MARIETTA, Ga. (BP) – In his final monthly video as president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Bryant Wright offers a preview at www.Pray4SBC.com of the annual meeting in New Orleans, noting that unengaged, unreached people groups and church planting will be the main focuses.
“As we prepare for our convention, I want you to know that I’m very excited about coming together with so many of you in New Orleans this year. It obviously will be a historic convention,” Wright said, referring to the anticipated election of the SBC’s first African American president, Fred Luter.
The June 19-20 convention also will have a clear theme of “Jesus: to the Neighborhood and the Nations,” Wright said.
“We want to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in our neighborhoods and our local mission fields where our churches are planted but also realize as we do that we also want to go to the nations,” Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., said.
At last year’s annual meeting in Phoenix, more than 600 churches went forward to commit to embracing an unengaged, unreached people group.
“Now that number is almost up to 1,200 churches along with all of our seminaries and some of our Baptist colleges. So God is working in local churches to give that local church a sense of responsibility of embracing a people group that has not heard the gospel,” Wright said.
Last year 3,800 people groups were classified as unengaged and unreached, Wright said, but contacts now have been made with about 400 of those people groups.
“As a matter of fact, Johnson Ferry had its first trip to engage one of those unengaged people groups in northern India this past spring. I know many of the churches are in that process,” he said.
Also at the New Orleans convention, an emphasis will be placed on the unreached areas of the United States and Canada, such as metropolitan areas where the North American Mission Board plans to plant more churches.
“So many of our seminary students are passionate about church planting, and as more and more churches are engaged in church planting, we will see a multiplication process that I think really will reverse the trend over time of seeing more people baptized, more growth within our convention as people are discipled in what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ,” Wright said in the video.
Messengers will hear a report from the task force that studied the idea of changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“We are now recommending a descriptor versus a legal name change – Great Commission Baptists – that we hope will become synonymous with who we are and how people think of us and our mission and our purpose as a convention,” the president said. “By being at this year’s convention you’ll have an opportunity to be a part of that very important decision.”
Wright recommended people dress casually for the convention, expecting warm, humid weather in New Orleans.
“We also will be having our convention sessions during the day, and having no night sessions gives you freedom to fellowship with your friends and family members and enjoy some of the great food that’s there in New Orleans,” Wright said.
By eliminating evening sessions last year, Wright noticed greater participation by messengers. More people were in attendance for the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board reports because they were presented during the day, he said.
“So if you can be there, we’d love to have you as a part of that convention to take part as we come together and hopefully renew our commitment to reaching and discipling this world for Jesus Christ as Christ has commanded us to do,” Wright said.
Also in the video, Wright thanked Southern Baptists for the privilege of serving as president for two years and said the experience has been “tremendously energizing” and “tremendously exhausting.”
“I’ll always be thankful, though, for just seeing how vast is the work for Christ’s Kingdom that Southern Baptists are engaged in, and having a front row seat at so much of that really has been a wonderful privilege,” Wright said.
He expressed gratitude for those who prayed that he would stay close to God and to his family throughout his time as president and said God has answered those prayers. Wright added that he is looking forward to taking a sabbatical from his role at Johnson Ferry upon completion of his presidential term.
“The timing will be perfect at the end of this time to get the batteries recharged and to have some time to reflect and also look with great anticipation to the future years of ministry here at Johnson Ferry,” Wright said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach.)