As we get closer to the annual meeting, my anticipation and anxiety continue to grow by leaps and bounds. Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a recurring dream that I’m trying to get to the meeting, and I just can’t get there. Every road is blocked. Every which way I turn, there seems to be another obstacle. At the end of the dream, I call Dr. Hollingsworth to tell him I won’t be able to make it.
One of the reasons I’m panicked in the dream is because of anxiety in tying up all the loose ends and getting everything ready for November. I believe the annual meeting is essential for communicating vision and direction to the churches of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. If a church doesn’t leave the annual meeting inspired, they aren’t likely to increase Cooperative Program giving. If there isn’t an increase in CP giving, it becomes more difficult to take new ground for the kingdom.
I have a desire to see us continue to advance the gospel by engaging our communities and the nations in ways we never have before. There’s no way we can accomplish that between now and Nov. 11. However, we can light a fire in the hearts of South Carolina Baptists on Nov. 11-12 that will move us in that direction over the next several years. That’s been my passion this entire year. I want us to be stronger and more formidable 10 years from now than we’ve ever been!
The other reason I’m panicked in this dream is anticipation. I really don’t want to miss this year’s meeting. The 2019 annual meeting will be my 23rd as a pastor and 27th overall. And I’m excited about this year’s program! The need for engagement is high, and I believe we can see God do incredible things as we effectively “ENGAGE” strategic areas of influence with the Good News of Jesus.
In addition to local South Carolina pastors who will be challenging us throughout our time together, I have invited four incredible keynote speakers to preach the word in November. On Monday evening, Micah Fries, pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., will speak to us about “Engaging the Culture.” On Tuesday, we will hear from Mike Glenn, pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tenn., who will share about “Engaging the Lost,” and Edgar Aponte, minister of Global Missions at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla., will challenge us to “Engage the Nations.” Finally, on Tuesday evening, H.B. Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., will challenge us to “Engage Future Generations.”
Engaging future generations is something that I become more passionate about with every passing day. I desperately want to see us turn the tide of the collegiate dropout rate — you know, the kids who graduate from high school and leave the church. Ed Stetzer said one of the keys to transforming dropouts into disciples is for an adult in the church to make a significant investment in them, personally and spiritually, between the ages of 15 and 20. I also want to see God call out and build up strong leaders for the future of our faith.
Tuesday evening, we will celebrate some leaders across our state who are making a difference by engaging future generations. However, I also want to challenge future generations to step up and step out into God’s will for their lives. I have a vision to fill the auditorium at the Church at The Mill with high school and college students on Tuesday evening. I also have a vision to see some of those students pass from death to life, and to answer God’s call to service at this session. Please help me by encouraging students to attend, and by engaging them to be a part of what God is doing in and through South Carolina Baptists.