We’re about 80 days out from the 2017 SBC Pastors’ Conference. This year’s conference is designed to highlight expository preaching from 12 pastors of average-sized SBC churches. This hasn’t been tried before, but as plans have come together I’m even more optimistic than ever this format is going to be a huge blessing. Since I’ve seen some of the details of what’s planned, I wanted to pass along my thoughts on how to have the best possible experience at this year’s Pastors’ Conference.
1. Attend all four sessions.
Our unique format means you’ll want to be there for the beginning of the Sunday night session at 6pm. The speakers will be preaching consecutively through Philippians and there’s incredible material from the book’s start. The conference will build together as we work through Paul’s letter. In past conferences, the messages often centered around a theme, but they were individual sermons that may or may not connect with what went before or after. This year there’s no doubt you’ll have the best experience being there for chapter 1 all the way through chapter 4.
Our Sunday night speakers are tremendous. AND we’re working to make sure those who arrive early enough to attend the Sunday night session are especially blessed (details to come later). Plus, being there for the whole conference fits really well with my next recommendation:
2. Arrive on Saturday & visit a local Phoenix-area SBC church Sunday morning.
It can be tough to preach Sunday morning, get to the airport, fly in, drop your bags off at the hotel, and make it to the convention center by 6pm. It’s a little easier this year because of the time change—if you’re like me you’ll gain 3 hours on the trip—but still not easy. I’ve really enjoyed the years when I’ve arrived a day early, been able to relax and enjoy the city before the Pastors’ Conference and Annual Meeting get started. I recommend arriving Saturday during the day, seeing some of Phoenix Saturday afternoon & evening, and then worshipping Sunday morning with a local SBC congregation. You’ll still have the afternoon off and be ready for the conference start at 6pm.
Yes, to do this many of you will need to get someone to preach for you Sunday, June 11th — but you’ve got plenty of time to get that arranged. Having the whole week to recharge and get refilled will be good for you and your church. Make it happen. (Travel info here.)
There are many Phoenix-area church possibilities. Here are a few some friends recommended: First Baptist Church, Chandler (our SBCPC Vice President, Paul Smith, is pastor here), Foothills Baptist Church (pastor Nathan Millican), Mountain Ridge, North Phoenix Baptist Church (pastor Noe Garcia). If you know of others, please feel free to leave recommendations in the comments section.
3. Participate & engage in the conference as you would a worship service.
For a variety of reasons, the SBC Pastors’ Conference has taken on an atmosphere where people are coming in & out througout the sessions, with others talking on the side of the hall, some participating in the singing, others not, missing a few messages in the exhibit hall or at lunch. If you’ve been before, you know the atmosphere is a bit of an oddity. I don’t know of any other conference that functions this way. My advice is to look at this year’s conference in many ways as a worship service. Be there and in your seat, and ready to participate when the Gettys’ lead music, the speakers are preaching the Bible, and the other elements are taking place. Come with anticipation for an entire worship experience just like you would at any other national conference. I think it would be healthy to begin setting a new tone for this and future SBC Pastors’ Conference in this area.
4. Learn some of the Gettys’ original music ahead of time.
We’re thrilled to have Keith & Kristyn Getty leading worship in all four sessions. They’ll lead with many songs we’ll all be familiar with, and also some original songs that may be new to many. If you can learn some of those songs ahead of time it makes for a more powerful worship experience. Getty Music is helping with that as they’ve made four of their original songs available for free at their website (Facing a Task Unfinished, For the Cause, My Worth Is Not in What I Own, and The Lord Is My Salvation). If you sign up for their email list, you’ll receive the song downloads and also the sheet music arrangements you can use to teach the songs to your church. Let’s arrive ready to lift up our voices together in praise to Christ.
5. Look forward to the extras.
The Caskey Center has some exciting elements planned during the conference time. You’ll notice the common ground testimonies, one in each session, featuring well known SBC pastors Fred Luter, Johnny Hunt, J. D. Greear, and Steve Gaines. Each has pastored average sized churches during their ministry and the Caskey Center has asked them to give testimonies about their experience there that will be encouraging to all pastors (note: not “this is how we went from an average-sized church to a large church” advice but a testimony that highlights the common ground all pastors share).
The Caskey Center has also partnered with LifeWay Research for a ground-breaking new study on best practices for healthy small membership and average-sized churches. This research will be presented during the PC and you won’t want to miss this resource.
6. Attend. No really, be there!
This goes without saying, right? People have been overwhelmingly positive about the unique vision for this years’ Pastors’ Conference. No doubt people will be watching to see how the conference comes together and how it’s received. We hope the support we’ve received in those wishing us well will translate into those same people showing up in Phoenix to experience the conference in person. Sure, there will be a live stream. We want the conference to be available to those who can’t attend. But the best support we can receive is for you to be there in the convention hall worshipping with thousands of other SBC pastors, their wives, and other Christians. (Also, keep in mind that Arizona doesn’t do DST, so they’re basically on Pacific time when our conference will be going on. our 6-9pm Sunday evening session will be live streaming 9pm-midnight on the east coast.)
7. Bring friends.
If you’re excited about this year’s SBCPC, don’t just come by yourself. Invite your friends and let people know we’re trying something different. We appreciate you sharing about #SBCPC17 on social media, by emailing or texting friends to make sure they know what’s going on, and helping us make sure the conference is a blessing to as many people as possible.
It’s been an amazing 9 months seeing the planning and preparation come together. When they told Dave there was a lot of time & work involved, they weren’t kidding. But we’ve been blessed by a team that’s worked hard and worked well together: Dave, Paul Smith, and Toby Frost—this year’s PC officers, Dave’s volunteer team, Mark Tolbert of the Caskey Center, and dozens of others. Come be a part with us. See you in Phoenix!