By Irene A. Harkleroad

Mary Jo Courtnay and Aaron Petre spent June 12-14 at the Phoenix Convention Center moving from meeting to message to praise. It was a lot to absorb for first-time messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“I expected the annual meeting to be all about SBC business,” said Courtnay. “I was surprised by the worship and preaching.”

Attending the convention was an educational experience for Courtnay. “I understand more about the Southern Baptist Convention now, particularly the overall process and how resolutions are developed,” said Courtnay.

As a missionary herself, Courtnay resonated with the missions-orientation of the convention. “As a missionary, the International Mission Board commissioning service on Tuesday was one of my favorite moments. It’s always a privilege to attend one (of these services),” said Courtnay.

The President’s address delivered by Steve Gaines impressed Courtnay, who said, “I really needed to hear that.”

There was an important fringe benefit for Courtnay, who said, “I had the opportunity to catch up with friends and supporters.”

Courtnay served as an IMB Journeyman to Southeast Asia. She is now a North American Mission Board Mission Service Corps missionary with the collegiate ministry at Church on Mill in Tempe.

As an Arizona State University campus missionary, she leads a team that reaches some of the 13,000 international students. As a Mission Service Corps missionary, she raises her own support.

Aaron Petre, worship and youth pastor at 22nd Street Baptist Church, Tucson, attended both the Pastors’ Conference and the annual meeting of the SBC. “As a pastor,” said Petre, “it was very educational.”

Petre also commented, “As an extrovert, it was a great opportunity to make connections with other pastors and (church) staff from Arizona.”

Attending the convention was informative and enlightening for Petre.

“I learned a lot about the business of the convention, how motions are made, discussed and voted on. I enjoyed the presentations and reports, especially the ones on the ERLC (Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission), IMB and NAMB.”

The functioning of the sessions in progress impressed Petre, who said, “It was interesting to watch the parliamentary procedure on that scale.”

Petre, like Courtnay, was moved by the presentation of David Platt, president of the IMB, and the commissioning service for new missionaries.

“Thousands of us got to pray together for those missionaries,” he said. “It was very emotional.”

As a worship minister at his church, Petre was impressed by the music and worship moments at the convention.

“I really liked how each session had a slightly different style of music,” he said. “It was fresh and exciting.”

Reflecting on his experience of the several days as a whole, Petre said, “One big take-away was a reminder that as pastors we really need to lean on God.”

Sometimes people may think that they can handle a situation on their own, said Petre, “but we really can’t. We have to go to God and ask Him to handle that situation. Even if we feel like we handled it, it was really Him.”

Petre seems hooked on full participation in all that happens at the Pastors’ Conference and SBC annual meeting.

“I’m glad I went for both conferences. I had a lot of friends that went for one or the other, or for one day. They missed a lot,” said Petre.

“When you go, you need to be in the sessions. You need to know what they’re talking about. You have to be on your toes — to pay attention. Things happen when you don’t expect them. You don’t want to miss something fun, dramatic or just really good,” urged Petre.

Let Aaron Petre sum it up for you in his own words, posted on his Facebook page: “My first SBC Pastors Conference and Annual Meeting were a blast! So proud to be a part of this amazing group of believers.”