Someone asked me today, are you going to be glad when this is over. I wasn’t sure how to respond. Being president of the Pastors’ Conference has been one of the great adventures of my life. When Todd and I sat in the green room last year ready to be introduced, I was excited and terrified. Seeing it all come together has been amazing. One the other hand, normalcy will be welcome.
We’ve made mistakes along the way, of course. And we have seen so much of the hand of God. I have been reflecting, in those brief moments when I wasn’t answering a question, ordering something, dealing with a logistical issue, or making some other plan, on what has gone right this year. I’d like to mention a few of these things.
It is dangerous because as I name names I will undoubtedly leave someone out. I would guess that there has never been a Pastors’ Conference in which more people played a crucial role than this one. Since my church didn’t have the resources that the other presidents’ churches have had, we’ve had to farm out the work, enlist a team, share the load. It has worked well. But I will leave someone out and I apologize to that person in advance.
I will likely write in another post about the Caskey Center and their partnership. Ed Stetzer putting us together with Dr. Mark Tolbert and the Caskey people was a great moment. But I want to focus on our team, the work that was done, how we got the job done.
Frankly, I hope someone will take a run at this again in a couple of years. Variety might just be the spice of the Pastors’ Conference. Maybe you can learn from some of the things we did.
1. PC 2017 was a team sport
Using a band of bloggers to put a conference together – who’d a thunk that could work? But the group of friends who jointly decided to do this, whom I affectionately call “Dave’s Mighty Men,” have worked together like champs. From the beginning we have known that I would get more credit than I deserved if things went well and I’d shoulder the blame if we swirled the bowl.
But this has truly been a team effort – from start to finish. The names of my team are in the programs.
I have to give special recognition to Todd Benkert and Brent Hobbs. If we paid these guys by the hour for the work they have done we would have to find several more session sponsors to fund it. Todd organized the sessions, did the program you will see, oversaw fundraising, and countless other tasks. Brent was our tech guy, designing the background graphics you have seen on the website, social media, and which will be on the screens at the conference. That’s been a big job but it is just a small part of what he has done.
Adam Blosser is a young man (it’s actually amazing he’s able to grow a beard at his age), but he has stepped up in leadership roles, managing the preacher selection process, overseeing this site for the last several months (record-setting traffic months for SBC Voices – he and Brent remind of that often), and leading in other ways.
But all of the Mighty Men have chipped in and been a blessing. I am planning to wear them all out this weekend.
2. We managed to get a couple of great officers elected.
That’s a joke, of course. We had nothing to do with that. We didn’t nominate anyone for VP or Treasurer. After I won I contacted the newly elected officers not exactly knowing what to expect. We got two men who were excellent and effective parts of our team and have become friends.
We couldn’t have chosen better if we’d chosen at all. Paul Smith and Toby Frost are top shelf.
3. We worked with the SBC structure.
With the exception of a couple of our sponsors, we have stayed completely within the SBC family this year. Our preachers. Our sponsors. New Orleans’ Caskey Center is our partner. Southwestern hosted us for a colloquium in February. Golden Gate is printing our programs. Midwestern is bringing the Spurgeon pulpit for our preachers to stand behind. Southeastern is a major sponsor. Baptist Press has been wonderful to us. NAMB and IMB have supported us. We are please to have a role in rolling out the CSB.
But the biggest problem we had as smaller church pastors was that we did not have some of the infrastructure resources that megachurches do – which is why some said we simply could not pull this off. We found a resource that is available to all of us as Southern Baptists, the Executive Committee of the SBC. Frank Page is always supportive, but Bill Townes and the others there have gone the second and third mile to help us. Lynn Richmond never seems to get annoyed no matter how many times we bother her! We enlisted Don Magee’s help as our coordinator for the event (that was a good choice!). Kevin Jarrell is working with Brent on the tech stuff. I simply can’t say enough about how helpful, encouraging, and supportive they’ve been.
And the Southern Baptist Foundation has handled our finances this year. Honestly, I do not understand why the Pastors’ Conference would ever NOT work with the SBC Foundation. Warren Peek and his staff have been a great asset, working with Toby to keep our finances in order.
The SBC takes a lot of heat, but the people in power in Nashville, in our seminaries, and in our entities have helped us. The 2017 Pastors’ Conference is a team effort – not just our team of blustery blogging buddies, but the administration and entities of the SBC have been amazingly helpful.
Working with them has been a delight.
4. We went simple.
It amused me every time I mentioned to people that we were going to forgo the fog machines and light shows this year during the worship. I have heard nothing but one amen after another on that. People seem to want simple, deep worship and the exposition of God’s word. Laser light shows have lost their appeal. Just give us God and his word.
One of the most encouraging things we did (and most difficult) was our national preacher search. It was hard to narrow down the field to the final 12 preachers because we had so many qualified and capable expositors of God’s word. The churches of the SBC are being well-served by preachers delivering text-driven messages on a weekly basis. We could have done three of these conferences with the men on our final selection list.
I believe you are going to be blessed in Phoenix. Singing. Preaching. Simple worship.
5. We stuck to the vision.
I blogged this idea – a PC with average SBC pastors preaching through a book of the Bible – back in 2011. Todd’s brilliant nominating speech made it clear that our candidacy was about the agenda not about me.
After we got elected we had a lot of people who wanted to come alongside us to help us, hearts in the right place. But they didn’t understand or share our vision, our idea. We held the line, believing we could find 12 great preachers in average SBC churches.
The name-recognition factor will be down this year, but there will be no slippage in the quality of the preaching. These men can bring it! I have heard them. Each one is going to stand behind the pulpit to make God’s word plain.
We stuck to the vision God gave us and I think, I hope, I pray it is working.
I am in Colorado now. I’m driving because I had too much stuff to haul to fly. Tomorrow to New Mexico then on to Phoenix on Thursday. (I have no idea when Adam will post this – it’s Tuesday night now). I have a couple of tasks to complete but things are humming. We are ready to go.
Look forward to seeing you!