Sunday, after the services at Calvary, Cheryl and I are flying to Phoenix to attend this year’s Southern Baptist Convention. It's been 25 years since I attended my very first SBC in Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve only missed three such meeting in the last 25 years. I still remember that first convention very well. I was 22. I was the pastor of the Bethel Baptist Church in Dora, Alabama. The convention was in the midst of an important theological controversy and I was excited about attending my first one. If memory serves, somewhere around 40,000 people attended that convention, the second largest crowd in SBC history. The year before nearly 50,000 had attended in Dallas and that convention had been front page news across America detailing the intense conflict in America’s largest denomination.
I’ll never forget that week. I was mesmerized as a young pastor. I listened to Charles Stanley, Adrian Rogers, Jerry Vines, and other great Baptist preachers who were my heroes. I spent some time with Pastor Anderson who began a lifelong tutorial with me about how to “do the convention”.
What makes the memory more intriguing to me is that the Sunday before, Pastor Bill Anderson had invited me to preach at Calvary. Pastor was attending the convention also and as some do he had gone up earlier for some of the preliminary meetings. He invited a young kid, just out of college to come home and preach at this great church. I was overwhelmed. I still remember what I preached on, Luke 13:23-30.
So this weekend marks the 25th anniversary of the very first time that I preached on a Sunday morning at Calvary, and the 25th anniversary of my very first Southern Baptist Convention. Those are both very sweet memories and 25 years later no one could be more thankful.