NASHVILLE — We are on a trajectory in the South that will see a current generation spiritually lost unless something drastic changes in the near future, said the Tennessee Baptists Convention’s top leader, and he said statistics bear that out.
“We are at the cusp in the South of [spiritually] losing our children and our grandchildren,” said Randy C. Davis, executive director-treasurer of the TBC’s Executive Board. “This generation of precious children will die and go to hell unless God breaks our hearts [for the lost].”
Davis’ comments came during the executive director’s report of the semi-annual meeting of the TBC’s full board of directors held June 24 at Forest Hills Baptist Church in Nashville. Davis’ comments were made in the context of laying out five priorities that will align the ministries of the Executive Board over the next 10 years.
He challenged board members to affirm the direction, but issued a warning about the need for their active participation.
“It is time to rise and fight,” he said. “If you affirm these priorities, you are telling me that I’m not going for a walk by myself.”
The five priorities over the next 10 years are: Seeing 50,000 Tennesseans annually come to salvation, baptized and becoming disciples; having at least 500 Tennessee Baptist churches revitalized by 2024; planting and strategically engaging 1,000 new churches by 2024; realizing an increase in Cooperative Program giving that reaches 10 percent; and increasing the level of giving for the Tennessee Baptist Golden Offering for state missions to $3 million.
Board members unan-imously affirmed the priorities and extended their support to the direction Davis is guiding the Executive Board’s ministries. Board chairman Doug White, pastor, First Baptist Church, Oneida, told board members following the vote of affirmation, “I’m proud we have a state exec who takes seriously the need to reach the [spiritually] lost for Jesus.”
Davis referenced the Executive Board’s vision statement, which is, “Making Christ known by serving churches.” He said vision statements give a direction to an organization but don’t necessarily explain how they will practically accomplish the vision. He said the five priorities will do that.
“We’ve got to equip our people to reach others outside the church,” Davis said, quoting North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear.
“People outside of the church believe the church is irrelevant. I’ve had missiologists tell me that we are a decade away from going the way of Europe and New England, in terms of the way people view the church. Something has to be done to help equip the people in our churches to get beyond their walls.”
Davis reported that the Executive Board’s Harvest 1-5-1 church planting initiative is seeing some encouraging results. Since its launch in November, 375 churches affiliated with the TBC have planted one or more branches, groups, or churches resulting in 764 “plants.” To date, there are 743 reported salvations and baptisms realized by Harvest Plant Churches.
“I can guarantee you the majority of these people who have come to the Lord are people who would have never darkened the door of a church,” Davis said, “But they were reached [with the gospel] because church people went to where they are.”
Davis said the challenge of Priority 1 (reaching 50,000 Tennesseans with the gospel) is a daunting task, given that Tennessee’s population growth is one of the fastest in the country, yet there has been a steady decline in baptisms over the past 50 years. The 50,000 would far exceed the high of 34,000-plus in 1950 and won’t keep pace with the growth rate, yet Davis said it will reverse the trend and close the disparity between population growth and baptisms.
The second priority focused on revitalizing 500 churches by 2024. Revitalizing means seeing a reverse in the life of a church that has been in decline or dying. Currently 85-90 percent of all Southern Baptist churches are plateaued, declining, or at risk, and 20 percent of TBC churches could close within the next 10 years. Davis said this priority was aimed directly at helping churches not only survive but to thrive.
Priority 3 focuses on planting and strategically engaging 1,000 new churches in Tennessee by 2024.
“We have reached the most people historically when we were planting churches strategically,” he said.
Priority 4 aims to see a substantial increase in Cooperative Program giving. The Cooperative Program is the voluntary financial participation by Tennessee Baptist churches to fund missions and ministries on the local, state, national and international levels. Currently, Tennessee Baptist churches contribute 5.49 percent, which is a 50-year low. Davis said his desire is to see churches increase that to 10 percent by 2024, enabling Tennessee Baptists to participate in a broad range of missions and ministries that could have a significant impact in reaching the 3.5 million spiritually lost people in Tennessee and two billion around the globe who do not know Christ.
“If a church would set a target goal of 10 percent and increase a fraction of a percent each year, this goal would be met.”
The fifth priority is to see an increase in the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions which has church planting and church revitalization as two of its emphases. The 2014 Golden Offering goal is $1.65 million. Increasing that goal to $3 million over the next 10 years would assist Tennessee Baptist churches greatly in planting 1,000 new churches and helping to revitalize 500 other churches by 2024, Davis noted.
Davis told board members their affirmation of the priorities would have a ripple effect across the organization.
“Hundreds of hours of prayer have gone into these,” he said. “If you affirm these priorities we will align our staff, budgets, and resources according to these priorities.”
Davis told the board he will have additional information to share at the September board meeting that will more specifically communicate how the executive board plans to pursue the priorities.