By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
Fresh off the first statewide evangelism conference in Tennessee in 14 years, Collins is anxious to take it to the next level in order to reach the nearly four million people (about 56 percent of the population) in the state who have no relationship with Jesus Christ.
The state evangelism conference, held Jan. 30-31 at New Vision Baptist Church in Murfreesboro created energy for evangelism in Tennessee and inspired and encouraged ministers, but more needs to be done if Tennessee Baptists want to see 50,000 people annually saved, baptized and set on the road to discipleship by 2024 (the first of Five Objectives adopted by messengers to the 2014 annual meeting as a strategic plan for the convention), Collins said.
With only two years to go, it is imperative to “ignite” Tennessee Baptists to the need, he said during a recent podcast on Radio B&R with Chris Turner (see episode 49 at radiobr.org).
Collins observed that Tennessee Baptists baptized around 30,000 people in 1950 but have not reached 30,000 people since then. “As a matter of fact, in 2019 we baptized just under 20,000 people,” he said. Then, COVID-19 hit and that led to even less baptisms reported during the last two years, he added.
As a result, Tennessee Baptists are a long way from 50,000 (baptisms). “We want to get there. In order to do that, we have tried to come up with a plan that could impress upon our churches the importance (of reaching people) and to equip them with the tools they need so that we can get to those 50,000 baptisms by 2024,” Collins said.
In order to see the goal of 50,000 baptisms become a reality, Collins said the TBMB will go to each Baptist association in Tennessee and hold “Ignite Tennessee” rallies. The rally will consist of a dinner for pastors and ministers. “We will share with them our passion and give them a “Win Tennessee” box filled with resources such as sermon outlines and tracts and other materials that can be used evangelistically,” he said.
Collins said they will also encourage pastors and churches to have at least a 30-day evangelism emphasis where they will be “extremely evangelistic” in all they do. At the end of the 30 days, we would like to see churches “have a big celebration of baptisms,” he added.
“This is an attempt to help get our churches excited, or ignited if you will, to win the lost. We believe that if we are going to win the harvest field of Tennessee, every church will need to win their harvest field.”
Collins stressed that the Ignite Tennessee emphasis is not a canned approach. “This is not a program. This is an effort to ignite a passion. There’s nothing that stirs and ignites evangelism like winning somebody to Jesus,” he said.
Collins shared a story about Ray Newcomb (now deceased), who served for many years as pastor of First Baptist Church, Millington, and was a former Tennessee Baptist Convention president. “I remember that in the front cover of his Bible, he had written, ‘God, help me to never get used to men and women, boys and girls, going to hell.’ I thought, ‘God, let that be the passion of our heart in Tennessee.’ ” B&R — More details about the Ignite Tennessee rallies will be released as they become available.