This is gonna be a long one.
For the last few years I have posted a list of things I would identify as my top 10 takeaways, favorite things or memorable events from the annual meeting. This year’s list will be different than my normal post-convention review for 2 main reasons. First, I have had a peek behind the curtain into the making of the convention and it has been an eye-opener for me. I wish everyone in the convention could see what I’ve seen over the last 16+ months. Second, I had the privilege of being involved with the planning of this meeting and it has been personally satisfying to see the meeting come together so well. I want to also take some time to thank a number of people who have worked hard to make this meeting a successful one.
After taking a bit of time to decompress and ruminate over the events of the week (and of the previous year and a half) this year’s list is one that revolves mostly around my own involvement. So, without further ado and begging pardon for the personal nature of the list, here we go…
10) The Tuesday Morning Second Line: I’m placing it as #10 but this might have been my favorite thing about SBC 23. My boys and I had the privilege to kick off the annual meeting Tuesday morning with a Second Line parade. If I’m being honest, as soon as I knew we were going to host the meeting I wanted to volunteer our family’s second line band, the “Canon-Fodder Brass Band,” to start our time together the right way, the New Orleans way. But I thought that might be a bit too forward of me (and for that matter, others might not “get it”) so, I didn’t bring it up. However, during an early site visit, while sitting at Acme Oyster house, James Cheeseman asked if I knew a second line band we could get to kick things off. I was elated… and it was a blast. Thanks for the opportunity, James. Thanks to all those who were complimentary of the effort. It was a major highlight for me.
9) Chairing the LET: Way back on April 13th of 2022, Jonathan Howe was in town (apparently getting information together on the big move from NC to LA). We met at Café Du Mond that night and he asked me if I would be willing to chair the Local Encouragement Team or LET (formerly known as the Local Arrangements Committee). I told him I’d let him know after I talked about it with Michelle. He asked me to put together a team of people who would make up the LET for the purpose of helping to organize the volunteers. After talking it over with Michelle I accepted the gracious invitation. My desire was to put together a group of local and state ministry leaders as representatives of how diverse yet unified our people are. Those who serve the Lord in our area recognize we are all in the same foxhole. You won’t find pastors and ministry leaders in New Orleans “shooting” at one another and I wanted everyone to see that even without uniformity we can have healthy unity. You can read more about that group HERE. Our monthly LET meetings were a blessing to me, and our team was as much an encouragement to ME as I’ve ever experienced. Leading this group was one of the great blessings of my life. Thanks to Jonathan Howe for the opportunity.
8) Kind Comments and Compliments: There were two things I wanted to do to prepare for our hosting the SBC23 annual meeting that really had nothing to do with my role chairing the LET. I would have done these things whether or not I was chairing that work. First, I wanted to offer some insights on things to do, places to see, and what to eat for all those who would be traveling to see us in June. Partially inspired by Patrick Watts who blessed us with some short videos before our meeting in Nashville, I set out early to begin to compile a few such lists. That article became a sort of list of lists which I published on January 2nd. I named it “Pastor Jay’s List of Stuff You Should Know for SBC23 in New Orleans.” You can find that HERE. The second thing I wanted to do was to put together a sort of ‘hype video’ which would be a montage of fun or unusual historical facts about our area. My hope was that it would be encouraging enough that Jonathan would include it in his “Road to New Orleans” series (he did, thanks bro.) and that it would be played at the annual meeting (it was, on Wednesday morning). You can read more about that effort and watch the montage HERE. But this is why I mention it here… I had so many wonderful comments and compliments on those efforts during the convention week that it filled my heart. I mean really, folks I’ve never met came up to thank me for the list of food places and things to do. Others talked about the stuff they learned on the video. For 20 years I have enjoyed showing people around our home and this was the most fun I’ve ever had doing so. I’m just so thankful for all the kind words and encouraging messages.
7) The NOLA Volunteers (and others): Speaking of being thankful. When I was asked to chair the team I was told that our primary responsibility was to gather up volunteers for the various tasks. I had NO IDEA how much work it took to pull off the SBC. I have been attending for over 20 years and just never knew. If not for the volunteers (and team leaders) the annual meeting would not be able to happen and I am so very thankful for all those who gave of their time to serve. The key roles include the 6 following subcommittees: Ushers, Greeters, Information Booth, Prayer Room, Registration & Support, and Pages. My indebtedness goes to our subcommittee leaders, Thomas Strong (Pages), Mark Robinson (Registration), Ray Swift (Prayer Room), Michelle Adkins (Information Booth), Jack Hunter (Greeters) and the hardest working man at this year’s annual meeting, Pastor Chad Gilbert (Ushers). Seriously, every person who attended this year’s convention owes Chad a thank you and big hug. We also had a large number of local volunteers as well as dozens of out-of-towners who signed up to volunteer to fill spots. From Franklin Avenue’s Usher Team handling Tuesday’s heavy load of ballots, to NOBTS Students serving as pages, to the Faith Riders Motorcycle Ministry based in Florida working the Info Booths, we needed them all. This event can’t happen without volunteers. May I ask you a favor? Would you consider volunteering next year to fill one of these roles? It is easy to do. If you’re gonna be in the room anyway volunteer to be an Usher to take up ballots. The EC will have a website where you can pick where and when you’d like to serve. I have made the decision that from here forward I will volunteer to work a spot during the SBC annual meeting. Michelle has already told me that we will be filling a couple of Information Booth spots on Sunday during next year’s meeting in Indianapolis.
6) NOBTS: What can be said about the time, effort, and financial support that NOBTS put in to helping to lead this year’s meeting? From the outset, Jamie Dew and his team were all in on making this a great meeting. From putting together a fantastic “Visit Nola” website, to the largest NOBTS Alumni Lunch in our history, to the history-making Wednesday night celebration at the campus when NOBTS officially cut the ribbon on the newly named Fred Luter Jr. Student Center, NOBTS’s involvement cannot be overstated. The administration, the faculty, the staff, the students, everyone was involved! And they hit a grand slam! I’m proud to be an NOBTS Alum and I was so proud of all the hard work they did making this a great event. Did I mention that NOBTS Students were the pages this year? I love my NOBTS family.
5) Being Elected 1VP: The day after the convention ended last year, while my family and I were standing in line at the rope drop for Rise of the Resistance at Disneyland, I received a phone call from a friend. I won’t say who (to protect me as much as to shield him). The voice said, “I know you lost in embarrassing fashion last time you did this, but you really should consider allowing your name to be placed in nomination for First Vice President next year in New Orleans.” I laughed loudly and politely declined. He insisted that I consider it and offered me reasons why I should. Honestly, the PTSD from allowing that to happen (and then coming in last to Wiley Drake) some 17 years ago kept me from taking the thought seriously. After a few other folks suggested the same thing I was told that a hero of mine, my friend Fred Luter, would do the nomination. I decided in early February I’d give it a go. I was quite surprised there were no other announced candidates until the week of the meeting. When 2 more nominations came in, I just knew there would be a runoff. I was stunned by the results. With the election happening so late Tuesday and so many people leaving (even texting me that they were not able to stay to vote) and the esteem deservedly garnered by the other Louisiana candidate, I was shocked by the numbers. Thanks to my friend Fred Luter for his kind nomination. Clearly, we can point to Fred’s nomination speech as what brought about this result. Also, there is a lesson here, don’t ever turn off Fred Luter’s microphone while he is speaking. 🙂 And thank you to those who chose to cast their ballot in my direction. This is a terrific honor, and I will do my best to live up to your vote… whatever it is that the First Vice President does. 😉
4) Westwego’s Involvement: I could not be more proud of my church family. FBC Westwego has been a jewel during this time. They have been very forgiving of my divided focus while I’ve been working on convention things. In fact, they have thrown themselves into the work as well. We seated all 10 of our messengers from our small church, which is great, but that’s not all they did. We also took 10 people over to the convention center the Saturday before, from 9am to 1pm, to help set up the registration area. Our folks put together thousands of the lanyards that were given out at registration. Then on Sunday, we took another almost 20 people over to oversee the Information Booths from 1-9pm, they volunteered at the Pastor’s Conference, directed traffic in the Registration area, and moved sound equipment. There is not another pastor in the SBC that loves his church as much as I love my family/friends at First Baptist Church of Westwego. Thank you for being a church that serves when called on to do so.
3) My Family’s Involvement: The most personal reference in this list comes in the form of my family. I could not be more thankful for my wife Michelle and sons, Quint and Canon. All three of them were involved in helping to support me and to make this meeting a success. Michelle took the lead for our involvement in organizing the volunteers for the Information Booth over the four days of our convention. Just so you know… she volunteered! I purposely was not going to burden her with any of this, but she wanted to help. I have a special woman who loves me and enjoys helping me enjoy the things I love to do. Thanks, Michelle for your support and wiliness to serve. Both of our boys were also involved. Some of you might have noticed Canon playing a few times. He provided some of the ambient music one of the days near registration and then he was the lead trumpet in the ‘CanonFodder Brass Band’ who kicked off the convention Tuesday morning with the second line parade. He also filled in for Quint during a couple of sound checks when Quint had to be 2 places at once. He helped on numerous occasions with set up and teardown of equipment. Thanks Canon, I know SBC stuff is not what you’d spend your time choosing to do but you served sacrificially and well and I am thankful for you. We are gonna miss you come the fall. Finally, there is Quint. Quint was ubiquitous during the meeting. On Sunday and Monday he helped to lead worship for the Associational Leaders Meeting as well as helped to lead during the Pastor’s Conference worship times. He also helped lead the time of musical worship during the Ministry Wives Lunch on Tuesday. He then played drums for the annual meeting worship sets on Tuesday and Wednesday. What you didn’t see is that he also had numerous rehearsals each of those days which required a lot of logistics and travel. He also had to help with load in and load out of equipment and instruments for staging. But that was not all. He was also the person responsible for securing and organizing all of the ambient music along the hallway of the convention center. He did a fantastic job at every turn and I am so proud of him. On a side note, this past week, our church voted to hire him as our Worship leader and Chief Musician. No man is more blessed with his family than I am with mine. I do not deserve them.
2) Bart’s Steady Hand: As witnessed by the entire body gathered for deliberation, Bart Barber’s fairness, deliberate nature, and his calm demeanor set the tone for the rest of us. I thought he did an outstanding job walking our convention through its business. He really is the best of us. For whatever couple of hiccups, he says he had, our proceeding was fair, impartial, and graciously led. Most of you know that Bart’s mother passed away on Sunday morning after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. We had the privilege of having Bart, his family and some other Farmersville members with us on Sunday morning. We had a special time of prayer for him at church asking God to strengthen our brother has he navigated what could have been a very difficult time. I want to believe God answered those prayers and used Bart to guide our business in a way that honored Christ. Thanks, Bart, for your wise and measured leadership. Now, if we will all just pray extra hard for Bart this year that God would keep him humble, wise, measured, safe, and alive. PLEASE pray that God keeps Bart ALIVE this year, please!
1) The EC Staff: Now that I have seen behind the curtain, I will never look at the annual meeting the same way. The people who put on the event are first class operators. Everyone knows Jonathan. He’s the famous one that gets all the attention. He carries a lot of the load and he deserves the recognition he gets. Our convention of churches is better for having him serve in this capacity. But there are also so many others who serve behind the scenes. SO MANY! I will not be able to list them all here. But let me give you a few. First, in my original post, I somehow forgot one of the main gears in this whole shindig. I have not idea how could I have left out Hillary Krantz! She is Jonathan’s right hand and the one that keeps everything moving. Sorry about the snub, friend. We all know you are the one that makes it all work. Then there is Lynn Richmond. I have mentioned her before. Lynn had been managing the convention in one form (position) or another for almost 3 decades. God help us if anything ever happens to her… I don’t think we would be able to have a convention without her. Lynn is the gatekeeper, enforcer, organizer, whip snapper, liaison to the convention center and about 10 other roles I wish everyone knew about. Widely known or not, Lynn is a treasure to the SBC. Thanks for all you do Lynn. Although I was answering to a few different folks, my immediate supervisor while I served as chair of the LET was Steve Cowert. Steve is the Assistant Convention Manager and is a long-time organizer, church leader and all-around great guy with a huge servant’s heart. He navigates the convention machine where the rubber meets the road during the annual meeting. Steve is a humble man of great integrity and I would follow him into battle. He too is a blessing to our work. Thanks for your leadership and encouraging words, Steve. There is a whole host of other ladies and gentlemen who work in and around the EC office during the meeting including Ruth Ann, Patti, Renee, Brandon, John… I could go on and on. They are all just great at what they do. Madison is our newest edition and I can tell she’s gonna be great at all of this. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of my new favoritest friends (new meaning we met last year in Disneyland), Rachel Gulledge. This was Rachel’s first year of serving as the Exhibit Hall Manager… and man, did she dunk the ball!!! I mean, she only ran the largest exhibit hall in our history with the largest number of exhibitors in our history and did so with poise and strength while also, may I add, being pregnant! Her sidekick Olivia worked hard along side her as well. Well done, Rachel. You, sister, are a rockstar. How are you gonna top this next year? 😉
Our friends in the offices at the EC serve us well. In my opinion, THEY were the #1 best thing about #SBC23… and probably are every year. By the way, they have all already begun working on the Indy meeting. Find the opportunity to thank them for what they do… and pray for them as they faithfully continue to serve us.