It’s finally that time of year again when messengers representing 45,000 Southern Baptist churches will come together in one place for two days of preaching, denominational business, and Baptist brethren (and “sisteren”) fellowship.

The Southern Baptist Annual Meeting is always an enjoyable and challenging time for recharging the ministry batteries and reviving our common interest in fulfilling the Great Commission as Southern Baptists.

This year we have sent eleven messengers (who are on the road, as you read this) to represent our church and to vote on our behalf.  We look forward to a wonderful time in St. Louis and will report our findings back to the church soon. (Next week’s Word from the Pastor will be “SBC Annual Meeting: A Review.”)

To give you a preview of this year’s Annual Meeting, I thought I would share my personal “To Do List” for the convention.

Elect a new SBC President.

Now this isn’t something that I plan to do all by myself.  In fact, it will require a simple majority of the messengers at the SBC to elect a new president.

The current President, Dr. Ronnie Floyd of AR, has served well in his two-years, but now it is time for us to choose a new figurehead.  There are currently three individuals who will be nominated for the position. The SBC president is an unpaid spokesman who represents our coalition of churches to other denominations and the public.

In years past, the question of who will be the next president was virtually a “no-brainer.” Pastors of notoriety were put forward and approved with little to no debate. But in recent years, there have been multiple respected, well-known individuals put forward – and the results are anyone’s guess.

This year’s candidates include JD Greear (The Summit Church – Durham, NC), Steve Gaines (Bellevue Baptist Church – Memphis, TN), and David Crosby (First Baptist – New Orleans, LA).

If I had to characterize each candidate: the early 40’s Greear represents the younger more innovative elements of the SBC; Steve Gaines, who now pastors Adrian Rogers’ former church, represents the more traditional, old guard within the SBC; and David Crosby (the least known of the candidates) represents the faithful non-mega church pastor who is unknown but arguably more relatable to your average minister in the SBC.

Interestingly, David Crosby and Steve Gaines will be nominated by former presidents (Johnny Hunt for Gaines and Fred Luter for Crosby). Greear’s nomination is coming from Florida pastor Jimmy Scroggins.

I truly believe that any of these men will lead us well (though I personally plan to vote for JD Greear.) In the end, so long as we choose a man of integrity, charity, unity, and clarity that will stand on the Bible as God’s Word and lead Southern Baptists to fulfill the Great Commission no matter the cost– I’ll, ultimately, be happy.

Get a bird’s eye view of the entire SBC.

One of the neatest things about the Annual Meeting is that it brings together all of the various SBC organizations, seminaries, boards, Baptist colleges, and SBC-related agencies under one roof.  The massive exhibit hall will have dozens upon dozens of booths and displays introducing new products, programs, and emphasis around the SBC for this next year.

Each SBC entity will share a report, take questions, and cast a vision for the upcoming year’s work.  The SBC Book of Reports records how every single penny was spent last year and presents budgets and proposals for next year.

It’s almost overwhelming to see what God is doing through us as we work together as a convention to train pastors, equip churches, and fulfill the Great Commission.

Grab all the FREE stuff possible.

And now we come to the REAL reason I go to the SBC – FREE STUFF!! (Haha!)  The exhibit hall, that I mentioned, will have plenty of give-aways, drawings, and S.W.A.G. (“Stuff We All Get”)  So my plan is to pick up all the free T-shirts, books, pens, coffee mugs, candy, CDs, DVDs, and pamphlets that I can find and get my Christmas “shopping” done early.

Hear some good preaching.

The SBC has some dynamite preachers – and the Annual Meeting is a great place to hear many of them.  Technically, the convention meets on Tuesday and Wednesday for business but on the Sunday and Monday prior, the Pastor’s Conference is held which is strictly a time of preaching, teaching, prayer, and worship.

I often say that Sunday and Monday are like SBC revival meetings while Tuesday and Wednesday are like SBC business meetings. It’s always a highlight of the week.

Be Informed, Equipped and Renewed.

There is an intangible quality to the SBC meeting. It’s not just energy or synergy, I truly believe it’s the Holy Spirit. Listening to key SBC leaders speak to current cultural issues, denominational trends and cast vision for the future is mentally helpful and emotionally reassuring. Various agencies and groups are hosting lunches, panel discussions and breakout sessions to answer questions, equip leaders and sharpen us all around.

Being reminded that our church is not alone in this cultural climate – but that, others are with us in the trenches is reassuring.

Furthermore, knowing that we stand together upon the Bible as God’s Word builds confidence.

I look forward to hearing from Russell Moore, Al Mohler, Matt Chandler, David Platt and others who constantly bring us, as a denomination, back to Scripture.

I’m sure there are plenty of others things that I’ll do; but these are just a few.  We appreciate your prayers and support as we represent our church as messengers to the SBC Annual Meeting.