As we near the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting, I’m growing nostalgic.
My first annual meeting was in St. Louis in 2002. It was memorable! As a 15-year-old, it was a lot to take in, with protesters outside the convention hall holding signs and protesters inside the convention hall interrupting James Merritt’s presidential address. Fred Luter preached at the Pastors’ Conference, my first time to hear him.
The most memorable moment for me, however, was walking into the convention hall for the first time. The first person I met was Adrian Rogers.
I grew up listening to Dr. Rogers on the radio but he was more impressive in person. In his gracious way, he treated me like I was the only person in the room. I’ll never forget the SBC in St. Louis.
Fourteen years later, I’m serving my second term as chairman of the Committee on Order of Business. What a privilege to serve this way as we go back to St. Louis. The annual meeting will look different than it did 14 years ago, but my prayer is that it will be just as memorable.
Last year, we received overwhelmingly positive feedback to changes we made to the “look and feel” of the annual meeting. We are excited again about this year’s annual meeting program. Here are a few of its features:
1. National call to prayer. By far, the most talked-about session of the annual meeting last year was the Tuesday night call to prayer. Our committee has asked SBC President Ronnie Floyd to lead the Tuesday night session again and call us to prayer for awakening. We are excited anew about what God is going to do during this time.
2. Panel discussions. The annual meeting will be enhanced by two panel discussions about relevant and important issues for local church ministry.
First, following his president’s address on Tuesday morning, Ronnie Floyd will host “A National Conversation on Racial Unity in America.” Jerry Young, president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Marshall Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C., and others will participate in the panel discussion. Nearby Ferguson, Mo., has been under intense national scrutiny for the past two years. There is no more strategic time and place than this year in St. Louis to discuss how the Gospel brings racial unity.
Second, on Wednesday afternoon we will have a panel discussion on the role of the pastor and the church in American politics. With the 2016 presidential election just a few months away, this discussion will help us think through the implications of the Christian worldview for politics in practical ways.
3. Joint seminary reports. Rather than hearing from our seminary presidents throughout the two-day meeting, we will hear from them back-to-back on Wednesday morning. Messengers will have the opportunity to see all of our seminary presidents on the platform at the same time and hear about what God is doing on their campuses as Southern Baptists train more than 18,000 current and future pastors, missionaries, ministers and other church leaders.
4. Joint mission presentation. A high point of last year’s meeting was the joint mission presentation by the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board. Kevin Ezell and David Platt will again lead a joint mission presentation on Wednesday afternoon, highlighting Southern Baptist missions and church planting across the country and around the world.
5. Panel of entity presidents. Our entity presidents will stand together on Wednesday afternoon in a visible display of unity as they field questions from messengers about their respective ministries.
6. Intentional business sessions. Again this year, we have very intentionally condensed the majority of the business to one session. Nearly all of the business will be conducted on Tuesday afternoon, including all elections and reports from the Committee on Committees, Committee on Nominations, Resolutions Committee and the Executive Committee. The flow of the entire annual meeting is natural and intentional. Each session will be packed with content that no one will want to miss.
7. Presidential address and convention sermon. Ronnie Floyd will cast a compelling and convicting vision for our convention on Tuesday morning in his second address as SBC president. Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., will bring the convention sermon on Wednesday morning. Ronnie Floyd and Ted Traylor are two of the most prophetic leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention. We will hear powerful messages from both men.
Our committee has been praying for a year that God would move in St. Louis in a way only He can. We have worked closely with our president, Ronnie Floyd, and other leaders from across the Southern Baptist Convention to ensure that the meeting will be one of the best we’ve ever had.
We will get the needed business done, but we will do so much more. As Southern Baptists, we will come together to pray, work, strategize, listen and move forward together. These will be unforgettable days and I look forward to seeing you there!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Andrew Hebert is chairman of the SBC Committee on Order of Business and lead pastor of Taylor Memorial Baptist Church in Hobbs, N.M. This column first appeared in SBC LIFE at sbclife.net, journal of the SBC Executive Committee.)