NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The nomination of Frank Cox, pastor of North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., for president of the Southern Baptist Convention was announced Feb. 7 by Alabama evangelist Junior Hill.
Cox is one of six candidates Southern Baptist messengers will consider. Baptist Press asked each candidate to participate in a survey of mostly standardized questions, but the questionnaire included at least one query individualized for each candidate.
Cox’s answers to the questions posed by Baptist Press follow:
1) What has God done in your life and ministry to prepare you to be president of the Southern Baptist Convention?
First and foremost, God, in His grace, allowed me to be birthed into a Southern Baptist pastor’s home. I am a third-generation Southern Baptist preacher. It was there I learned about the grace of God and salvation offered me through Jesus Christ. He saved me at 8 years of age, called me to preach at the age of 17, and I was educated by Southern Baptists for effective ministry in a Southern Baptist church.
Second, I have been allowed to be a pastor of a small, medium and large church -– all in the same congregation. I came to my present church in 1980 right out of seminary. It was a small, rural church running just over 100 in Sunday school at the time. Over the past 28 years, we have led the church through a mindset change from being a declining church to an evangelistic, growing church. In 1995, we relocated the church from a six-acre tract to a 55-acre tract. It was at this time that our church changed its name from Pleasant Hill to North Metro. Throughout the growth and relocation, along with a multi-million-dollar relocation project, we continued to keep our mission giving at 13 percent of our undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program. Throughout this process, we have stayed consistent in leading the lost to Christ and today we average between 1,500 and 1,600 in Sunday school.
Throughout the years I’ve been able to serve our Georgia Baptist Convention and Southern Baptist Convention in various ways. In Georgia I have served two terms as president of the Georgia Baptist Convention, as well as on the Executive Committee, and chairman of the Administration Committee.
In Southern Baptist life, I have served as first vice president of the convention and on the Executive Committee for nine years, where I gained a great deal of insight on how our convention operates. It was on the Executive Committee that I served as chairman of the Cooperative Program subcommittee for three years. I’ve also served as chairman of various other committees through the Executive Committee structure. I have served on the SBC Funding Study Committee and the ad hoc committee to revitalize the Cooperative Program. The last time we were in Indianapolis, I served on the Resolutions Committee. I believe in the nine years I gained experience and understanding as to the work of Southern Baptists and our structure. I believe it was through these experiences that God has prepared me to be considered for president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
2) If you are elected, what would be your priority message for Southern Baptists?
I believe we need a fresh touch from God on our convention. I will call our convention to spiritual awakening and revival. We need to seek God with all our hearts. I believe the next generation really desires to be kingdom people on mission for God. It would be my desire to see a glorious revival to fall from heaven on our lives.
Second, from our brokenness before God, we must return to a passion for evangelism and missions as our next priority. Last year, 23 percent of our Southern Baptist congregations baptized no one. I believe evangelism and missions must always be birthed out of a fresh awakening and a seeking of God in personal revival.
Third, I would champion the Cooperative Program. While president of the Georgia Baptist Convention, we held the first Cooperative Program Summit in the Southern Baptist Convention. I would love to work with our state conventions to celebrate our working together through CP to accomplish the Great Commission.
Also I believe we need to build bridges for young leaders to participate in the work of the Southern Baptist Convention. I will do my best to get young men and women involved in the life of our denomination. We need seasoned leadership, but at the same time we need to include these rising young leaders in the work of our convention. Our future depends upon it.
3) What do you believe is needed to see churches more effectively bringing people to Christ and making disciples?
I really believe we need a spiritual revival in the lives of pastors, staff, and leaders in our Southern Baptist congregations. I firmly believe everything flows from leadership. I believe our churches must make a strong commitment back to evangelism and then making disciples. We have a responsibility from Scripture to connect people to a personal relationship with God through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. That must be our priority. We must train and equip our people to grow in that new relationship with Christ. What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ? What does it mean to walk with Jesus? As they progress in their faith, we must equip them to serve through their giftedness in the church, as well as to serve in their community, workplace and neighborhoods with the desire to bring people to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.
4) Decline/plateau in membership, baptisms: What do you think the future holds for the SBC?
I am very optimistic about the future of Southern Baptists. For the first time in a long time, Southern Baptists are about to be introduced to a ten-year initiative from our North American Mission Board. I believe it has every opportunity to assist Southern Baptists in reaching our nation with the Gospel. Our state conventions, through their evangelism staffs, are buying into this initiative. They will be developing strategies for each of the state conventions. These strategies will flow to our associations and to the local churches with the desire that over the next 10 years, every person in America will have the opportunity to hear the Gospel and respond to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. I believe this is key. I’m excited about this initiative and what it will mean to our convention. We must never forget that the key to winning lost people to Jesus and bringing them into meaningful church membership is always done at the local church setting. I believe we have pastors and leaders who desire to see God do something that is God-sized. The GPS (God’s Plan for Sharing) initiative is God-sized. I believe, once in place, once implemented, it will allow Southern Baptists an opportunity to claim the future in growth, evangelism and disciple making.
5) Regenerate church membership: To what extent do you see regenerate church membership as a significant concern in the Southern Baptist Convention?
I believe it is a growing concern and rightfully so. Every church should be concerned about those on their roll who never attend. Each church knows what its like to have a “bragging membership” and then a “reality membership.” I believe that some of our greatest evangelistic fields lie within the rolls of our congregations. Every church should have initiatives that are focused on reaching out to the membership that does not attend with the hopes of sharing the Gospel or reclaiming them to their fervent walk with Jesus Christ.
6) Calvinism: Do you see any reason for non-Calvinist Southern Baptists to be concerned about a renewed emphasis on Calvinism in some Southern Baptist churches and seminaries?
This question has been posed to me in many different ways, such as one question, “Is there room in the SBC for those who hold to Reformed theology?” My answer to this issue of Calvinism is: There has always been room, so it seems, in Southern Baptist life for Calvinistic theology. There has always been an ebb and flow of Calvinism. At times it will gain strength and then it weakens. Every few generations, there seems to be a resurgence of Calvinistic theology with a healthy discussion of the sovereignty of God and the view of the responsibility of man. I believe, until Jesus comes, there will always be some form of Calvinistic theology that flows throughout the convention.
However, the only concern I have is with a new form of aggressive Calvinism that seems to be causing concerns in some of our churches today. As soon as it was known that I would be nominated, I began to receive e-mails from lay people across Southern Baptist life with concerns about this new form of aggressive Calvinism that is coming into their congregations. Evidently there are pastors accepting churches, never raising the flag that they are a Calvinist to the pastor search committee. They are called to the church and begin to teach their view and it is bringing great strife to some of our congregations. That concerns me. I feel pastors who hold to Calvinistic views ought to be up front with the congregation that is calling them, just as pastors who believe in “whosoever” ought to be up front to those congregations who hold to Reformed theology. I also believe pastor search committees must be thorough in their responsibility to investigate more, so they can have a reasonable understanding as to what their new pastor believes before they issue a call to him. There is mutual responsibility on both the pastor’s part and the congregation’s part in dealing with this issue.
With that said, some of my friends are five-point Calvinists. At times we have discussions. They do not change me. I do not change them, but we have love and respect for one another. I believe there is a place for genuine discussion and understanding in dealing with the Calvinistic theology in our convention.
7) The IMB trustee guidelines governing baptism and private prayer language in appointing missionaries: Do you think their action was needed and appropriate?
The trustees have a great responsibility to the Southern Baptist Convention for the stated objectives of the International Mission Board. The board’s main objective is presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ in order to lead individuals to a saving faith in Him and result in church-planting movements among all the peoples of the world.
The trustees have a fiduciary responsibility to see that the board’s objectives are being met in concert as to who we are as Southern Baptists. At any time issues arise that would be contrary or questionable to the doctrine and practice of Southern Baptists as stated through our Baptist Faith and Message 2000 or contrary to Holy Scripture, they must as trustees deal with these concerns. Therefore, I believe the trustees acted in line with their responsibility, and their action on the issues of baptism and private prayer language was appropriate in keeping with the doctrinal integrity as to who we are as Southern Baptists.
8) The role of the Baptist Faith and Message: What do you see as the proper role of the Baptist Faith and Message when it comes to governing SBC entities and employees?
Let me first say that I hold the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 in high regard. It is our confession of faith as Southern Baptists. I hold it dear to my soul because it shares with our convention what we believe. In regards to this question, I believe it should be considered for any policy and procedure that any group of trustees consider establishing.
With that said, I want to make this statement clear. The Baptist Faith and Message is just a confession of our faith. In no way does it address all we believe as Southern Baptists. As trustees carry out their fiduciary responsibilities, they should do so with our confession of faith in mind.
However, we must understand that the Baptist Faith and Message should never be seen as a document that covers everything. There is only one document that is sufficient and that is the Holy Scripture, nothing else. There are issues our trustees must deal with in each of their agencies that are not necessarily covered by the Baptist Faith and Message. Therefore, the document they should all turn to is Holy Scripture.
With that said, I want to remind us that we are blessed as Southern Baptists with a tremendous trustee system. Good, bad or indifferent, it has worked for us over all these years. I believe we ought to trust these godly men and women to do their jobs. If we as a convention cannot trust them to deal with issues that arise in our agencies with the counsel of the Word of God, then we as a convention have the privilege of electing new trustees. I trust them in making policies and procedures to look to the full counsel of the Word of God and consider our Baptist Faith and Message 2000. But Holy Scripture must be our maximal document.
9) Your ministry is known for bringing large numbers of people to faith in Jesus Christ. What does your church do to deepen new believers in the faith and help them become fruitful Christians themselves? How would you bring this experience in your ministry to bear on an evangelism and discipleship strategy for the SBC?
At North Metro, we follow up with new believers in several ways. First, we get them involved in a small group (SS), where they are accountable to a smaller group in our congregation. We lead them through a new believer’s class, where they learn the basics of the Christian life. We provide various classes to assist them in growth such as Survival Kit, Experiencing God and The Mind of Christ. In evangelism, we seek to do evangelism with integrity. We train our people through the Faith Evangelism series to equip them to share their faith. Through our stewardship ministry, we attempt to find ways to involve all our membership in ministry and missions through our church.
As president of the Southern Baptist Convention, I will be very supportive of the National Evangelism Initiative that will be revealed at this year’s convention. I am committed to see it come to fruition. I’m excited that the North American Mission Board, as should be, is leading out to reaching America for Christ. I will work with the national leaders and continue to develop the initiative that will lead Southern Baptists to do evangelism with integrity and with the desire that it will impact our nation for Christ.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly.