It was near the end of their lives when John Adams and Thomas Jefferson exchanged reflections on the monumental events in which they’d been involved. The two giants were at the epicenter of birthing a new nation then guiding it through the tenuous early days between survival and extinction.
“My friend,” Adams wrote, “You and I have lived in serious times.”
My friends, as I reflect on the events of our 140th annual gathering of Tennessee Baptist churches, it is obvious to me that you and I live in serious times.
If you were able to attend The Summit, I believe you sensed it too. I hope you had the opportunity to walk through our TBC display. If so, I believe you came out with a real sense that our state is dealing with a number of social crises that can ultimately only be resolved by the grace of God rooted in the freeing power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
But even if you didn’t walk through that exhibit, we heard it through deeply biblical preaching during the pastor’s conference. Speaker after speaker emphasized the urgency of the Gospel declared through our ministries and applied to the spiritually lost world around us.
I believe our messengers recognized the urgency of our day in reaching Tennessee for Christ by unanimously affirming the Five Objectives. I’m personally grateful for our collective commitment to reaching people, revitalizing and planting churches and to sacrificial giving. I believe we have a very clear direction for how Tennessee Baptists can most effectively engage the world around us.
We had a serious and rigorous discussion about the budget and budget expenditures. I mentioned in my last column that I felt the annual meeting is like a big ol’ family getting together to enjoy fellowship and to do some business. Well, sometimes the business we do can get prickly. People are passionate about the cause of Christ and I’ll never fault anyone for speaking up for what they believe are Kingdom issues. In the end we voted to maintain a course we’ve been traveling as a convention for the past few years. Collectively, we decided it affords us the greatest opportunity for having the greatest impact locally and globally. It was a serious discussion followed by a serious decision, and I believe we decided the right thing to do.
But even though we had some verbal push and pull over the issue, there was a prevailing “Sweet Spirit.” Melody Cain, a young pastors wife, sent Jeanne a note as they drove home from Summit with the lyrics of a song from Keith and Kristyn Getty, titled, “Holy Spirit.” They read: “Show your power once again on earth/Cause Your church to hunger for your ways/Let the fragrance of our prayers arise/Lead us on the road of sacrifice/That in unity the face of Christ/Will be clear for all the world to see.”
I italicized unity because it is the critical attitude to which we must bring ourselves. I believe we saw unity of spirit expressed through service to others by the way our Arrangements Committee prepared the way for our time together, by the way our TBC staff labored diligently to foster a friendly environment and in the exemplary way Mike Glenn and all his staff at Brentwood Baptist Church extended “Southern” hospitality to us all in hosting us.
And let’s not forget the historic election of Memphis Pastor Michael Ellis. I jokingly say this is the first time in our 140-year history that we’ve elected an LSU fan as president of the convention. But obviously, and more importantly, Michael was unanimously elected as our first-ever African-American president. His election was punctuated with an extended standing ovation. This is a significant moment – a good moment – in our convention’s history. Michael’s election and the growing number of ethnically diverse people and churches who are members of the TBC family more closely resembles the ethnically diverse family that will one day gather around the Throne of the Lamb.
I believe we all left this Summit full of passion for the advance of the Gospel and with a great hope for the future. I see it in the number of people across our state who are praying, in the way the world’s people coming to our state are being reached with the Gospel, in the way our entities are serving widows and orphans, training future generations of leaders in the context of a Christian worldview and in the way hundreds of churches are moving beyond their walls and into their communities to reach hurting people with Good News.
Pastor and Author, James Emery White, writes in his book, “Serious Times,” that, “In the ancient Scriptures, a group of men – known as the men of Issachar – were heralded for two things: understanding the times and determining how to live in light of those times. This is the combination we must pursue…and doing it now matters.”
Amen, may it be so of us.
I hope you’ll make plans now to join us for The Summit next year in Millington.
Friends, we’re collectively heading in a good direction – a serious direction – and I am truly thankful to be on this journey with you.