We just finished up the inaugural meeting of the newly renamed Local Encouragement Team (LET) (formerly known as the Local Arrangement Committee) for the #SBC23 meeting taking place here in New Orleans on June 11-14, 2023. I just thought I’d share some behind-the-scenes stuff in case any of our readers might be interested (and because Luke Holmes suggested I should).
The first two wonderfully encouraging meetings were hosted by our friends at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. What a great partner to our churches who’ve already shot out of the gate strong and are working hard to help us put on the very best convention we can here in what I believe is our most unique American city.
On Monday we made a site visit to the convention hall.
The Site Visit
This coming June we will meet in the same venue as we did in 2012, the Ernest Morial Convention Center. The site has gone through a significant remodel since the last time we gathered there. On Monday I had the opportunity to do a full walk-through of the venue with Jonathan Howe (VP of Communications), Lynn Richmond (Convention Manager), and Steve Cowart (Associate Convention Manager) from the Executive Committee, along with a couple of venue personnel (Michelle and Brad).
Most of you probably know of Jonathan from Baptist Press, SBC This Week with Amy Whitfield, and possibly even from his time with Lifeway or the WMU. He’s a great encourager of our pastors and our churches and one of the things I most appreciate about him is his desire to engage people with information. That is not just because he runs Baptist Press. He started the SBC This Week Podcast long before his time at the EC in order to keep Baptists informed about what is going on in our cooperative work and I love that. For years I have heard of Lynn Richmond. I’d been told she is really the one that runs things… and man, oh man, does she. Lynn has been working for the EC for a couple of decades now. In fact, the way I calculate it, this will be the 27th convention she will oversee (in the earlier years she served in an assistant role but for the last years, she has been the lead) and her knowledge and mastery of this stuff is impressive. If you have the chance to meet her next year, please take a moment to thank her for her service to our convention. She’s a real servant. Steve Cowart and his wife, Paula, drove down from their home in Memphis. This was the first-time meeting Steve for me. He too is reassuring and is great asset to our cooperative work as the Assistant Convention Manager. He’s so at ease and provides wisdom and direction that helps to make this meeting run well. What a great trio!
It was intriguing to watch them work. Most of the time they speak in jargon that is completely foreign to me. They talk of “boneyards, branding space, L brackets, venders, contractors, etc.” Seriously, listening to Lynn engage with the venue people during the sit-down portion was a bit confusing. A tremendous amount of work goes into just organizing the venue itself. You really wouldn’t believe it. Planning for the next convention begins way before the current one has even happened. But once the current one passes, the engines are wide open for the coming meeting.
Tuesday was the kickoff meeting of the LET.
Who/What is the LET?
In just the last couple of weeks, the name of this group was changed due to a bit of past confusion regarding its work and responsibilities. It doesn’t “make arrangements,” we already have folks who do that. It’s a team of encouragers who know the area and its people.
Think of this group as the chief cheerleaders and volunteer mobilizers for the annual meeting. I have the privilege to chair this team this year and I am pumped about it.
Basically, the EC Staff selects the chair and then the chair is tasked with putting together the core team which then makes up the LET.
Just for your information, here is our local core team for this coming annual meeting:
- Jay Adkins – Pastor, FBC Westwego
- Jamie Dew – President, NOBTS
- Jack Hunter – Executive Director, NOBA
- Steve Horn – Executive Director, LBC
- Inman Houston – President, Baptist Community Ministries
- Mark Robinson – Director of Collegiate Ministries, LBC
- George Ross – South Regional Director, NAMB
- Fred Luter Jr. – Pastor, Franklin Avenue BC
- Dennis Watson – Pastor, Celebration Church
- Chad Gilbert – Pastor, FBC New Orleans
- Geovany Gomez – Pastor, Iglesia La Vina Bautista
- Jimmy Stewart – Pastor, FBC Gulfport
- Alex Brian – Pastor, Vieux Carre / Compassion Ministry Manager, NOBA
- Chris Shaffer – Assoc. VP Institutional Strategy NOBTS
- Thomas Strong – VP Spiritual Formation and Student Life, NOBTS
- Preston Nix – Director, Levell Center of Evangelism, NOBTS
- Hannah Pounds – Chief Physician, Baptist Community Health Services
- Kay Bennett – Executive Director, Baptist Friendship House
- Philip Vandercook – Executive Director, Global Maritime Ministry Center
I put this team together to include a few pastors but also our local ministry leaders. In part, to show the unity that we have here in southeast Louisiana but also because all these folks are doers! They care about the Gospel, they care about our churches, they care about their work, and they care about our community.
What I wanted to show more than anything is the amazing unity we have here in the New Orleans area, in spite of our significant diversity. What I mean to say is that we have very different churches from different backgrounds and settings, yet everyone here knows that we are all on the same team. We are together in the same foxhole, so to speak. We don’t have the time nor the inclination to be “shooting at” one another. We know there is an enemy out there but it’s not our own people. It is the one who seeks to divide and devour us. Jesus taught us that others will know we belong to him if they see us love one another. NOT if we have the exact same ecclesiology as one another (and I really, Really love good ecclesiology). 😉 Thus, the make-up of this team.
In our meeting, we were introduced to our role as chief cheerleaders. The idea is that our group is a hub which in turn, helps to assemble and encourage attendance and volunteer activity from the local area. For instance, Mark Robinson, our LBC Collegiate Director, will be responsible for pulling in college students to help with registration. Thomas Strong will oversee the organization of seminary students for help as pages, etc. Geovanni Gomez will be our liaison with our Hispanic brothers and sisters, and so on and so forth.
In fact, anyone from anywhere will ultimately be able to volunteer to work the convention. Within the next month or so we will publish an online link where you can go register for assisting with #SBC23. Those areas will include 1) Registration, 2) Greeters, 3) Ushers, 4) Prayer Room, and 5) Information Desk along with other odd and end opportunities. We will post that link as soon as it is available.
Our next LET meeting will be in October. But the NEXT BIG THING on the schedule is our “SBC23 Rally and Lunch” on the campus of NOBTS, on August 23rd. This is primarily an event for Pastors, Staff, and other ministry leaders from Louisiana and Mississippi. We will meet together for a working lunch regarding what you can do to participate in making this the best convention in recent history.
Please pass around the word, and the following link, to your friends who serve in LA and MS. We would LOVE to have them come join us. You can sign up for the free Lunch and Rally HERE.
Do you see this? Do you see the openness and opportunity for so many to be included in the preparation for next year’s Annual Meeting? I love that Jonathan and his staff have chosen this route.
We’ve had more participation at the SBC in recent years and that is a good thing. I’m convinced that the more our people know about what is going on and understand how the convention operates, the better it is for us all. Those attending each year should have access to information and processes so that they can best navigate this large and unusual family meeting of ours. With the recent addition of the “messenger orientation” meeting that takes place Monday evening, to the “people’s parliamentarian” available to messengers during business, to the openness of drawing in pastors so that they can know what is happening and how to be involved… the SBC is growing stronger by growing more knowledgeable… and I think that is GREAT.
Please do pray for the planning process and for many volunteers to throw their support behind our work here in the Big Easy between now and our meeting next year.
I will share more about this journey as things happen.
We are looking forward to seeing each of you next June and are working hard to make your time special here in the “Northernmost Caribbean City.”
Laissez les bons temps rouler!