NEW ORLEANS (BP)–An emphasis on personal evangelism and a report from the new Southern Baptist Convention’s Council on Family Life are on the agenda for the SBC’s June 12-13 annual meeting at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.
“I believe this is going to be one of the most exciting conventions we have had in many, many years,” said James Merritt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church, Snellville, Ga. “We are going to do everything we can to keep it [the convention] focused like a laser beam on evangelism and missions, and people are going to see some of the fresh and unique things we are doing in those areas.”
This year’s convention will feature a new Wednesday afternoon session, set for 3 p.m., to replace the Wednesday evening session, SBC officials have announced. As a result, the final convention session will end around 6 p.m.
“We believe messengers will appreciate the flexibility this schedule will provide, whether in opportunities for fellowship with Baptist friends that night or a chance to return home on a Wednesday evening flight,” said Jerry Johnson, chairman of the SBC Committee on Order of Business.
As a result of the time change, Merritt said the convention will have a somewhat different look.
“We are going to highlight missions and evangelism in ways we’ve never done,” he told Baptist Press. “We’re going to put our two mission reports in prime-time slots.”
The International Mission Board will present its annual report on Tuesday afternoon and the North American Board on Wednesday morning.
The theme of the meeting, “Until He Comes…Go!” is taken from Luke 19:13: “So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said. ‘until I come back.'”
Theme interpretations will be presented by Mac Brunson, senior pastor at the First Baptist Church, Dallas; Adrian Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, Tenn.; Kenneth C. Whitten, senior pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church, Tampa, Fla.; Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas; Robert Webb, pastor of the First Baptist Church, Malakoff, Texas; and Calvin Wittman, senior pastor of Applewood Baptist Church, Wheat Ridge, Colo.
Of particular note is a report from the Council on Family Life, created last year by SBC Executive Committee President and Chief Executive Officer Morris H. Chapman.
The committee, chaired by Tom Elliff, a former SBC president and pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, Okla., was created to spearhead initiatives to build a heightened awareness of the needs of families throughout the SBC and to work in cooperation with other SBC agencies to provide needed resources and materials for local churches.
Merritt has called on all Southern Baptists to increase their evangelism efforts during the New Orleans meeting.
He is completing his first term as SBC president. To date, there are no additional publicly announced nominees for the SBC presidency, or for the two vice presidential offices.
In addition to Merritt bringing the annual message of the SBC president, Fred Luter Jr., pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, will preach the convention sermon at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday — the first African American to do so.
“We’ve moved the convention sermon to a special slot and we’re going to also feature a 1,000-voice choir,” Merritt said.
James Dobson, founder and president of Focus on the Family, will speak during the Wednesday afternoon session of the annual meeting. Dobson’s remarks will dovetail a report delivered by the SBC Council on Family Life.
The week prior to the SBC, the annual Crossover evangelistic effort coordinated by NAMB and Louisiana Baptists will penetrate metro New Orleans with the gospel. Hundreds of adults and teenagers will participate in mission opportunities throughout the Crescent City.
In addition, a number of satellite meetings, such as the annual Pastors’ Conference and Woman’s Missionary Union meeting, will be held Sunday and Monday prior to the SBC annual meeting.
The two-day schedule for the annual meeting will mean messengers wanting to introduce resolutions for consideration must do so before the start of the Tuesday afternoon session. Messengers who want to have resolutions considered are urged to send them before the annual meeting to the Resolutions Committee c/o Convention Relations, Executive Committee, 901 Commerce St., Nashville, TN 37203.
The registration of messengers will open at 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 10, and at 8 a.m. on the following Monday through Wednesday.
Messengers must be credentialed by their respective churches. According to SBC Bylaw 8, the church’s clerk or moderator must sign the familiar messenger card, “the best credential.” The messenger card may be obtained from state convention offices or the local association office in some states. A messenger is similar to a delegate elected by a local church but traditionally has not been instructed by the church.
SBC officials emphasized that most state conventions do not automatically send the cards to churches. The churches must request the messenger cards from their state convention offices.
If a messenger comes to the meeting without a properly completed card, the person must go before the convention’s Credentials Committee. The Credentials Committee will open after 8:30 a.m. on Monday, June 11. Any messenger who does not have a messenger card should bring a letter from the church and meet with the Credentials Committee.
The registration desk also will be able to accommodate messengers who need to send messages either by telegram or fax, and it will serve as the convention’s lost and found office, according to SBC officials.
The qualifications for messengers wanting to register for the convention are found in Article III of the SBC Constitution. Messengers of the convention are members of missionary Baptist churches cooperating with the convention as follows:
“1. One messenger from each church which (1) Is in friendly cooperation with the Convention and sympathetic with its purposes and work. Among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches that act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior. And, (2) Has been a bona fide contributor to the Convention’s work during the fiscal year proceeding.
“2. One additional messenger from each such church for every 250 members; or for each $250 paid to the work of the Convention during the fiscal year preceding the annual meeting.
“3. The messengers shall be appointed and certified by the churches to the Convention, but no church may appoint more than 10.
“4. Each messenger shall be a member of the church by which he is appointed.”
The convention does not register “alternate messengers.”
Other amenities provided by the registration desk include nametags and a service to locate messengers’ hotel rooms. Messengers should include the name and number of their hotel on their registration cards.
Additional information about the annual meeting can be found at www.sbc.net.
(BP) graphic posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Graphic title: 2001 SBC ANNUAL MEETING.