With the focus on evangelism and the goal of winning and baptizing 1 million people in a year, Southern Baptists will gather at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina, June 13-14, for their annual meeting.
It will mark the fifth meeting in North Carolina for the denomination but the first since 1916 (Asheville). Southern Baptists never have met in Greensboro.
"My quest is going to be to keep the collective head, heart, and eyes of the messengers on our main business of witnessing, winning, and baptizing," Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch told Baptist Press. "... I think that's especially critical in light of the ACP report."
The most recent ACP, or Annual Church Profile report, showed Southern Baptists baptizing 16,000 fewer people in 2005 compared to 2004.
It will be the second consecutive year Southern Baptists have gathered under the banner of "Everyone Can" — a reference to the fact that all Christians are called to share their faith. Also, for the second straight year, baptisms will be held throughout the sessions. They will be done with approval and support of a local church, with members of each church present.
"We are not moving toward this "Everyone Can" effort any too soon," Welch said.
Fittingly, this year's Scripture text is Matthew 28:19-20 — the Great Commission — and the theme is "Everyone Can ... I'm It!" The "Everyone Can" challenge to win and baptize 1 million people officially began last October and ends the final week of September, which marks the end of the SBC's church year.
Breaking with tradition, Welch will deliver his president's address Wednesday evening, the same night the International Mission Board gives its report and presentation. (In recent years, the president's address was scheduled during the day.) Recording artist Casting Crowns and the "Everyone Can" People's Mass Choir and Orchestra will be ministering through music that night.
"Wednesday night of the convention will be like no other Wednesday night we've ever had," Welch said. "... It will be geared toward coming out of turn four and heading for victory lane. We want to leave that Wednesday night service excited and unified to do more than we've ever done before in going and giving."
This year's Crossover rally, held on Saturday and Sunday, June 10-11, will set the tone for the witnessing theme. During Crossover Triad hundreds of Southern Baptists will hit the streets of Greensboro and the surrounding cities of Winston-Salem and High Point to share the Gospel. Welch has spoken in churches and rallies throughout North Carolina since early March.
"All the indicators are that momentum is really beginning to build [for Crossover and "Everyone Can"]," said Welch, who added he has received many reports of churches breaking baptismal records.
The SBC Pastors' Conference will continue the Great Commission theme Sunday and Monday (June 11-12) with its own theme, "Reaching Today's World for Jesus Christ." This year's Pastors' Conference will feature something different — breakout sessions that will include more than ten topics, including the doctrine of election and The Da Vinci Code. Although the breakout sessions and the Monday afternoon session will be held at the Sheraton Greensboro (the convention hotel), the remainder of the Pastors' Conference sessions will be held at the Greensboro Coliseum. The Pastors' Conference begins Sunday night, June 11, at 5:45 EDT. The Pastors' Wives session of the Pastors' Conference will take place on Monday at 8:30 a.m. at the War Memorial Auditorium, which is near the coliseum.
Among the other highlights of the convention:
• Southern Baptists will elect a new president.
• A larger-than-life statue of a young Billy Graham will be unveiled. The nine-foot-tall statue eventually will be moved to a location near LifeWay Christian Resources.
• Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, will preach. Franklin Avenue's building had eight feet of water inside it during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
• Messengers will be asked to consider a report from the Ad Hoc Cooperative Program Committee that encourages "all Southern Baptist churches to adopt a missional mindset as they contribute at least 10 percent of their undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program to local and global missions." The report also encourages "the election of officers at the state and national level whose churches give at least 10 percent of their undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program."
• Adrian Rogers, the longtime pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in suburban Memphis who passed away last year, will be remembered during both the Pastors' Conference and the annual meeting. His wife, Joyce Rogers, is scheduled to speak Monday night, June 12, during the Pastors' Conference.
• Donald Wilton, pastor of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina, will deliver the convention message.
• Directors of missions and associations will be spotlighted.
But, once again, the "Everyone Can" challenge will be the focal point. Four pastors will deliver evangelism-themed "Everyone Can" challenges: Luter; Gene Mims, pastor of Judson Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee; James I. Walker, pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church in Arden, North Carolina; and David Cox, co-pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Florida.
For the fourth consecutive year, online registration is available to churches for their messengers. Churches can register their messengers online at www.sbc.net to avoid waiting at the counter upon arrival at the convention. By registering online, the SBC Web site gives a church a messenger reference number form to be printed out and presented by each messenger at the SBC registration booth in exchange for a nametag and a set of ballots. The appropriate church-authorized representative must complete all online registration.
Messengers wishing to propose resolutions must submit them at least fifteen days prior to the annual meeting, giving the Resolutions Committee a two-week period in which to consider them. Detailed guidelines on submitting resolutions are available at www.sbcannualmeeting.net (by clicking on "resolutions").
The Greensboro Coliseum has ample parking available onsite with three- and four-day passes available for $15 and $20, respectively. A one-day pass is $7. A hotel shuttle system from most area hotels to the coliseum and Sheraton is being planned to facilitate ease of travel between venues. Shuttle tickets may be purchased for $10. Children twelve and under ride for free with parents. Shuttle tickets and parking passes are available at the information desk at the coliseum.