The Send Conference will make its late-summer return after several years on hiatus, North American Mission Board (NAMB) trustees learned at their May 3 board meeting.
Nashville will serve as host for the three announced gatherings, to be held in 2024, 2027 and 2030. The Music City witnessed the conference’s largest single attendance in 2015 when more than 13,600 gathered at Bridgestone Arena.
NAMB rolled out its Send North America initiative in June 2011 at a luncheon as part of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Pastors’ Conference prior to that year’s annual meeting in Phoenix. At least 1,000 pastors and their wives attended that informational gathering. The following year’s first Send Conference was originally planned for 800, but registration for the event at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., eventually swelled past 2,000 with attendees from all 50 states as well as Canada, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
NAMB President Kevin Ezell said the conference has continued to look for various ways to benefit attendees.
“Each year has always had some unique elements, whether it was content on the main stage or how we handled breakouts and workshops or even the locations we have chosen,” he said. “Our main goal with the Send Conference has been to mobilize people and churches.
“The first event focused on church planters and sending churches, but we quickly realized this message has a much broader appeal. Every Christian is called to be on mission in their context and that’s what we want to help people do. We need every believer to be committed to that and the Send Conference is a great way to create energy and excitement around that movement.”
The 2013 SBC annual meeting brought just over 5,100 messengers to Houston. Meanwhile, the Send North America luncheon held during that event saw 3,500 in attendance. A little over a month later, more than 4,000 attended the Send Conference at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.
NAMB opted not to make the conference an annual event, skipping 2014 and 2016. In 2017 the conference held three regional events in Dallas, Orlando and Long Beach, Calf. More than 12,000 attended.
Atlanta had been considered as a possible 2020 location for the Send Conference. Most recently, it was held last year at the 2121 SBC annual meeting in Nashville in place of the SBC Pastors’ Conference and drew an estimated 10,000.
“We are still in the beginning stages of planning for the 2024 event,” Ezell said, “but the basic concept will remain consistent, with some surprises mixed in.”
Nashville’s central location makes it optimal for most Southern Baptists to attend, he said. Meeting there in 2024 has one possible block, though, as the city is a finalist to host the Republican National Convention.
Ezell doesn’t expect a similar years-long absence of the conference anytime soon.
“We wanted to set three future dates for the Send Conference to communicate to churches that we are committed to making this a regular event in Southern Baptist life,” he said. “It’s something you can plan on.
“We are not a conference organization, but we have found that nothing mobilizes churches and people like the Send Conference. It is a great way to get people focused on the mission, so it is needed.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Scott Barkley is national correspondent for Baptist Press.)