News Articles

Worship sets the tone at SBC meeting

Branden Williams, worship leader at the Summit Church, led the worship sessions at the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting from behind several keyboards. Photo by Abbey Sprinkle

NASHVILLE (BP) – On June 15-16, the Southern Baptist Convention gathered for business proceedings and voting sessions. But before the meetings could begin, attendees refocused their hearts on a greater purpose, Jesus Christ, through a time of worship.

The SBC annual meeting is about more than business. Messengers come to worship too. Photo by Abbey Sprinkle

While it may not have felt like a typical atmosphere for a worship service, messengers clearly used the time to focus on the Lord and receive refreshment in the midst of long business meetings.

Three times a day, the worship team from The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., engaged the audience lively and Spirit-filled worship. The worship times featured hymns, Gospel songs and modern worship songs in traditional and contemporary music styles in order to reach people from all church backgrounds.

Branden Williams, convention music director and worship leader at The Summit Church, along with the worship team intentionally chose the variety of music to bring unity. By keeping the common theme of Jesus Christ, Branden said he hoped the messengers from around the country would remember their purpose – to glorify the Lord.

In the room, it was clear that the heart of the worship team was in the right place. At 8 a.m. the first morning, the energy in the room was low and the crowd business-minded. The worship team came out strong with high-energy and joyful music, which woke up the messengers. By the second song, a hymn accompanied only by a soft piano, the whole congregation joined together in one heart-felt chorus of praise to the Lord.

Worship leaders Michael Georges Jr. and Hank Murphy kneel before God during the annual meeting’s final worship session. Photo by Abbey Sprinkle

Between songs, Michael Georges Jr., a worship pastor at The Summit Church, said, “The moment you wake up in the morning, you receive new mercies, and that is His goodness in the land of the living.”

That afternoon, messengers were packed tight in the room. Along with worship through music, the time also included worship through prayer. As the crowd finished singing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” leaders invited messengers to “carry everything to God in prayer,” and many knelt on the floor.

On Wednesday, the diversity increased again with the addition of Spanish verses to “I Surrender All.”

Before presiding over a business session, SBC President J.D. Greear was an active participant in the worship service. Photo by Abbey Sprinkle

Williams told Baptist Press that in the days leading up to the meeting, he looked forward to how the worship would point toward the meeting’s theme of the Great Commission. The message for messengers, he said, whether in a business session or back in their home communities should be unchanging – that the love and peace of Christ experienced during worship should continue in every aspect of life.

“When we leave here, we still have to be ambassadors of Christ,” Williams said. “Our hope is that people would see Christ, feel the love of Christ, and then also extend that love towards each other.”

Though the worship and music were excellent, Williams said he hoped people would see the presence of God, not the ability of the musicians. He desired for the messengers to see Christ and for the worship team to be a blessing and a service hidden behind “the Rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2).

Vocalist Kaimy Masse leads messengers in worship June 16. Photo by Abbey Sprinkle

For the final worship experience of the convention, the music shared space with prayers of confession and supplication. Between songs, messengers took a few moments to share with their neighbors a small piece of their testimony and how the Lord had been good in their life this week. The room filled with chatter as everyone shared and celebrated the blessings of God together. 

The next pause in worship brought a time to lay their sins at the feet of God and confess the secret sins that only the Lord knows. When the time for singing came again, several worship leaders knelt or lay prostrate in humility before God. Drawing the worship session to a close, a guided prayer focused on the SBC, spiritual revival, families, home churches, the country and its leaders. The final worship session concluded with a joyful celebration as the crowd sang together “Glorious Day.”

“At the end of the day, we’re all brothers and sisters in Christ,” Williams told Baptist Press. “We’re broken people who come from broken places trying to serve a perfect God and trying to showcase that same perfect God to an even more broken world.”

    About the Author

  • Kirbi Cochran