Fulfilling the mission Christ gave His followers — bringing lost souls into God's Kingdom — will be the focus of the 151st session of the Southern Baptist Convention when it convenes June 10-11 at the Indiana Convention Center.
The meeting will extend a theme of spiritual awakening that has characterized the tenure of Frank Page as SBC president, pressing on to the evangelistic outreach that flows naturally from renewal.
"The motivation and power for evangelism arises out of spiritual awakening," said Page, who is completing his second term as SBC president. "I keep going back to Acts 1:8, which says, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. And when we have been stirred by God's Spirit, we reach out to the lost and God draws people to Himself."
That's why Page said he selected Acts 2:47b as the watchword for the gathering: And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.
"The recent report of a decline in baptisms and membership in the Southern Baptist Convention re-emphasizes that for too long we have been attempting to raise baptisms among non-revived people in non-revived churches," Page said. "The lack of connection with lost people and the lack of urgency for soul-winning and personal evangelism is a direct indication of our lack of spiritual passion and love for the lost.
"Even when there is a love and a concern for the lost, sometimes we have a total disconnect with the culture in which we live," Page added. "Many of our people simply do not know how to relate to people in 21st century culture and have been frustrated at their inability to communicate the Gospel. Many believers do not know people who are outside the Kingdom and often do not even know their own neighbors."
Under the banner of "Fulfilling the Mission," Southern Baptist leaders will introduce a multifaceted long-term strategy for helping churches evangelize their neighborhoods, states, country, and world. The ten-year National Evangelism Initiative was a priority Page set for his time in office when he was elected in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 2006.
"The moment I was elected, I knew I wanted to encourage a continent-wide evangelism strategy," Page said. "A large number of people have been saying to us, 'Don't just tell us what to do, but show us how to do it.' So I approached the North American Mission Board and they have worked with our state and associational partners to come forward with a strategy that will help us know both what to do and how to do it."
Unlike some programs that drop a big box of material on the desk and leave it to the pastor to figure out whether it can be implemented in his church and how to do it, the National Evangelism Initiative will offer a menu of strategies in four areas: praying, engaging, sowing, and harvesting, Page said. Churches will be able to pick and choose strategies that will work in their unique contexts.
"There will be many elements produced so churches of all sizes and all ethnic backgrounds in all areas of the continent can take part," Page said. "They will be able to pick and choose from various strategies, tools, and emphases. It will be very flexible.
"Of all the things that could come out of the meeting in Indianapolis, the greatest for our continent would be that we come away with a common direction in presenting a very positive, life-transforming message about Christ."
Among the other highlights of the annual meeting:
• Block parties in twenty-seven ethnically mixed neighborhoods will spearhead a drive to launch eight new churches during Crossover '08, the citywide evangelistic campaign set for June 6-7. "I want to encourage Southern Baptists to be part of Crossover," Page said. "I will be out sharing Christ on Saturday and hope hundreds, if not thousands, will join us in that great evangelistic opportunity."
• Messengers to the annual meeting will hear challenges from Leo A. Endel, executive director of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention in Rochester, Minnesota and Rob Blackaby, president of the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary in Cochrane, Alberta.
• An intensified focus on prayer will be another feature of the convention. In addition to the prayer room, signs will be posted around the convention center to help messengers make a "prayer journey" for the annual meeting. A virtual prayerwalk will be available at www.crossover08.com for people who can't attend the convention. Information for those interested in volunteering to intercede for the annual meeting is available on that site as well.
• The North American Mission Board report and presentation is scheduled for Tuesday evening, June 10, and the International Mission Board report and presentation will be Wednesday evening, June 11.
• Congregational praise and worship will be led by convention music director L. Lavon Gray, minister of music and worship at First Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi. Steve Blanchard, director of worship ministries for the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana, will lead the Indiana Baptist combined choirs in several performances.
• Al Gilbert, senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, will deliver the Convention message Wednesday morning, June 11.
• The SBC Pastors' Conference will begin early — on Sunday afternoon, June 8 — to preview Fireproof (fireproofthemovie.com), a new movie on unconditional love and covenant marriage produced by Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia.
• The annual Ministers' Wives Luncheon will be held at noon Tuesday, June 10, in the Sagamore Ballrooms 1-5 of the Indiana Convention Center. Gary Chapman will speak on the topic "How to Love a Leader." Registration information is available at www.sbcannualmeeting.net.
• Woman's Missionary Union activities will begin Sunday evening, June 8, at the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis, with a banquet featuring SBC President Frank Page as the keynote speaker. A day-long missions celebration will be held June 9 in the same hotel. Registration information for the banquet is available at www.wmu.com.
• Online registration is available at www.sbcannualmeeting.net through June 7 so messengers can avoid lines upon arriving at the Convention. The Web site 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 also is available. Registration cards are available from state convention offices.
• Shuttles will be available to and from most official SBC downtown and airport hotels. The shuttle service will be complimentary on Sunday afternoon, June 8. Shuttle tickets will be available at the Convention center information desk for $10, with children 12 and under riding free when accompanied by parents who purchase tickets. Hotels near the Convention center that will not have shuttle service are the Canterbury, Conrad, Crowne Plaza Union Station, Embassy Suites Downtown, Hampton Inn Downtown, Homewood Suites, Hyatt Regency Capitol, Marriott Downtown, Omni Severin, and Westin. The Country Inn & Suites near the airport will not have shuttle service. The remaining official SBC downtown and airport hotels will have service.
• Childcare (birth-3 years) and a children's conference (ages 4-12) have been planned for the meeting, with registration information available at www.sbcannualmeeting.net.
• Students grade 7 and above will be able to participate in Bible study, worship, and fellowship during the annual Centrifuge program. Registration information is available at www.lifeway.com/fuge/cfuge under "SBC Fuge."
• Guidestone Resources will sponsor a wellness walk at 6:15 a.m. on Tuesday, June 10, at White River State Park. Online registration is available at www.GuideStone.org/walk or www.sbcannualmeeting.net.