Tennessee Baptist and Reflector Writes on Baptist21

The Tennessee Baptist and Reflector graciously ran a story about Baptist21. The story highlights how we got started and our hopes for the SBC. We have provided the article in full below.


Group Seeks to Involve Younger Pastors

By Lonnie Wilkey, editor
Baptist & Reflector


LEBANON — Jon Akin is a young (30 years old) Southern Baptist pastor and he is proud of it.


His goal and desire is to see other young pastors engage with the denomination that he loves and respects.


While still in school at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., in 2008, Akin, along with his brother Nathan and Jed Coppenger, were lamenting the fact that many of their counterparts seemed to be distancing themselves from the Southern Baptist Convention.


“We saw a lot of younger guys disengaging from the convention and we wanted to see that trend reversed,” said Akin, now senior pastor of Fairview Baptist Church here.

Those early discussions led to the formation of Baptist 21 (Baptists in the 21st Century), a non-profit organization which seeks to involve younger pastors in convention life. Baptist 21 is seeking the centrality of the gospel in all nations through the local church in the 21st century and beyond. Baptist 21 is made up of pastors, planters and ministers from all over the country in many different roles.


“We want to be a winsome voice for change within rather than a shrill voice for critiquing from without,” Akin said.


All three of the leaders of Baptist 21 group have a strong denominational heritage.

The Akins’ dad, Daniel Akin, is a long-time Baptist educator and now president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.


Coppenger’s dad, Mark, formerly served with the SBC Executive Committee and was executive director of the Indiana Baptist Convention. He is now vice president for extension education/director of the Nashville Extension Center for Southern Seminary.

Both dads were actively involved in the “conservative resurgence” of the SBC in the late 1970s and 1980s.


“We want to faithfully pass down in the 21st century what has been passed down to us,” Akin said.


Akin added that Baptist 21 wants to “honor our heritage and the faithful men and women who have gone before us.


“At the same time we recognize there are things that need to be changed in the SBC.”

Baptist 21 began a “blog” that developed a good readership, Akin said.


The organization began to gain momentum after a blog post entitled “Third Generation Conservatives in the SBC” by Steve McKinion, a professor at Southeastern.


McKinion’s piece was about how we are the offspring of the Conservative Resurgence and that we are thankful for it while trying to practice what the leaders of the CR taught us, Akin related.


A lot of younger guys resonated with what he wrote  and more became involved in Baptist 21, Akin continued.


Baptist 21 has sponsored forums at the past three annual SBC meetings, Akin noted. The first one in Louisville drew 600 people, while the one in Orlando attracted 1,200 participants, he said. Last year’s participation in Phoenix returned to about 600, which they were pleased with in a location like Phoenix, he said.


The panel  discussions involve both younger and older Southern Baptists.

“We try to get older and younger leaders to speak about things that will impact the lives of younger ministers,” Akin said.


Those forums have been taking place on a regional level as well.

Baptist 21 has put together panels at conferences like Advance the Church, state conventions and is sponsoring a “Fresh Vision” dinner at the annual meeting of the Tennessee Baptist Convention on Nov. 15 at 5 p.m. at First Baptist Church, Hendersonville.


Panelists will discuss what missions cooperation needs to look like in the 21st century and will examine topics including the Cooperative Program and if a name change is needed for the Southern Baptist Convention.


Panelists include David Landrith, senior pastor, Long Hollow Baptist Church, Hendersonville; Pat Hood, senior pastor, Lifepoint Church, Smyrna; Ben Mandrell, senior pastor, Englewood Baptist Church, Jackson; Robby Gallaty, senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church, Chattanooga; Randy C. Davis, executive director/treasurer of the Tennessee Baptist Convention; and convention President Poly Rouse.


Tickets for the complimentary dinner are needed and can be picked up on a first come, first served basis at the Welcome Center in the main lobby of FBC at the annual meeting. Individuals can register in advance at baptist21.com.


Akin stressed that Baptist 21 is committed to “being Southern Baptist.”

Leaders of Baptist 21 have met this past year with leadership of both the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board to discuss ways the two entities can connect with younger pastors.


Akin noted that Baptist 21 was actively involved in discussions regarding the Great Commission Resurgence which has been adopted by the SBC.


Akin said Baptist 21 tries to cast a vision of gospel-centrality that attracts some from other movements to lock arms with the SBC and cooperate for the glory of Christ.

“The reason we are so excited about the SBC is because we believe that we do international missions, church planting and theological education better than anyone else, and we combine all three in one place in a way that cannot be found anywhere else,” he said.


Akin stressed that Baptist 21 is not against a specific program.


But the same time, “always need to ask, ‘Is this the best way to do it?’


“We are not trying to blow the SBC up,” Akin stressed. “We want to see it be as effective as it can be in the 21st century and beyond. We are definitely committed Southern Baptists.” B&R