COLUMBUS, Ohio (BP) — Thousands of Southern Baptists will gather this coming June 16-17 for our annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio. In light of the approaching convention, I want to share seven reasons why I believe pastors should join us there.
1. Gospel Legacy
This will be the 158th session in our 170-year history. That’s right — 170 years and 158 meetings. It’s important for us to understand the faithful Gospel legacy that has been passed down from generation to generation since 1845. We have not been a perfect denomination. In fact, we have a tainted past when it comes to subjects like racism and abortion. But we have sought to repent of our past and chart a biblical way forward.
When faced with a liberal trajectory toward denying biblical inherency, unwavering men and women fought to bring the Southern Baptist Convention back to a faithful understanding of the Holy Scriptures through what is known as the Conservative Resurgence. Over the last 170 years, many under the banner of Southern Baptists have contended for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. The task of continuing this great Gospel legacy now rests with us.
2. A National Call for Prayer to All Southern Baptists
One of the highlights of this year’s meeting is a prayer gathering. On Tuesday night, June 16, SBC President Ronnie Floyd and other pastors will lead our annual meeting attendees in a time of intentional prayer over many different matters concerning our Southern Baptist family and our country. Thousands will unite under one roof, asking God to bring about a great awakening across the world and advance the Great Commission in our lifetime. This extraordinary gathering of men and women seeking God through prayer and petition is one not to be missed.
3. Church and Mission Sending Celebration
The SBC was formed on the belief that churches could do more together for missions than they could separately. The North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board are two key entities that work with our churches to identify, equip and launch missionaries and church planters around the world. In effect, they help churches plant churches.
On Wednesday morning of our annual meeting, we will witness the commissioning of a hundred missionaries for service around the world. We will see their faces, hear their stories and pray for them as they take the next step toward landing on the field for the name of Christ. NAMB President Kevin Ezell and IMB President David Platt will lead this service along with Floyd. This sending service will be a powerful moment for our pastors and is sure to be a ceremony unlike any other of our time.
4. The President’s Panel: The Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage
The Supreme Court is set to take up the issue of same-sex marriage with a decision this summer, most likely late June. As new realities approach concerning same-sex marriage, a panel will convene at this year’s SBC annual meeting intended to help prepare churches for what will follow the court’s decision. The decision will have an impact on every local church in our denomination. As pastors, we must be informed on how to best lead through these days, gaining ground on the forefront of the culture wars.
5. Events Surrounding the Annual Meeting
When pastors attend an SBC annual meeting, they don’t just go for the meeting, encompassing three and a half days of jam-packed, edifying events. More than 50 other meetings are associated with the SBC annual meeting. A full list can be found at sbcannualmeeting.net. A few of these opportunities include:
— The SBC Pastors’ Conference — The Pastors’ Conference begins on Sunday evening, June 14, before the SBC and continues through all of Monday, June 15 — a full day and a half of preaching from various pastors and leaders from around the country. This year, speakers include David Platt, James McDonald, J.D. Greear, Paul David Trip, Ronnie Floyd and many others. You can view the full lineup at www.sbcpc.net.
— Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner Events — All sorts of events take place during meal times at the SBC in order to help keep people on site. These include:
— Breakfast: LifeWay’s Gospel Project panel and men’s ministry breakfast
— Lunches: SBC Minister’s Wives luncheon; lunches for alumni of each of the six CP-funded seminaries; Baptist21 Panel Luncheon
— Dinner: The International Mission Board
— Other Events –- 9 Marks at 9; WMU’s Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting; Bivocational Ministers Luncheon; the gathering of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists; numerous ethnic fellowships that hold their annual meetings in connection with the SBC; the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders annual meeting; Connect 316 & two movie screenings.
6. Network and Fellowship with Other Pastors
Seeing old friends and meeting new ones is always a personal highlight of my time at the SBC. The opportunity to network beyond one meeting a year is one of the great realities of social media. But no amount of social media can replace the time you are afforded with someone face to face. Brothers need brothers; sisters need sisters; iron needs iron. The SBC annual meeting is a time to eat together, laugh together and talk ministry together. For this, I’m thankful.
7. A Time to Refocus.
Each year, thousands of Southern Baptists pastors and laypersons, representing thousands of churches throughout our country, gather together to worship our King Jesus. For two days, we subject our hearts and minds to our mission as a network of churches to train pastors, equip churches and launch missionaries. These are our priorities. This is what we do. It’s our DNA. Though oftentimes we drift into our own small kingdoms, forgetting our priorities, the annual meeting helps us reengage in our calling with renewed passion. We go back home to our churches and get after it in the name of Jesus.
So I invite you to Columbus. Come, join us as we gather together for a few days to worship our risen King Jesus, launch missionaries, hear about the training of a new generation of pastors and pray for God to move and work like never before. I hope to meet you there!