SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — Messengers to the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s annual meeting approved a new name for the Executive Board during “Summit: The Gathering of Tennessee Baptists,” Nov. 13-17 at the Sevierville Convention Center.
Unofficial registration tallied 1,211 registered messengers from 503 churches throughout the state. The numbers do not reflect the total number of people who attended various sessions. On Nov. 13, an estimated 2,000-plus people attended the worship service led by Steve Gaines, SBC president and pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, and a concurrent Hispanic worship service.
Messengers adopted a $35 million budget, approved changes to the constitution and bylaws, adopted four resolutions without discussion, entered into a City Reach partnership within Tennessee, and heard messages and multiple reports on what God is doing throughout the state.
Executive Director Randy C. Davis reported that more than $61 million was received through the TBC during the 2015-2016 fiscal year, with more than $55 million given “sacrificially by the churches and individuals.” He informed messengers that Cooperative Program gifts reversed a three-year trend, with a 2.2 percent increase in giving. CP gifts also exceeded the budget by $356,850, or 1.04 percent. In addition, Tennessee Baptists gave the second largest amount ever ($1,713,258) through the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions.
The convention recognized the churches that had the largest CP giving per attendee, CP giving percentage of budget and CP giving total, along with churches which had the best Golden Offering giving per attendee and total offering.
During his report, Davis updated messengers on the progress of the new Church Support Center slated for completion in May 2017. He reported the new 32,000-square-foot building just south of Franklin is “greatly streamlined” from the former 82,000-square-foot facility in Brentwood. “When we are finished, the building will be completely paid for by the proceeds from the sale of our old building,” he said.
A proposed budget of $35 million for the 2016-2017 budget year was adopted by messengers, allocating 45.52 percent to the Southern Baptist Convention and 54.48 percent to state missions and TBC institutions. Both Davis and Steve Marcum, chair of the budget and ministry committee, told messengers that the percentage allocations keep the TBC on target to a 50/50 distribution of Cooperative Program funds with the SBC by the 2018-2019 budget year.
In discussing the proposed name change of the Executive Board to Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, Davis said the name has historic roots, noting the Executive Board was once known as State Mission Board before becoming the Executive Board in 1918.
Tennessee is a mission field that is growing, he said. “The new name is concise and communicates what we’re about.”
Davis added that the word “executive” referred to only a portion of what the board does. “We are not a bureaucratic organization,” he said, emphasizing that the new name refers only to the former Executive Board. “We are still the Tennessee Baptist Convention,” he said. Messengers overwhelmingly approved the name change.
Steve Freeman, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Springfield, was elected president without opposition. Freeman has been chair of the Executive Board (now Tennessee Baptist Mission Board), vice president and second vice president of the TBC and president of the Tennessee Baptist Pastors Conference.
Michael Crandall, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Dyersburg, who served as second vice president this year, was elected first vice president in a ballot vote with Kylan Mann, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Martin. Crandall received 363 votes (64 percent) to Mann’s 205 votes (36 percent).
Todd Stinnett, pastor of Black Oak Heights Baptist Church in Knoxville and outgoing president of the Tennessee Baptist Pastors Conference, was elected second vice president without opposition.
The Committee on Constitution and Bylaws, chaired by Frank Freels, a member of First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, presented a recommendation regarding the adoption of an amended and restated constitution and bylaws which will become effective upon an affirmative vote of the messengers to the 2017 annual meeting of the TBC.
The majority of the restated governing documents do not actually change the governance of the convention but only updates language and reorganizes existing items in an easier to read format. Changes that do affect at least somewhat the governance of the TBC include: resolutions process to identify the purpose of a resolution and a means for someone submitting a resolution that is not considered by the committee to be brought back up; changing the procedure so that a committee member or director, when changing regions, may complete their term of service beyond the current year; removal of a committee member (a new process as there had been no process to remove a committee member if it was warranted); removal of a TBMB director (same as for committee member above). The changes also reflect changing all references of Executive Board to Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
Messengers voted to begin a new volunteer mission venture called City Reach for reaching the Tennessee’s largest metropolitan areas. City Reach is a planned volunteer mission venture with the state’s five metro associations: Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga and Clarksville. City Reach will kick off with Knoxville in 2017-18, followed by Nashville the next year, according to Kim Margrave, TBC volunteer missions specialist.
“We are asking each of you to see Tennessee as a missions field and join us in reaching these cities,” Margrave said.
Davis also challenged churches to become involved in City Reach. “Some of our healthiest churches are located in the rural areas of our state. Our major cities are rapidly changing. We need to be light to them,” he said.
Phil Young, director of missions for the Knox County Association of Baptists, shared with messengers that though the city has been called the most Bible-minded city in the nation by the Barna Group, only 19 percent of the population is involved in church. In addition, 39 percent of Knoxvillians identify as Nones (no religious affiliation) and 41 percent identify as Dones (those who have left church), Young said. Also, 120 different nations are represented in Knoxville, and in the inner city one out of four people live in poverty.
“We are excited about what God will do through City Reach over the next couple of years,” Young said.
Messengers approved four resolutions with no discussion. Among them was the traditional resolution of gratitude as well as resolutions on “Prayer for our Nation,” “K-12 Christian Education” and “In Support of Israel.”
The resolution on prayer called for Tennessee Baptists to commit to “pray diligently for our president, elected and appointed officials, civil servants, law enforcement, first responders, and military” as well as for those who are “spiritually lost, for the healing of our nation, and for revival (II Chronicles 7:14).”
The resolution on Christian education affirmed Christ-centered education and the establishment of additional Christ-centered K-12 schools and Christian homeschooling networks. It also affirmed teachers, administrators, parents and students “who choose to follow God’s leadership in their lives by participating in public schools.” In addition it encouraged all students, whether in public or private schools or homeschools, “to demonstrate a lifestyle of salt and light as they engage in kingdom work.”
The resolution in support of Israel resolved to support “the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign state and reject any activities that attack that right by promoting economic, cultural, and academic boycotts against Israel.” It also called for Tennessee Baptists to pray for Israel “and for all nations of the Middle East, that God would change hearts and bring peace through the work of grace in His Son, Jesus Christ.”
Coach addresses convention theme
Carson-Newman University coaching legend Ken Sparks addressed the convention’s theme, “Connect Now … Whatever It Takes.” The day before his theme interpretation Sparks announced his retirement after 37 years as Carson-Newman’s head football coach. A member of Manley Baptist Church in Morristown, Sparks ends his career with a record of 338-99-2 as the fifth winningest college football coach in history.
In introducing Sparks to TBC messengers, convention president Roc Collins of Kingsport noted that Sparks would never shine the spotlight on himself. “He would rather be measured by impact on the lives of young men and coaches who have been part of the Carson-Newman family,” Collins said.
Davis also spoke in honor of Sparks, noting that just this year 20 members of the C-N football team have made professions of faith in Christ.
Sparks reminded Tennessee Baptists of “why we do what we do.” He noted that God created, called and commissioned His people to walk down “victory road,” as described in 1 Peter 5:5-11. “Let’s make sure we give God the glory. Come on church. Go down the victory road. No excuses,” Sparks challenged.
In other convention activities/actions, the TBC:
— signed partnership papers with the Baptist Convention of New England, which was adopted at last year’s Summit in Millington.
— observed the 125th anniversary of Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes.
— recognized TBC staff members Gary Rickman and Phyllis Bates who have announced upcoming retirements. Together they have nearly 70 years of service to the convention.
— approved Bruce Chesser, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, to preach the 2017 convention sermon, with Grant Gaines, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Jackson, as alternate.
The 2017 Summit will be Nov. 14-15 at First Baptist Church in Hendersonville.