on Thursday, August 25, 2022

When Southern Baptists say “annual meeting,” what they mean is “family reunion.”

Willie McLaurin, interim president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, told the crowd gathered at Leavell Chapel on the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College campus that the June 11-14, 2023 annual meeting in New Orleans would be “a huge family reunion.”

Pastors, associational leaders, and church members met at NOBTS for the SBC 23 Kickoff event, Aug. 22, an event highlighting fellowship and volunteer opportunities expected at next year’s annual meeting.

Fred Luter, former SBC president and pastor of New Orleans’ Franklin Ave. Baptist Church, echoed McLaurin’s sentiment by urging church leaders to encourage their members to attend. Luter said annual meeting attendees would hear reports from the entities their congregations support through the Cooperative Program such as the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, and the seminaries.

“You are part of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Luter said. “You should want to see the national convention in action.”

McLaurin urged Southern Baptists to volunteer by visiting https://sbcannualmeeting.net/volunteer/. A guide for planning a visit to New Orleans is available at https://nobts-visitnola.com/ with information on restaurants, family fun activities, and mission service projects.

Luter gave another reason church members should attend the annual meeting.

“Most importantly, you will meet some of the best people you’ll ever meet,” Luter said. “This is your SBC family.”


Jamie Dew, NOBTS and Leavell College president, welcomed event participants and said the seminary is “thrilled” that the annual meeting will be held in NOBTS and Leavell College’s home city where students are actively sharing the gospel.

“[New Orleans] is a place that needs the gospel, but it is also a place that can prepare people to give out the gospel,” Dew said. “It is both the mission field and the mission force. I’m excited to show that to Southern Baptists.”

Dew pointed to the variety of active ministries in the city including, urban, evangelistic, medical, and other mercy ministries. Dew explained that New Orleans is a “beachhead” for God’s kingdom and a strategic mission field where God is at work.  

Jay Adkins, director of the Local Encouragement Team and pastor of New Orleans area Westwego Baptist Church, looked back to the impact Southern Baptists made through an unprecedented disaster relief initiative following Hurricane Katrina, 2005, and the doors it opened for the gospel. Adkins said he prays next year’s Crossover event, the pre-convention evangelism initiative, will do the same.

“I pray for a fertile field here … for the gospel witness to be a lighthouse all over this place,” Adkins said.

David Dickard, president of the 2023 Pastors’ Conference, asked listeners to pray, come and give to the pastors’ conference. Dickard noted the importance of the Pastors’ conference and announced an initiative to endow the conference and “encourage those for generations to come.”

“As Southern Baptists, we believe in missions, we believe in evangelism, and we believe in the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Dickard said.

Bart Barber, SBC president, announced next year’s theme for the convention of “Serving the Lord; Serving Others.” Barber urged listeners to sign up to volunteer.

“I think God has something remarkable in mind for next year in New Orleans,” Barber said.


McLaurin recounted that he made sure his seven-year-old daughter was present for the historic moment in New Orleans, 2012, when Fred Luter was elected president, the first African American to hold the position. McLaurin said tears came to his eyes as he sat on the second row of the convention floor.

“They were tears of joy,” McLaurin explained.

While his election was historic, Luter said running unopposed was “unbelievable” and helped make his election the third most significant event of his life behind coming to faith in Christ and marrying his wife Elizabeth. 

Adkins reminded listeners of another historic moment when in 1917, meeting in New Orleans, Southern Baptists voted to found the seminary.  

In interview, Adkins said he senses a fresh feeling of cooperation and excitement among Southern Baptists.

“We are in the same foxhole together,” Adkins said. “For church members, it doesn’t need to be about battles anymore. It needs to be about the glory of God, sending missionaries, cooperation, and the things we can do together that we can’t do by ourselves.”