By Matt Tullos
TBMB Special Assistant to the Executive Director
2020 will be remembered as the Year of the Pandemic. A new normal swept across our country as leaders grappled with circumstances that previously were only portrayed in doomsday novels and disaster movies. We’ve seen the best and worst of humanity. Mass graves, food lines, and market crashes flood our news feeds. The death tolls and statistics overwhelm us each day.
A few days ago, I looked through my prayer journal and found an entry on April 2 that read: “The death toll has soared past the death toll of 9/11 to 3,415. Lord, heal our land.” Today, that figure is dwarfed by the numbers we have realized in May. At the time of this writing the death toll is now well over 79,000. I’ve had three friends die from the coronavirus and many others who’ve miraculously slipped out of the grip of this unforgiving virus.
Granted, I don’t want to minimize the suffering, but here’s a reality check. It’s estimated that over 58 million people will die in 2020. By contrast, few of these will die from Covid-19. But the vast majority will slip into eternity without Jesus.
Therefore, an even deadlier virus grips our world. This virus is the more insidious enemy. We’ve been at war with this invisible enemy for ages. The carnage is incomprehensible. It destroys homes, it’s highly contagious and we are all carriers.
But thank God, we have a vaccine from the only One with immunity. Jesus blood contains the only antibody for sin and it can heal anybody regardless of how sin-sick they appear.
In this spiritual pandemic, we are all essential workers. We’ve been called to suit up with His PPEs –– the Armor of God. We extend the grace we’ve freely received. We passionately share it with those in Tennessee and around the world. The difference between the coronavirus and this spiritual pandemic is that we, the Church, are the hope for the world.
We must not “shelter in place.” Some have asked, “How is it possible for us to be essential workers in this environment of danger, crisis and fear?” Our churches have confidently answered that question as they’ve continued to battle for the lives around us.
You’ve hurdled the obstacles of the coronavirus through technology, online worship, phone calls, Sunday School classes on Zoom, compassion ministry and passionate prayer.
Throughout this season, I’ve been reminded that the greatest technology in evangelism and missions has been right under our noses. Southern Baptists have utilized it for almost 100 years. It’s more relevant in this surreal experience than it has ever been. You know this technology. It’s the Cooperative Program. It’s never been as important as it is today.
We’ve seen our churches rally around the Cooperative Program, because we know that when it comes to the Great Commission, we’ve ALWAYS been ALL in this together. Even when we’ve been socially distant, we haven’t been spiritually distant.
Tennessee Baptists have rallied to the goal of reaching the world for Jesus. Your gifts through the Cooperative Program boldly equips missionaries, campus ministers, pastors, seminary students, compassion ministries and disaster relief volunteers to engage the enemy and heal the hopeless.
Many churches around Tennessee have actually increased their gifts through the Cooperative Program and the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions. I’ve had friends call me and ask, “What’s going on in Tennessee?” I just have to shrug my shoulders and say, “That’s just how it is in the Volunteer State. Tennessee Baptists believe in local, state and world missions. They realize that in a time of great crisis we must practice great generosity. This isn’t the time to back up. It’s the time to lean in.
Difficult days are ahead. We will continue to struggle with “new normals” every day, but 2020 didn’t come as a surprise to Jesus. He’s empowered, funded and equipped us despite every obstacle and tragedy we experience.
It behooves us to say two things to you:
First, thank you for giving through the vast network of the Cooperative Program serving mission points from Memphis to Mogadishu.
Secondly, the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board covenants to work harder than we ever have to be good stewards of the gifts given through the Cooperative Program to reach Tennessee, North America and the world. IMB, NAMB, TBMB, DR. Those aren’t just initials. They represent essential workers that you empower to defeat the invisible spiritual enemy of the ages.
Let’s move forward.