FRANKLIN — The Tennessee Baptist Convention’s 10-year, Five Objectives emphasis draws to a close next year and Tennessee Baptists are actively seeking God’s will for the future of collaborative ministry.
The Acts 2:17 Initiative was launched at the 2022 Summit held at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova with messengers participating in listening sessions during their annual meeting.
The name comes from Acts 2:17 which notes that “in the last days God will pour out His spirit on all people and that it would result in signs, wonders, prophesies, dreams and visions for the purpose of accomplishing His work.”
“The intent of the Acts 2:17 Initiative has been to provide every Tennessee Baptist an opportunity to speak into seeking God’s preferable future for Tennessee Baptists,” said Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
“The process has continued with a work group made up of pastors and laypeople to present a report of their findings in November for consideration by messengers from our churches,” he said.
The principle driving the process, Davis continued, is to discover opportunities the Lord has for Tennessee Baptists to seize
needs they can meet, and problems they can solve while “acting with excellence unto the Lord’ throughout the process and with the vision that is birthed.”
More than 30 statewide listening sessions throughout the early part of 2023 culminated March 27-April 20 with a survey of TBC churches conducted by Lifeway Research on behalf of the Acts 2:17 Initiative Committee based on the issues that were raised in the listening sessions.
The e-mail list was prepared by the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board staff and was sent to a known e-mail address of the church with an emphasis on getting it to the senior pastor of the church.
Ninety-two percent of the responses came from the senior/sole sponsor pastor; two percent from other ministers; three percent from non-ministerial staff and three percent from positional leaders not on staff such as deacon chairs. The completed sample included 504 usable surveys.
“After statewide listening sessions and a survey that allowed us to hear from more than 1,500 Tennessee Baptists, hours and hours spent praying and pouring over what we heard and wrestling through the implications, I am thrilled to say that God is giving us a shared vision for the future of our cooperative work in and from Tennessee,” said Jay Hardwick, pastor of Forest Hills Baptist Church, Nashville, and chair of the Acts 2:17 Initiative Committee.
Hardwick shared that a diverse team of Tennessee Baptists have been at work for about 11 months united by “a shared desire to seek God’s vision for the future of our family of churches.
“We long to see the day that every Tennessean has the opportunity to see, hear and respond to the gospel,” Hardwick said.
According to the survey, the most listed challenges facing churches in the future are mobilizing people with active faith where they live, work, play and serve (34 percent); handing off a healthy church to the next generation (25 percent); revitalizing churches that have lost momentum or are in decline (19 percent) and strengthening families by equipping parents to be disciple makers (11 percent).
Four themes emerged from the research which asked questions regarding needs, challenges and opportunities TBC churches could do together.
1. A heart for reaching the next generation. The survey revealed that the most helpful resources provided by the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board would be for youth and teens (54 percent), children (44 percent) and young married couples (43 percent).
Respondents noted that the most prominent community needs around their church are broken family structures (71 percent), busy and distracted families (69 percent) and challenges caused by prescription and non-prescription drugs (56 percent).
2. A need to draw congregations into discipleship. Respondents listed that equipping lay leaders (58 percent) is a greater priority than training pastors (31 percent).
Two groups that desire training resources for pastors are pastors age 18-44 (53 percent) and pastors of predominately non-white churches (50 percent).
3. A call for revitalization of churches. Seventy-three percent of respondents view church revitalization as their greatest need while 53 percent considered revitalization as a need they would like to see TBC churches address together.
Partnering together to revitalize other TBC churches was the second most exciting way that their church could invest in TBC churches (49 percent) behind joint mission activities that address community needs (61 percent).
4. A desire to meet community needs together. Drug addiction (41 percent), local school needs (30 percent), church planting (23 percent) and mental health care (23 percent) are the community issues that most churches would like to see TBC churches address together.
The third through fifth most prominent local needs identified parallel those above: drug addiction (56 percent), public school challenges (30 percent) and mental health (29 percent).
The committee is continuing to refine the shared vision based on the priorities identified by Tennessee Baptists.
“Our plan is to bring this shared vision for the future to be prayerfully considered and adopted by our Tennessee Baptist family at the Summit this year, that we might be unified and propelled into the 2030s and into God’s preferable future for Tennessee Baptists,” Hardwick said.
“We are excited about what God is doing in Tennessee through our family of churches and we are excited about what He wants to do in the years to come, not just in Tennessee, but from Tennessee to the nations for the sake of the gospel,” he added.
Additional information regarding the Acts 2:17 Initiative will be published in the next several issues of the Baptist and Reflector and on the TBMB’s social media accounts. B&R