NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Speaking at his first Executive Committee meeting as Southern Baptist Convention president, Frank Page said Sept. 18 he would spend his time in that role calling on Southern Baptists to pray for revival within the denomination.
“Many of our churches are going through difficult days, and we exist … in a Southern Baptist Convention that is thought by some to have lost its relevancy,” said Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C. “In the minds of many … we have become an archaic, burdensome bureaucracy that no longer has relevancy for today or for the day to come.”
Page was elected president at the SBC annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C., in June, besting two other candidates on the first ballot.
Preaching from Ezekiel 37:1-6 — the story of the valley of dry bones — Page said some people believe “we’re approaching a valley of dry bones” as a denomination. To listen to such talk “frightens” him, he said, although he said he remains “cautiously optimistic” about the future. Pointing to Ezekiel 37:5-6, where God pledged to bring breath, flesh and life to the bones, Page said Southern Baptists must pray for revival to sweep across the convention.
“[Revival] is a sovereign act of a Sovereign God,” he said. “But we must beg of our Lord, ‘Lord, let these bones grow again.’… I believe Jesus Christ is mighty to save, and I believe the Holy Spirit of God wants to do a work in our convention. And that is why for the next two years — if God should grant that to me — I am calling for our convention to ask, ‘Lord … send your reviving Holy Spirit upon this convention.’ … [M]y call is a call to God to bless us somehow in our un-deservedness with a Holy Ghost revival.”
Southern Baptists, Page said, must pray that the revival will:
— “transform churches.”
“Seventy … percent of all churches across this convention are plateaued or declining,” he said. “I call on God’s Holy Spirit to transform our churches. He’s done it in ours (FBC Taylors, S.C.). And I believe He wants to do it across this convention.”
— “bring us to a point of true repentance.”
“We have become an arrogant people, and we must understand our un-deservedness, and that without Him we can do nothing,” he said. “Holy Spirit, bring us to a point of absolute repentance and confession and revival.”
— “energize evangelistic efforts to win this world to Jesus.”
“As Dr. Roy Fish … said to us at a meeting in Ridgecrest not too many weeks ago, for 30 years we have tried to raise baptism numbers among an un-revived people in un-revived churches,” Page said. “God bless [former SBC President] Bobby Welch for telling us over and over and over … that we need to win people to Jesus. Praise God for that. But God, through Your Holy Spirit, bring about the power through which that will be accomplished among revived people in revived churches.”
— “unify us in a cooperative mission task.”
“There are factions out there that frighten me — all kinds of groups are pitting themselves, one against the other,” Page said. “… It’s good to have good debate. It’s good to disagree on some things, but Lord, pull us together.”
Southern Baptists, he said, must pray that God will bring them together for a “cooperative mission task.” That task, he noted, historically has been funded through the Cooperative Program.
“[T]he Cooperative Program matters,” he said. “That’s why Greensboro happened; that’s why I was elected, because the Cooperative Program does matter, and it is that which can pull us together [because] it is the main funding mechanism to do a great ministry and mission work across this world.”
Page told the story of an elderly woman who wanted to get her grandchildren something for Christmas. She didn’t have the energy to go shopping, so instead she wrote checks for each of them. She then wrote on their Christmas cards: “Merry Christmas. I love you. P.S., buy your own gift.” Weeks after mailing the cards, though, she cleaned up her desk and was horrified to discover that the checks themselves never were mailed. Without the checks, her “buy your own gift” note had taken on an unintended, negative meaning. The story is mythical, Page said, but it can teach the denomination a lesson.
“I am afraid that as Southern Baptists we have sent out that card,” he said. “We have said to the world, ‘Merry Christmas. I love you. Buy your own gift. Find your own way. Find this answer to this vacuum that’s inside of you. You’re going to have to find it because we’re not telling you.’”
Page added that in calling for the SBC to be “relevant,” he is not calling for Southern Baptists to embrace “clever gimmicks” or “new philosophies.” Instead, he is calling for them to pray fervently for revival.
“We should not give up on the Great Commission,” he said. “We should not give up on the Holy Spirit’s ability to do that He wants to do, and I believe we do better together better than we can do separately. I challenge you, I ask you, I beg of you to join with me in a task that indeed is telling the world how they can buy their own presents.
“I believe in a God who is able to transcend us and to use all of us as weak and undeserving as we might be. I believe that the bones can live again.”