Here’s a quiz. Ready? What does a country girl from McMinnville, an agnostic from Mt. Juliet, a Division I basketball player from Memphis, and a Jewish young man from Georgia have in common?
Hint: The same thing as several Muslims from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Yemen, and quite a few Buddhists from Korea, Japan, and China. They were all brought to Jesus as Lord and Savior through the Great Commission work of your Tennessee Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM).
Twenty-three of your TBC missionary staff lead our gospel-focused strategies on 22 college or university campuses across our state and serve more than 380,000 students — many of whom come from around the globe. These BCM campus ministry leaders are the brightest, most committed, creative, and Jesus-focused champions I could ever dream of working with in ministry. Our BCM ministries really are an extension of the local church. Here’s how.
Most of us are familiar with the statistical decline we see when youth leave home for college. Increasingly, leaving for college means leaving the church, many never to return. They walk away from any spiritual foundation that may have taken root while in a youth group when the freedom and trappings of college choke out a glowing gospel ember waiting to be fanned. Our BCM ministers know the importance of fanning that flame as soon as students arrive on campus, sometimes before.
Near the end of this year’s spring semester, Rodney Norvell, our BCM minister at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, invited area youth ministers to bring their high school seniors to the UT BCM’s Thursday night worship gathering. BCM students made connections with those students, incorporated them into the event and introduced them to the BCM community. All of your BCM ministers stress the importance of community and connection. As Rodney says, with 27,000-plus students on campus, community is vitally important.
Lindy May is testimony to the importance of community. The recent University of Memphis graduate said that when she arrived as a freshman her intention was to pledge a sorority. However, the Sunday afternoon before the semester began, Lindy was invited to “Grub on the Grass” hosted by the BCM. “I was introduced to a great group of people and I realized this was the community I needed to be a part of,” she says. “I never pledged a sorority.”
Tennessee Baptists, Lindy is just one of many similar stories we see every year. Dozens of students from your church venture out across our state, nation, and world serving God and people. Not surprisingly, so many of these young people wind up in vocational ministry and eventually serving overseas with the International Mission Board. BCMs are ministry training grounds.
You as a Tennessee Baptist and your Tennessee Baptist church have had a direct hand in their development through the Cooperative Program and Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions, both of which support our BCM ministries. Your support enables us to have gifted ministers who are directly involved in seeing young adults saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship.
And beyond the financial support you provide, I’d ask you to pray. All of them are gearing up for a new year. Pray that our BCM ministers, BCM student leaders, and others involved in the ministry will have an effective first week connecting with returning students and especially incoming freshmen.
Pray for open hearts as our BCMers reach out and become campus missionaries. that those who arrived on campus — whether from across the street or around the world — will hear the gospel and respond to Jesus’ call of salvation.
Finally, pray that Jesus will call many of our young adults into ministry, becoming the next generation of church leaders and missionaries representing Southern Baptists the world over.
It is a joy to be on this journey with you.