Ethridge urges students to attend Pastors’ Conference, SBC meeting

FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Grant Ethridge, president of the 2012 Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference, prays that God would send revival and transform families, churches and the world through an historic annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans, June 19-20.
Ethridge, senior pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton, Va., encouraged students and faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to attend the annual meeting and pastors’ conference during a seminary chapel service, Feb. 23. In an interview prior to chapel, he said the 2012 convention is one annual meeting that students should not miss.
“It is going to be historic for a number of reasons,” Ethridge said. He advised students to begin making plans to go to the pastors’ conference and convention, recognizing the impact that it can make in their lives.
“I want to encourage churches to send young people who are called into the ministry to the convention, because it is an investment in their lives,” Ethridge said, “and I encourage all of our seminary students to start going.”
Ethridge expressed his desire that the SBC’s Pastors’ Conference, June 17-18, will “influence a young generation of preachers” and “encourage pastors of all ages, regardless of how long they’ve been in ministry.” He hopes seminary students and pastors will leave with a renewed passion for the conference’s theme, “Changing Lives, Communities and the World.”
“My prayer,” Ethridge said, “is that pastors will leave with a burning desire to see lives changed in their communities and leave with a belief that their churches, no matter the location or size, can be used of God to change lives around the world.
“There are many things that excite me about it, but one thing that is unique is that the Southern Baptist Convention falls on Father’s Day,” he added. For this reason, the first evening of the conference will feature fathers and sons as preachers.
“It is a pastors’ conference, and pastors have to understand that our first ministry starts at home,” Ethridge said. “And it is about seeing the lives of our own children changed by the Gospel. There is no way that we’re going to see communities changed or lives changed around the world without handing our faith down to the next generation.”
Ethridge said that students should attend not only the Pastors’ Conference but also this year’s momentous SBC meeting.
“This is the first time that we have been back to New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina,” he said, “and I believe that we can make a strong, positive statement by attending this year and having a large attendance.
“Also, our good friend—and I say ‘our’ because we all love him—Dr. Fred Luter is going to be nominated as president of the convention, and if elected, he will be the first African American president of our denomination. And he is well-deserving.”
Noting that the election of an African-American president is “long overdue” in the Southern Baptist Convention, Ethridge also commended Luter for his faithful service as pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, even after Hurricane Katrina demolished his city and church in 2005.
“The thing I love about Fred is that he stayed,” Ethridge said. “So many pastors left, but Fred stayed. And he pastors and ministers right there in the neighborhood where he grew up.”
“Fred is deserving regardless of the fact that he is African American,” he added, “but we are so very grateful and thankful this will send a message to a watching world. And for that reason this meeting is historic, and it will bring unity in two ways: I believe it will bring unity in our convention because Fred is loved and respected by all, but it will also bring unity as far as the racial tension in our country is concerned.”
Last year, Luter nominated Ethridge as the 2012 Pastors’ Conference president, partly because Ethridge was the first of many pastors to contact him and offer help after Hurricane Katrina destroyed his church.
“In my humble opinion, it is therefore fitting that he serve as president of the Pastors’ Conference in the city of New Orleans, where he has proven he has a heart to encourage and help fellow servants of God,” Luter said in his nomination speech.
Ethridge also noted his excitement that the SBC Executive Committee will recommend this summer that Southern Baptists adopt a non-legal descriptor alongside the official name of the convention. Concerned with the SBC’s worldwide ministry, a special task force recommended the descriptor “Great Commission Baptists” to the Executive Committee, Feb. 20.
“I think it is brilliant,” Ethridge said. “It is who we are. It is what we do. It is biblical. … I just commend the task force and our president, Bryant Wright, for his leadership in taking that step.”

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