Dennis Ellingburg is one of the authors at Smallchurchshepherds, It is devoted to assisting those who serve smaller churches in the SBC.
Every year, thousands of men and women from across the country gather in cities from Phoenix, Arizona to Atlanta, Georgia to meet with other members of the Southern Baptist Convention for the Annual Meeting. This year, I am planning on going to Birmingham for the meetings and am excited to give you three reasons why I think you should go to.
We need CONNECTION
One of the main reasons why I love conventions and conferences is because of the opportunity it gives pastors to meet with other pastors and reconnect with old friends. This may seem to be a rather unimportant reason, but I think it’s one of the most valuable reasons for pastors to attend these events.
Ministry is one of the loneliest and isolating paths Christians are called to walk, especially for the small church pastor. Though there are great joys and opportunities to see God move, there is often a wall between a pastor and the people he’s called to serve. While pastors are a part of the church, and a part of the community, they can often be made to feel like a perpetual outsider or other. This coupled with the pressure to look like you have it all together and have all the answers at all times can drain the man of God and his family. The convention allows pastors and their families to sit down with others who share the same struggles and have the same wounds and who can help you walk through the difficult seasons of life.
It also is a time for you to meet new people, to build relationships with pastors and their families that you may not have known before, forging new friendships for both the pastor and his wife.
We need CHARGING
Another aspect that is important when considering whether or not to go to the convention is the fact that while we are blessed to be called to preach to our congregations, we often do not have the opportunity to have our souls fed. As pastors, if we do not take the time to do so, we can go years without sitting under the teaching of another pastor, allowing him to open the word of God to us for our edification and refreshing.
In small churches, we are often the only pastor and the only time someone else fills our pulpit is when we’re on vacation or at a conference or convention. We need to hear good preaching, and not just hear it (though I think podcasts are invaluable) but sit under the preaching of God’s word.
Erik Raymond notes that for preachers, there are two valuable benefits to hearing good preaching in person.
We need to be reminded that preaching is our calling and not just our job.
“I know we are not professionals, but sometimes I default to it. All preachers need to have heart work done. We all have to sit under the knife of the Word of God. We need our motives and actions exegeted and parsed. We need to be told who we really are and what we really are doing.”1
Hearing someone preach reinvigorates our passion for preaching.
Preachers, we need to be preached to. We need to allow ourselves to hear God’s Word and respond to it. We need to be convicted of sin, refreshed in our spirits, and reminded of why we do what we do.
We need COOPERATION
For Southern Baptists, especially those who grew up going to a conservative Southern Baptist Church like me, the Cooperative Program and the idea of cooperation was a ubiquitous part of what it means to be Baptist. I could tell you without one doubt that the second weekend in June and the last Sunday evening in October our pastor would be out of the pulpit because he would be going to the Southern Baptist Convention and the Mississippi Baptist Convention. But it seems that this sort of cooperation among the churches is becoming a thing in the past.
Despite the fact of the dubious origins of the Southern Baptist Convention, it is also a fact that the cooperation of churches for church planting and missions in the SBC has been a great force for the expansion of God’s Kingdom and Great Commission growth around the world. It’s clear that as more secondary issues threaten to divide Southern Baptists, we have seen the missionary and evangelistic efforts of the convention falter. This is especially true in small churches who have received the most benefit from the cooperation of churches through resources, materials, and outreach emphases.
As pastors, we need to be at the convention so that we can lend our voices to the discussions of the day. As small church pastors, we have an opportunity to first and foremost have our voices heard concerning the issues of the day, but also to call the convention back to the first principles of autonomous bodies cooperating together for the good of the Gospel. It’s cooperating together to take the gospel across the street and to the nations that makes us Baptist.
See you at the convention this year!