Maybe you’ve been there, on a missions trip standing in the middle of the urban sprawl of one of the world’s great cities, cities like Buenos Aires, Guatemala City, Sao Paulo, London, Krakow, Rome, or Istanbul. There are people everywhere, bouncing off each other like pinballs. You may have even felt — like I have — very small and wondering what kind of a difference you could possibly make in such an ocean of spiritual lostness.
But we go anyway, don’t we? We have a Great Commission calling, and we know that despite the seemingly overwhelming odds, God calls us to wade into those concrete jungles to serve people and to preach the gospel. And we go knowing that He faithfully brings in the harvest.
You know what? I get a similar overwhelmed feeling when I walk through the heart of Memphis and Knoxville; Nashville and Chattanooga. The hearts of those cities are bustling with people spiritually drifting in an ocean of spiritual lostness. We are no less called to reach the spiritually lost in these Tennessee cities than we are the spiritually lost in the world’s cities.
That is why the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, in partnership with the associations working in the state’s five largest cities, launched City Reach. In 35 years of Tennessee Baptist partnership missions, nothing has been as deeply personal. We may be willing to go around the world to spread the gospel, but we can’t neglect the deep spiritual need in our own state.
Any way you slice it, Tennessee is a missions field. That probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard me say that and it certainly won’t be the last. Add the populations of Memphis, Knoxville, Nashville, Chattanooga, and the burgeoning city of Clarksville, and you’ll find that fully one third (2 million-plus) of the people in our state live in those five metro areas. Statistically, that means about 1.3 million spiritually lost people concentrated in five specific geographic areas.
And here’s the deal. If Tennesseans don’t reach these fellow Tennesseans with the gospel, it is highly unlikely anybody else will feel a sense of responsibility for them. They are our folks, and we simply can’t let them flounder in spiritual darkness.
We launched City Reach Knoxville at the most recent Summit. Nashville comes next, then Memphis, Chattanooga, and Clarksville over each of these following years until all these population centers are engaged. The strategy is to serve people by energetically ministering to compassion needs, assisting with ministry that leads to church revitalization and church planting, and proclaiming the gospel with evangelism that leads to spiritually transformed lives through Jesus.
When you think about it, it is a bit of a daunting task, but fortunately — and I thank God for this — we have healthy, Great Commission-focused churches all across our state located in places like Dyersburg, Shelbyville, Kenton, Crawford, Loudon, Savannah, Lawrenceburg, Greeneville, and on it goes drawing in churches sprinkled across the landscape of our great state. Your churches overwhelmingly make up the majority of our “Volunteer” mission force. We need you!
I am asking pastors and churches, laypeople and missions leaders, student and seniors to lock arms and hearts and prayerfully consider adopting one of the many strategic projects in Knox County identified by leaders of the Knox County Association of Baptists. You can find a list of those projects at TNCityReach.org then clicking on “Current City Reach Knoxville Projects.” Or, write Steve Snyder at ProjectKnox316@gmail.com.
There is no doubt that Tennessee Baptists will willingly travel to faraway places that desperately need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. But, here’s my question: How near are you willing to go to reach people equally desperate to hear Good News?
It’s a joy to be on this journey with you … to Knoxville then across Tennessee.