For the first time, the annual meeting of the Grapevine-based Southern Baptists of Texas Convention will be held in Odessa Oct. 28-29 with a total of attendance of more than 1,000 people from around the state expected.
The Odessa American reports First Baptist Church at 709 N. Lee Ave. will be the host church and the new Marriott Hotel & Conference Center at 305 E. Fifth St. the meeting's official hotel.
First Baptist Senior Pastor Byron McWilliams said the event requires "a ton of planning to make sure everything is ready for such a large number messengers (delegates) and church staff to descend upon Odessa and have a great place to gather.
"Our choir and orchestra will provide music on Monday night," McWilliams said. "We're only able to do this because of the new building we built five years ago. We couldn't have done it in our old sanctuary. Our new facilities are what makes this happen.
"We are very thankful that we can be the host church and we're looking forward to a great time, not only for business meetings but also a time to celebrate what God is doing across the State of Texas and be a part of that."
Among the business to be transacted is the election of 2019-20 officers with a successor to SBTC President Juan Sanchez to be chosen.
The Rev. Sanchez, pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, said in a telephone interview that the meeting's theme is Second Corinthians 4:5, which says, "For what we preach is not ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake."
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"Every single person can reach out to at least one person," Sanchez said. "Unlike denominations that are structured from the top down, we Southern Baptists are grassroots with the messengers coming together to give directions on doctrine and practices for the purpose of advancing the mission of the Gospel."
Noting that the SBCT has only been in existence since 1998, he said over 2,700 Texas churches have affiliated with it.
Last year's annual meeting was attended by more than 1,300 people, including 1,027 messengers, at the Kingwood campus of the Second Baptist Church of Houston, the convention reported.
Sanchez said most Texas Southern Baptist congregations are aligned with either the SBTC or the Dallas-based Baptist General Convention of Texas, or "Texas Baptists," which dates its origin to 1853 and reports the cooperation of 5,700 churches.
"We are a confessional fellowship and we hold the Bible to be God's word without error," he said.
The event will start here with discussions from noon to 4 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 28, by the Revs. Gary Smith and Jason Paredes of Arlington and Randal Lyle of Fort Worth about building bridges, removing barriers and making a church "look more like Heaven" by reflecting the demographics of the community it is in, according to the agenda.
The president's message at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 28 by the Rev. Sanchez will precede a sermon by the Rev. Paul Chitwood, president of the Richmond, Virginia-based International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Beginning at 9 a.m. Oct. 29, the convention sermon by the Rev. Andrew Herbert of Amarillo will be followed by a guest sermon by Adam Greenway, who at 41 became the youngest president in the history of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth with his February appointment.
The Oct. 29 afternoon session will feature Biblical expositions by the Revs. Charles Lee of Austin and Caleb Turner of Mesquite and Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Director Jim Richards, who has guided the organization since its beginning.