After an early morning and a very long day of walking, meeting, talking, walking, eating, walking, talking, eating, listening, voting, walking (get the picture?) I’m finally back in the hotel room. I am tired, but I do have to admit that I really love being here this week. I grew up coming with my parents to the “the convention.” My family friends were and are pastors. We talk a lot during the year by phone, Facebook, Twitter and text about the joys and burdens of ministry. However, there is something very encouraging and energizing about sitting across a table from an old friend and seeing what God is doing in their life, their family and their ministry. For a people person like myself there really are very few things that are better than spending a day meeting and talking with many people that you’ve just met or have known for years. So, needless to say, it’s been a good day.
Since I’ve got a fairly early meeting with some new friends tomorrow let me just share some simple, personal observations. These are not in any particular order or meant to be anything more than that – simple, personal observations.
* First, I am so very proud to have been in the room to see my good friend Grant Ethridge elected as President of the 2012 SBC Pastors’ Conference. I met Grant at the very first Adrian Rogers’ Pastors Training Institute. We spent a couple of days sitting next to each other and ever since then I have had great respect and admiration for this gifted and godly pastor. I look forward to his ministry to Southern Baptist pastors in the coming year.
Also, I sat in several classes, and often ate lunch at MABTS, with Archie Mason who was elected as the 1st Vice-President of the 2012 SBC Pators’ Conference. Archie is the real deal as well. A humble, gifted leader with a real heart for evangelism and missions, I believe that he will be a real encouragement to SBC pastors over this next year.
* Many have talked about and given their “pre-flections” regarding the attendance at this year’s convention. First, while I don’t know what the official count is as of yet, the few minutes that I spent in the Pastors’ Conference to vote showed what I thought was a very respectable attendance. Of course, others that I have talked to today – many of whom been supportive of this year’s Pastors’ Conference vision and line-up – shared that they thought the attendance was way down. Who knows? I’m sure that we’ll find out soon, if not tomorrow. I do know that when I left the convention center late this evening the registration total had barely reached 3,800 messengers. While I’m sure that some will register tomorrow morning, I believe that it will be a very high hill to climb for this year’s attendance to get much over 5,000 messengers. I could be wrong, but if that is the case this will be by far the lowest attended annual meeting in many decades. (For comparison, the last time the convention was in Phoenix there were well over 7,000 registered messengers.) Not sure what all that means except that a lot of pastors and people decided – for one reason or another – not to come.
* On a personal note, I had several opportunities to shake hands, hug and talk with some very close friends and mentors who have disagreed or expressed concern with some of the articles I have written which have been published in various state papers and on Baptist Press in recent months. While we may disagree about the decisions and direction of our denomination there is still a real friendship and a genuine love that we have for each other that I do not take for granted. For that, I’m very thankful.
Well, that’s it for tonight. As I mentioned, I’ve got an early morning and I’m sure there’s another very long day of walking, talking, voting, greeting and meeting ahead for me tomorrow. Good night from Phoenix where it is 11:15 pm and currently 90 degrees outside – but as they say, “at least it’s a dry heat.”