Last week Jeanne and I attended the funeral service of Mr. Jim Atchley. At age 86 Jim heard “well done good and faithful servant” as he entered heaven. For nine years I had the joy of watching Jim’s faithfulness week after week while serving as his pastor.
He was well respected in the community. Jim served as the first fire department chief for Sevierville and Sevier County. More than 70 firefighters and EMTs paid great respect to “Chief” at his funeral in a very moving manner.
He owned and operated a local business as well as working as a director at his family-owned funeral home.
Jim coordinated the work of the parking lot greeters, making an incredible and hospitable impression on guests and members at First Baptist Church. Along with fellow church member Rich Wallace, he visited shut-ins, new church members, those hospitalized, and people needing the gospel every Monday night for more than 20 years. He served as a fantastic deacon. Jim would remember my wife as well as widows and others on Valentine’s Day by personally delivering to them a long stem rose.
Faithful: A good word to describe Mr. Jim.
Faithful: A good word to describe tens of thousands of laypeople like Jim that God has used to build great Baptist churches across Tennessee for well over 200 years. And when they rose up as a Great Commission Army with a vision they would build Christian educational institutions like Harrison-Chilhowee, Carson-Newman, Union, and Belmont; compassion ministries like Baptist hospitals, our Children’s Homes and Adult homes. And to facilitate a unified focused ministry they would form the Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Board and Foundation.
We stand on the shoulders of a host of good, faithful laypeople. Not only were they a major part of our past and carrying the Great Commission torch in the present, the grassroots believers in the pew every Sunday are the key to impacting lostness in the future. It will be the laymen planting churches, starting new and innovative ministries, and beginning Bible study groups in our communities to reach and win lost people in the years ahead.
Pastors, let me encourage you to regularly, genuinely, graciously encourage your people by letting them know how much you love, appreciate and respect the incredible work they do for our Lord Jesus.
Tennessee Baptists, thank you for the privilege and great honor to serve the King of Kings with you across our great state.
It is a joy to be with you on this journey!