“Business as usual” must not be accepted, tolerated, or maintained by Tennessee’s network of churches known as the Tennessee Baptist Convention. The cultural challenges and Great Commission opportunities demand more, much more, than we have been producing for the King and His Kingdom for the last generation. We can do better, we will do better, for His glory.
Over and over, Jesus used the phrase: “You have heard it said, but I say to you…” Jesus wasn’t merely adjusting current understandings of the day, He was introducing a completely new and different paradigm. It was a Kingdom way of living. In a recent interview, Daniel Akerson, CEO during GM’s turnaround, commented: “Question the status quo. Past practices can be flawed. You have to define present realities.” Here are a few indicators of the present reality:
- Somewhere between 80 and 90% of SBC churches today are plateaued or declining.
- The cultural understanding of right and wrong is rapidly morphing into an amoral society.
- The SBC won and baptized 17% fewer people in 2012 than in 1962 in a population that is 70% larger.
- Only 15% of those born in the United States between 1980 and 2000 have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That is the lowest percentage of any generation in our history as a nation.
The list could continue, but space is limited. So, as a network of churches that share the stated priority of the Great Commission and share confessional convictions, what are we going to do with the open doors in front of us? Will we continue in survival mode which hastens the denominational decline? Will we ignore the changing culture by continuing to gather in holy huddles calling new plays but never running them while the clock runs out?
Tennesseans are not a “status quo” kind of people. Tennessee Baptists do not want to continue down a “business as usual” boulevard toward greater irrelevance. As a network of churches, I see us rising again to passionate praying, intentional evangelism, demonstrated discipleship, and biblical stewardship. I see us wholeheartedly revitalizing churches in decline, planting churches of all kinds, preparing well equipped pastors, missionaries and ministers, and pouring Kingdom compassion on “widows and orphans,” the hungry and the hurting. By the time we get to the Chattanooga Summit November 12-13, a new paradigm of collaboration and cooperation will be introduced to guide our work in the years ahead. These are very important days in which a vision for our future is coming into clear focus. The urgency of the hour will demand unity and sacrifice like the Tennessee Baptist Convention has not seen since its inception 139 years ago.
It is a joy to be with you on the historic journey.