Keeping the “Gospel Above All” will be the focus of Southern Baptists going into the denomination’s annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala., June 11-12.
But following a year of transition among five SBC entities searching for new leadership and the convention responding to reports of sexual abuse, Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear noted there will be other issues demanding attention.
“I look forward to seeing our convention continue in the unqualified declaration that we abhor abuse of any kind,” said Greear, who is spearheading a Sexual Abuse Presidential Advisory Study. “We will demonstrate this conviction with new processes — informed by Christian counselors, victims and victim advocates — that ensure not only that our churches and institutions are safe, but also that those who have been hurt experience the healing love of Christ.”
Southern Baptists, Greear noted, should not lose sight of “the only thing that can unite us and move us in mission — the Gospel.” He also will be promoting the “Who’s Your One?” evangelism campaign in partnership with the North American Mission Board.
“Churches all across the nation have already gotten involved,” he said of the campaign, “asking every church member to identify one person in their lives that they can pray for, share the Gospel with, and invite to church. I’m excited to share stories and pray over these efforts at our annual meeting.”
Other meeting highlights, Greear said, will include the International Mission Board’s Sending Celebration, Crossover, and a more streamlined program that will forgo any evening sessions. The meeting will also feature three panel discussions: “Undivided: Your Church and Racial Reconciliation”; “Gospel Above All: Keeping Secondary Issues Secondary”; and “Indispensable Partners: The Value of Women in God’s Mission.”
Greear is expected to be nominated by Pennsylvania pastor K. Marshall Williams for a second term. He is currently unopposed.
Ronnie Floyd, president-elect of the Executive Committee, also is looking forward to the meeting and helping lead Southern Baptists to tighten their focus on the Gospel.
“I look forward to speaking to our Southern Baptist Convention about reaching the world for Jesus Christ,” he said. “I believe the time is now to prioritize, elevate and accelerate our pace to present the Gospel to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.
“I expect the Lord to bring us together around our mission of reaching the world for Christ … I believe we will put the Gospel above all!”
Pastors spotlighting ‘kingdom character’
At this year’s SBC Pastors Conference, church leaders won’t just hear about the conference’s “kingdom character” theme. They’ll learn how it’s personally lived out.
As conference preachers examine the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, each speaker will focus on a Scripture exemplified in his own life, said conference president Danny Wood. The conference convenes June 9-10 in Birmingham, Ala.
“We as a convention, and really Christian ministries in general, have had some real struggles with some character issues,” said Wood, pastor of Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham. “We want this to be a needed reminder to all of us about the character of Christ-followers, because we know our conduct grows out of our character.”
Evangelists Jay and Katherine Wolf will address what it means to be “poor in spirit,” based on their experience of Katherine’s massive stroke and subsequent paralysis. Ed Litton, pastor of Redemption Church in Mobile, Ala., will preach on “blessed are those who mourn,” drawing from the experiences he and his wife Kathy each have of losing their first spouses in fatal car accidents.
Other speakers include British pastor Martin Young (“blessed are the merciful”), who oversees a network of mercy ministries; Atlanta pastor and North American Mission Board vice president Dhati Lewis (“blessed are the peacemakers”), who has helped lead Southern Baptists in racial reconciliation; and pastor Andrew Brunson (“blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness”), who was imprisoned for two years in Turkey on charges of terrorism and espionage.
Each Pastors Conference attendee will receive a book approximately 100 pages long containing the conference program and stories of nine individuals “whose lives emulate each one of those Beatitudes,” Wood said. The conference offering will go to Christian Service Mission in Birmingham, a ministry that connects resources with people in need.
The sessions at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex will be held June 9-10, prior to the SBC’s annual meeting there.