This year’s North Carolina Baptist Pastors’ Conference Nov. 10-11 highlights unity.
The two-day event, scheduled prior to the Nov. 11-12 Baptist State Convention of North Carolina annual meeting in Greensboro, has chosen “One” as its theme.
“It doesn’t seem that we are all one,” said Chip Hannah, president of this year’s conference and senior pastor of Peace Baptist Church in Whiteville. “There are so many things that divide us” – including theological and racial differences.
The number of baptisms are down, Hannah said, and while Southern Baptists are planting churches, other congregations are closing their doors.
“Until we become one in Christ, we are not going to reach anyone,” he said.
Hannah said his aim in choosing speakers remains to offer varying backgrounds and opinions but within the realm of Southern Baptists. Choosing a racially diverse lineup was part of that plan.
Speakers for this year’s event include three white pastors, three black pastors and a Native American.
“We are at one of the greatest times for change … when better than right now,” Hannah stressed. “We can do this if we become one.”
Ephesians 4:4 is the theme verse for the conference: “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call.” The pastors have been encouraged to pray about the theme and search the scriptures to talk about unity within the body of believers.
“How do we get past our differences to become one in Christ?” Hannah said.
For Hannah, the Pastors’ Conference has long been a source of encouragement.
“I so look forward to it,” he said. “I don’t know how most preachers feel, but I know when I go and I hear all this great preaching, it just gets me fired up. It excites me.”
But the conference is not just for pastors. Hannah said other church leaders and laypeople come to hear great preaching and music as well as to be encouraged.
Hannah said he hopes this conference will challenge believers to “think beyond ourselves.”
“I want our pastors and our church people to become great thinkers,” he said.
Speakers include J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham and Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president; J.J. Washington, campus pastor of First Baptist Church Woodstock in Austell, Ga.; Daniel Ritchie, a speaker and author living in Huntersville; Mike Stone, senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Ga., and chairman of the SBC Executive Committee; Mike Cummings, pastor of Deep Branch Baptist Church in Pembroke; Alvin Summers, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Indian Trail in Marshville, N.C.; and James Fisher, pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church in Greensboro.
Music will be led by Matthew Slemp, minister of music at First Baptist Church of Indian Trail.
The first 500 individuals to register will receive a bundle of free books and resources provided by conference sponsors.