Published June 4, 2009
The Georgia Baptist Convention annual session to be held at First Baptist Church in Woodstock this fall will look different from past conventions. In an exclusive interview with Christian Index editor Gerald Harris, GBC President Bucky Kennedy shares his thoughts about the meeting to be held Nov. 9-10.
The Index: Mr. President, what is the theme for this year’s annual session of the GBC?
Kennedy: “Light It Up” will be our convention theme. The idea comes from Matthew 5:16 where Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
The Index: How will this year’s convention be different from past conventions? How will you be able to compress the business, reports, and worship of the Convention into 3 or 4 hours’ less time than usually devoted to the convention sessions?
Kennedy: The convention will be different in regards to the scheduling, because we will not be meeting on Tuesday afternoon, but there will be no change in regards to content. We will still hear from various agencies, hear the report of the Executive Committee, and allow the same time as past conventions for miscellaneous business. We have been able to condense the time by using video formats for our agency reports and by going a little later on Monday evening.
On Tuesday afternoon we will be engaged in various mission projects in the Woodstock area, and I would like to think that as we go about serving others in the community, that Georgia Baptists will be in a five-hour business session – the business of personal missions involvement.
The Index: What will this change in the convention order of business say not only to Baptists, but to unbelievers in Georgia?
Kennedy: The annual session seems to serve as the window through which people view Georgia Baptists and often those who have looked through this window have gone away with a very wrong impression of who we are and what we are about. I make no apology for the convictional stands our Convention has taken in order to demonstrate that we will not compromise biblical inerrancy and authority for cultural expediency. But Georgia Baptists are at our best when we are showing our commitment to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment and I believe that when the world looks through the window of our Convention this year they will see the heart of Georgia Baptists as we unite to serve others.
The Index: I know that the Convention president has to work with the Order of Business Committee to plan the convention program. Was the Order of Business Committee receptive to your vision for the changes you suggested for the program?
Kennedy: The Order of Business Committee, under the leadership of John Kinsey, has served to provide input in many ways – two in particular. First, I sought their counsel as to whether or not something like this could be accomplished. Secondly, I got their feedback as to how we could make it all work. The committee was enthusiastic about the possibilities and we were greatly encouraged by [GBC Executive Director] Dr. [J. Robert] White’s enthusiasm and input toward the project.
The Index: What role did Dr. White play in changing a traditional kind of Convention meeting into something new and untraditional?
Kennedy: Dr. White was totally for it. He has been nothing but a tremendous encourager and leader, because Dr. White has a heart for missions and a genuine compassion for all people. There is no way we could attempt to do this type of project without the support and leadership of Dr. White. His willingness to allow and even encourage innovation has been a blessing to me.
The Index: What do you hope to accomplish by making this strategic change?
Kennedy: Change for the sake of change is reckless and very rarely effective, so the issue for me was having a convention that uses the strengths of our churches and the resources of our Convention to best exemplify Georgia Baptists. As far as our annual session is concerned, we decided to change our format to better identify with our mission. I hope that people will see what our Convention will do in Woodstock and be inspired to go back into their communities and do the same – be on mission for Christ.
The Index: Are you seeking to change the format of the convention to attract additional messengers? If your goal is to attract younger messengers will older ones feel left out?
Kennedy: My hope is that when we are finished we will not be talking about who came and who didn’t come, but about the impact we had on a community. I hope to see generations coming together for the cause of the gospel. I really do not want this to be about increasing attendance or attracting a younger crowd because all Georgia Baptists should be involved in the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
The Index: What about the program during the sessions at First Baptist Church Woodstock? Will the music be different from what we have had in recent years?
Kennedy: The music will be blended during the sessions. Tuesday evening Charles Billingsley will be in concert and Dr. White will bring the State Missions report. As Baptists, we seem to have lost our heart for celebration. I know that we are not doing all that we are capable of doing. Baptists seem to be in the cross-hairs of a lot of criticism, from those outside and inside our denomination.
I really want our folks to celebrate that we battle from a position of victory; we just need to start behaving according to the grace we have been given. My desire is that the music and songs we sing reflect the glory of Christ’s victory.
The Index: How will you measure the success of this convention?
Kennedy: I measure success by obedience and I believe that I’ve been obedient in pursuing this project. Another way to measure the success of the day will be by working to meet the mission needs presented to us and having enough volunteers to fulfill all the opportunities that have been set before us on that day.
The Index: Who has helped plan the afternoon mission projects and what will be some of the things people will be doing?
Kennedy: Doug Couch [in GBC Youth Ministries] has been the one who has worked with Craig Ormsby at First Baptist Woodstock to put into place the projects and volunteers. Doug has done a phenomenal job in a short time of helping provide service opportunities such as haircutting stations, child mentoring, landscaping, and home repair. It helps that Craig and the folks at First Woodstock have done this type of thing through their church a couple of times so that we are not reinventing the wheel so to speak.
Doug is doing a great job of coordinating the ministries of the GBC with the tasks of the day and Craig and First Baptist have been incredibly gracious and helpful. Noonday Association has also been a great contributor to what has been going on.
The Index: Since the Convention messengers are going to be working, ministering, and serving the residents of Cobb and Cherokee Counties on Tuesday afternoon, how should people dress for this convention?
Kennedy: People need to come Tuesday morning dressed for work; I’ll be wearing a T-shirt and blue jeans. The Convention will provide a box lunch for the messengers at noon on Tuesday and then each messenger will receive his/her marching orders for the afternoon service projects.
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