In the Middle of the Middle Tennessee Initiative

From the beginning, we’ve understood the facilities at 7777 Concord Road are a base—a place where people are enlisted, trained, and then deployed to places of Kingdom service. As growth has continued, we’ve known we would establish regional campuses (forward operating bases) that would be nearer different people and opportunities of ministry.

We knew this was going to happen. We just didn’t know it was going to happen this fast. In the past several months, we have begun construction of the new facility at our Station Hill campus. We’ve remodeled and opened the facility for our Avenue South campus. We’ve brought two congregations into our church. Woodbine Baptist Church and West Franklin Baptist Church are now The Church at Woodbine and the Church at West Franklin, respectively.

In a matter of months, we’ve gone from 2 campuses to 5!

Now, we are busy putting the infrastructure in place to support our continued growth. At the time of this writing, we’re ready to bring in a young man as the potential pastor of The Church at West Franklin. Then, we’ll turn our full attention to developing the opportunities present at Woodbine. Woodbine is going to serve several purposes for us. Not only will it be the base through which we reach the lost in and around that church, Woodbine will also become a training ground where members and residents in training will get their exposure to the realities of transformational community ministry. Right now, we can see where this campus can host several congregations reaching a lot of different people groups. How exciting it will be to see all of this unfold.

Right now, we’re working with several institutions to design and implement a leadership pipeline to identify and develop leaders for not only our congregations, but also churches throughout the region. The postmodern setting of the North American church means we have to train our future leaders in different ways so they’re ready for the different world in which they’ll be working.

Most importantly, we’re working on a process to engage more and more of our members in ministry opportunities presented in all of these congregations and communities. Our church is filled with talented and committed people who want to make a difference. What’s lacking is a process to identify the gifts of our members and then find them a place of service where their gift sets can make the biggest Kingdom impact. We’re looking at PLACE on steroids. This is a critical piece of the MTI. Without the involvement of lay leaders, we’ll never be able to do all that we need to do.

One of the most frustrating and exciting aspects of the MTI is that it never ends. We’ll never be done. We’ll never be finished. From now until Jesus returns, we’ll be busy.

I’m so excited about what God has in store for us. God is up to something in the MTI. Find your place in it and get there!

Church Full of Ministers

Whenever we start talking about the Middle Tennessee Initiative, some of us will worry about how many people we’ll have to hire.

To be sure, we’re going to need a lot of ministers to be part of the churches, church plants, and repurposed congregations. We’ll need pastors and worship leaders, children’s and pre-school workers, discipleship ministers and student ministers, ushers and deacons and Bible teachers for all of our campuses.

This is true, but there’s no law that says all of these positions have to be full time. Most of them will be part time – at least to begin with.

Too many of us selectively use the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer. We interpret this teaching to mean that everyone has a right to their own opinion.

Well, that’s not exactly what it means, but for the purposes of this blog, let me highlight another aspect of this great Baptist doctrine.

Every believer is called to ministry. All of us, professional and lay, are called to a significant kingdom ministry.

We are called “from” our sins and called “to” our work. This means we’ll be spending significant time identifying, training and deploying our members to the ministry to which God has called them. All of us have gifts and abilities given to us by God to be used in His work.

Each gift is needed. Each gift – in the right place –will be the right way to reach a particular person with the good news of Jesus Christ. How cool is that?

God has already equipped us with all of the resources we need to fulfill the calling God has placed before us in the Middle Tennessee Initiative.

So, what’s next for you?

  • Discover your gifts and talents.
  • Take PLACE if you haven’t already.
  • Join with a ministry and begin to practice so you’ll be ready when you find your assignment.
  • Pray. . . every day and every night.

God is up to something. Let’s be sure we’re in the middle of it.

Throw All the Pitches

No one goes to the World Series on one pitch.

No matter how good you are, sooner or later, a good hitter will be able to measure your pitch and then, hit it real hard. You have to be able to mix up your pitches. In the same way, churches are going to have to be able to find several different ways to engage their culture and the communities around them.

Historically, churches have engaged their communities in three ways: education, healthcare, and poverty. Each of these ministry efforts will open up more and more opportunities for evangelism.

Evangelism will always be the core of our work, but we live in a time when people have become jaded about the gospel. The ministry has to come before the message these days. We’ll do that through working with area schools, with the poor and with those who need healthcare.

The gospel restores dignity to the person. With that in mind, many of our people don’t have a chance to break the cycles that have enslaved them.

Whether it is getting a job, managing family finances, needing help with reading or math, our people will go into their communities and simply say, “We’re here to serve you.” From those moments we will earn the right to share the gospel. And community after community, we’ll begin to spread the gospel.

In local schools, in neighborhood coffee shops, in medical and dental clinic— wherever someone needs to be loved and served—we will meet them there and tell them of the love of Jesus.

From Kentucky to Alabama, from Dickson to Lebanon, as God opens the doors, I’m praying we will be ready to respond.

The Power of Adaptability

“You never go to the World Series on one pitch…”

The old sports adage reminds us that success in any arena of life requires a certain amount of adaptability. Different situations require different responses. One approach to any problem won’t work in every situation.

The same holds true in starting churches to reach people in Middle Tennessee. There are many types of people and varied opportunities, and each moment will require a particular response for a successful engagement.

That’s why, in the Middle Tennessee Initiative, we’ll be working with three expressions of new churches:

  1. The first one involves starting regional campuses. Station Hill is a regional campus and an example of what this process involves. In those places where we find people who would attend Brentwood Baptist, but don’t because of distance and other convenience factors, we’ll start a church that’s more comfortable to attend. For the most part, everything in the regional campus will be just like you’d find here on the Brentwood Campus of Brentwood Baptist Church.
  2. What happens if we find a group of people who don’t like the way we do church at Brentwood Baptist? We’ll start a church they will like. This might involve different people groups, language or ethnic groups, socio-economic groups—any number of things could define them. In these cases, we’ll find a pastor/church planter who’s called to reach this people group and help get a church planted. There’s a reason Baskin Robbins has 31 flavors of ice cream. Churches, like ice cream, have different flavors. The goal is to help every person find Christ in a way that’s most effective for them.
  3. The third way is by working with churches in transition. Most of the time, these churches have had remarkable days of ministry, but now the circumstances around their church have changed. To meet the new needs of the community, different strategies have to be employed. In some cases, this church may not have the resources needed to implement this new strategy. So, we’ll engage with them in some kind of formal relationship and look for ways to share the Good News of Jesus in new ways to a new people.

As you can imagine, this is going to take a lot of people. One of our major challenges right now is identifying and training the leaders we’ll need for these new congregations. Here’s where I need to give you a major heads up: not every leader is going to be hired.

Some of us will be sent to these new congregations. Some—in fact most—of our “new” leaders will come from our “old” members. (There’s another blog coming with more on this).

Across Middle Tennessee, we’ll be assessing challenges and opportunities to discern which method will best reach people for Christ in each area.  This calls for a lot of wisdom and discernment. And this means a lot of prayer—from all of us.