Tuesday, June 19, 2012

SBC 2012 Day 1

I find myself tonight in the Big Easy, New Orleans, with thousands of Southern Baptists gathered for our annual convention. I first came to this city in 2001 for the SBC. A lot has happened in NOLA since then, namely the devastating Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In my first trip back since 2001, I can honestly say that NOLA has rebounded well. Downtown looks much the same as it did back then, for better and for worse. I miss having my family with me this week. In 15 consecutive years of attending the SBC, I can count on one hand the times they have not joined me, but with things that have happened in our family in the last few weeks, Donia felt it best to stay close to home this week.

I took off today from GSO, went through CLT, and finally arrived in NOLA. After a very long airport shuttle ride, I arrived at my hotel, where my dear brother Dennis Conner was waiting for me in the lobby. Coming to the counter to check in, the gentleman at the desk (a Greensboro native) began to tell me that there was a mixup with Expedia reservations, and that they were overbooked so I would have to go to another hotel outside of town. When I began to politely but pointedly explain that this was unacceptable, the guy started cracking up and said to Dennis, "I'm sorry, I just can't do this." Dennis had put him up to the gag, and we all had a good laugh, and I checked into a very comfortable room.

Dennis and his wife Cindy and I headed over to Mother's Restaurant for dinner, where I enjoyed a "Ralph" sandwich (a po'boy with ham, roast beef, and a delightful substance that Mother's calls "debris," with a cup of File Gumbo on the side. It was de-lish!

After dinner, I made the rounds at the Exhibit Hall, where I stopped in at the booth of my alma mater, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, the IMB (where I reconnected with dear friend Greg Queen), and Seminary Extension, where Dr. Randy Williams and I shared some thoughts about the state of the program in our Association and nationwide.

I joined Clint Pressley (pastor of Hickory Grove in CLT) and his wife for the final session of the Pastor's Conference, where Fred Luter brought a very exciting message on the power of the Gospel from Romans 1:16. Fred asked, "What is it going to take to change the world we live in? What did it take to change you? Somewhere along the way, you heard the Gospel, and the Gospel is what's going to change our world." Fred is a preaching machine, and I am very excited to cast my vote for him to become the first African-American president of the SBC. Our denomination has come a long way since its founding in 1845, and the election of Fred Luter is a great demonstration of that.

Following the Pastors' Conference tonight, I attended the 9 Marks at 9 session, where Mark Dever facilitated a panel with David Platt, Zane Pratt, and Tom Elliff about reaching the unreached, unengaged peoples of the world. It was very exciting to hear all the panelists talk about the value of long-term commitments to unreached people group adoptions. Dr. Elliff was crystal clear as he insisted that the best thing pastors can do to engage their churches in the global mission of God is expository preaching that clarifies the gospel in the hearts and minds of our members. I walked out feeling very encouraged about the progress that IBC is making in this direction.

After a very long walk back to my hotel (made longer by a few wrong turns), I am settled in for the night, anxious to arise early in the morning for the first business session of the Convention. I will be posting my usual sarcastic commentary on Twitter at @russreaves, but you will be better informed to follow the hashtags #sbc12 and #sbc2012 on Twitter.

Looking forward to a great week here in NOLA. Very proud and excited to be a Southern Baptist, and to take part in this annual convention. Thankful for the saints at IBC for sending me as their messenger, and looking forward to coming back with lots of good things to share!

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