Focused on the theme “Together on Mission,” a crowd of nearly 10,000 Southern Baptists gathered Sunday evening (June 13) in Nashville for the opening session of the SEND Conference.
Christian musicians that included Michael W. Smith, CeCe Winans and Crowder joined pastor Tony Evans and Southern Baptist mission board leaders Kevin Ezell and Paul Chitwood in urging those in attendance to overcome their divisions, politics and struggles to take the gospel to the world.
The two-day SEND Conference, held at the Music City Center, will culminate Monday night (June 14) with the International Mission Board’s Sending Celebration.
During his message, Evans challenged Southern Baptists to spend less time on issues they disagree on and more effort on making disciples, baptizing believers and teaching God’s word.
‘Did you score?’
“A SEND conference is like a huddle in a football game,” said Evans, pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas. “This is a great huddle, but after your SEND conference is over, you’re going to have to break huddle. Now, the question is did you score or did you just have a nice, private gathering?”
Evans said, “One of the theological, sociological, political and cultural reasons for the chaos we’re now experiencing” is that God wants to wake the church up.
Referencing racial divisions, he said one of the reasons for racial issues among Christians is that “far too many whites are more white than Christian” and “far too many blacks are more black than Christian.”
But, he said, God is never in favor of “color blindness.” “Let’s get that straight,” he said. “People say I’m colorblind. God is not color blind if you read Revelation.”
John saw “people from every nation, every tribe, every tongue,” Evans noted. “He says whatever they were here is the same thing there,” he said. “God is not colorblind, but neither is He blinded by color. He never wants your humanity to trump your Christian commitment.”
And referencing politics, Evans said Christians should never allow the politics of men to divide the church of Jesus Christ.
“God doesn’t ride the back of donkeys or elephants. … God stands above this,” said Evans, whose message at one point compelled a man in the crowd to stand up and nominate Evans for Southern Baptist Convention president. Evans humorously declined the nomination.
‘Only one subject’
He also noted, “There is only one subject in the Bible, only one, the glory of God through the advancement of His Kingdom. Everything ties to that.”
Following Evans’ message, Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board, and Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, spoke about unity and the importance of working together to make an impact for the Kingdom.
“It’s about those beautiful feet that are taking the gospel to the nations and we praise the Lord for everyone who is out there on the front lines near and far who are serving,” Chitwood said. “We know that the mission that we’re in together is really founded upon our prayers.
“Together,” they agreed, Southern Baptists can take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Prior to the start of the conference, a crowd of some 1,200 attendees prayed together in the lead-up to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting. Robby Gallaty, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee, led the prayer time.
Breaking into groups
On June 14, the SEND Conference continued with tracks for pastors, women, children, students and young adults. The Pastors Track focused on unity in the Spirit.
Preaching from Revelation 22, Gregg Matte, senior pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church, reminded his audience that when the Spirit and the Church are united and working together, “it’s powerful.”
So is unity in the Spirit between churches, said Jimmy Scroggins, lead pastor of Family Church, West Palm Beach, Florida, who served as the host for the morning.
Miguel Nuñez — pastor for preaching and vision at Iglesia Bautista Internacional and president of Ministerios Integridad & Sabiduría in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic — said communion with God is vital to the mission.
That’s what Jesus prayed for in John 17 — for the disciples to be one, Nuñez said.
“If we’re going to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work, we must surrender to Him,” Nuñez said.
Remembering the hope of heaven
Hershael York — senior pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church, Frankfort, Kentucky, and dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky — spoke on Psalm 44, noting how life can feel out of control and God can feel far away.
But God will keep believers until the day they are completely whole and united in heaven, York said. They can count on that as they press into God and His work, even if they don’t understand what He’s doing.
Preaching from Ephesians 4, Kevin Smith, executive director of Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, focused on how working together for the gospel takes effort — and help from the Holy Spirit.
Vance Pitman, pastor of Hope Church, Las Vegas, Nevada, began his message with a word of “discouragement,” noting that all churches are going to die. The good news, he said, is that “the kingdom of God is alive and well.”
David Jeremiah, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church, El Cajon, California, ended the afternoon session, advising younger pastors to “take a page out of the Billy Graham Book and preach the gospel like never before.”
Pastors elected new officers on Monday afternoon for the 2022 SBC Pastors’ conference.
Matt Henslee, senior pastor of Mayhill Baptist Church, Mayhill, New Mexico, was elected president of the Pastors’ Conference. Cam Triggs, pastor of Grace Alive Church, Orlando, Florida, was elected vice president and Sam Greer, pastor of Red Bank Baptist Church, Chattanooga, Tennessee, was elected treasurer.
The 2022 Pastors Conference will precede the SBC Annual Meeting to be held in Anaheim, California.