful situations.
He also announced a revised Harvest Field structure which will include six regional harvest fields and a harvest field for ethnic congregations. A detailed article with the new structure and leaders will be published in an upcoming issue of the Baptist and Reflector.
Yet, he noted that no matter how “optimistic we may be, this has been a very difficult year. 2020 was one for the record books, but 2021 seems to had an even heavier burden than 2020 had.” He cited the recent flooding in Waverly, Hurricane Ida, deaths of pastors and church leaders who have died of COVID-19 and more.
“The ravage of the pandemic continues on,” Davis said. “It has been a hard year.”
• Board members approved a recommendation to amend the definition of a Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief credential volunteer to allow members of evangelical churches to serve as DR volunteers.
• Directors also approved an amendment to the Missions and Ministries Committee’s duties to add the TBMB Ministry Engagement ministry to the list of ministries that relate to the committee. The list includes disaster relief, partnership missions and compassion ministries. The committee also relates to Tennessee WMU.
• Mark Puckett, director of missions for Duck River Baptist Association and chair of the Constitution and Bylaws Committee, updated the board of directors on proposed amendments to be considered by messengers at the annual meeting in November. Puckett noted that most of the changes are “of a housekeeping nature” such as terminology. One of the major changes will be an amendment to give the TBMB authority to act on behalf of the convention when urgent situations arise, such as the pandemic last year which forced the cancellation of Summit. Another issue of interest is an amendment to the TBC Constitution that will bring the definition of a “cooperating Baptist church” in line with Baptist polity. The proposed change will allow churches to exercise their autonomy and be allowed to have messengers to the TBC annual meeting if they give only to TBC causes.
• The directors heard updates from the following TBC entities — Tennessee Baptist Foundation, Harrison-Chilhowee Baptist Academy, Union University and Carson-Newman University. B&R