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Exhibit hall to underscore SBC missions & ministries
By Art Toalston
     ATLANTA (BP)--To call it an exhibit hall likely won't do justice to the learning opportunities it will offer during the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.The exhibit hall's features will range from a firsthand introduction to the upcoming 75th anniversary of the convention's Cooperative Program to a missions-oriented chance to hit a virtual baseball, to meet a range of missionaries or even to have one's cholesterol and blood pressure checked.The exhibit hall will be open during the SBC's Tuesday and Wednesday sessions, June 15-16, as well as Monday, June 14. The daily hours will be 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
     Summaries of various SBC agencies' booths follow:

-- Executive Committee: "Partners in the Harvest," the 75th anniversary emphasis for the Cooperative Program, will be highlighted. The Cooperative Program is the unified missions-and-ministry giving channel of state Baptist conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention, all of whom will be involved in the year-2000 celebration of the CP's founding in 1925. The "Partners in the Harvest" thrust includes goals of 1 million baptisms nationally and internationally in 2000 and $750 million in CP and other missions gifts through local Baptist churches.
The Executive Committee booth also will feature computer stations at which visitors can explore the SBC's new Internet site, sbc.net. Copies of SBC Life, the journal of the Executive Committee, will be available, along with various printed resources about the SBC.
-- North American Mission Board: A baseball diamond, bleachers and even a virtual-reality batting cage for guests under the theme "His Harvest Field of Dreams" will be among the features. Pastors will have an opportunity to do a sports-style interview with a home missionary that will be placed at the end of a pre-produced videotape about the NAMB and its ministries. Each participant also will receive a commemorative baseball with a NAMB logo that can be signed by the missionary.

     The batting cage will allow participants to stand in front of a 50-inch TV screen showing a pitcher throwing a "virtual baseball." Sensors above the batter determine the result of the batter's swing and depicts their strike, hit or home run on the screen. Information about NAMB's major priorities in the areas of church planting, evangelism and mobilization will be shown in the "outfield."
     The exhibit also will feature how media is used by churches and NAMB to share the gospel, start churches and mobilize Christians. The agency's broadcast communications group will provide customized radio commercials for churches.NAMB staff will be available throughout the exhibit to answer questions and assist participants in learning how they and their church can become "on mission" with God in his task of reconciling the world to himself through Jesus Christ.

-- International Mission Board: Visitors will have an opportunity to interact with missionaries in settings that reflect the world's various cultures, relaying accounts about how God is moving among the world's lost billions.
Organized around the theme, "The Unfinished Task: Loving the Lost," the IMB exhibit will introduce Southern Baptists to the urgent needs for gospel proclamation among people groups all over the world. A new four-color booklet will provide a comprehensive overview of how churches of all sizes can join God in fulfilling the Great Commission overseas.
-- LifeWay Christian Resources: A range of attractions will occupy LifeWay's 27,000-square-foot exhibit, including a church bus, and sections devoted to church resources, Broadman & Holman Publishers, conference centers and on-line services, as well as a LifeWay Christian Store of almost 12,000 square feet. The bus will be a part of LifeWay's direct sales area, which also will include free portraits provided by Olan Mills.

     In the LifeWay Store, author signings will be featured Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, including Becky Freeman ("Real Magnolias"), Tim LaHaye ("Apollyon"), Jerry Vines ("Spirit Works"), The Stone Brothers ("Cord of Three Strands" CD), Beverly LaHaye and Terri Blackstock ("Seasons Under Heaven"), Calvin Miller ("Millennium Bible") Robert Jeffress ("As Time Runs Out"), Rodney Gage ("Why Your Kids Do What They Do"), Shaunti Feldhaun ("Y2K: The Millennium Bug"), Sarah Maddox & Patti Webb ("Mother's Garden of Prayer"), Paul Pressler ("A Hill on Which to Die"), Larry Burkett ("How Much is Enough?"), Richard and Henry Blackaby ("Experiencing God Day by Day"), Adrian Rogers ("The Lord is My Shepherd"), Charles Stanley ("Our Unmet Needs"), Zig Ziglar ( "Something Else to Smile About") and Steve Green ("Morning Light" CD). Wednesday Afternoon, Reggie White, professional football star, will autograph his book, "Fighting the Good Fight." Handout schedules will be available in the store, and signs will be posted for each day's schedule.
Among features in the church resources area will be displays related to the FAITH Sunday school evangelism strategy, new preschool resources, "Sunday School for a New Century" curriculum and spiritual transformation.
     Broadman & Holman publishers will offer free copies of "Experiencing The Word," the Gospel of John, with extensive notes by Henry Blackaby. New books to be introduced include "A Heart Like His" by Beth Moore; "The Man God Uses" by Henry and Tom Blackaby; "The Experience," a devotional and journal for students by Henry and Richard Blackaby; "Marriage God's Way" by Henry Brandt & Kerry Skinner. A dominant display of new products for children, featuring "The Word and Song Bible," and preschool floor puzzles that stand three feet tall will make the Broadman & Holman area easy to locate.
     Demonstrations in accessing resources through LifeWay's Internet website, exploring employment opportunities with the agency and registering for conferences at Ridgecrest (N.C.) and Glorieta (N.M.) centers also will be offered.
-- Annuity Board: In an interactive-oriented exhibit, convention-goers can stop by to log on to the board's Internet website for a daily update on their retirement account balance or run a "Retirement Forecaster" with a personalized retirement income estimate. And via live teleconferencing, visitors to the booth can be linked with an Annuity Board customer service representative in Dallas.
     Meanwhile, one-on-one contact can be made with representatives from the board's retirement, insurance and endowment areas at the booth to visit or answer questions.
The board will be giving away President O. S. Hawkins' latest book, "Rebuilding: It's Never Too Late for a New Beginning," and he will be autographing copies during the day. Convention-goers also can order free bulletin inserts to use in their churches for Adopt An Annuitant Sunday on June 27. In conjunction with LifeWay Christian Resources LeaderCare ministry, a wellness booth will offer visitors cholesterol, glucose and osteoporosis screenings as well as blood pressure checks and an overall health assessment.
-- Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission: Visitors to the booth may find themselves as guests on the nationally syndicated "For Faith & Family" radio program. Richard Land, ERLC president and program host, will be broadcasting live from the exhibit hall floor each day at 12:30 p.m. and, as he does each day with callers to the show, Land will take questions from those in the live audience.
     Show co-host Harold Harper said convention-goers can schedule a visit to the ERLC booth each afternoon to be a part of the show, which is heard across the nation as well as around the world via short wave and on the Internet at www.faithandfamily.com. Harper said he expects family ministry leader Dennis Rainey, SBC President Paige Patterson and retired Texas Judge Paul Pressler to join Land during the show's live broadcasts. The ERLC broadcast ministry is now heard on more than 500 outlets, having become one of the fastest-growing radio outreaches of its kind since its inception just over a year ago.
     The ERLC exhibit space also will feature an emphasis on the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund. Steve Nelson, director of hunger concerns for the ERLC, announced that over-sized working mockups of hunger canisters will be placed strategically around the convention floor to promote the hunger fund and to enable messengers to give their spare change to the fund.
     "The purpose of this special emphasis is encourage the practice of the spiritual discipline known as gleaning, while raising awareness of Southern Baptist hunger ministries," Nelson said. While gifts to the hunger fund are up, Nelson said the onslaught of disasters overseas and welfare reform in the United States has dramatically increased the need for Southern Baptist assistance.

-- Woman's Missionary Union: A "Welcome to WMU!" banner will greet visitors to WMU's 1,200-square-foot exhibit space featuring photographic images and interactive computer links supporting the current WMU image campaign, likewise titled, "Welcome to WMU."
Research has shown that today's woman wants to be involved in hands-on ministry as a primary outlet for her missions involvement. WMU, as well as its SBC booth, is capitalizing on that interest by actively promoting new ministry opportunities such as the Christian Women's Job Corps, Project HELP and Volunteer Connection, as well as more traditional ministry opportunities through the fully graded age-level organizations.
The "Welcome to WMU" concept is part of a total communications thrust portraying women and girls actively involved in hands-on missions as well as illustrating WMU's role as a missions catalyst, both in local church communities as well as around the world.
-- Among the SBC's six seminaries, for example, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary will debut a new institutional logo at its booth. Also featured will be writings by Dorothy Patterson, wife of seminary and SBC President Paige Patterson, and a mail-order catalog called "Cottage Industries" featuring an array of specialty handcrafted products produced by Southeastern families. The latest issues of the seminary's Olive Press and Outlook publications and the 1999-2000 academic catalog will be available.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, meanwhile, will display a larger-than-life thank you card, signed by hundreds of students, as well as administration, staff and faculty members, that reads in part: "Thank you to the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention for your generous support through the Cooperative Program."
On display in the booth also will be elements of Southern Seminary's theme for the academic year of 1999-2000: "Study, Practice, Teach," based on those key words from Ezra 7:10 and representing a biblical paradigm for seminary education and ministry. Visitors to the exhibit may view a Power Point presentation about Southern's $70 million plan to refurbish and upgrade the school's facilities and also be able to access Southern's home page on the World Wide Web.
Southwestern Seminary’s booth will highlight the school’s new Center for Leadership Development and its new $20 million Ralph M. Smith Leadership Development Complex. Visitors will enjoy a southwestern theme at the booth, with a mariachi band adding to the festive atmosphere.
New Orleans Seminary’s booth will include a presentation of the new Campus Master Plan; a celebration of the 20th anniversary of NOBTS' North Georgia Campus; and freshly roasted and ground New Orleans coffee from the French Market
-- Seminary Extension: Ivy will not cover the walls of Seminary Extension's booth, but many former and current students, as well as teachers and center directors, will be stopping by for a "homecoming type" visit.
Since Seminary Extension's classes are conducted in 490 Extension Centers across the United States, or are taken by correspondence, there is no traditional college campus for the grads and ex-students to return to. Thus the booth is a substitute place for them to stop by and visit with the Nashville-based Seminary Extension staff. Many tell how their Seminary Extension training led to additional theological study or equipped them to be better servants of God in the churches where they serve.

This year's booth will feature a large open Bible and tell passers by that Seminary Extension studies can "Enrich your knowledge of God's Word; Enrich your ministry; and Enrich your life."

James Dotson, Mark Kelly, Charles Willis, Jerilyn Armstrong, Dwayne Hastings, Teresa Dickens, Lee Weeks, Norman Miller & Leonard Hill contributed to this article.

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