My wife and I have had the privilege of living in three states: Arkansas, Texas, and Tennessee. Less than two weeks after our marriage, we moved from Tennessee to Texas so that I could attend Southwestern Seminary. We later moved back to Texas to serve as minister of education at First Baptist Church in McAllen. “My wife’s grandmother came to visit us in Texas, She looked at us and said that there is nothing bigger in Texas. The trees are smaller, the cows aren’t bigger, nothing.” I don’t want to mess with Texas so we will not belabor that point. We enjoyed Texas, in fact when I retire, my wife and I are going to be a Winter Texan at least once.
My first full-time church was Markham Street Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. I am certainly thankful that pastor Manuel Weeks gave this young seminary student, who had just turned 24, a chance. The years at Little Rock were years of learning. Some key influencers during these years helped shape my philosophy. Ron Lewis served as Markham Street’s Church Growth Consultant. From Ron, I learned to be focused on the unchurched. Another key influencer was Freddie Pike and Ed Hinkson at the Arkansas Baptist Convention. They invited me to attend a Growth Spiral Conference led by Andy Anderson in the Fall of 1985. Anderson’s inspiration and practical application of the principles of Sunday School are ingrained in my philosophy of church growth. During my tenure, Markham Street built a 1.2 million dollar education building and remodeled the existing building. Masterlife became the backbone of the Discipleship Ministry. An intercessory Prayer Ministry was started with a 24-hour prayer room. Attendance at visitation topped 100 each week. God was blessing our church.
While in Arkansas, I would attend Arkansas Razorbacks games at War Memorial Stadium, and the St. Louis Cardinals AA Affiliate the Arkansas Travelers. On Sunday night after a Razorback loss, it was always fun to watch the Wally Hall show. My wife graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. We enjoyed the natural beauty of Arkansas, which is a very pretty state, going to Pinnacle Mountain for picnics, and Hot Springs, and Siloam Springs. But despite all of this, I never gained a real passion for Arkansas. Why because my heart was in Tennessee? Tennessee was my home. I am thankful for the years that I spent and the lessons learned in Texas and Arkansas, but what a glorious day when Hilldale Baptist Church in Clarksville allowed me to return home. I Love Tennessee! Tennessee is HOME!
Today, my prayer is for the 6 million people who live in Tennessee, whether you have moved in from Michigan, Ohio, California, Alabama or Florida. Welcome to my state! My hope is that you will find a friend that knows Jesus and has a burden for your soul and will tell you about Jesus. My prayer is that God will give me the burden for you that I will be bold enough in my witness to share what Christ has done for me. Because you see, I do love Tennessee. It is my earthly home, but my real home is in HEAVEN. And the only way to get there is through Jesus Christ.