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FIRST-PERSON: When you step up to the mic

Messengers line up at microphone 4 to address the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif. BP file photo

Editor’s note: Luke Holmes is pastor of First Baptist Church Tishomingo, Okla., and a member of the Committee on Committees for the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting.

One of the most exciting things about the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting is that you never know who will stand up at a microphone. All messengers have an equal voice, and entity heads and bivocational pastors must abide by the same rules. Decisions are made by those who show up, and the business sessions give everyone a chance to make a point or make her case.

However, it would be best if you were informed before you step up to a microphone. With more than 11,000 messengers registered, order is essential so the meeting does not become chaotic. Specific rules govern when a person can speak and what they can speak about. Ensuring we follow these rules and maximize our time can make a more productive meeting.

One of the first things you should be aware of is the sound you will hear when you start talking. The echo comes back at you in a cavernous hall, and you are tempted to slow down your speech to match the echo. The first time I spoke at a microphone, I was terrified and did not know what to expect. The best thing to do is to say your piece boldly and confidently, paying no attention to the echo coming back at you. Most pastors do not have experience speaking in large rooms like the convention hall, so when you step up, make your point as quickly as possible.

You also must pay attention to the microphone ordering box. Every microphone will have a screen in front of it that gives you a chance to press the button for what you want to do – make a motion, speak for or against something or make a point of order. There is no button for complaining that things don’t go your way or for saying that the air conditioning is incorrect. When a button is pushed on the screen, the moderator on the stage can see what the request is. They also tell what order it’s in so that no one is accused of favoritism for calling on someone first. The requests are put in a queue and answered accordingly.

When the microphone finally comes on, and it is your chance to speak, there are a few things to remember.

1. Make sure you are there for the proper purpose.

A motion is not an amendment; neither of those is a resolution, and none of those three is a point of order. Make sure you are at the microphone at the right time and are able to speak about the current business. You cannot push a button just because you want to say something or someone else’s comment upsets you. Certain business items can only be conducted at the appointed time in the schedule. The schedule is presented by the Committee on Order of Business and approved by the messengers. If you try to speak about something at another time, you are speaking against the will of the messengers.

2. Make sure you know what you are going to say.

Motions and amendments should be written so they can be taken up and put on the screen when necessary. Each microphone will have a page near it, who will help relay that information to the front. In addition, knowing what you want to say will help speed things along and make the best use of our time together. Millions of dollars have been spent in getting pastors and other messengers to the meeting to conduct business. It’s not a time for your standup routine or for you to hem and haw about what to say.

3. Ensure you respect both the stage and the messengers. I assume anyone who has moderated a business meeting will tell you it’s not easy. Imagine doing it with 10,000 people spread out in the room, all with different opinions on what must happen. Much work has been put into ensuring everyone in the room is treated equally. The ordering boxes are set up to take status, church size or influence out of the equation. There is no need to accuse the stage of playing favorites and wasting the time other messengers might use to conduct business. If you have something to say, get in and get out as quickly as possible so that the whole order of business can move on.

The Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting has been called one of the world’s largest deliberative bodies ever assembled. While this year might not be as big as some of the past, it will be big enough that we need all the respect, decency and order we can get. I hope everyone takes a chance to get involved wherever they can and have their voice heard. But let’s ensure we do so with the dignity and decency the moment deserves.

    About the Author

  • Luke Holmes