CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (BP) — An emphasis on 1-5-1 Harvest Plants brought perhaps the most culturally diverse group of messengers ever to the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s annual meeting Nov. 12-13 at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
Messengers received a written report and heard from various members of the Vision 2021 Transition Team, which has been developing an implementation plan for the report adopted last year from the convention’s Vision 2021 Team. Input for the Transition Team’s report will be received during the coming year, with a vote to be taken at next year’s annual meeting.
The annual meeting drew 1,333 registered messengers from 532 churches, the largest number of messengers since 2007 when 1,506 messengers registered for the annual meeting in Kingsport. The Chattanooga meeting also attracted a large number of visitors, with a total attendance of more than 1,800.
Messengers heard messages from TBC President Dean Haun, SBC President Fred Luter and Chattanooga pastor Robby Gallaty.
Major items of business included the adoption of a $36.5 million budget and the election of Clarksville pastor Larry Robertson as TBC president.
Messengers also received a report on the work of the TBC Executive Board on Tuesday evening (Nov. 13). TBC Executive Director Randy C. Davis’ report included a focus on Harvest Plants and an announcement of a plan to pray across Tennessee in 2014.
1-5-1 Harvest Plants is an initiative to impact lostness in Tennessee. “We must reach the harvest fields of Tennessee,” Davis said. “Together we can impact lostness.”
A video was shown with testimonies of pastors and others involved in piloting 1-5-1 this past year. Many of the plants started in 2013 had representatives at the evening session who were recognized during Davis’ presentation.
Churches were encouraged to sign up to begin harvest plants in 2014. The 1-5-1 initiative entails a commitment to start no less than 1 plant in the year, making an effort with the Lord’s help to reach, win and baptize five people through each plant, and planning on each plant multiplying itself by starting another plant by the end of the first year.
“Plants” can consist of churches (a new work that will carry out all the functions of a church), groups (similar to branches but not connected to any other program of the church) or branches (extensions of existing on-campus Bible studies).
Bobby Welch, TBC associate executive director, told the TBC’s Baptist and Reflector newsjournal earlier this year that “all of these plants will be focused on reaching lost people where they live, work and play.”
Davis cited statistics demonstrating the need for a Kingdom impact in the state, noting there are an estimated 3.65 million people in Tennessee who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, with 30,000-plus people dying and going to hell each year. He added that in just a three-day period statistics show that 400 people will die in the state without accepting Jesus Christ as Lord of their life.
Despite the population of the state more than doubling since 1948, baptisms in 2012 by Tennessee Baptist churches were the lowest since then.
Davis illustrated the need to reach the youngest generation by bringing 10 children from the Chattanooga campus of Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes to the platform. He took the hand of one of the children and led her from the group. He told messengers that trends show that only one of 10 children today will come to know Christ as Savior “unless churches wake up from their slumber and regain a passion to fulfill the Great Commission.”
Davis acknowledged that he does not know how long it will take to turn around this “nosedive” in the number of baptisms in Tennessee. He introduced Tennessee Baptists to the “Salvation Bell” which has been placed on the back of an older truck with more than 100,000 miles on it. The truck and bell (on loan from First Baptist Church in Sevierville) will be driven to every county in the state in 2014, Davis said.
“We are going to all 95 counties in Tennessee to ring the Salvation Bell and we will be praying all over this state. That’s where it starts,” Davis stated.
The TBC leader read a quote from former President John F. Kennedy in his 1961 inaugural address: “United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do … for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.”
“Tennessee Baptists,” Davis said, “the only thing we need to fight about is hell and the devil over lost souls. We must join our hands together for the next generation.”
Officers elected, budget approved
Larry Robertson, pastor of Hilldale Baptist Church in Clarksville, was elected as TBC president, the lone nominee for the office.
Robertson was nominated by Roc Collins, pastor of Indian Springs Baptist Church in Kingsport, who noted that Hilldale gives 10 percent of its undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program and 3 percent to the local Baptist association. Collins added that in Robertson’s 11 years as pastor of the church, attendance has grown from 800 to 1,400 people meeting on two campuses. Finally he noted that Robertson has started or supported six churches and Hilldale currently is planting two churches.
Steve Freeman, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Springfield and outgoing president of the TBC Pastors Conference, was elected first vice president, also the lone nominee. Brent Moore, pastor to adults at First Baptist Church in Clarksville, was elected second vice president in a ballot with Todd Stinnett, pastor of Lebanon Baptist Church in Talbott. Moore was elected with 228 votes or 53.8 percent of the vote.
The TBC Executive Board presented a budget of $36,500,000 for 2013-14. The amount is $500,000 below the 2012-13 budget, noted Greg McFadden, chairman of the budget committee and pastor of First Baptist Church in Humboldt.
McFadden noted they were “reeling in” the budget in order to “be strategic in reaching lostness in Tennessee.”
Of the approved budget, 58.75 percent will go toward TBC missions and ministries while 41.25 percent will be forwarded to the SBC, an increase from the current allocation of 59.25 percent for TBC causes and 40.75 for SBC causes.
Transition Team report
The Vision 2021 Transition Team’s report was presented in written form to messengers and also was published in the Baptist and Reflector in the Oct. 2 issue.
Among the Vision 2021 recommendations adopted last year were a new vision statement and seven core values; an affirmation of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000; and a goal of 50/50 distribution of Cooperative Program funds with the Southern Baptist Convention by the 2018-19 budget year. (For last year’s convention report, click here.)
In order to provide for more dialogue over the next year, the Transition Team announced in late October that it would delay a vote on the report until the 2014 annual meeting in Brentwood.
Chairman Chuck Groover of Victory Baptist Church in Mount Juliet said the Transition Team intended to make its recommendations and allow a vote to be taken this year but agreed to take another year to continue discussions with Tennessee Baptists.
“Our only desire has been to know God’s vision for His people, Tennessee Baptists,” Groover said. “We need to continue our discussions as to how God is leading us to meet the challenges before us.” He added that the convention needs “unity in the vision God is revealing to us.”
Groover encouraged Tennessee Baptists to e-mail their thoughts and suggestions to the Transition Team at [email protected]
Davis agreed with the decision to delay the vote for a year. “Further discussion will do nothing but sharpen our walk together,” he said.
Several members of the Transition Team spoke to the report. Among them, Bruce Chesser, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, said the team “listened and learned” as they walked through the process for many months. “It is our prayer that together we dream a new dream and catch a vision for what the Lord has for us — to be a people to impact lostness,” he said. “We want to impact our cities, state, nation and world for Christ. We are just trying to figure out the best way to do that.”
Danny Sinquefield, chairman of the Vision 2021 Team that brought the report to the convention last year, led a time of concerted prayer. He also challenged messengers to extend the prayer over the next 52 weeks to seek the Lord’s will for the convention.
Messengers approved three resolutions including one in support of the passage of Amendment 1 to the Tennessee constitution.
The resolution, presented by messenger Leroy Davis of Nina Baptist Church in White Pine, offers support for Senate Joint Resolution 127 which proposes an amendment to the Tennessee constitution to confirm that “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.”
It also noted that SJR 127 “further retains the rights of the people of Tennessee, through their elected representatives in the General Assembly to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion and the protection of life.”
SJR 127 will be on Tennessee’s November 2014 ballot as “Constitutional Amendment 1.”
The resolution resolves that messengers “urge all Tennessee Baptists to work vigorously toward the passage of pro-life Amendment 1 in November 2014 as one step toward the protection of life.”
Messengers also adopted a resolution which “affirms the actions of Tennessee Temple University (in Chattanooga) in embracing Southern Baptist doctrine and Tennessee Baptist life.”
— Messengers approved a new five-year partnership with the Send North America Denver Coalition, beginning Jan. 1, 2015, through Dec. 31, 2019. Tennessee Baptists will work with North American Mission Board missionary Dave Howeth to assist in church planting efforts. Jackson pastor Ben Mandrell, who has resigned from Englewood Baptist Church to become a church planter in Denver, shared his testimony.
— Changes to the TBC constitution and bylaws were approved to change convention terminology from “grand divisions” to “grand regions,” standardize the reference to the name of the organization and revise the duties of the Historical Committee, eliminating reference to a staff position that no longer exists.
— Recognition was given to the Tennessee Baptist Foundation which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and Woman’s Missionary Union which is celebrating its 125 anniversary. The convention also recognized Gary Coltharp who will be retiring as the foundation’s president next March and Union University President David S. Dockery who will transition into the role of chancellor next year.
— Messengers voted against a motion from messenger Bobby McCord of First Baptist Church in Decaturville, requesting the Executive Board to study “negative designated giving” which would allow more funds to be used for TBC ministries and keep funds from SBC entities that “promote doctrines in which we have serious disagreements.”
— Messengers elected Cal Hampton, pastor of Green River Baptist Church in Waynesboro, to deliver the 2014 convention sermon, with Clarksville pastor Larry Robertson as alternate.
— First Baptist Church, Hendersonville was approved as the site of the Nov. 14-15, 2017 annual meeting.
Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 11-12 at Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood.
Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector (www.tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp?), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.