Month: May 2017

H.B. Charles to be Pastors” Conf. nominee

PHOENIX Oklahoma pastor Brad Graves has announced the withdrawal of his candidacy for Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference president to clear the way for Florida pastor H.B. Charles Jr. to be nominated as the first African-American to hold that office.

Graves told Baptist Press no one pressured him to withdraw and “it’s never a loss when you can join God in his work.”

Former Pastors’ Conference president Ken Whitten announced his intent to nominate Charles May 11, noting he is a “preacher extraordinaire.”

The decision to nominate Charles stemmed from an informal gathering of past Pastors’ Conference presidents May 2 at which the group expressed a desire to nominate someone representing the numerous qualified pastors from ethnic minority groups, Whitten told BP. Multiple qualified pastors were discussed, he said, and eventually the group sensed God’s leading to Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.

“We thought it was time to stop talking about racial unity in positions of leadership within our convention” and “put a president out there at the Pastors’ Conference” from among the “African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians who are pastoring great churches and are very worthy of being in positions of leadership in our convention,” said Whitten, pastor of Tampa-area Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla.

Charles’ nomination, which will occur June 12 at this year’s Pastors’ Conference in Phoenix, “was never about trying to find a candidate better than Brad Graves,” Whitten said. “Brad Graves is a class-act pastor and is worthy of being a Pastors’ Conference president.”

Graves, whose candidacy was announced April 17, told BP the decision to withdraw from the election was “a big God moment,” adding no one pressured him to withdraw—except the Holy Spirit after a season of prayer.

Graves was notified May 9 that Charles also would be nominated. So he prayed, sought wise counsel and had a phone conversation with Charles during which he shared his intent to “step aside.”

“I don’t want to be anything divisive” in the SBC, said Graves, pastor of First Baptist Church in Ada, Okla. “I think it’s time to show the culture that there is something that unites [Southern Baptists] more than just a Cooperative Program or a mission statement, but that we really do care for one another. We really are brothers in a fraternity.”

Graves added, “Our convention is very diverse,” and Charles’ nomination “will help show how diverse we really are.”

Charles has served as pastor of Shiloh since 2008. The church averages 4,000 in worship across two campuses and began cooperating with the SBC in 2012 at Charles’ urging, Shiloh reported. The church reported giving $9,000 through the Cooperative Program in 2016, and the SBC’s Annual Church Profile database reflected a similar total. Shiloh, which also cooperates with the National Baptist Convention U.S.A. Inc., reported a total of $21,000 in Great Commission Giving last year.

Great Commission Giving is a category of giving established by SBC action in 2011 that encompasses giving through CP, Southern Baptists’ unified program of funding state- and SBC-level ministries, as well as direct gifts to SBC entities, associational giving and giving to state convention ministries.

Shiloh, formerly a vastly African-American congregation, became more racially diverse when it merged in 2015 with the predominantly white Ridgewood Baptist Church in Orange Park, Fla. While the Jacksonville campus remains predominantly African-American, as much as 40 percent of Shiloh’s campus in Orange Park is Anglo, with a smattering of other ethnicities.

Previously, Charles pastored Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles for nearly 18 years, succeeding his father H.B. Charles Sr. The younger Charles began his pastorate in Los Angeles at age 17.

Charles is the author of four books and has contributed to three others. He is a frequent preacher at SBC entities and conferences hosted by Southern Baptists, including two appearances at the SBC Pastors’ Conference.

Charles also will be nominated at this year’s SBC annual meeting as a trustee of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“I am grateful, honored and privileged to be considered for this important role” in the Pastors’ Conference, Charles told BP. “My prayer, if elected, is that we will have a conference that will encourage pastors and churches to be about the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ in these important times that we live in.”

The potential of being the first black Pastors’ Conference president “made the opportunity all the more overwhelming and humbling,” Charles said. “It would be a privilege to have such a signal honor to be the first to serve in this important role in our convention. And I hope and pray that, if elected, it will signal unity among us as brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Charles and his wife Crystal have three children.

The Pastors’ Conference will be held at the Phoenix Convention Center June 11-12, prior to the SBC’s June 13-14 annual meeting there. Next year’s Pastors’ Conference and SBC annual meeting will be in Dallas.

With Graves’ withdrawal, Charles’ nomination is the only one announced for the Pastors’ Conference at time of publishing.

Fla. pastor Jose Abella to be 2nd VP nominee

PHOENIX  Florida pastor Jose Abella will be nominated for second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Georgia pastor Michael Lewis announced May 10.

In 2010, Abella planted Providence Road Church, a bilingual congregation in Miami, and has served as pastor ever since. He is a preacher for this year’s SBC Pastors’ Conference, a former second vice president of the Florida Baptist Convention and a council member for the Hispanic Baptist Pastors Alliance.

“Jose is a loving picture of what Southern Baptists are working to become,” Lewis, pastor of Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., said in a news release, “effective in an urban context, multiplying churches, reaching different generations, ethnicities and socioeconomic groups, all while being faithful to Scripture.”

The nomination will occur June 12 at the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.

Lewis said Abella “is fully bilingual, preaching each week in both English and Spanish, and leads Providence Road to effective cross-cultural outreach in Miami.”

During Abella’s pastorate, Providence Road has planted a sister congregation in Miami and increased in average worship attendance from approximately 65 to some 250, the church reported. Providence Road baptized five people last year and 17 in 2015. The Florida Baptist Convention and the SBC’s Annual Church Profile reported similar data.

Providence Road reported Great Commission Giving last year totaling 19 percent of its undesignated receipts. That total included 4 percent through the Cooperative Program. The church’s 2017 budget includes 5 percent giving through CP, Providence Road reported.

Abella is a leadership team member of the Pillar Church Planting Network, Lewis said, and “models biblical expository preaching and a firm commitment to the inerrancy and authority of Scripture.”

“With Jesus and the gospel at the center,” Lewis said, “Jose goes across people groups, languages, ethnicities and calls people to Jesus. We need that perspective. We need Jose’s voice.”

Abella holds a Bachelor of Biblical studies degree from The College at Southeastern, the undergraduate school of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is pursuing a Master of Divinity at Southeastern.

Abella was the first and only announced candidate for second vice president at time of publishing. 

SEBTS” Strickland to be 1st VP nominee

PHOENIX  Walter Strickland, a leader of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Kingdom Diversity Initiative, will be nominated for Southern Baptist Convention first vice president, former SBC President James Merritt announced May 9.

Strickland, an African-American, has been special adviser to the president for diversity at Southeastern since 2013. He also teaches theology at Southeastern and since 2015 has operated a consulting service to assist churches and other organizations with diversity-related issues.

Southeastern’s Kingdom Diversity Initiative seeks in increase the seminary’s ethnic minority and female enrollment and equip students for multicultural ministry.

“As our nation and our convention become more diverse, it is imperative that our leadership reflect the diversity that marks the kingdom of God and heaven itself,” Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., said in a news release. “Beyond that we need people in leadership that reflect the best of Southern Baptists theologically, spiritually and personally.

During Strickland’s tenure at Southeastern, non-Anglo students have increased from 10 percent of the student body to 16 percent, according to Merritt’s release. During that time, the number of African-American students has doubled and the number of Hispanic students has tripled, Merritt said.

Merritt said Strickland also has worked to “strengthen partnerships with diverse churches and ministries,” facilitate campus conversations on racial and cultural issues and launch a program to offer financial assistance to minority students for mission trips.

Strickland is a member of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, N.C., which told Baptist Press it gave $88,234 in Great Commission Giving for 2016. 

Strickland holds Master of Theology and Master of Divinity degrees from Southeastern and a Bachelor of Arts from Cedarville University in Ohio. He is scheduled to graduate this spring with his Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

Author of the forthcoming book The Story of Black Christianity, Strickland has coauthored, edited and contributed to numerous other volumes. He has served on staff at two North Carolina churches.

Strickland was the first and only announced candidate for first vice president at time of publishing. 

Stay Together and Keep Moving Forward

Attendance at the Southern Baptist Convention has been trending down for years. Pundits and prognosticators have been opining for almost a decade. Even when the annual meeting was held last in Texas the registration was low. Having the convention in the heart of the South does not guarantee a boost in participants. A major reason cited by some analysists is the generational shift. Denominationalism in general is in decline. 

Identity as a “Baptist” is waning among millennials, so is there a future for annual meetings?

Like it or not, the Southern Baptist Convention is a legal entity. Because ministry operates under statutory regulations, it is incumbent upon the organization to have a meeting. I prefer to think of it as a “shareholders” meeting. The convention officially exists only two days a year. The members of the convention constitute the decision-making body for the ministry. In the corporate environment, the Executive Committee was created to handle business for the SBC between annual meetings. If you are burdened for the unreached peoples of the world as a Southern Baptist, you should take your part seriously by hearing reports and voting on funding. As controversial as secular politics may be, unless you attend and voice your convictions at the SBC then you have no right to criticize the actions of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Everything we do as Southern Baptists is filtered through the event we call the convention.

Everything we do as Southern Baptists is filtered through the event we call the convention.

This year I served as chair of the committee on nominations, which was nominated by the committee on committees the previous year. The committee on nominations was elected by the messengers to fill the vacancies on the various entities. While the Southern Baptist Convention has significant governance rights over its entities, their policies and day-to-day operations are controlled by boards of trustees. The messengers of the convention elect these trustee boards. The messengers cannot instruct the trustees to take a specific course of action. The trustees are not under the direction of the messengers. To impact a board of trustees, messengers can elect a president with a committed philosophical or theological platform. The president’s appointment of the committee on committees indirectly results in the selection of trustees. If you want to influence an entity, you vote for a president who shares your convictions. One president cannot change the direction of an entity. It takes several consecutive elections of presidents with the same agenda to accomplish the results. This is how the Conservative Resurgence was successful in saving the SBC for biblical inerrancy. 

Issues are more nuanced today than 25-30 years ago. Calvinism versus Traditionalism or Cultural Warfare versus Kingdom Engagement all fit within the framework of the Baptist Faith and Message statement. Nevertheless, the preferred agenda of the president or his confidants will surface at the trustee level. Entities will reflect a trend of elected presidents over a period of time. 

Institutions are necessary to accomplish gospel advance on a wider scale. It takes all of us pooling our resources to do the work of God 24/7 locally and globally. If the SBC is abandoned, the churches would eventually re-invent the wheel and create a similar type of collaborative effort. Still, I believe our current convention structure is still the most effective means for us to work together and advance the kingdom of God. Thus, our annual gatherings remain a necessary time of decision-making and celebration.

I have used the analogy of a kindergarten class on a field trip to describe the convention. Let’s all stay together and keep moving forward. Every once in a while someone will throw a tantrum. Let’s try to calm them down or put them in time out but don’t leave the field trip. We have too much to accomplish along the way. Won’t you join me?  

SWBTS graduates urged to make eternal investments

FORT WORTH During Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s spring commencement ceremony for its Fort Worth campus, May 5, President Paige Patterson commended the 220 graduating college, master’s and doctoral graduates for their diligence and zeal in their studies in order to be equipped to “go to the ends of the earth” with the gospel message. 

“Even if the ‘ends of the earth’ works out to be just down the street from the seminary, you are going to minister in a tough day and a tough time,” Patterson said. 

Preaching from Luke 12, Patterson urged graduates to forsake living for earthly things and to invest in what is eternal. “You are following the master who came to seek and to save that which was lost,” Patterson said. “That is your assignment.”

Obedience in service to Christ will be rewarding, Patterson continued, just not in earthly possessions. 

“If you live your life in behalf of others, it is amazing what sustenance to the soul such a life is,” he said. “Now you have stored up rewards that will never be taken away in heaven above.”

Patterson further explained that money, position and prestige are desired goals for graduates across the country but will ultimately not satisfy and are not necessarily reflective of one’s service to Christ. 

“You are not to seek those things,” Patterson said. “A man’s life does not exist in the abundance of the things that he possesses; a man’s life consists in giving his life away to others and to Christ.”

In conclusion, Patterson told graduates that they have two choices in life. “You can live for yourself, or you can live for heaven,” he said. Patterson then left graduates with a final question to consider for themselves: “What have I invested in the heavenly bank?”

Among the graduates commissioned for ministry was Kathryn Boutwell. Graduating with a bachelor’s in biblical studies, Boutwell says that through her training at Southwestern, she has gained boldness in sharing her faith, she is open and ready to go wherever God calls her, and she has received the necessary tools to be ready for ministry. 

“Southwestern has equipped me in both my future ministry by giving me a picture of what church planting overseas looks like, and my current ministry by teaching me how to look at Scripture and teach simply what is there in God’s Word,” Boutwell said.

Whether students remain in Texas or move thousands of miles around the world, all Southwestern graduates are ready and equipped for whatever ministry to which God calls them. Alongside 27 graduates from the Spanish-language Master of Theological Studies program, many of whom are already key Hispanic leaders in the United States and Latin American, Esteban Vazquez said his studies at Southwestern gave him the necessary tools to continue in his ministry.

“I thank God for the opportunity he gives me to continue growing in his knowledge and for the possibility of fulfilling this longing at Southwestern,” Vazquez said. “Every book, every chapter, and every forum has not been a task, but a way to grow and apply to everyday life the principles that transform the way of thinking. God is good!”

The day following the Fort Worth graduation, the J. Dalton Havard School for Theological Studies in Houston held its commencement ceremony. The Houston campus saw two students graduate with a bachelor’s in biblical studies and 17 students graduate with master’s degrees. 

Criswell graduates urged to not be “incognito”

DALLAS  At Criswell College’s annual spring commencement exercises May 13, SBTC Vice President Dante Wright urged the 47 college and master’s graduates not to be “incognito” as they move into their next season of life but to make clear to those around them that they belong to Christ. A Criswell alum and member of the school’s Board of Trustees, Wright serves as the pastor of Sweet Home Baptist Church in Round Rock.

Wright congratulated the graduates on their academic achievement, challenging them to “make a difference in the world for the cause of Christ.” Preaching from Matthew 5:13-16, he reminded the graduates that, “If you don’t know your purpose when you walk out of this place today: you are called by God to be salt and light to this dark and decaying world.

“Don’t be afraid to tell someone that you love God. They may say you’re different or that you act different,” Wright said. “You just tell them you’re just acting the way God has created us to act.”

Wright posed the question, “Once you graduate, then what?” He warned the graduates not to fall into the traps of procrastination or indecision, noting that “we have no time to contemplate indecision because Jesus has already told us what our call and role is.”

Reflecting on his own time at Criswell, Wright also advised those attending to beware of the difference between memorizing Scripture and internalizing it.

“As a Criswell student, I memorized the Sermon on the Mount,” Wright said. “But there’s a difference between memorizing and internalizing. Once I received the grade, it was almost like the Sermon on the Mount was no longer in me. And yet when I began to move into the real world, I missed out on some of its great biblical truths and principles because I had been so busy trying to memorize for a grade.”

In conclusion, Wright urged Criswell graduates to engage with issues such as marriage, racial reconciliation and abortion, reminding them that wherever they go and whatever they do, they will always have the tools they received at Criswell to be salt and light in the world.

Among those commissioned for ministry at commencement was Bryan LeCompte, Outstanding Graduate and winner of the W.A. Criswell Honors Award. LeCompte urged his fellow graduates to appreciate the legacy of those who have gone before and enabled them to receive the unique education afforded them at Criswell.

“You were equipped here at this college for one central purpose: to love the church and to serve her with your newly acquired skills, following the example of Christ’s service to her,” LeCompte said. “Do not assume that you will change the culture for Christ divorced from his bride.”

Criswell College is one of two schools affiliated with the SBTC. 

REVIEW: Is “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” too scary for kids?

Henry Turner is a determined young man on a seemingly impossible mission: He wants to break the curse that turned his father, the famous pirate Will Turner, into an “undead” ghost.

Sure, it may sound eerie, but Turner, as a boy, met his father face to face. They even had a conversation one dark night at sea.

“My curse will never be broken,” his father, covered with sea sludge, told him. “This is my fate. I love you, son.”

Turner, though, isn’t giving up and soon begins searching for a lost treasure called the Trident of Poseidon, which will break the curse and bring his father back to life. But to find it he must survive the wrath of Captain Armando Salazar—another undead pirate—and he must obtain the help of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), the swashbuckling, womanizing pirate who is very much alive.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (PG-13) opens in theaters this weekend, giving us the fifth installment in the Disney Pirates series and officially kicking off the summer movie season.

Filmmakers gave Depp’s character a slightly lesser role in this film, choosing instead to spotlight the stories of Turner (Brenton Thwaites) and Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), an astronomer who is looking not only for the Trident but for her own identity. Together, the three form an alliance as they seek to avoid Salazar, who is sailing the ocean with his ghost crew on a ghost ship and killing nearly everyone in sight.

Red Robin and Dave & Busters are two of the leading partners for this one, which means kids will be hearing a lot about ghosts, pirates and swords in the coming days.

So, is Dead Men Tell No Tales family-friendly? Let’s take a look …

Warning: minor spoilers!

The Good

For fans of action films, this Pirates film has plenty to enjoy. (Especially if you, like me, appreciate 18th- and 19th-century-era movies with their massive sailing ships.) The story also is easy to follow, even if everything gets a little weird in the end.  

The family angle also is nice. Henry will do anything to find his father, who, in turn, truly wants to be reunited with his son. Carina also finds her father, and in the end we witness a great example of self-sacrifice.

We also discover Jack Sparrow’s backstory, thanks to some CGI magic (à la Carrie Fisher in Rogue One).

The Bad

The poster for Dead Men Tell No Tales hints that it’s a violent, dark film with disturbing images, and Disney gives us exactly that. Teens likely won’t be bothered but kids might.

Salazar kills a man with a sword through the torso, and later he orders his ghost crew to kill several soldiers in similar fashion. There’s plenty of punching, sword fighting and shooting, too, with a few cannonball battles mixed in. There’s also a comical guillotine scene in which we see realistic-looking heads in a basket.

The disturbing images are just as significant. Salazar and his crew look like something out of a demonic movie, with blood dripping and flesh rotting. There’s also a scene involving a creepy-looking bald witch who is stirring a potion.

There are no bedroom scenes, but Sparrow jokes often about sex. (He describes the figure of Harry’s mom in detail; he and his crew joke about “horology,” the study of time; he gets excited when Carina undresses to her petticoat; he is found in a bank vault with a married woman).

There are two kissing scenes, and Carina wears several outfits that show cleavage.

I counted three coarse words: misuse of “God” (1), a–(1) and pi-s (1).

Spiritual Content

Even though the film contains scenes involving a priest and nuns, it’s mostly void of explicit Christian content.

The Worldview

Simply put, the worldview is one big mess. Sure, we see a priest and nuns, but God doesn’t seem to have dominion over anything. Ghosts rule the sea due to a curse from the “Devil’s Triangle.” The key to breaking the curse lies in the stars (an assumed reference to astrology) and the magical Trident. When people enter the Devil’s Triangle, they turn into ghosts.

Finally, what are parents to tell their kids about Jack Sparrow? He’s an anti-hero—a character who doesn’t carry the traditional characteristics of a hero. He attempts to rob a bank. He loves getting drunk. He exchanges his compass for more alcohol. He really likes women. And all of this is played as comedy. He is, of course, a pirate—a bad guy who makes a living by stealing at sea. We’re supposed to laugh at him, and I did, but watching this series sure gets tricky if kids start asking questions. (My suggestion: Tell the truth.)    

Thumbs Up … Or Down?

It’s not the best movie of the month, but Dead Men Tell No Tales entertained me enough for a couple of hours. Thumbs up.

The Verdict: Family-Friendly?

My kids, ages 9 and 5, would have nightmares if they saw this Pirates movie. It’s simply too scary and violent for young ones. For teens, though, it’s fine. It’s family-friendly, but only for certain families.

Discussion Questions

1. Is Jack a good guy or bad guy … or a little bit of both?

2. What does the Bible teach about ghosts? What does it say about curses? What does it say about death?

3. Do you enjoy movies with anti-heroes? Why or why not?

4. Was Carina studying astronomy … or astrology? What does Scripture say about each one?  

5. Did you like the ending? Why or why not?

Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friend rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is rated PG-13 for sequences of adventure violence, and some suggestive content.

SEND Conference challenges intergenerational crowd to make missions more than an event

FRISCO—Among the 416 Texans engaged in missions training at the SEND 2017 Conference in Frisco was a healthy mix of teenagers whose middle-aged parents and church leaders were anxious to pay forward their passion for global evangelism. 

John Herring of nearby First Baptist Church of Prosper, said the conference spoke as much to his own teenage children as it did to him as a pastor. His two kids were among the 20 members he brought with him, including deacons, ministry leaders, elders and Sunday School teachers.

“The content for me spoke to something that happens in churches—especially for me in my context,” Herring said, referring to a small church’s susceptibility to mission creep. “In the midst of ministry and all the things we think we need to do, keeping your focus on the main thing shouldn’t be a challenge,” he said, adding, “We know what Jesus told us to do.”

Through the SEND conference Herring said he came away not only inspired but equipped for the mission. “The plenary sessions were great, but the breakout sessions were really where I got the tools that I needed as a pastor and a father and a member of my community to do what we’re called to do—to make much of Jesus.”

Southern Baptist entity leaders David Platt of the International Mission Board and Kevin Ezell of the North American Mission Board presented the arena crowd of more than 4,000 registrants a biblical mandate to spend their lives making disciples in their neighborhoods and nations around the world.

Sixteen-year old Aliza White of Newark was introduced to a missional mindset while being discipled at the Exchange Church in Keller, an SBTC church plant where Tiffany Smith was asked to be her mentor. Smith, a national mobilizer for NAMB, often asks teenagers to join her at missions training across Texas when it is offered by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and most recently the SEND Conference that NAMB jointly sponsored with IMB.

Attending along with two other teenagers Smith enlisted, White told the TEXAN, “It was truly an amazing, spiritual experience. It challenged me to constantly be on mission and to give my time, treasures, and talents to God for his glory and for the advancement of his kingdom.”

Jennifer Grisham of Providence Church in Frisco said she had been thinking and praying about how God would use her in missions wherever she is. “I’m just being hopeful and expectant about all God has for me as I go through life because missions isn’t an event, it’s a lifestyle.”

Describing First Baptist Church of Fannett where he pastors as a very mission-minded congregation, Robert Wenner and his wife, Liz, brought three teenagers to the conference.

“Over the years we have done a commendable job of learning and supporting missions both at home and abroad,” Wenner said. “For us, SEND is an enormous wakeup call to the opportunity and responsibility to not only pray and give, but to go.”

As one of 24 people who attended the conference from First Baptist Church of Wylie, Debra Tabolka was in on the transition her church made by hiring a mission pastor and sending teams out to serve around the world. With over a third of the membership participating in 18 mission trips this year, Tabolka said that priority was reaffirmed to her as she heard Platt share that “this is what the church is called to do.”

“We are listening and keeping the focus, waiting on the next step,” she told the TEXAN. “The weekend was amazing.”                                  

“Refreshing” Dallas SEND Conf. casts mission vision

FRISCO—Among a sea of attendees and volunteers in the Dr. Pepper Arena, the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board’s SEND Conference challenged attendees to examine and redefine their lives on mission.

More than 4,000 people paid and registered for the sold-out conference May 19-20 in Frisco, Texas, which drew people from all states and three continents.

“Be careful not to manufacture a heart for missions outside a heart for Christ,” IMB president David Platt said to the crowd during opening session. “There is no one without the other, and if you think there is, you’ve got to redefine your thinking. There are times in your life that are redefining, and that’s what we’re praying the next couple of days will be.”

The theme, Redefine, brought church revitalizer John Herring of First Baptist Church in Prosper, back to SEND even though he had attended the first one in Long Beach, Ca., earlier this year in February. This time, Herring brought 20 church members to Dallas for two days of biblical teaching and next steps.

“The conference was encouraging and refreshing for us personally, and it was incredibly helpful for us in our work at First Prosper,” Herring said. “We talk a lot about Jesus’ mission at our church—that we are called to be sent. SEND helped us refocus on that mission and put feet to it.”

SEND in Dallas included worship led by Austin Stone Worship, Thomas Keys III and Crowder, and main sessions and breakouts with 30 diverse topics and speakers.

“The breakout sessions were especially helpful,” Herring noted. “At the conclusion of SEND, my notebook was filled with pages of ideas and resources. What a blessing to have some ‘blue sky’ moments under the wisdom of these experienced leaders.”

Aaron Clayton, an SBTC church planter of Remedy Church in Waxahachie, was also taking notes with hopes to bring back “some nuts and bolts for how we can effectively equip and send church planters.”

“I am also looking forward to bringing back some fresh enthusiasm and energy,” Clayton said. “I am hoping our people catch more of the vision for why and how they can live on mission in all of life. I hope they feel better equipped and more confident themselves and in their ability to rally together in community to live out the mission of God.”

With breakouts such as “Addressing poverty through local schools,” “Risk in missions,” “Leading women to advance the gospel,” “Leveraging the power of ordinary” and “Giving purpose to our jobs,” the conference reinforced how every believer—at any time—can be on mission.

New Orleans youth minister and bivocational church planter Dallas Guidry, of Lakeshore Church in Louisiana, called the conference “unlike any other.”

“There are so many lost where our church plant is,” Guidry said. “But it’s all about relationships. Right now, I’m in seminary and coaching a baseball team. I’m developing trust and relationships with those around me by being engaged in the community. And coming to this SEND conference, I feel more refreshed than ever. It’s awesome to see how people here are so willing to support one another in living on mission for God’s glory. Everything we do is for Him.” 

A similar spirit and enthusiasm for missions gripped many hearts at the event. Georgia College and State University (GCSU) student Carson Gregors and her peers drove 14 hours to attend SEND in Dallas.

Gregors and 12 others started Full Accord Ministry (FAM) to serve their fellow students on campus with authentic family relationships. They attended the SEND Conference to take leadership tips and engagement tactics home to students at GCSU in Milledgeville, Ga.

“I was especially looking forward to what Kathy Litton had to say about women in mission,” she said. “She has incredible insight and hearing her breakout talk was inspiring. It was so great to hear such strong truth spoken over discipleship. It revolutionized how I’m going to approach my small group when I get back to school in the fall.”

“It’s so encouraging to see thousands of people at an event focused on helping believers take Jesus to the people around them as an everyday lifestyle,” said Kevin Ezell, NAMB’s president. “I am thrilled as well to see such a young, diverse group. So many pastors worked hard to bring their people. The conference is for them, so it is great to see so many participate.”

Every video, social media post, breakout and main session was designed to share messages that moved people toward their next missional opportunity.

“It’s exhilarating to see local churches taking mission seriously,” Platt said. “And that’s what this conference is all about: Men and women from churches in all 50 states and Canada—and a few other countries, as well—considering how God has sent them right where they live for the spread of the Gospel and contemplating where God might lead them around the world to people who’ve never heard of the gospel.

“It’s an awesome sight,” he said, “to see thousands of people at a conference representing thousands of churches in the SBC and beyond who together are saying that we want to spend our lives making disciples from our neighbors to the nations.”