PHOENIX (BP)–Professional, trade and religious conventions are usually only of interest to those who attend them. It would be rare indeed for a devotee of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to get overly excited about a taxidermist convention and vice versa. These gatherings are designed to appeal to a very narrow special interest.
While convention-goers have varied reasons for attending annual gatherings, the main reason is shared avocation. Those who attended the 2003 Southern Baptist Convention spent at least two days in Phoenix because they have much in common.
Southern Baptists are deeply committed to the Bible. As such, a hallmark of any convention is preaching. The styles of those who address the faithful will be varied but you can rest assured that each and every sermon will be anchored in the Sacred Text.
Worship is a part of every SBC. There is a special inspiration that occurs as you blend your voice with that of thousands. The great hymns of the faith are sung with gusto. Praise is celebratory yet reverential. Choirs and special guests are greeted with rousing applause in gratitude for their melodic contributions.
Because Southern Baptists are involved in an array of ministries, information is also provided throughout the convention. Reports are made updating messengers from local churches on efforts ranging from evangelism and education to missions and moral concerns. To an outsider this information might not seem very exciting; however, the faithful pay rapt attention.
Of all the things that bind Southern Baptists together, one is preeminent. It is more than a common interest, it is a person. Pervading all the preaching, all the singing, and all the reports is Jesus Christ.
Founded in 1845 the SBC has experienced much. In 158 years the convention has had to endure its share of controversy from within and ridicule and attacks from without. Though much has changed since its humble beginning, the SBC has remained tethered to the person of Jesus Christ as presented in the Bible.
During one report 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 was read: “Do you know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the Kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
As the words filled the convention hall, my mind drifted back to the moment I experienced the washing, sanctifying, justifying reality of Jesus Christ. I was 21 years old and I knelt alone by my bed. I cried out to God, “Lord, my life is a mess. I know that I have broken your law and that I deserve nothing from you but hell itself. I need Jesus. I believe that He died on the cross for my sins and that He was raised from the dead. Please forgive me. Please take my life and change me.”
The Southern Baptist Convention represents many things to many people. For thousands the world over, myself included, it stands for the uncompromising truth that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life and no one can experience salvation except through Him.
This is the last of four columns penned by Kelly Boggs during the June 17-18 SBC annual meeting in Phoenix. Boggs is pastor of Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore.