"I chose Dr. Ezell and Dr. Elliff because they are presidents of our mission boards, and the directors of missions need to hear from them and have a chance to fellowship with them and ask some questions, just kind of hear their hearts," Ron Davis, president of the SBCADOM, said. "I thought that was important with these guys taking the helms of these two very important parts of Kingdom work."
The meeting will begin with worship at North Phoenix Baptist Church at 11 a.m. Sunday, followed by lunch with O.S. Hawkins of GuideStone Financial Resources as the guest speaker.
At 1:30 p.m., the first afternoon session will convene with the theme "God Does Not Change" based on James 1:17. DOMs will hear from Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board; Slusher, president of LEAD Plus; and Elliff, president of the International Mission Board.
"Margaret Slusher was chosen because she has done a lot of creative things through the years," Davis, director of missions for the Greenville Baptist Association in South Carolina, told Baptist Press.
"One thing she has on her plate right now is conflict resolution and helping churches make peace and what that looks like and helping train people to do that. The other thing she's going to help us with is looking at the latest statistics and reasons for why people are leaving churches out the back door and what we can do about it."
After a brief fellowship time, the second session will begin at 4 p.m. with the theme "God Is Not Ever Surprised" based on 1 John 3:20. Hemphill, Empowering Kingdom Growth strategist for the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, will speak, followed by a business session at 4:50.
"I chose Dr. Hemphill because he is a very strong advocate for associations and believes in their future," Davis said. "We wanted him to come and speak to us and also help us see at least from his perspective what he thinks an association needs to do to claim the future that he believes is before us."
A fellowship time for directors of missions' spouses will be from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
On Monday at 8:30 a.m., the DOMs will gather for coffee and fellowship before the first breakout session at 9, followed by another fellowship time and a second breakout session opportunity. Breakout leaders will be Hemphill speaking on the future of the association, Slusher speaking on why people are leaving the church, Steve Hopkins of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio speaking on refocusing the church and Terry Sharpe from the International Mission Board.
Ted Knapp, leadership development chair for the SBCADOM, will lead a special conference for new directors of missions during the breakout time. A luncheon for new DOMs will begin at 11:45.
Davis said he met recently with a group of DOMs in which they discussed some current challenges.
"This may not be in order of importance, but one is the uncertainty of everything. Everything in our convention is in flux: Funding is changing, the relationships and partnerships seem to be changing and funding for our associations from local churches is under pressure simply because of the economic situation that is taking place," Davis said.
In a potentially positive way, associations are struggling now to create their future, he said.
"I think they have to create their future because I think now is a good time for associations to step up to the plate," Davis said. "There are so many things that the state conventions and the national convention cannot do because they are not that closely related to the churches.
"Another big challenge, though, that's for the entire convention in my opinion, is that we do not have an adequate New Testament concept of what the church really is. Our conversation was built around the fact that we've billed the church as a club and its members have a club mentality rather than it being a spiritual organism," he said. "We feel like that is one of the major issues that must be addressed, and we think associations can help address that.
"So the normal challenges, the changes, the upheaval in society, all those things are some of the major issues that we see that are out there."
Directors of missions have a unique opportunity to impact churches, Davis said, because the DOM is closest to the local churches and is able to know them well.
"He understands what's going on, the good and the bad, and has the best opportunity of anyone in the Southern Baptist Convention to affect that church in a positive manner if he so chooses," Davis said. "I think the closeness, the relationship we have with the churches, our understanding of what's going on there.
"Also I think the DOM has a great opportunity because he understands the local culture. What I do here in South Carolina may just go really well, but it may not work with somebody up in the Dakotas or New England or wherever. But the DOM there understands that culture and would know whether it would work."
Anyone who has an interest in the work of the associations is invited to the meeting in Phoenix, Davis said.
"I think it's going to be very informative. It will be a time for some good fellowship. Go on our website and register, and come join us and be a part of what I think will be a great learning experience," he said.
To register, visit www.sbcadom.net and complete the registration form.
Erin Roach is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.
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