“A Great Commission People with a Great Commandment Heart” will provide the focus for a June 14-15 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix that will be more compact and offer more opportunities for fellowship.
A broad range of auxiliary activities also will be held, from Crossover 2011 evangelistic outreach events to the annual Pastors’ Conference and Woman’s Missionary Union annual meeting and missions celebration.
The SBC’s business sessions in the Phoenix Convention Center will include messengers’ consideration of recommendations from the SBC Executive Committee’s review of ethnic church and ethnic church leader participation in the convention.
Bryant Wright, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said last year’s emphasis on “Great Commission Resurgence” laid the foundation for this year’s challenge to fulfill Christ’s disciple-making command.
“I’m very thankful for what Johnny Hunt and the GCR Task Force did in calling attention to the fact that we’re not baptizing as many, we’re not growing, that we’re not doing our part of fulfilling the Great Commission,” Wright said. “Now that we understand that, the fulfillment of the Great Commission is going to be front and center at the convention.”
In January, the SBC’s Committee on Order of Business announced significant changes in the annual meeting schedule, including holding two missionary appointment services, fewer business sessions, and no night sessions. Wright said the changes are designed to allow a greater focus on the Great Commission and free up time for fellowship, discussions, and family.
“We’ve asked the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board to commission new missionaries during the meeting,” Wright said. “It’s very seldom that a church is able to experience a commissioning service. This is going to allow the churches of the convention to take part.
“Days at the convention are long, and an important part of the annual meeting is fellowship; so you go to eat dinner with somebody that you haven’t seen in five years, and the next thing you know it’s too late to get back to the evening session,” Wright said. “We’re going to go a little longer in the afternoon so people can have the evening free for fellowship with friends.”
The main addresses during the annual meeting, combined with a Pastors’ Conference focus on church planting, will inspire and challenge participants to take the Gospel to a world in desperate need of Good News, Wright said.
“I realize Southern Baptists are just one part of God’s Kingdom. It takes Bible-believing Christians all around the world to fulfill the Great Commission,” Wright said. “But we really do have a wonderful opportunity to put the Great Commission front and center for Southern Baptists. We will have the focus of Kevin Ezell at NAMB on church planting, and also Vance Pitman’s focus in the Pastors’ Conference on church planting in the western United States, and we also will have myself and David Platt [preaching the convention message] and Tom Elliff at IMB challenging us to really get serious about reaching the unreached people groups of the earth.”
While there are many people groups where less than 2 percent of the population is Christian, there are 3,800 “unengaged” people groups that, as far as anyone knows, have no Christian witness at all, Wright said.
“It’s what’s on my heart. I know it’s what’s on Tom Elliff’s heart. The challenge we’re putting before churches is, let’s really make a commitment to engage the unengaged people groups with the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Wright said. “I have said I feel part of why we have had less focus on the Great Commission is that we have lost our first love of Jesus Christ. It’s important that we remember relationship with Christ is to be pre-eminent, and when we really follow Jesus, then we’re going to have a passion for the lost.”
While Phoenix is a long way for most Southern Baptists to travel, Wright said he believes those who attend will be glad they got away from the day-to-day responsibilities of the local church to let the Lord speak to them.
“It’s good for Southern Baptists to go to places like Phoenix for our convention because it gives us a presence and it’s a way to encourage the churches in those communities,” Wright said. “When we come together, we also sense God moving among us with a passion to reach the unreached people groups, to plant churches in areas where there’s not a lot of witness for Christ. Being there together, the Holy Spirit just works among us, to give us a catalyst to move forward in faith.”
Wright also encouraged convention-goers to dress “business casual.”
“The heat of Phoenix is incredible. It will look kind of strange on the streets of Phoenix for people to be walking around in coats and ties in 110-degree heat,” Wright said. “So we’re encouraging people just to come business casual, even those on the platform. Dress comfortably for an incredibly warm climate.
“The fact the meeting is going to be compact, the fellowship time at night, the Great Commission focus—it’s going to be a very focused convention,” Wright said. “The convention president, the convention sermon, NAMB, and IMB are all on the same page. We’re all in this together. That’s very exciting. For those who are interested in focusing on Christ’s Great Commission, it will be very exciting to be part of this.”
Southern Baptists coming to Phoenix for Crossover 2011 evangelistic outreach events will assist local churches and strengthen new congregations. Dozens of congregations will join volunteers at seventy ministry venues throughout the Phoenix-Tucson corridor, a 120-mile stretch encompassing 5.2 million residents. Volunteers will share the love of Christ as they participate in block parties, prayerwalking excursions, Intentional Community Evangelism outreach projects, and acts of kindness.
Crossover 2011 also will directly impact and strengthen ten new churches that are just starting in the five Baptist associations of the corridor.
To learn more about Crossover 2011, visit www.crossover2011.org. To assist new church plants in the Phoenix area, visit www.churchplantingvillage.net/crossover2011. For those unable to travel to Arizona this summer, Southern Baptists can join in an online prayer community at facebook.com/SBCpray4AZ or by following twitter.com/sbcpray4az.
Messengers to the annual meeting will receive recommendations from the SBC Executive Committee’s review of ethnic church and ethnic church leader participation in the convention. Those recommendations, adopted by the EC February 22, are designed “to foster conscious awareness of the need to be proactive and intentional in the inclusion of individuals from all ethnic and racial identities within Southern Baptist life.”
Based on a motion presented at the 2009 SBC annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, an Executive Committee study group examined “how ethnic churches and ethnic church leaders can be more actively involved in serving the needs of the SBC through cooperative partnership on the national level.”
The group reviewed all resolutions adopted at annual meetings regarding ethnic participation and relationships; analyzed the ethnic identities of program personalities on the platform at recent annual meetings; studied the ethnic identities of entity staff, mission board personnel, seminary faculty, and recent graduates; and heard testimonies from ethnic leaders.
Also part of the study was a review of the numbers of ethnic congregations and ethnic members within the SBC, pictorial representations in convention literature, coverage of ethnic diversity in convention publications, and a review of the ethnic identities of convention committees, boards, and commissions.
Registration for the Phoenix annual meeting once again will provide churches with the online opportunity to register their messengers at www.sbc.net to avoid waiting at the counter upon arrival at the convention.
After online registration, the SBC website provides a church with 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 registrations.
The traditional registration method also is available for those churches that are unable or may not opt to access the online registration.
For further information about online registration, hotel choices, parking, and shuttle services for the SBC annual meeting, visit www.sbcannualmeeting.net.
Mark Kelly is a member of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Merietta, Georgia, and is an assistant editor and senior writer for Baptist Press. For complete information on the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix, visit www.sbcannualmeeting.net.