ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Frank Page cited two goals he is envisioning as president-elect of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee: “that there would be a unity amongst the brethren and sistren such as we’ve never seen before” and that the world “finally realize Baptists are loving sharing people who will care and who will minister in Jesus’ name.”
In his first news conference after his June 13 election to head the Executive Committee, Page told reporters he is prepared for the challenges he will face, having served as pastor of a church that at one time was “a complicated church filled with multiple subgroups of agendas much like the SBC. It was an old Southern Baptist church that had been declining for years, thus putting us in the same category as 81 to 82 percent of Southern Baptist churches….”
Page described how a God-initiated transformation took place within the Greenville-area First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., as it “began planting churches once a year, became racially diverse, socio-economically diverse and began ministries beyond itself.” It “transformed to a church two and a half times the size it was in 2001. God has given me some experience in that area to help churches….” Page said.
Asked what the role of the president of the Executive Committee should be in setting the vision for the convention and within the Great Commission Council of SBC entity presidents, Page said he believes he plays a crucial role.
“I do believe [this position] must work with the elected president who is often seen as the public face of Baptists…. And as leader of the Great Commission Council, [I’m responsible] for pulling together a unified group who can work together in seeing the Great Commission [advance].
“I want to be a unifier, someone who pulls them together. Baptists are way past tired of hearing about schisms and turf wars,” Page said.
Page spoke of his experience serving a one-year term on a national faith-based council to which he was appointed by President Obama, noting that it was a “frustrating time” but that he felt some successes were achieved despite “serious disagreements” he had with the president.
“I did feel my presence on the council was in some small way helpful…. I am a pro-life person and I wanted to share that pro-life biblical worldview in that particular setting and felt I had some small victories in that regard,” Page said.
After one reporter stated that other religious denominations such as Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Assemblies of God are growing while Southern Baptists have declined in recent years, Page pointed out that Southern Baptists are making some gains.
“If one is looking carefully you would find our worship attendance has increased the last two years in a row,” Page said. “Membership is important but not as important as live warm bodies in the pew. Baptisms went up 2.2 percent — that is not insignificant in a time we’re talking decline. Now with the GPS focus [the SBC-wide God’s Plan for Sharing evangelistic initiative] NAMB has strongly in place, we’re going to see an upturn in baptisms. Even in an era of increasing anti-denominationalism, we’re going to see that major denominations can make a turn-around.”
Page said he hopes to assure Southern Baptists that there is a strong “hand at the helm, a person capable of dealing with strong individuals” who is not easily intimidated and can pull the numerous entities within the SBC together in one common direction. He admitted he comes into this new position with “some trepidation. I do ask for the prayers of God’s people and know I can count upon that.”
Sara Horn is director of external relations for the Clamp Graduate School of Christian Ministry, part of Anderson University’s College of Christian Studies.