The day’s minutes pass and vaporize, unaffected by any change or resistance we hope to exert. And with the passage of every hour, three spiritually lost Tennesseans slip into eternity.
That’s 72 eternally lost neighbors, friends, and family members every day, 26,000-plus every year. I simply can’t accept that without a fight for those souls, and I intend to do something about it.
Yes, the daily headlines can be overwhelming. This law is being passed here. Christians are being kicked out there. Freedom of religion is being throttled over there. So many Christians feel defeated and settle into a defensive posture. However, we need to lift our eyes! The dark being the darkness has no effect on the light being the light.
Your TBC state missionary staff recently paused from our daily responsibilities to spend a few days at Linden Valley Conference Center in our semi-annual strategic planning retreat. We discussed the cultural challenges, but we spent the majority of our time praying, worshiping, and planning how we could best serve churches to see an aggressive advance of the gospel across our state. The only way spiritual darkness has any bearing on the Light of the gospel is when followers of Jesus Christ neglect the mandate of our Lord to take the Light to the darkness. When we do, there may be a fight, but the darkness is eventually expelled. How do I know? Because God promises His Word will not return void. It will reap a harvest if sown and cultivated.
Our staff is crystal clear about what we need to pursue. The Five Objectives affirmed by messengers to the 2014 annual Summit chart our course. We have clear direction. As Tennessee Baptists, we are engaging in Great Commission ministry resulting in:
(1) Seeing at least 50,000 Tennesseans annually saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship by 2024.
(2) Having at least 500 Tennessee Baptist churches revitalized by 2024.
(3) Planting and strategically engaging at least 1,000 new churches by 2024.
(4) Realizing an increase in annual local church giving through the Cooperative Program that reaches at least 10 percent by 2024.
(5) Realizing an increase in annual giving for the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions that reaches at least $3 million by 2024.
Make no mistake; we feel a deep sense of urgency toward these Five Objectives. Take the numbers associated with each of these and overlay the daily loss of 72 spiritually lost souls, and how can you feel anything but urgency? We look at where we are as Tennessee Baptists in relation to the people we’re reaching with the gospel, see the target date of 2024, and feel like a freight train is careening down the tracks toward us.
Based on thousands of miles traveled across the state, personal o
bservation, and countless conversations, Tennessee is a missions field any way you want to slice it. With more than 145 global people groups — and 45 of those among some of the most unreached in the world — Tennessee is definitely an international missions field. We’ve got people who have relocated here from some of the most unreached regions of the United States who are just as spiritually lost and just as desperate to hear the gospel. They all need to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Yes, the obstacles are many, but we must refuse to focus on the obstacles and draw confidence from I John 4:4. “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”
Here are four observations I made to our staff and share with you that I believe are key if we are to ever see a movement of God across our state.
Unity. Not only unity among our state missionary staff is needed, but unity within and among our TBC churches. Unity is at the heart of a cooperative effort to reach Tennessee and reach the nations so that we can see our world changed.
Prayer and dwelling in the Word. Prayer and the Bible go hand-in-hand. We need to spend time in the Word to get a clue as to what it is we ought to be praying. We need to be praying for workers in the harvest. We need to be laboring in prayer – by name – for the lost souls around us. We need to pray God’s Spirit will sweep down across our state and reap a harvest of souls for His Kingdom. And we need to pray in unity.
Listen to the stories. We need to hear what is happening across our state. If you haven’t seen any of the Cooperative Program or Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions videos we’ve produced over the past two years, go to our website and watch them. God has done some incredible things and you need to be encouraged. Read the Baptist and Reflector. Every issue tells stories about changed lives. If we are going to ever see lives changed we have to have a heart for seeing changed lives.
Reach now. We have to get beyond the walls of our churches, into our communities, and reach people with the gospel. Somewhere along the way we expected people to come into our churches and I believe that is a lie perpetrated by the devil. Jesus consistently commands us to go to the lost and never once issues a command for the lost to come to us.
So are you up for the challenge? Will you and your church grab hold of the Five Objectives or similar strategies for reaching your community for Jesus? Will you embrace the urgency felt by those 72 people daily passing spiritually lost into eternity? Will you fight for those lost souls?
Quick, time is passing. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.