Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference president Dave Miller doesn't expect attendees of 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. With the theme "above every name," the June 11-12 gathering is centered on 12 pastors of average-sized Southern Baptist churches preaching through the biblical book of Philippians to exalt Jesus' name.
Miller, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa, said the preacher-selection process for the conference—which considered only pastors of churches with approximately 500 or fewer in average attendance—illustrated how many outstanding pastors lead average-sized churches.
"We had so many really good preachers that we could have selected from," Miller said. "The hardest part was winnowing [some 140 nominees to speak] down ... I think we ended up with about 40" favorites.
Aided in their preparation by support from the Caskey Center for Church Excellence at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a February colloquium at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, the 12 speakers will preach sequentially through Philippians, covering every verse of the book's four chapters over two days.
The Caskey Center—the Pastors' Conference's "major partner" this year according to the conference website—will present research at each session on various facets of church life and ministry.
Along with preaching, the Pastors' Conference will feature worship and prayer to undergird the ministry of pastors and their wives. The sessions at the Phoenix Convention Center will be held prior to the Southern Baptist Convention's June 13-14 annual meeting there.
Miller's advice for conference attendees is to "read and look through the book of Philippians" in advance because the meeting "is all about the text" of Scripture.
Speakers for Sunday evening (June 11, 6-9 p.m.) at the Pastors' Conference will include David Choi, pastor of Church of the Beloved in Chicago; John Onwuchekwa, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Atlanta; and Chris Davis, pastor of Groveton Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va.
Monday morning (June 12, 9-11:45 a.m.) will feature messages from Jimmy Meek, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in El Dorado, Ark.; Nathan Rose, pastor of Liberty (Mo.) Baptist Church; and Ryan Rice, pastor of Life Church in New Orleans.
Monday afternoon (1:30-4:30 p.m.) speakers will include Jamar Andrews, pastor of Word Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ark.; Jose Abella, pastor of Providence Road Baptist Church in Miami; and Spencer Plumlee, pastor of Riverview Baptist Church in Osage Beach, Mo.
Monday evening (6-9 p.m.) speakers will include Michael Allen, pastor of Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago; Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas; and Shane Hall, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.
The ethnically diverse lineup of speakers features six Anglos, three African Americans, one Jamaican American, a Cuban American and an Asian American.
Each session will also include a "common ground testimony" by a pastor of a larger church. Sunday evening's testimony will be offered by Fred Luter of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans; Monday morning's by J.D. Greear of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Monday afternoon's by Johnny Hunt of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga.; and Monday evening's by SBC President Steve Gaines of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn.
The Pastors' Conference offering will go to Mission:Dignity, a ministry of GuideStone Financial Resources to supplement the incomes of retired pastors and their widows.
This year's leadership team, which includes Paul Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church in Chandler, Ariz., as vice president and Toby Frost, pastor of South Main Street Baptist Church in Greenwood, S.C., as treasurer, hopes pastors from congregations of all sizes will draw encouragement from one another at the conference.
Miller expressed gratitude to a team of approximately 10 friends who have come alongside Pastors' Conference officers to plan the gathering. Members of the volunteer team "have really stepped up," Miller said.
The Pastors' Conference is free and requires no registration. To learn more about this year's schedule, sponsors and theme, visit sbcpc.net. You can also access information about the conference on Facebook and Twitter.
Childcare for children ages birth through 12 years will be offered during all Pastors' Conference sessions. Children ages 4-12 may register for a conference provided by Children's Conferences International. Register at www.childrensconferences.com.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief child care volunteers will offer childcare for newborns through age 5 during the Pastors' Conference.
David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.