EDITORS’ NOTE: Please see additional story below on New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminaries’ Caskey Center being named as a strategic partner of the 2017 SBC Pastors’ Conference.
PHOENIX (BP) — The 2017 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference in Phoenix is expected to highlight the contributions of the convention’s smaller churches and celebrate the diverse landscape that makes up the SBC. To that end, Pastors’ Conference officers are seeking nominations for event speakers who represent these churches.
To help fill the slate of preachers for the conference, the leadership team is inviting Southern Baptists to recommend expository preachers for the event. The online nomination process opens Sept. 12 at www.sbcpc2017.com. Nominations can be made through Sept. 30.
Dave Miller, an Iowa pastor and president of the 2017 Pastors’ Conference, made the announcement on the SBC Voices blog Wednesday (Sept. 7).
“We are operating from two strong convictions,” Miller, who also is editor of SBC Voices, said in written comments to Baptist Press. “First, we believe that the Bible is enough. Accurately and powerfully preached, a Pastors’ Conference focused on the word of God will be a rich blessing to all who attend.”
“And second, we believe that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of qualified preachers in average Southern Baptist churches who can encourage and challenge us from the inerrant, vibrant word of God,” Miller said. “Our task now is to find the right 12 men.”
Nominees should be the pastor of a Southern Baptist church with about “500 or less in average attendance” who has not preached at the annual meeting in the past five years. Miller noted on his blog, “We may stray a little higher if we decide to — these are guidelines, not rules. But we are coming from the belief that there are a lot of very good preachers out there, worth listening to, in average SBC churches.”
The leadership team encourages nominations representing the ethnic and geographic diversity of the SBC. To aid in the selection process, nominators should include links where sermons may be viewed online. If online sermons are not available, sermons may be submitted via email through Google Docs.
The selected preachers will also participate in a preaching colloquium held at a Southern Baptist seminary early in 2017 to focus on expository preaching of Philippians. The theme for the 2017 Conference is “Above Every Name” (Philippians 2:9). Through the four Pastors’ Conference sessions, pastors will preach through the book of Philippians in 12 expository messages.
“We want to work together as a team this year, not just 12 individual speakers,” Miller, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa, said.
A One-year experiment
The idea of electing a smaller church pastor to lead the Pastors’ Conference is something Miller and his friends have discussed for years. The group convinced Miller to run for Pastors’ Conference president on an agenda focused squarely on God’s Word. Miller used the SBC Voices blog to get the word out about the expository preaching focus and the Pastors’ Conference attendees responded by electing him president.
Miller is quick to point out that this is meant as a one-year opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of smaller churches. They have no designs on having a small church pastor lead every year.
“We wanted to do a conference that focuses on biblical preaching and worship and not focused on who is doing the biblical preaching,” Miller said. “We are trying this one year, we are not trying to ‘take over’ the Pastors’ Conference.”
His candidacy and election was not meant as protest or critique of large churches, Miller noted.
“Some small church movements have been distinctively anti-big church,” Miller said. “We are not doing that. We aren’t saying anything bad about large churches. We just want to give [smaller church pastors] a chance.”
If selected as a speaker, preachers are asked to attend the Pastors’ Conference in its entirety for the mutual support and encouragement of attendees and speakers.
Please see additional story below.
NOBTS Caskey Center named as strategic partner for 2017 SBC Pastors’ Conf.
By Gary D. Myers
NEW ORLEANS (BP) — The Caskey Center for Church Excellence at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary will serve as a strategic partner for the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference in Phoenix. The partnership will include financial and logistical support. NOBTS President Chuck Kelley announced the partnership to the school’s faculty Wednesday (Sept. 7).
“The Caskey Center for Church Excellence at NOBTS is delighted to partner with the 2017 SBC Pastors’ Conference in Phoenix to highlight the role of the smaller membership church in Southern Baptist life,” Kelley said. “We are passionately committed to encouraging all pastors to make excellent biblical exposition in the church and consistent Gospel conversations with those outside the church the building blocks of their ministries.”
The news follows the election of Dave Miller, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa, and editor of the SBC Voices blog, as the president of the 2017 Pastors’ Conference.
Typically a position reserved for larger church pastors, Miller ran on a platform emphasizing expositional preaching and celebrating the contributions of smaller churches in the SBC. Miller’s church, which averages around 200 in worship, is in good company. Eighty-nine percent of the convention’s 47,000 churches average 250 or less in worship.
“The Caskey Center was asked to partner with the SBC Pastors’ Conference because we are one of the only entities in the SBC completely devoted to smaller-membership and bi-vocational ministry,” said Mark Tolbert, director of the Caskey Center. “The Caskey Center serves as a champion for our smaller churches throughout the convention. We look forward to sharing research, highlighting best practices and celebrating the significant work of our smaller churches.”
Tolbert considers the partnership a “win-win” arrangement. The Pastors’ Conference team receives financial and logistical help needed to put on a large-scale event. The Caskey Center gains the opportunity to promote intentional gospel-centered conversations to a larger gathering of Southern Baptists.
“We are eager to emphasize and stimulate gospel-centered conversations among all of our pastors and churches,” Tolbert said.
“With a 16-year decline in baptisms, the SBC is in crisis and we hope to encourage and advance intentionality and accountability and to help ‘move the needle’ in reaching our neighborhoods and the nations with the Gospel.”
While the significance of smaller churches will be on display, Tolbert stressed that the 2017 SBC Pastors’ Conference is not meant to be a gathering of small church pastors only. Tolbert and Miller both are seeking widespread participation from those who pastor the smallest to the largest churches.