I’m not sure which convention it was, but it was during my time as a pastor in Virginia. I was deeply discouraged and considering throwing in the towel, for reasons that I won’t go into and simply do not matter now. A friend and I went to the Pastors’ Conference together and sat through sermon after sermon. I was amazed, feeling as if God had singled me out. The theme was perseverance. These men preached sermon after sermon about enduring in hard times, sticking it out when you were ready to quit. God used those two days to encourage me and give me the lift I needed.
I can’t remember the last time I heard much but complaining or dismissive comments about the PC. Many of us spend more time in the display areas and fellowshipping than we do listening to the messages. And there is a heaping helping of complaints.
- It’s the same men year after year.
- There is no proportionality or balance in the lineup.
- There’s not enough exposition.
- There are too many non-SBC speakers.
It is not my intent to either agree with or dispute the validity of these complaints, only to point out that there seem to be few people who love the SBC Pastors Conference anymore.
Our little bitty band of bloggers has been batting around our brainchild and would like to broach it with this bigger bunch. It was raised some years ago but abandoned for financial reasons, but the way the PC is run financially has changed and we now believe that this is has become a possibility. It is a leap of faith and frankly, the very idea scares us a little. We would like to share our proposal here as an idea, and hear the response of the blogging world. We will, perhaps, tweak our idea based on the input we get here, so your voices carry weight.
We are planning to run a smaller church pastor as president of the Pastors’ Conference this year in hopes of having a very different kind of event in 2017 in Phoenix.
It is not our purpose to be critical of those who have labored faithfully and diligently in recent years, but we believe a fresh start can be a good thing for the PC. Some may see this as some sort of political move. It is what it is. We think it is time for a change and we intend to offer that change. If the pastors vote for the change we offer we will do our best to provide an encouraging PC in 2017.
The PC has little structure as best we can tell. It is an informal organization with no bylaws or board of directors or formal guiding principles. So, what we are doing is within the rules – you can’t violate rules that don’t exist.
Here’s the “New Voices” plan for the SBC Pastors Conference in 2017. Let us know what you think.
1. One of us would run for the president of the Pastor’s Conference this year. We have honestly not decided who that candidate would be. We are releasing our agenda, our guiding principles before we announce a candidate. What we are doing is not about a person, but about a way of doing things. It’s not about a person but about the way we want to do things.
2. Every single speaker on the stage next year in Phoenix would be a Southern Baptist pastor whose church is actively involved in SBC work and missions and affirms the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. None of us believes that the SBC holds all truth – in fact, we believe there is much to be gained from listening to those outside our denomination. But this is the SBC Pastors Conference and we believe we can find a solid lineup of preachers from within the ranks of SBC pastors.
3. We would follow these general guidelines in selecting preachers for the conference. We do not regard these as the law of the Medes and Persians but as guiding principles.
- No one who has spoken in the last five years or so would be invited to speak. There are plenty of good preachers in the SBC, we do not have to use the same small group of preachers at every conference – even if they are great preachers.
- For the record, we have agreed that none of us involved in this group will be preachers.
- Our preachers will be diverse. We will seek preachers from old line and new work states, seeking geographical diversity. We will seek younger and older preachers. We will seek racial and ethnic diversity. We do not have quotas, and our emphasis will be on quality biblical proclamation, but we will also seek to include a variety of preachers, styles, states, and perspectives.
- It is our intent that while we will strive to have balance in the soteriological perspective of the preachers who are invited to speak, this debate will have no place in the 2017 Pastors Conference. We will avoid those who have been partisans in this conflict and simply preach God’s word.
- We will focus on smaller and medium-sized churches, those who are usually ignored when invitations go out for conferences and conventions. We’ve not set a hard limit, but we will focus on finding preachers from churches that run 500 or fewer on Sunday morning, perhaps up to 750. Can we not find a dozen excellent preachers among the 95% of churches that run 500 or fewer on Sunday morning in the SBC? Are the 150 churches defined as megachurches the only churches with pastors worthy to preach? We think not.
4. We intend to follow an exegetical/expositional format. We will select one of the shorter books of the Bible (Philippians, Ephesians, etc) or perhaps a segment of a longer book (the Farewell Discourse, the Sermon on the Mount, etc) and the preachers will divide up the text. Over the course of the two days we will preach through the book or passage using verse-by-verse exposition.
If elected, our most difficult task will be selecting the preachers. We will begin by asking people to tell us, “Who is the best Bible expositor you know?” We will share the burden of listening to messages and picking out those preachers who will be invited to preach in Phoenix.
5. As we understand it, speaker’s fees have come to be one of the higher costs of the Pastors Conference. This will not be so. Let’s face it. Pastors like you and me would travel at our own expense for the privilege of preaching at the PC, right? We intend to reimburse the preachers’ expenses and if able give a small honorarium. If someone demands a big fee, we will just move down the list to the next man!
These same basic guidelines would apply to the musicians who would be invited to lead us.
We the 2017 SBC Pastors Conference to be about good biblical preaching – verse-by-verse exposition and Christ-centered worship. No politics. No promoting SBC business. Nothing that happens on Tuesday or Wednesday should have any part of what we are planning to do on Sunday and Monday!
So, you tell us what you think. Do you think there are 12 or 13 Southern Baptist pastors who can exposit the text well enough to interest you and draw a crowd to the Pastors Conference in Phoenix? Should we stay the course and keep doing what we are doing or should our little band of blustery bloggers try this?
The floor is yours.