The Biblical Recorder, along with many other news and social media outlets, has written about the uniqueness of this year’s Pastor’s Conference (PC) prior to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in Phoenix, Ariz. In case you are not aware of the plans for the conference or you have not connected all of the dots, this review may be helpful.
The PC meets Sunday night and all day Monday, prior to the Tuesday morning opening gavel of the SBC. The conference has a good reputation for great preaching and is well-attended. It is designed to encourage, edify, convict, feed and challenge pastors. Many other church staff and lay leaders always attend to hear some of the best preachers in the world.
I have attended about 35 of these annual pre-convention meetings. I will go on record as one who appreciates the PC, and has been fed and challenged when I really needed it. The testimonies of many pastors whose ministries have been salvaged through this conference could probably fill the pages of the Recorder for at least a full year.
When the pastors met last June in St. Louis, a small church pastor was elected as president. This was a significant departure from the historical pattern. Dave Miller, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa, seemed to be a long shot when his candidacy was announced.
But Miller is also the editor of SBC Voices (SBCVoices.com), a popular blog. His focus on the pastors of small Baptist churches resonated with pastors. After all, the overwhelming majority of SBC churches are “small.”
Most conference presidents have been mega-church pastors that are widely used in state and national gatherings of Baptists. They are easily elected to places of leadership due to the respect they have earned and notoriety that grows from the preaching circuit.
This protocol has its advantages. For example, large churches are able to invest the huge sums of money required to hold a successful conference. The SBC does not fund the event, and no Cooperative Program dollars are used by the PC. Also, the officers are not paid to serve. They are volunteers.
So, Miller’s election broke with tradition – which is not a bad thing. He promised a “different kind of Pastor’s Conference.”
He had earned respect in a different way – through fair, honest, relevant, non-combative blogs about Southern Baptists.
Of course, Miller is not the only writer for SBC Voices. Other contributors include Todd Benkert, Jared Moore, David Rogers and Dwight McKissic.
Miller made good on his promise. He invited input from all Baptist pastors, asking for the names of good preachers who serve in smaller churches. A unique process was set in motion that allowed qualified preachers to be selected.
Baptist Press reported that a series of “firsts” were set in motion. For the first time, all PC preachers serve small- and medium-sized churches that average from 60 to 500 in attendance.
For the first time, the preachers prepared sermons that walk through a book of the Bible expositionally.
Another first was added – the speakers met in advance to discuss their scripture assignments to ensure cohesive unity within their sermons. They met in February at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
In addition to the 12 pastors who will preach at the conference, four testimonies are planned to bring “encouraging insights for churches of all sizes.” These four pastors serve large churches: Fred Luter, J.D. Greear, Johnny Hunt and Steve Gaines.
It is wise to include these testimonies in the program. It confirms that there is no intention to show disrespect or opposition to large churches. Miller has not expressed any sign of contempt for large churches. He simply believes there is another way to produce an effective conference. He believes there are many great preachers that are not serving in the convention’s large churches.
It is helpful to remember, the majority of large church pastors have served small- and medium-sized churches.
There are two concerns about attendance at next month’s conference. First, most small church pastors do not customarily attend SBC annual meetings. Their church simply can’t afford it. Second, the meetings are in Phoenix, adding to the expense and making it less likely that pastors in distant states will attend.
Miller’s leadership team offered a remedy for some. They made an appeal to larger churches and other organizations to contribute to a scholarship fund for small-church pastors. They hope to assist these pastors with $1,000 to cover travel and hotel expenses.
Some donations have come in, and the first round of 30 scholarship recipients has been announced. Three of those pastors serve in North Carolina.
We congratulate them.
However, there are more pastors who would like to be in Phoenix, but cannot afford the expense. More gifts are needed.
The Biblical Recorder would like to help. We want to make it easy for our readers to contribute to this scholarship fund.
You – or your church – may not be able to sponsor a small church pastor for $1,000, but you are probably able to give $10, $100 or another amount. We will send all of your gifts to the PC scholarship fund. On our website, visit this page: BRnow.org/Contact-Us/Donate.aspx. You can submit your contribution electronically on the website or mail your gift to: Pastor’s Fund, Biblical Recorder, P.O. Box 1185, Cary, NC 27512.
We need to respond soon so pastors can arrange to attend the conference. I appreciate your willingness to help the Biblical Recorder demonstrate that North Carolina Baptists support these small-church pastors. Thank you for joining us in meeting this need.
At this point, the largest sponsor of the 2017 Pastor’s Conference is The Caskey Center for Church Excellence, a ministry of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Other sponsors include Arizona Southern Baptists, Christian Standard Bible, the North American Mission Board, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southern Baptists of Texas and some churches.
Again, thank you for helping a small church pastor have a life-changing experience at the SBC Pastor’s Conference. I look forward to hearing from you.
Help a pastor go to the SBC
Donate $10, $100 or any amount to:
P.O. Box 1185
Cary, NC 27512
You can also give online at BRnow.org/Contact-Us/Donate.aspx.
The goal is for $1,000 for each scholarship awarded to help with transportation, hotel and other travel expenses.