Odessa was chosen by the messengers of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention three years ago to be the host city for the annual meeting of the churches. The SBTC has been to Amarillo and Lubbock twice each but never to Odessa. First Baptist Church and Pastor Byron McWilliams were gracious enough to extend an invitation for us to use their facilities. About every five years the convention is held in a West Texas city. We want to encourage the churches of West Texas. By having a convention out west it draws us all closer together.
As you know, tragedy struck Odessa on August 31. A crazed gunman opened fire on a state trooper starting a rampage that left innocent people in his wake. Lives were taken, people were injured and a community was scarred by the demonic action of an evil man. El Paso had just experienced a similar incident.
There is only one cure for the type of violence that has become so prevalent in our society. Jesus Christ being Lord in a person’s life will produce the fruit of righteousness. The theme of this year’s annual meeting–“Who’s Your One?”–focuses on reaching people for Jesus as the hope we can offer a fallen world. There are all types of ills that plague our culture but the power of the gospel can overcome them. While I am looking for Jesus to come today, there is nothing in my Bible that says a spiritual awakening cannot happen. I am praying for a fresh breath of God’s Spirit to fall on the people of God. With a new holy boldness we can proclaim the answer to tormented hearts. When Jesus comes in, he will change hatred to holiness. This is the answer.
There is a second way to curtail hurtful acts. When God’s people are unapologetically salt and light in a decaying dark generation, societal norms can change. It is more than a contrast of ideas. The Bible offers a way for people to live in peace with one another. I am not a post-millennialist but I do believe that we can see the neighborhoods, cities, states and our nation impacted by the power of biblical truth. Until Jesus returns Satan will be at work. We can combat him with the gospel, the scriptures and a life given over to the Savior (Revelation 12:11).
I want you to come to Odessa. We will mourn together. We will rejoice together. We will exalt the name of Jesus. It is going to be a tremendous gathering of God’s people. You will not want to miss it. We start with a Look Like Heaven symposium on Monday afternoon. The first session on Monday evening has an added prayer time for El Paso and Odessa. SBTC President Juan Sanchez will bring a message from 2 Corinthians 4. Special prayer for our Southern Baptist International Mission Board missionaries will be offered. IMB President Paul Chitwood will preach a challenging word. On Tuesday morning a panel discussion featuring the theme of Imago Dei has been added recently to our program. This teaching is the foundation of our treatment of humankind. Racial, ethnic and other differences fade in the light of the fact we are all created in God’s image. Southwestern Seminary President Adam Greenway closes out the morning session. Other great preachers, music and breakouts make the trip to Odessa worthwhile.
If for no other reason, I encourage you to come to be with God’s people known as the SBTC. We need each other. God will use this time in your life. See you in Odessa!