MEMPHIS – For the last two days, I have had the privilege of attending the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., the “mother convention” of the African-American Missionary Baptist world. NBCUSA was birthed in 1880 (which is the date also accepted by two other national conventions). This year’s session was the first annual session under the leadership of Dr. Jerry Young from Jackson, Mississippi. I have a few observations on the meeting:
First, I was VERY IMPRESSED by the quality and depth of the President’s Annual Message. Dr. Young gave a dichotomistic presentation – he began by introducing his family, his church family, paid homage to the past presidents on the platform (Dr. W.J. Shaw, Dr. Julius Scruggs). In a very classy moment, he saluted those men who were his opponents for the Presidency last year and called their efforts as “offering themselves to lead the convention.” He called out their names and it was a great moment. His annual message was a classic. He dropped nuggets while casting the first portion of his vision for the NBC. Paramount in this year’s message was the call to unity and even suggesting that those states with multiple NBC Conventions would consider pooling their efforts. He envisioned State Conventions as identifying themselves with the convention (i.e., “The Arizona National Baptist Convention”) which drew applauds of approval by the body. His call for unity was heard loud and clear and he embraced denominationalism and wants the convention to think in those terms. His call for the convention to stop “sheep shuffling” (transfer growth). Notable quote: “We’ve gone from 280 churches to 11 per 100,000 people in the last 100 years.” He suggested that we don’t have too many churches – we need more churches planted.
Secondly, the Convention had great attendance numbers. The Memphis location was ideal for those not only flying but also driving (preferred method by many). The weather was, for the most part, pleasant (except for Wednesday when it rained cats and dogs). Memphis is a tourist town – from the Lorraine Motel to Graceland to many great restaurants, etc. The local newspaper, the Memphis Commercial-Appeal reported that 50,000 persons were in town for the convention and not to mention, Memphis is an NBC city.
Third, I admired the diversity of the programming. There were preachers of all ages that participated on the program and in auxiliary settings. It was good to see a move to inclusiveness of ages and that went from the sessions even to late night service. I’m not a fan of conventions that bring in a multiplicity of guest preachers and never utilize their own – and that’s all three levels – District, State and National. In this session there were no “guest preachers” because of the depth of the bench of the NBC.
Fourth, the young preachers are back. I’ve been at a few of the sessions in the last few years, but this year it just looked like there were more younger preachers/pastors that were in attendance. As a side note, I had the opportunity to talk with a few of the younger pastors and some who even took photos with me (I guess I really am 55 now – smile). The only way the conventions will survive is when you can look at in the audience and see a kaleidescope of preachers of all ages. Otherwise, the next session could be the last session of a convention body.
Conclusion: The NBC is in the midst of a new day experience. They are envisioning an exceptional future. Congratulations to President Young and his team. The Convention will meet in Birmingham, AL January 11-14, 2016 for the Mid-Winter Board Meeting; 111th Annual Session of the National Baptist Congress of Christian Education will be in Tampa, FL June 20-24, 2016; and the 136th Annual Session will be in Kansas City, MO, September 5-9, 2016.
Let me also thank all of the pastors, preachers and laypersons who came up to me and expressed their appreciation for the Wire, the Sermon Sharing Service, the Vacant Church List, and were genuinely concerned about my health. Thanks be to God for everyone who said “I’ve been praying for you.” It touched me greatly and I’m very appreciative.