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FIRST-PERSON: Thank you, Southern Baptists

John and Sharon Yeats. Photo by Adam Covington.

For 25 years, Team Yeats (Sharon and I) sat at the Recording Secretary’s desk to record the proceedings of the Southern Baptist Annual Meeting. We both agree, it’s been an honor to serve and to work with some of Southern Baptists’ finest servants.

John Yeats

One thing the Recording Secretary does is relate to those people at the executive committee who do the behind-the-scenes work of publication preparation, logistical support, communications, and graphic design. As a matter of fact, both SBC technical secretaries are privileged to serve with these brothers and sisters in Christ who see their work as a calling more than a job. They serve the Lord by serving Southern Baptists.

One in particular, Allison Young, has carried the yeoman’s job of assistance to the Recording Secretary. We learned of Allison when she was a volunteer “page” — a freshman in college. She volunteered each year while completing her graphic arts degree. When an opening rose for work in publications at the executive committee, she stepped into that role with professional expertise. Her attitude at the beginning was to be a humble servant leader of the Lord, and the He has prospered her way. We are very grateful for her and her colleagues.

As we look over our shoulders to see the faces of the senior leadership of the SBC Executive Committee, it is easy for us to recognize how they have contributed to our lives. It made no difference what their role was (CEO, CFO, vice president, general counsel, or ethnic fellowship leader); they all contributed to our lives in a significant way. They certainly helped us see things from a broader perspective than our immediate context.

Although they were short-termers (serving a maximum of two years), every SBC president (13 of them) became a respected colleague to us. We did our best to encourage them by interceding for them and their families and by serving them on the platform. We have watched each of the SBC entity leaders – presidents of the  International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, six seminaries, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and the Executive Committee. With rare exception, they have become visionary colleagues who have the gospel mission always in the forefront of their minds.

We have watched the faces of the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention who are sent by the churches to direct the ways of the Convention through the trustee process. Some are desirous of a public platform for whatever their personal issue is, but most messengers want to see the Convention succeed.

They listen to the reports and are honored to be part of something so big and so grand for the glory of the Lord. They vote for allocation of the collective resources of the SBC. They take stands on issues with a vision of biblical clarity and exhibiting a Christian worldview that shines the light of truth into the darkness of the world. The messengers understand the difficulty the president and the parliamentarians have in mitigating such a large group of people toward good decisions that enable the whole to flourish.

Most of the time, we have been a people who are steadfast in our convictions, respectful of one another, and focused on the mission. From my perspective, we seem to have jumped off the rails with our trust in the trustee system. Dictating from the floor the internal work of the trustees is a dangerous precedent. I hope a correction in our processes takes place or we could lose our trustee system and create an internal connectionism that collapses the most formidable, multi-generational mission endeavor in Christian history.

We must elect good trustees (pastors and laypersons) who are from local churches that are committed to the Cooperative Program and the vision of collectively reaching the nations with the gospel. Then, we must reclaim our trust in the trustees to fulfill their role.

As I shared with the messengers in Anaheim, we must recapture a heart of “foot-washing,” humbly serving one another, and reclaim an attitude of holiness, practicing the presence and power of the Lord our God. That testimony will speak volumes to a culture looking for answers to the complexity of moral issues our culture faces.

Pray for the SBC and its newly elected leaders. The new SBC president, Dr. Bart Barber, is not a megachurch pastor. He doesn’t have an entourage encircling him to manage his priorities. Pray for his church in Farmersville, Tex. Pray for the new SBC recording secretary, Nathan Finn, as he comes up to speed on the logistics of his role and becomes a stabilizing influencer on the Executive Committee.

During our tenure of service, your intercession for the Yeats has been invaluable. In 2014-2016, Sharon’s confrontation with internal melanoma was a devastating experience that left her with stage 4 cancer. Your intercession for us during that time was incredible. Since those days, we have rejoiced with each “no evidence found” scan. We are indebted to Southern Baptists’ care and prayer for her and our family.

Over the course of years, with each new role the Lord called us to do in state mission work (Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Missouri), we experienced the result of the faithful intercession of God’s family called Southern Baptists. Thank you for allowing us to serve you.

    About the Author

  • John Yeats