(This post first appeared at Theological Matters)
I’m often asked why I go to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meetings. Those ill-informed about the SBC annual meeting think it is just a “big church business meeting”—but that’s only one aspect of the annual meeting. To answer the question requires discussion about the seven figurative hats I wore when I attended the meeting last week in .
I have the privilege and honor to attend the meeting as a representative, or messenger, from . In the SBC, messengers from cooperating churches gather to confer and determine the programs, policies and budget of the SBC. Each church may be represented by two to twelve messengers, depending on church size and Cooperative Program giving amounts, ensuring equal accessibility for small and large congregations alike. Currently there are roughly 46,500 churches in the SBC possessing a total of 15.5 million members. Hence, as a messenger at the SBC annual meeting, I prayerfully make decisions that affect not only my church but all 46,500 churches. Corporately seeking God through prayer, worshipping in music together, being edified by proclamation of the Word, and conducting business in a Christ-like manner all while being surrounded by pastors and church members from around the U.S. make for a unique and encouraging experience.
I also have the privilege of representing one of the SBC entities, (SWBTS), serving as vice president for strategic initiatives and communications. My wife and I enjoy interacting with alumni, ministry partners, and prospective students at the SWBTS booth, at the Pastors’ Conference, , , and other SBC venues. I thoroughly enjoy telling folks how SWBTS equips the called to Preach the Word, Reach the World.
I teach a seminary class during the SBC annual meeting entitled “Southern Baptist Convention, BPTST 4853/HIS 2223.” The course is a history of the founding and development of Southern Baptist church life. Basic organizational principles and characteristic functions of the SBC are addressed in this study as well as the role of associations and state conventions. Thirty students will gain a basic knowledge of key persons, movements, events and ideas of the SBC while they experience the SBC “live.” If you see me walking down the hall with 30 students behind me like newborn ducklings, you’ll know we are off to a class lecture.
Numerous teams under my leadership are responsible for events, communications and logistics for SWBTS-related business that is conducted at the SBC annual meeting. Twenty-four of my team implemented tasks throughout the SBC annual meeting. They are a creative and effective team, and it is a joy to work with them.
I have the opportunity to be a missionary in the SBC annual meeting’s host city. Taxi drivers, waiters/waitresses, and hotel staff all need to hear the Gospel. Yes, the SBC annual meeting schedule is intense and busy. However, one must slow down enough to share the Gospel. It would be a shame to literally flood a city with thousands of messengers and then leave the city without sharing the Gospel with someone. I recommend reading if you need to refuel your heart for the evangelistic task.
As homeschool parents, my wife and I are always looking for materials to augment or support the curricula used to teach our four children. We both enjoy touring the exhibit hall and conversing with vendors about their biblical worldview-focused products. We always leave room in the suitcases to bring back a few items. My wife and I are both bibliophiles, so there is always room in the suitcases for books!
I thoroughly enjoy experiencing SBC with my wife. We leave our young children at the grandparent’s house in West Texas, spend a week together attending the Pastors’ Conference and the SBC annual meeting, and then stay two extra days to explore the host city. It is a great time to reconnect with friends from across the U.S. and the world, to be spiritually refueled, and to spend quality time as husband and wife. This year’s trip will be extra meaningful, as we celebrate our 10-year anniversary this month.
Each hat I wore last week involves relationships and teams working cooperatively together. This, in effect, is our long-term Baptist principle that “we can do more together than alone.”