Tennessee is the home I’ve returned to after 18 years away. My life as a Baptist missionary has taken me across four continents and through many cultures. I left Tennessee from the parking lot of my small Baptist church with no expectations of ever returning. I left a young man, but returned as a family.
During my travels, God gave to me a beautiful wife and two wonderful boys. For the first time my children call Tennessee home. They have learned to read English and speak with my accent. Yet, it is easy to mistake changes within me for changes around me. As I have visited and preached in many churches this past year, change constantly confronts me.
Online-church and offering apps, now commonplace, didn’t exist in the Tennessee of my youth. In the years of my absence, our churches have endured seismic political shifts, an unrelenting pandemic and this faltering economy.
For many, these are unprecedented days, but for God’s people they are not. As the church, we have endured the scourge of Rome, political marginalization around the world, and many waves of diseases in places like Africa.
We have been given what we need, not only endure, but to overcome. Like Paul told the church in Corinth, we might be cast down but we are not destroyed. We are hard pressed on every side but we are not crushed.
Take heart my brothers and sisters. We have been here before, victorious. And as Paul admonished the church in Thessalonians:
“But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (I Thessalonians 5:8-11).
During my years in Africa, Baptists have encouraged me and my family through political crisis and war. In return, allow me to encourage you. I have seen what the church looks like under hardship and suffering. She is indescribably beautiful.
I believe this time of beauty has come to Tennessee Baptists. God has given us His Word and His Spirit. Take heart brothers and sisters, the church is always well equipped when we arm ourselves with faith, love, and the hope of our salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. B&R — Lane grew up in Faith Baptist Church, Atoka, where his father, Bob Lane was pastor for many years. He and his wife have been with the SBC International Mission Board since 2011. They serve in Africa but are on stateside assignment in Jackson where he is teaching missions courses at Union University.