The SBC 2011 was a meeting held in Phoenix, AZ the past few days, in order to continue international and national missions giving and planning. Other news discussed in that meeting include funding, upkeep, and progress reports from evangelical seminaries and a committee on ethics/religion.
A new first vice president was elected whom I hear is being positioned for a potential president of the SBC meeting in 2012. This individual apparently excites a number of the messengers to the SBC for a return to some historic Baptist principles in some areas, according to the 9 Marks breakout session Tuesday night at 9pm.
Kevin Ezell previously senior pastor of Highview Baptist Chuch in Louisville, KY and now the new president of the North American Mission Board presented a report/challenge for more church planting as a way that NAMB can impact our culture. He also brought in a solid line-up of testimonies of what giving to missions in Canada/the USA can do to help people come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This included a man who was being discipled by a church planter in Norwich, CT that is a barber. The barber in turn shares the gospel with some of those visiting his shop and one man who trusted Jesus as his Savior was present to share about that. This type of multiplying effect is one result of cooperative giving to the SBC. He also brought a number of missionaries along with him that were ready to reach their areas through loving others by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
Speaker Louie Giglio was present to challenge SBC'ers to preach about the Holy Spirit, who points us to Jesus Christ. Instead of relying on just calls to missions, we ought to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit in believer's lives in order to give the impetus and passion to share the gospel even more than at present. We don't have to go overboard talking about the Spirit's work, in order to spend necessary additional time on that person's work in salvation/the church. He also brought out that he is now pastoring, which is a major change from his parachurch ministry days including representing at Passion and One Day events around the USA.
Speaker Rick Warren did a solid job bringing out the role of a church in church planting. He used some of his field tested and approved research to pepper the message, giving people a good sense of the kind of work he recommends. This message offered insight into how God calls us to reach people with the good news of Jesus by the means of church planting. It was challenging and useful. He revealed how God has laid it on his heart to be involved with churches internationally and how Saddleback church is sponsoring members to go out and begin church planting work in CA and to the ends of the earth. Apparently, they have been undertaking a major project of reaching every nation with missionaries. This has gone well with a group helping him to carry out this good task which he mentioned from the stage. In my personal opinion, it was very refreshing to hear a man used of God to plant a church speaking about church planting being a priority.
Attenders seemed to include a good portion of laypersons, and then a significant chunk of Southern Seminary and Southwestern Seminary students/grads within the past five or so years.
Many of those attending were wearing suits and traditional outfits. Considering it was 108 Fahrenheit on one of the convention days this was quite a feat for them, going from building to building and restaurant to building! Others were dressed more casually. The largest group was probably pastors and families. There was not a tremendous proportion of parents there with children, presumably they were left with relatives at home. The Kidzone was packed out, especially the preschooler area which was full from the beginning.
Personal observations: there was a leaner, more slim lined convention process. This presumably is saving the convention money for missions work. Trade offs are in this though, as you might guess.
The gospel was preached. The convention seemed very gospel focused in a clear way. In addition, a letter from Billy Graham was red which encouraged attenders to keep sharing the gospel. Also, technology was highly in use in the form of blackberrys, ipads, and more. People were tweeting and facebooking the convention, and texting one another about topics.
Book-signings: there were a number of major authors there willing to talk and interact. Craig Blomberg is one I saw. David Platt also was there.
I found a lot of people were warm and willing to meet others and pray for / bless them. Even Rick Warren and David Allen and Frank Page and Tom James and Paige Patterson and Mark Dever were very warm, friendly. Others were encouraging such as Ezell.
Many of the pastors were also warm and very friendly to those around them. They seemed to bless others in small and big ways through encouragement and presence.
Danny Akin had a solid point during that breakout on the importance of affirming Scripture's claims about itself. I always appreciate that thoughtful reflection, which really is a reminder to us all to take all of God's Word as relevant, authentic and profitable (and massively powerful to move the church forward). He also was big on expository preaching along with other panel members. This was a good word. Certainly when a pastor holds out the Word of life it will do great things since that is where the power lies.
All in all, the SBC in general was informative. The convention itself accomplished a lot of work. Glad to be a part of a great missions sending convention like this one along with the many challenges by the SBC President, and other guests to press ahead with the work. There are a lot of people working diligently, and with perseverance to further the gospel, loving on people, and helping change the mentality that missions don't have to happen in North America. Certainly they do, and the statistics by population increasingly put us in one of the most unreached parts of the globe with the gospel. This might be hard to believe in some cities, but others which are less popular for planters or missions teams are without much of a gospel witness. Hopefully the church planting emphasis will pay off for the SBC as far as spiritual investing. It is necessary to help the convention to continue to exist well into the 21st century as populations shift demographically and entire cities change, while some churches don't know how or won't reach out to those changed areas. Thankfully many wise churches pastors and convention thinkers are looking to plant churches to reach those who for whatever reasons may not step foot into another place.