Let us pray.
"It's our only hope," Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page said, reflecting on the prevalence of prayer planned for the SBC's June 12-13 annual meeting in San Antonio's Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.
Each of the SBC's five sessions will have a prayer focus:
Tuesday morning: "Lord, Transform Your Churches."
Tuesday afternoon: "Lord, Bring Us to Confession and Repentance."
Tuesday evening: "Lord, Unite Us in a Cooperative Mission Task."
Wednesday morning: "Lord, Send Revival to Our Convention."
Wednesday evening: "Lord, Energize Our Evangelistic Efforts."
"The central focus for my presidency and therefore for this meeting is to seek from the Lord spiritual awakening — His Holy Spirit's revival," Page said. "And that is always prefaced by and enabled by and empowered by prayer."
A second key facet of this year's convention will be the unveiling of a general outline for a ten-year evangelistic strategy in the SBC, said Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, South Carolina, who was elected as SBC president last year in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The North American Mission Board's newly elected president, Geoff Hammond, has become part of the planning process, Page said, and "it looks like we will be able to unveil a general outline of a ten-year evangelistic strategy which brings associations, state conventions, NAMB, and other entities into a true focus in calling churches not just to win souls but, better, showing them how."
The evangelistic strategy will be "flexible, multifaceted," Page said. It will encompass "the more traditional people within our Convention and the more contemporary or non-traditional people, old and young, various styles and philosophies of evangelism and church planting, Calvinists, non-Calvinists, various people groups ethnically, and various groups from the geographical areas across our country.
"Obviously, every Baptist entity is autonomous," Page said. "But we are coming together to say, 'Here is a common direction for ten years to equip churches and people to win the lost to Christ.'"
The evangelism initiative must be in the context of "a massive emphasis on prayer and spiritual awakening," Page said, "but at the same time we've got to put a tool in the hand, a plow in the hand to say, 'Here's how you do it.'"
This will be the SBC's third annual meeting in San Antonio, following sessions in 1942 attended by 4,774 messengers and 1988 with 32,727 messengers, the third-highest total in SBC history during the Conservative Resurgence movement to return the Convention to its biblical roots.
Among the other highlights of the convention:
• The 300th anniversary of Baptist associations, to be marked during Tuesday morning's session, will be led by Tom Biles, president of the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Directors of Missions and director of missions with the Tampa Bay (Florida) Baptist Association.
The first Baptist association was formed in Philadelphia in 1707. That group, made up of only a handful of churches, later adopted a confessional statement, supported the education of ministers and engaged in cooperative missions with other churches and associations. Baptist associations arrived in the South in Charleston, South Carolina, and Sandy Creek, North Carolina, soon after. These associations were the forerunners of the Southern Baptist Convention, established in 1845.
Today, there are nearly 1,200 Baptist associations, representing more than 44,000 cooperating Southern Baptist churches.
• Page will deliver his presidential address to close out Tuesday morning's session. Rob Zinn, senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, California, will deliver the convention message Wednesday morning.
• The International Mission Board's presentation will be Tuesday evening and the North American Mission Board's Wednesday evening.
The theme of the convention reflects Page's call to prayer: … and [if] My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14).
A time of prayer during the SBC's three Tuesday sessions and on Wednesday morning — to be led by someone in Baptist life specializing in prayer — will include several minutes when messengers pray in groups of two of three for revival in the SBC.
Scheduled to lead the prayer times are:
Tuesday morning: Rosevelt Morris, director of the South Carolina Baptist Convention's office of prayer and spiritual awakening.
Tuesday afternoon: speaker-author T.W. Hunt of Spring, Texas.
Tuesday evening: Gregory Frizzell, prayer and spiritual awakening specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
Wednesday morning: Eddie Cox, director of the International Mission Board's international prayer strategy office.
Asked if he believes revival in the SBC is possible, Page said he does, noting that God voices "no equivocation" in 2 Chronicles 7:14.
"I am convinced that the way to turn it around — [struggles the SBC is having with] baptisms, soul-winning, church transformation — is going to be through a movement from God that 2 Chronicles 7:14 tells us must be prefaced by our humbling, praying, seeking His face, and repentance," Page said.
It is probable that "in our current culture we're going to continue being in love with things, activities that are not of God, priorities that pull us away," Page said. "I believe God wants us to have a broken heart. And so far, I've seen no broken hearts except on rare occasions.
"But if enough of God's people get serious about those requirements [in 2 Chronicles 7:14], those prescriptions for revival, then I believe revival can occur," Page said.
Also in conjunction with the SBC annual meeting:
• In Crossover San Antonio, hundreds of Southern Baptists will hit the streets of the metropolitan area June 9 to share the Gospel via door-to-door evangelism, block parties, and an international festival featuring dozens of ethnic groups showcasing their cultures, food, dress, music, dance, and art.
Bobby Welch, immediate past president of the SBC, is spending six weeks visiting churches in Texas to promote Crossover, much as he did for the 2005 and 2006 annual meetings in Nashville, Tennessee, and Greensboro, North Carolina. Welch is now serving as strategist for global evangelical relations for the SBC Executive Committee.
"Crossover is big for us," said Charles Price, director of missions for the San Antonio Baptist Association, "and we're getting a good response from our area churches."
"We pray that God will give us an infusion of new believers into our churches and that we would be able to start three or four new churches as a result of Crossover," Price said. "We also pray that Crossover gives us a new vision and energy for evangelism in the public square, not just through our worship services. We need a cross-cultural witness. San Antonio is a mission field with forty-five to fifty people groups, and we have to approach it like that," Price said.
This year's pre-SBC outreach is jointly sponsored by the San Antonio association, NAMB, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, and the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
• The SBC Pastors' Conference once again will feature breakout seminars that will include nearly ten topics and feature two roundtable discussions on a host of issues. The Pastors' Conference begins Sunday evening, June 10. The Pastors' Wives session of the Pastors Conference will take place on Monday beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the convention center's Lila Cockrell Theatre.
For the fifth consecutive year, online registration is available to churches for their messengers. Churches can register their messengers online at www.sbc.net to avoid waiting at the counter upon arrival at the convention. By registering online, the SBC Web site gives a church a messenger reference number form to be printed out and presented by each messenger at the SBC 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 for those churches that are unable or may not opt to access the online registration. Registration cards are available from state convention offices.
Messengers wishing to propose resolutions must submit them at least fifteen 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").
Shuttles will be available to and from most San Antonio hotels for the SBC sessions and the Sunday-Monday Pastors' Conference in the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center and the Woman's Mission Union meeting in the Marriott Rivercenter Hotel. However, the Marriott Rivercenter, Marriott Riverwalk, Hilton Palacio del Rio, and the LaQuinta Inn & Suites Convention Center will not be shuttled as they are located adjacent to the convention center. Hotel 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.
Childcare (birth-3 years) and children's conferences (ages 4-12) have been planned for the San Antonio meeting, with registration information available at www.sbc.net, the Southern Baptist Convention's Web site.