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News for Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Opinion — Clarity
Time to Decide: Tor or Fly
By Randy C. Davis
TBC executive director

I refuse to be a rotten egg; and I don’t want you to be one either. Fortunately, there is still time not to become one.

Maybe I’d better explain.

Theologian C.S. Lewis writes in his seminal book, Mere Christianity, that, “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”

Fellow Tennessee Baptists, we cannot go on being ordinary eggs or we will rot and our children, grandchildren, neighbors, and communities will suffer from the detrimental consequences. How do we hatch and fly? We focus on a fixed point then do the hard work to get there while relying in faith on the grace of God to accomplish His work through us.

Last week at our semi-annual TBC Executive Board meeting, I laid out five priorities I believe we as Tennessee Baptists must pursue in order to “fly” — to fight for the lost souls of those around us if we are to successfully fulfill our Great Commission mandate. By 2024, I believe we must, as a network of churches:

(1) See at least 50,000 Tennesseans annually come to salvation, baptized, and becoming disciples;

(2) See at least 500 at risk Tennessee Baptist churches revitalized;

(3) Plant and strategically engaging at least 1,000 new churches;

(4) Increase Cooperative Program giving that reaches an average of 10 percent per church (up from its current 5.4 percent); and

(5) Increase the level of giving for the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions to $3 million (up from its current $1.4 million)

I recognize laying out these goals is akin to painting a target on my back. I received advice from several people as I came into this position who told me that if I wanted to survive as Executive Director I should never specify a goal and attach a date to it. Ludicrous. This is not about my survival or the survival of a denominational entity. I do not believe God led me from being the pastor of a church I loved to belly the Tennessee Baptist Convention into extinction like a 747 on a long, slow approach coming in for landing at Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport.

I just completed my fourth year as the TBC’s executive director. I can honestly say working in a denominational entity, particularly as executive director, was not on my bucket list. However, the last four years have been a real learning curve for me and I can clearly say there has never been a time in 38 years of ministry where I’ve had a clearer direction for a group that I’ve had the privilege of serving. In other words, it’s time for us to do the hard work to rise above ordinary and fly.

I feel comfortable stating these five priorities within the context of the Great Commission mandate already given by our Lord. These priorities begin with individuals living next door and extend to the ends of the earth. They desire to group these friends into churches and to multiply healthy churches that reach individuals for Christ — and replicate the cycle time and again.

I can hear the cynics yawn as they say, “Same song, millionth verse.” I say that is ordinary thinking that leads to a rotting-egg reality. Yes, to reach 50,000 people and see exponential growth in financial giving for the purpose of reaching those people requires faith in, and dependence on, God to miraculously move. Would we really want it any other way?

Brothers and sisters, we are losing Tennessee, the very missions field in which God has planted you and I. It should break our hearts and disturb our souls that our state is a leader in prescription drug abuse and methamphetamine production and consumption; that it’s easier to abort a baby in Tennessee than in any other state in the Southeast; that we have a foster care crisis; that more than half the population of our state is spiritually lost.

We are statistically a decade away from our children and grandchildren having nothing to do with the faith we claim in a Living Savior. Can you live with that? I can’t, and I cry out with Nehemiah, “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

Following my presentation last week, I asked our board members — Baptist men and women from across our state — to affirm these five priorities. I told them that in affirming them, they were saying to me that we are joining together in this journey. To their credit, they unanimously stood and acknowledged they were willing to do the hard work. Now let’s lock arms as a network of churches to reach our state with the gospel of Christ.

What C.S. Lewis says is true of all of life. There is no remaining in a neutral state, drifting downstream with the current — no remaining ordinary. Eggs will either rot or hatch birds that fly.

The question is yours to answer: Which will define you?

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