By Randy C. Davis
President & Executive Director, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board
Dr. Rochelle Walensky delivered that hope when the director of the Center for Disease Control stepped to the microphone during a press conference and said, “Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or socially distancing.”
That simple pronouncement was like turning the corner at the end of the long driveway and seeing the Biltmore Mansion for the first time.
Her declaration is a monumental, long-awaited signal that light is dawning after plodding through the dark night of the coronavirus pandemic.
The CDC statement came the same week that my friend Zack Lloyd, pastor of East LaFollette Baptist Church, received a hero’s welcome home to LaFollette — complete with a police escort — after nearly seven months at Vanderbilt Hospital battling COVID-19 and its effects that resulted in a double lung transplant.
But as exhausting as 2020 was, I have never been as excited as I am right now about the days ahead for the evangelical church in Tennessee and North America. I believe we are experiencing the birth pangs of spiritual awakening. Seeing revival coming is a refreshing joy.
Here are a few reasons why I am so optimistic about the future during global political instability, a fragile economy and rapidly growing anti-Christian posturing in the United States.
1. A desire for truth. There is an abundance of false teachers, and we see the prophesied falling away of many from sound biblical doctrine. Despite this, there is a demonstrated desire by friends and neighbors to know God’s truth.
Simply preaching and teaching the biblical text, verse by verse and precept upon precept, has an interested audience. LifeWay sold more Bibles in 2020 than any other year in its history. The reason: People are spiritually hungry. They desire to know how God is working in these days and in their lives.
2. A responsiveness to the gospel. Churches are reporting a marked increase of people professing Christ as Savior and Lord and being baptized. Smaller membership rural churches are seeing four and five times more people responding to the gospel already this year than they did in 2019, pre-COVID.
We have prayed for this turn around for over a decade. In 2014 the Tennessee Baptist Convention adopted Five Objectives. The first is “to see at least 50,000 Tennesseans annually saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship by 2024.”
That is an impossible and impractical goal, but reaching people for Christ is a Great Commission mandate. We realized in 2014 that it would take a miracle of God and a sweeping movement of the Holy Spirit to realize Objective 1, but I am convinced that miracle is now emerging.
3. A renewed outward focus of churches. Arthur Flake’s five-step Sunday School growth strategy articulated 100 years ago started with, “Know the possibilities.” In other words, know your community and get beyond the walls of your church. That is happening! Churches have had to think creatively during 2020 and integrate innovations that have carried churches into their communities with a new intentionality.
We here at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board have placed a high priority on helping churches “know their possibilities.” We have great servant leaders ready to help pastors and church leaders strategize to maximize their impact for Christ in their communities. After all, our mission is “Making Christ Known By Serving Churches.” Simply stated, “We serve churches.” Contact us.
Jeremiah 29:11 communicates to us one of God’s great promises. “I know the plans I have for you, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” The journey through the coronavirus wilderness seemed desolate, but God is leading us to accomplish His purposes through us as we move forward toward the promise of a vibrant future.
And it is my joy to be with you on this journey! B&R