By Randy C. Davis
President and Executive Director, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board
Unity. It’s the word that best describes Summit 2018 and it is a word that keeps coming to mind as I’ve reflected on everything that happened last week at West Jackson Baptist church. That’s not just my word. I heard it time and again throughout Summit, and social media has blown up with comments about the unity of spirit during our annual meeting.
Unity doesn’t just happen. It takes a ton of work, but it is worth the effort. I believe that is exactly what Paul was communicating to the Ephesians when he wrote, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
The Bible teaches that unity pleases the heart of the Father. Unity is also the bedrock of cooperation. Micah Fries, pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church, Chattanooga, preached Sunday night on gospel cooperation born from neighborly love. He nailed it. Love begets unity, begets cooperation, begets financial generosity, begets Great Commission effectiveness.
I saw unity in our Tennessee Baptist Mission Board staff as dozens of people worked for months to account for a million details that make up the Tennessee Baptist Convention, the two-day business meeting held within the week we call The Summit.
When the closing gavel drops every year, our staff takes a short break then begins working on the next Summit to create an environment that honors the Lord and enables Tennessee Baptists to enjoy time together. Kingdom business gets done, people are equipped, and fellowship is had. It is a personal joy and privilege to work with folks that love serving Tennessee Baptists with excellence.
But it wasn’t just our staff that pulled this off. Pastor Andy Neeley, Church Administrator Russ Cooper, Facilities Manager Phillip Dunn, and the good people of West Jackson Baptist Church, rolled out the red carpet. The result was a church that repeatedly went an extra mile to host over 1,200 messengers and guests for our four-day gathering. The WJBC folks seemed to love serving and accommodated every need, planned or last minute.
There was also a unity of message preached by every speaker that could only have been orchestrated by the Holy Spirit. From Micah’s Sunday night sermon, through Monday’s pastors conference led by Tim McGehee, to Cleveland First Baptist Church Pastor Jordan Easley’s sermon that closed us out Wednesday morning. We heard “thus sayeth the Lord God” messages that inspired us to press into the harvest and win Tennessee for Christ.
TBC President David Leavell preached a powerful sermon from John 3:16 titled, “Shall Not Perish.” The high point of the week for me was the altar call following David’s message. Hundreds of ministers and guests made their way to the front and surrendered to sharing the gospel with a newfound sense of urgency.
More than 140 names of spiritually lost people were left at the altar. Our TBMB staff and others will be praying these dear people come to know Christ in the days and weeks ahead.
There was unity during the business sessions. Entities affiliated with the TBC network of churches brought encouraging reports, and remarkably every motion made was affirmed with a unanimous vote. Not a single negative vote was cast during the TBC. Negative votes are certainly in order, but it was just very unique that it didn’t happen, as far as I could see.
Tennessee Baptists, I believe this year’s Summit showed a sense of focus on what really matters. I believe we have heard loud and clear that any way you slice it, Tennessee is a mission field. I believe there is a real sense of growing urgency among Tennessee Baptists for the spiritually lost, and we will be most effective in reaching our state for Christ when we are most unified.
Let’s stay unified. Let’s make WinTN the rally cry that compels us into white fields to reap a harvest, and let’s gather next year at First Baptist Church, Concord Nov. 17-20, to report all that God has done through us in these next 12 months.
It truly is a joy to be on this journey with you. B&R