As this year's Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting approaches, SBC President Steve Gaines says fellow Baptists should anticipate emphases on prayer, evangelism and financial stewardship at the June 13-14 gathering in Phoenix, where the 2003 and 2011 annual meetings also were held.
This year's annual meeting theme is "Pray! For such a time as this" based on Luke 18:1 and Esther 4:14. Gaines hopes that through a commitment "to fervent, frequent, faith-filled prayer," the SBC will become "a catalyst for spiritual awakening and revival."
"I believe Southern Baptists can be used of God to spark a mighty movement of prayer, evangelism and discipleship across our nation and around the world," said Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn. "If we will pray and abandon ourselves to the Lord, He will use us exponentially to take the Gospel to people."
In addition to several seasons of prayer, Gaines said, annual meeting highlights will include a personal evangelism emphasis Tuesday evening (June 13) led by California pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie and a Wednesday afternoon (June 14) panel discussion on financial stewardship.
Regarding stewardship, Gaines said Southern Baptist churches cannot give more to SBC missions and ministries than church members give through their local congregations.
"The solution for increased funding for world missions begins in the heart of every individual believer in Christ," Gaines said. "Southern Baptists need to get our financial houses in order."
This year's Crossover evangelism efforts in Phoenix will center on a June 11 Harvest Crusade led by Laurie. Crusade organizers will work with volunteers to help local churches conduct door-to-door visitation across the city, engaging residents in Gospel conversations and extending personal invitations to attend the Sunday night event.
Event coordinators with the North American Mission Board and Arizona Southern Baptist Convention are praying the crusade and other outreach efforts, which will lead up to the SBC annual meeting, will result in more than 5,000 decisions for Christ.
For information about volunteering at the Sunday crusade, visit harvestamerica.com/serve. For information about outreach opportunities on Friday and Saturday, visit harvestamerica.com/pre-events. For more information about Crossover and how you and your church can be involved, visit harvestamerica.com/crossover-events.
Messengers gathering in Phoenix will consider a variety of recommendations during the annual meeting. See related stories that detail those approved by the SBC Executive Committee during its Sept. 19-20 meeting and its Feb. 20-21 meeting. Among the proposals:
• A recommendation that SBC Bylaw 18 be amended to grant one Executive Committee representative each to the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota-Wisconsin and Montana even though they currently have too few church members to apply for EC representation under the provisions of SBC Bylaw 30.
• A recommendation that the International Mission Board be permitted to adopt a fiscal year of Oct. 1-Sept. 30 and that the convention amend the SBC Business and Financial Plan to reflect the change.
• A recommendation that the convention approve a 2017-2018 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget of $192,000,000. The budget would maintain current CP allocations to all convention ministries. However, the formula for distributing any overage of gifts above the CP Allocation Budget would be amended to increase the IMB's portion from 51 percent to 53.4 percent and decrease the SBC Operating Budget portion from 2.4 percent to 0 percent.
Annual meeting attendees once again can stay updated by using the "SBC Annual Meetings" mobile application. The app will include a listing of speakers for the SBC Pastors' Conference and SBC annual meeting as well as the daily program schedule, daily events, exhibitor listing, convention center maps, 2017 Book of Reports and more. Download the app on your mobile device by accessing the App Store, Google Play or by visiting app.core-apps.com/sbc_am2017.
Attendees can also follow on Twitter @SBCMeeting, @BaptistPress, @SBCLife, @sbccp and @SBCPastorsConf for the latest annual meeting updates. Many social media users will employ the hashtag "#sbc17" in their posts about the annual meeting.
• This year's June 11-12 SBC Pastors' Conference in Phoenix, with the theme "above every name," is centered on 12 pastors of average-sized Southern Baptist churches preaching through the biblical book of Philippians. Pastors' Conference President Dave Miller said the speaker selection process, which considered only pastors of churches with approximately 500 or fewer in average attendance, appeared to illustrate how many outstanding pastors lead average-sized churches.
"We had so many really good preachers [to choose from]," Miller said. "The hardest part was winnowing [some 140 nominees to speak] down.... I think we ended up with about 40" favorites. Miller said he doesn't expect attendees at this year's sessions to recognize the names of all 12 conference preachers. But that's OK, he said, because the preachers' names aren't the focus.
• The SBC annual meeting will feature a "Sending Celebration" as the International Mission Board celebrates missionaries, along with their church families. The Sending Celebration is scheduled for Tuesday, June 13, at 8:30 p.m. in the Phoenix Convention Center.
On Monday, June 12, the IMB will host a dinner prior to the final session of the Pastors' Conference. The dinner will occur in the Phoenix Convention Center, Room West 301A/B/C, and tickets can be picked up at the IMB booth.
• The North American Mission Board will report opportunities for churches to engage locally and throughout North America in compassion ministries as well as church planting efforts. NAMB will highlight these opportunities at its Send Luncheon for pastors, Monday, June 12, at noon and as part of its presentation at the annual meeting Tuesday afternoon, June 13. Pastors and others can become involved in North American missions by visiting NAMB's exhibit. "Send Hope" will be the theme for the Send Luncheon. Evangelist and pastor Greg Laurie will be featured at the event, which will take place in the Phoenix Convention Center, Level 300, Room West 301A/B/C. Attendees must register for a free ticket in advance at namb.net/sendluncheon.
• The CP Stage, with its focus on the Cooperative Program, will again be prominently located between the booths of the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board. “We have redesigned the stage this year to reflect a family setting. Just like dads, moms and kids share their day with each other around the kitchen table, or in a warm, inviting family room, the CP Stage will be an intimate place for the SBC family to meet, share, and encourage one another,” said Ashley Clayton, SBC Executive Committee vice president for Cooperative Program and stewardship. Programming will run Monday, June 12, through Wednesday, June 14.
• Authors and speakers Kelly Minter and Kay Warren will headline this year's events for ministers' wives in the North Ballroom of the Phoenix Convention Center. This year's trio of women's events—a Pastors' Wives Conference, a Ministers' Wives Luncheon and a Women's Expo—are tied together with the theme "Brave" based on Proverbs 31:25.
The Pastors' Wives Conference is a free event with no registration and will be held during the morning session of the Pastors' Conference on Monday, June 12, from 8:45-11:45 a.m.
The annual Ministers' Wives Luncheon, open to all wives of ministers, pastors, staff members, chaplains, missionaries and denominational workers, will be held Tuesday, June 13, at noon. Luncheon tickets cost $15/person and can be purchased online at lifeway.com/Event/womens-event-sbc-ministers-wives-luncheon-2017. Learn more at sbcwives.com.
• GuideStone will once again make available its popular Wellness Center June 12–14. But this year, rather than having participants move from one station to another, the Wellness Center will offer participants one-stop biometric readings.
Additionally, GuideStone staff will be available during all exhibit hall hours to meet with participants about their retirement plans or insurance coverages.
Register online at sbcannualmeeting.net/sbc17 under the Messengers/Guests tab. NOTE: messengers, exhibitors and guests need to be registered and properly badged for entrance into the general sessions June 13-14.
After completing online registration, each individual will receive an eight-digit registration code to present at the annual meeting's express registration lane. There, the registration code can be entered into a computer and a nametag will be printed.
Messengers planning to propose resolutions must submit them no later than 15 days prior to the annual meeting. Detailed guidelines on submitting resolutions are available at sbcannualmeeting.net/sbc17 under the Messengers/Guests tab. Resolutions may be submitted online but must be followed up by a letter of credentials from the submitter's church.
Children & students
Registration is open for preschool childcare, Giant Cow Children's Ministries, Children in Action Missions Camp and Youth on Mission in conjunction with the annual meeting.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief childcare volunteers will care for preschoolers; Giant Cow Children's Ministries will lead the 5- to 12-year-olds; and Woman's Missionary Union will guide Youth on Mission curricula and activities.
All activities for children and youth will be housed at the Phoenix Convention Center, the annual meeting site. Youth who have completed grades 7-12 will begin their days at the convention center with worship before going into the community for hands-on mission projects.
Pre-registration is required and is available online at sbcannualmeeting.net/sbc17 under the "children/youth" tab, with a deadline of May 5 or whenever the space limitation of 120 children is reached. Registrations will not be taken on site.
Discounted tickets are available for Southern Baptists to attend daily Arizona Diamondbacks baseball games June 6-11 at Chase Field. Tickets, which range from $5-$30, may be purchased at Dbacks.com/sbc2017.
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Shawn Hendricks and David Roach, chief national correspondent for BP.