More than 6,000 representatives of churches within the Southern Baptist Convention, known as messengers, are expected to address the major issues facing the nation's largest Protestant denomination, including reaching more people with the Gospel, during its two-day annual meeting in Baltimore beginning Tuesday.
SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page plans to issue a challenge to Southern Baptists to "do more" to reach the world with the Gospel, according to SBC Life, the executive committee's journal website. Page is scheduled to talk about the Great Commission Advance on the first day of the conference, C. Ashley Clayton, EC vice president for Cooperative Program and stewardship, told SBC Life.
"In its most condensed and basic form, Great Commission Advance calls for Southern Baptists to simply 'do more,'" Clayton said. Page is calling on members to participate more in missions at the local, state, national, and international levels.
Two years after electing the Rev. Fred Luter, the SBC's first African-American president, representatives of the denomination's 15.7 million members will choose its next leader. Luter gives his last message to the Convention as SBC president on Tuesday and turns over the gavel to the next SBC president at the close of business on Wednesday.
Also on Tuesday, Luter plans to lead a revival service during the evening session, according to SBC Life. The annual meeting theme this year is "Restoration and Revival through Prayer."
"Last year our theme was about revival, 'Revive Us . . . That We May Be One,'" Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, La., said. "The year I was elected, I got a report from LifeWay that all our numbers were down—our attendance was down, our giving was down, our young people were leaving the church . . . just across the board things were down. I had a personal conviction that we need to get back as a Convention to making the main thing the main thing.
"This Convention has always had a great emphasis and a reputation for evangelism and discipleship," he said. "When I came here [to Franklin Avenue] as a young, green pastor, the local association sent workers and VBS teams to help us in evangelism and discipleship here. . . . For whatever reason, [the Convention] has gotten away from this.
"I wanted to again stay with the theme 'Revival,' but let's undergird it with prayer," Luter said. He selected the theme from Psalm 80:18–19: "Then we will not turn away from You; revive us, and we will call on Your name. Restore us, Yahweh, the God of Hosts; look on us with favor, and we will be saved." (HCSB)
Leading into the two-day conference, the SBC Pastors' Conference began on Sunday and ended on Monday. Speakers at the pastor's conference included Rick Warren, David Platt, and Francis Chan.
SBC has grown into a network of more than 50,000 cooperating churches and church-type missions "banded together to make an impact of God's Kingdom," the denomination states on its website. "While no two Southern Baptist churches are alike, there are certain commonalities that bind Southern Baptists together, regardless of ethnicity, socio-economic status, language, or locale."
On the Web: http://www.sbc.net/.