By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
It’s that time of the year that causes church and associational secretaries to cringe.
Budget planning? Well, that too, but primarily this is the time of the year when the Annual Church Profile is promoted and collected by Baptist state conventions across the nation, including the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Reports are then forwarded on to the Southern Baptist Convention to LifeWay Research which in turn compiles the data for the entire convention.
What makes the ACP really relevant is that Libby Eaton of the Tennessee Baptist Convention staff can compile the information solely for Tennessee in order that we can meet the needs of our churches.
In a Baptist Press article about the ACP last fall, Randy C. Davis, executive director of the TBC, shared why he felt gathering the ACP data is so important.
“The ACP gives us the clearest picture of how we are impacting, or not impacting, our culture for Christ,” he said.
He also observed the picture painted by the ACP with accurate statistical information, “informs us as a mission body how we can best serve our Tennessee Baptist churches,” he observed.
Davis also told Baptist Press last year that the TBC relied heavily on ACP data in formulating the Five Objectives presently directing our work. “Personally, I greatly appreciate the churches participating with the ACP because of how it directly influences my own ministry with our TBC network,” he concluded.
Information is important. As a journalist I depend on accurate information to tell the stories of what our churches are doing across this state, nation, and around the world to bring honor and glory to Jesus Christ.
Information gives us a historical perspective. The Bible is filled with statistics and genealogical records. Just go through the Old Testament and read who begat whom. But because that was recorded in the Old Testament we know without a doubt that Jesus came from the lineage of King David. Baptist leaders in the future will be able to judge how effective we were (or weren’t) in reaching this generation for Jesus Christ.
Information also keeps us accountable. Davis mentioned the Five Objectives, the driving force in the Tennessee Baptist Convention through 2024. He does not care about the numbers so he can “brag” to his state convention counterparts. He couldn’t care less about what they think. He wants those numbers to show how we are progressing in helping to reduce spiritual lostness in Tennessee. That’s the burning desire of his heart.
The numbers we receive from the ACP reports allow us to know if we are making progress in helping to reach the more than 3.5 million people in Tennessee who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
If we see churches annually winning more people to Christ than the year before, we know we are on the right track.
If churches are not leading more people to Christ, they need to know that as well because, ultimately, isn’t that what the church is about? If churches aren’t sharing the gospel, we all will have to be accountable when we stand one day before the Lord.
And, of course, the ACP is more than baptism numbers. It lets us know how we are doing in the areas of finances, discipleship, Sunday School, and so much more.
The ACP is not a tool to “beat ourselves up with.” I think some churches regard it that way because so many across our state and the SBC fail to send in those reports.
The ACP is a useful tool in gauging our progress in helping to fulfill the Great Commission. That’s what we have been called to do by Jesus Himself.
If your church has not completed its ACP for 2015, make sure it’s done “sooner than later.” Last year was one of the best ever in collecting ACP reports in Tennessee. Let’s make 2015 even better, for His glory!