LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Actions do speak louder than words — and Johnny Hunt believes it’s time a lost world sees Southern Baptists match their words with love in action.
That’s the conviction behind the theme of the 152nd session of the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, Ky., June 23-24 — “LoveLoud: Actions Speak Louder Than Words.”
“Across America, people are thinking less and less of Christian groups,” said Hunt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock and president of the Southern Baptist Convention. “I think it’s because we always talk about what we believe and don’t spend near as much time demonstrating it. If it’s really all about the glory of God, we ought to be doing things that cause people to see our good works and glorify our God in heaven.”
With that in mind, Hunt said, the watchword for the annual meeting is Matthew 5:16 — “In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (HCSB).
The “Conservative Resurgence” in Southern Baptist life made it clear that Southern Baptists are “a people of the Book,” Hunt said. “But ever since, it seems like we have done less with what we believe than we were doing before. The numbers all substantiate that.
“We can stand, week to week and in our annual meeting, and talk about what we believe or we can begin to love loud and let people see a demonstration of our declaration,” Hunt added. “We have declared that we are a people of the Book, but it’s time to demonstrate what that means. The world is still waiting and watching.”
‘CALL TO ACTION’
The annual meeting program has been designed as a call to action for a “Great Commission Resurgence,” Hunt noted. Just as the Conservative Resurgence was driven by a plan to elect presidents who would make conservative appointments, a Great Commission resurgence also requires a specific plan of action.
“My presidential message will be a ‘State of the Convention’ address,” Hunt said. “I will focus on what, from where I sit, we must change if we are to see a Great Commission resurgence among Southern Baptists.”
Hunt’s address will be reinforced by a message from Daniel L. Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., who recently laid out what he sees as “12 axioms” of a Great Commission resurgence. Akin’s call to action will be followed by messages on three critical issues:
— Vance Pitman, senior pastor of Hope Baptist Church in Las Vegas, will speak on the vision of the Kingdom of God.
— David Platt, senior pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., will talk about connecting with the culture.
— Jeff W. Crook, pastor of Blackshear Place Baptist Church in Flowery Branch, Ga., will address the issue of evangelism.
Pitman, Platt and Crook not only speak as pastors whose ministries God is blessing, they also represent a younger generation whose voice needs to be heard, Hunt said.
“We come across to the younger generation that we know they are there and we’re glad to hear what they are doing, but I’m not sure we have allowed them to speak into our life as a convention,” Hunt said. “We need to hear what they can bring to the table, what we can learn from them. Some may say, ‘This younger generation is so different. They are our problem.’ But if they are our problem, Southern Baptists have no future. We better come to the table of reasoning.”
As he has traveled to speaking engagements across the country, Hunt said he has seen that the need for dramatic change in the Southern Baptist Convention is widely recognized.
“What we are presenting is not just what we want to see done but what I am hearing as I crisscross the convention. Grassroots Southern Baptists know there needs to be a change,” Hunt said. “We are a declining denomination. Sometimes it comes across that we are maintaining an institution instead of instituting a movement.
“We’ve got to turn this thing around. The bow of our ship — the old Gospel, Southern Baptist Convention ship — is floating low in the water,” Hunt said. “There evidently are some things we need to remove so we can get higher and there are some things we need to add so we can move toward our destination.
“This year’s program leads us to embrace what we believe would be a Great Commission resurgence. It calls us to action,” Hunt concluded. “If we buy into what we are going to present, I believe it has a chance to start a major turn in our denomination.”
Messengers to the annual meeting will find some changes that should improve the experience of attending the convention, said R. Clark Logan Jr., the SBC Executive Committee’s vice president for business and finance.
“One thing we have done is reorient the stage and seating so the hall isn’t so wide. We have moved the choir orchestra from the sides down to the front,” Logan said. “We suspended the TV cameras from the ceiling and on booms so messengers have a better line of sight to the platform. We’re going to have closed captioning of the proceedings rather than make deaf and hard-of-hearing participants dependent on a translator.”
The changes required the concerted efforts of a wide range of people to be sure the venue worked well for both inspirational times and business sessions, Logan added.
“We worked very closely with everyone involved — from Johnny Hunt and his staff to the music leader, Scott Allred, to the technical director, Jeff Davidson. They all have been great to work with. Our common cause was to try to create a more intimate setting so people feel they are more a part of what’s going on rather than watching a video production,” Logan said. “We worked together through at least 10 different stage designs before we decided which one would best merge the worship and business events without either suffering.”
Another major difference from previous annual meetings will be in the areas of parking and food service, Logan said.
“There are no restaurants within walking distance of the convention center and very few restaurants within a short drive,” Logan said. “Therefore, we have made arrangements to have a variety of on-site food services and ample seating available each day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
Food services will be available adjacent to the exhibit area, with full meals on one side and fast food options on the other, Logan said. Ample seating will be set up there, and additional food and seating options also can be found in the convention center lobby, so messengers can eat and fellowship comfortably with friends.
Parking spaces also will be in adequate supply, with passes available for sale in the convention center lobby that provide in/out privileges, Logan said. Plans for shuttle service and parking are being finalized and that information will be released through Baptist Press as soon as it is available. Up-to-the-minute information on convention logistics is available at sbcannualmeeting.net.
Among the highlights of the annual meeting:
— The North American Mission Board will cast special attention on God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS), the denomination-wide evangelism emphasis that launches nationally in 2010. Pastors and church representatives can visit NAMB’s exhibit to pick up an “Across North America” church implementation guide. The guide will help local churches blanket their community with the Gospel leading up to Easter 2010.
In addition, a newly designed and revitalized version of the website, GPS2020.net, will be launched at the convention. NAMB staff will demonstrate the updated site and show pastors how to find the resources they need to successfully implement GPS in their church.
In the convention hall, messengers will see video clips highlighting recent GPS pilots, and NAMB’s Wednesday night presentation will prominently feature GPS.
— Crossover ’09 will mobilize as many as 1,000 volunteers throughout Louisville and its surrounding communities June 19-20. Teams will survey and witness door-to-door through assigned neighborhoods, with priority given to areas where new church starts are planned. Some 40 SBC churches in the Long Run Baptist Association will participate in 32 block parties in Louisville neighborhoods. Prayer journeys and Compassion in Action projects also are planned. About 1,000 Southern Baptist volunteers from around the nation are expected to come to Louisville to support Crossover events, with the goal of generating 2,000 salvation decisions. For details, visit crossoverlouisville.com.
Although Crossover Louisville will not utilize GPS-specific resources, the weeklong evangelistic effort leading up to the beginning of convention week will envelope the four “mileposts” associated with GPS — praying, engaging, sowing and harvesting. “Crossover will be utilizing the elements of GPS throughout the week,” said Victor Benavides, NAMB’s urban center evangelism coordinator. “It will be a model for how churches and associations can implement GPS in their communities.”
— In addition to the speakers mentioned above, John Marshall, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo., will deliver the convention sermon on Wednesday morning.
— The International Mission Board report and presentation is scheduled for Tuesday evening, June 23. The North American Mission Board report and presentation is set for Wednesday evening, June 24.
— Congregational praise and worship will be led by Scott Allred, minister of music at Hunter Street Baptist Church in Hoover, Ala.; Scott C. White, senior minister of music and worship at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga.; Dan Odle, associate pastor for music and worship at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville; and songwriter, worship leader and producer Paul Baloche of Lindale, Texas.
— The SBC Pastors’ Conference will convene at the Kentucky Exposition Center at 5:30 p.m. June 21. Featured speakers include J.D. Greear of Summit Church in Durham, N.C.; Mike Landry of Sarasota (Fla.) Baptist Church; Francis Chan of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, Calif.; and David Platt of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala. The program also includes former Southern Baptist pastor and 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. More information about the program, including a complete list of featured speakers, is available at sbcpc.net.
— The SBC Ministers’ Wives activities will begin at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 23 with a Women’s Expo, followed by a luncheon focused on the theme, ” Quiet Influence: The Romans 12:1 Woman.” More information about that program is available at dianestrack.com.
— Woman’s Missionary Union will hold its Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting June 21-22 at St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville. The program includes a missions fair, disaster relief feeding and communications units, author signings and breakout sessions. Missions celebrations will be held both evenings. More information about the WMU program is available at wmu.com/events/annual.
— Online registration is available at www.sbcannualmeeting.net so messengers can avoid lines upon arriving at the convention. The website gives a church a messenger reference number form to be printed out and presented by each messenger at the registration booth in exchange for a nametag and a set of ballots. The appropriate church-authorized representative must complete all online registrations. The traditional registration method continues to be available. Registration cards are available from state convention offices.
— Messengers wishing to propose resolutions must submit them at least 15 days prior to the annual meeting, giving the Resolutions Committee a two-week period in which to consider them. Detailed guidelines on submitting resolutions are available at www.sbcannualmeeting.net (by clicking on “Resolutions”). Resolutions may be submitted online but must be followed up by a letter of credentials from the submitter’s church.
— Childcare (birth-3 years) and a children’s conference (ages 4-12) have been planned for the meeting. Preschool registration is $10 per child. The children’s program theme — “Pirates of the Cranium!” — will use stage presentations, Scripture memory, crafts, games and original music to emphasize “the importance of taking every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ.” Children’s registration is $45 per child. Registration information for both programs is available at www.sbcannualmeeting.net.
— Students in grade seven and above will be able to participate in Bible study, worship and fellowship during the annual Centrifuge program. A link to registration through LifeWay Christian Resources is available at www.sbcannualmeeting.net,
— Tourist attractions in the Louisville area are highlighted on the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau website, gotolouisville.com.
Compiled by Mark Kelly, an assistant editor with Baptist Press. A complete schedule for the SBC annual meeting is available at sbclife.net.