FIRST-PERSON: Reflections on our 2015 Southern Baptist Convention
EDITOR'S NOTE: Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (BP) -- My heart is overflowing with gratitude to our great God for meeting with us in Columbus in a powerful manner. People came with great expectation and prayerfully returned to their churches resounding with great hope.
I want to share a few reflections before we charge toward the next year. Christians, pastors and leaders need to push pause periodically and celebrate the work of God in our midst.
1. Recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War was one of the tremendous moments of the week.
General Doug Carver (now the North American Mission Board's chaplaincy leader) assisted me in this recognition, and it was terrific. When we asked for our Vietnam veterans to come forward to help us in giving the Pledge of Allegiance, it was powerful. Tears were flowing, emotions were high, and when all veterans and active duty service members joined them, it was an amazing moment.
This was followed by "The Star Spangled Banner" sung by the incredible Julio Arriola. To all generations of Southern Baptists, please note: Southern Baptists love this nation and our armed services. I encourage all of our churches to find a time in the next couple of Sundays to give honor and recognition to our Vietnam veterans on the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.
2. My heart is so thankful for your response to the presidential address, "Now Is the Time to Lead."
The Lord has taken this message across the country and parts of the world. For complete clarity and additional reference, this link will provide the video, manuscript and graphics from the address. Pastors who have an interest in showing it to their churches can find all the resources in this one place. Thanks again to the hundreds of people who have responded so graciously.
3. Our new schedule was well received.
I am so thankful for Andrew Hebert and our Order of Business Committee who walked alongside me with great conviction and full support in seeing these changes made. Also, many thanks to chief parliamentarian Barry McCarty who helped me tremendously in this endeavor. Southern Baptists are grateful for his 29 years of service to us.
The messengers loved the format, including the unified report from our seminaries and mission boards, as well as seeing the vast majority of the business completed in one session on Tuesday afternoon. Packaging things together was positively received. I am grateful for all who worked with us to see this occur. I believe now everyone understands why it was done and I firmly believe it contributed to our unity throughout the entire convention.
4. Our seminaries reporting to our convention together and praying for one another was a powerful message to our churches.
While they spoke of their uniqueness in their individual reports, our seminaries communicated effectively their respect and love for one another as a team, working together to equip the next generation of pastors, missionaries and scholars. Please note this URL=http://player.piksel.com/player.php?video_uuid=x3t45s18&categoryId=73209] link to your churches and give them great hope for what is taking place through the work of our six seminaries.
5. The National Call to Prayer for the next Great Awakening and to Reach the World for Christ was an epic experience for the estimated crowd of 7,000 who attended.
Words cannot do the evening justice. Those in attendance can speak for themselves and they are doing so, but as for me, the night was one I will never forget.
You can go here to experience the entire prayer service via video and see the order of service. Pastors and Christian leaders, please feel free to use this video and outline to inspire a prayer service in your church, association or state convention. You are welcome to use this footage in part or its entirety. In whatever area you lead in Southern Baptist life, consider leading people to moments like these. If we can't pray together like this, we will never be used personally or collectively as God would desire.
Additionally, this vision of prayer for awakening has been shown across our nation and even across the world on the DayStar Television Network, and the Salem Radio Network aired the two-hour prayer service on more than 100 stations nationally this past weekend in some of the country's largest cities. To God be all the glory and praise!
6. The Church and Missionary Sending Celebration Service on Wednesday morning was such a blessing to our messengers.
Many messengers had never been part of a service that communicated the vision of reaching the world by highlighting our missionaries and church planters. Again, the uniqueness of both mission boards coming together for this experience demonstrated and communicated a unified vision.
7. The Presidential Panel on The Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage: How to Prepare our Churches for the Future was powerful.
The participants on the panel shared powerful and helpful insight for our churches. I believe the vision of bringing an overall message of hope and encouragement regarding this subject to our pastors
and churches was fulfilled beyond what we would have ever thought. Please take it beyond the convention and show the video to your leaders, staff or entire church.
8. Attendance was strong during the entire convention, even through the final session on Wednesday.
People stated they have not seen Wednesday afternoon attendance so strong in many years. The final session was a great session, from the wonderful convention message of pastor Eddie Bumpers of Missouri, handing off the convention from Columbus to St. Louis, the final time of worship and prayer, to the final fall of the gavel concluding the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention. Thanks for staying all the way through. Since our churches send most of us, we should always stay through the end.
9. Worship led by Julio Arriola and our team from Cross Church was outstanding.
As the first Mexican American ever elected as our convention's music director, we shout out praise to God for the outstanding leadership and ministry of Julio Arriola. Thank you and the entire Cross Church team for letting God use you. Thankfully, you will lead us again in 2016.
10. 5,406 registered messengers have led us to our largest convention gathering since our 2012 convention in New Orleans.
There are many reasons our attendance has grown, but I want to specifically thank the 711 Ohio Baptists who registered and attended our convention. Jack Kwok, the executive director of their convention along with his team were outstanding! Additionally, Rich Halcombe, the executive director of the Metro Columbus Baptist Association, was critical in his great leadership through the year and for Crossover Columbus!
We had at least 3,385 volunteers at Crossover Columbus, over 1,000 more than the year before. Additionally, the Gospel was presented at least 4,948 times, resulting in 345 people coming to Christ as Lord and Savior, which also is more than last year. Hallelujah!
As well, our convention leadership from the Executive Committee was outstanding. Bill Townes and Don McGee and their team reported we had an estimated 8,500 in attendance on Tuesday morning and an estimated 7,000 on Tuesday night. We give God alone the praise.
I regret I cannot talk about every detail of the convention as I have worn you out already, but I want to say 1,000 thank yous for letting me serve another year as president. Mark your calendars now for the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis on June 14-15, 2016. We will talk more about that later. Until then and throughout this year, please remember, Now Is the Time to Lead.
This article first appeared at Ronnie Floyd's website, www.ronniefloyd.com.