LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–During an Oct. 20 chapel service, Jimmy Draper, president of the Nashville, Tenn.-based LifeWay Christian Resources, received Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s highest honor, the E.Y. Mullins Distinguished Denominational Service Award. Southern’s president, R. Albert Mohler Jr., said the rarely conferred award was given to Draper “in recognition for his remarkable legacy of leadership” and for his courage and conviction “at a time of great controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention when a clear theological voice was so badly needed.” As president of the SBC during a critical period in its history, Draper helped to restore an “unquestioned commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture” and to “the wholeness of faith once for all delivered to the saints.”
Described by Mohler as “a pastor to pastors,” “a faithful expositor of God’s Word,” and one who “preaches the whole counsel of God,” Draper was extolled as “a model to us all.” Mohler asserted, “There is no man in Christian leadership today for whom I have greater respect than Dr. Jimmy Draper.”
Concerning Draper’s place in Baptist history, Mohler stated, “The Lord has not left his church without leaders, but every generation calls out those whom he would raise up to be those who would lead his people.”
The E.Y. Mullins award is named for the fourth president of Southern Seminary who led the institution from 1899 until his death in 1928. Mohler depicted Mullins as a leader of monumental influence who launched this century with vision and direction firmly based in gospel teaching. According to Mohler, the “leadership as ministry” embodied by Mullins is as necessary today, if not more so, than in any time in Southern Baptist history.
The honor, the most significant recognition given by the seminary, is bestowed by Southern’s board of trustees in lieu of honorary degrees to recognize leaders who best exemplify the character and example of Mullins. On Oct. 13 the board voted unanimously to give Draper the award which read, in part, that he has “demonstrated strength of character, depth of conviction, generous spirit and integrity of heart.” Draper described himself as “surprised” and “deeply honored” by the award, but he also felt “most unworthy” of it.
Draper, who preached in the seminary chapel service, exhorted seminarians to emulate the purity, devotion, faith and servant leadership displayed by King Hezekiah in the Old Testament Book of Isaiah, chapter 38, wherein Hezekiah was faced with his own mortality. Since believers are “confronted with the reality of human mortality,” they should be “serving God right now” because life is brief and unpredictable, Draper said.
This life of obedience should be one lived with a pure and perfect heart with no split devotion, Draper said. Ministers should “preach the Word” and “live the Word,” for it is not our reputation at stake but God’s reputation. In view of the many churches and families that have been wrecked by impurity, Draper urged Christians to lead holy and uncompromising lives in the sight of God.
He concluded his sermon by reiterating that God’s will and eternal purpose should always be sought: “The safest place to be is in the center of the will of God.” According to Draper, Christians can know the will of God by obeying him.
Draper, a native Texan, served 16 years as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Euless, Texas, and was also president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1982-1984. Trustees of the former Baptist Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources) elected Draper in 1991 to serve as the board’s president.
Draper and other LifeWay representatives were on Southern’s campus as part of “LifeWay Christian Resources Emphasis Week,” a week highlighted by LifeWay employees who met with students and delivered lectures in seminars to familiarize the seminary community with the resources LifeWay offers.
Bryan Cribb is a newswriter is Southern Seminary’s office of public relations.