Jon Randles popped into my office Wednesday afternoon, and he is a breath of fresh air.
Regarding the just completed Engage: Evangelizing Texas Conference, Jon said frankly, “I was disappointed” in the turnout. “We are not where we want to be yet.” I love the all-important “yet” at the end of that sentence.
Jon followed the advice of Engage speaker Jose Zayas and said, “We will brag in our weaknesses.” In other words, things didn’t go just like we had hoped, but God still showed up and we can all brag on what God does even when our own shortcomings are on display.
“Let’s get this thing better,” he said.
Total registration was 628 from more than 200 churches. Of that amount, 543 were non-BGCT staff and 85 were BGCT staff.
All of those were never in the auditorium at one time because this event stretched over three days, but that’s not as bad as it sometimes looked.
And in regard to the BGCT staff attending, Jon said, “We needed revival in our building,” as well. This is so true. Your BGCT staff members are spiritual creatures just like everyone else and, like with all church staff people, our spiritual bones can grow weary.
In regards to the overall number, Jon said, “I really misjudged it. I thought from what I heard around the state” that more people would come. But, “we’ve learned a lot through this.”
Here’s the total on the money spent to date on Radical Engage, Engage and the upcoming regional Engage XP events: $93,686. Jon suspects the final cost for the seven events will be about $120,000.
The big expense was for the Rockwall site — $32,500. Lake Pointe Church has a wonderful facility that included the large auditorium with its high quality sound system, breakout session space and special meal function areas. The cost also covered security, catered meals, janitorial support (the best I’ve seen), etc. How does this compare to convention center space? The Dallas Convention Center cost us about $65,000 in 2006, plus all kinds of add-on charges and we had to pay for an extensive sound system. Amarillo provided its civic center at no charge, but we still had to spend tens of thousands of dollars on the sound. The Lake Pointe experience was expensive, but when all of the dollars are added up it was not as expensive as what is normally entailed in using a convention center.
Regarding honorariums, the BGCT paid customary amounts for a statewide meeting, providing extra to those who spoke multiple times (averaging about $1,500). (Jerry Pipes and Norman Flowers came from NAMB at no cost to the BGCT.) The music for three sessions was provided by Shane & Shane, very popular group, and the cost was a total of $10,000. And the worship band from First Baptist Sunnyvale, led by Michael Bridges, cost $3,000.
The total spent on these events is a lot of money; no one will dispute that, especially in regard to the lower-than-anticipated attendance in Rockwall. But there was no way for Jon or anyone else to know for certain what kind of turnout we would have. A whole lot of Texas Baptists have been talking about the need to have an evangelism conference again, so that interest was expected to translate into more turnout.
But let’s not judge the value of the investment until the results are in from the regional events in February.
Not the same old conference
“We’re not trying to bring back the old conference,” Jon said. “What we’re bringing back is something new.”
It really was different. He had a number of younger speakers, as well as older ones; and the presentation styles varied. Only two speakers wore a coat and tie; and most did not use a lectern of any kind. There was no old-fashioned wooden or Plexiglas podiums to be found. Two praise bands and a wonderful choir led the worship music.
Jon made another point about Engage, one that had occurred to me, as well. “This wasn’t a gray-haired meeting,” he said. Now Jon and I both have our fair share of gray hair, so we’re not against that shade; but the Engage crowd was noticeably younger than at other Baptist gatherings.
I strongly believe there is a future for evangelism conferences, especially as they morph to speak to the changing culture. The regional conference idea also holds great promise. I’m excited about the possibilities that are ahead.