The Apostle Paul challenged Christians in Rome, “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11). While these words were written almost 2,000 years ago, they are as true today as ever.
Surrounded by external chaos and internal confusion, it seems Southern Baptists have been sleeping for some time. Yet, this is not a problem exclusive to other states. Some South Carolina churches are struggling to keep their doors open, and many others are in need of a spiritual renewal after several years of challenging circumstances.
Our prayer is that the annual meeting in November will provide a time to focus on renewal, revival, and revitalization. Both Monday and Tuesday evenings will be devoted to renewal and revival. We are praying for God to ignite a fire inside us all. We will certainly have our times of needed business, but we primarily need to do business with God.
Join us in praying for our annual meeting. May we prepare our hearts to meet with God. Let’s wake up to the mission of God!
Session One will be held on Monday night, and our focus will be on Revitalization. Every church in South Carolina should be invested in the ministry of church revitalization. While many churches need to experience revitalization, countless others can provide support, strength and resources as partners in this most important endeavor. We will be led in worship by Randy Kirby and the choir and orchestra from First Baptist Church of Simpsonville/Upstate Church. Willie McLaurin, interim president of the SBC Executive Committee, will be speaking, as well as a panel discussion centered around revitalization. I will be interviewing James Nugent, director of church strategies and revitalization; Al Phillips, director of missions for Greenville Baptist Association and founder of the Center for Church Revitalization; and Travis Agnew, pastor of Rocky Creek Baptist Church. A portion of the evening will also be set aside for the appreciation of our executive director-treasurer, Gary Hollingsworth, who will be retiring in 2023.
Session Two will begin Tuesday morning and will focus on spiritual Renewal. After the challenges of the past few years, virtually every pastor and church needs spiritual renewal. While the world surrounds us with conflict, confusion, and chaos, the church must seek a refilling of the Spirit of God for the next leg of the race. We will also hear the report from our Sexual Abuse Task Force on Tuesday morning, which will add even more meaning to the need for renewal. We will be led in worship by the team from Life Action Ministries and will hear a powerful challenge from their president, John Avant.
I want to take a personal point of privilege to express my appreciation for the task force and their report. D.J. Horton and his team have far surpassed any expectation we could have placed on them. They are uniquely gifted and committed to developing a report we will all be proud of. Navigating the cultural and denominational landscape is not easy these days, but they have lead with a strong sensitivity to their volatile surroundings. The importance of their task was crucial, but the quality and content of their report is exceptional. I appreciate the hard work of our task force, and I am happy to fully support their work and encourage you to do the same.
Session Three, which is the longest of the four sessions, will begin on Tuesday afternoon. The emphasis will be Refocus. No one is questioning the call of God or the mission we have as South Carolina Baptists. Still, if we’re honest, we are often distracted from the mission by less important things. May we refocus our attention on the things that matter most to God’s kingdom work. In addition to the necessary business of the convention and the report from Dr. Hollingsworth and his team, I will share a personal convention challenge as president. We will be led in a blended style of worship by Wes Walker and the worship band from First Baptist, Simpsonville/Upstate Church.
Our fourth and final session will focus on Revival. As we arrive back at Riverland Hills on Tuesday evening, we will be finished with business, allowing us to gather exclusively for a time of worship. While important business, brotherly fellowship and exciting worship are always benefits of our annual meetings, I am expecting much more this year. May we come together with one voice, praying that the God of the universe would bring a revival to our state and nation. We are honored to have Robby Gallaty, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church, bringing the message to close us out. The final session will bring us full circle stylistically, as Wes Walker and the worship band from First Baptist Church, Simpsonville/Upstate Church lead in a modern worship environment.
In addition to the other speakers and reports, three men will bring theme challenges. These will include Will Broadus, a church planter; Andy McCraw, a deacon and physician on mission; and Will Bray, a 24-year-old pastor. I hope one of the key takeaways from the convention is that we acknowledge and value our strength in diversity. We will hear from a variety of speakers from difference ages, backgrounds, and races. The music we sing will be intentionally different in every session, reminding us that our 2,100 churches are a beautiful collection of voices and styles. We are not a cookie-cutter convention, but we are standing on the Word and lock arms in the work of the kingdom.
Let’s Wake Up!