NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Executive Committee members, Southern Baptist Convention entity heads and other guests gathered in Nashville, Tenn., Feb. 21 to inaugurate Frank Page as the SBC Executive Committee’s sixth president.
Page officially assumed the position Oct. 1 after serving 30 years as a pastor and in various denominational roles, including SBC president. Guests were led in worship in the Van Ness Auditorium at LifeWay Christian Resources by Travis Cottrell, and several of Page’s colleagues spoke and prayed for him.
Roger Spradlin, chairman of the Executive Committee, presented Page and his wife Dayle with a certificate of inauguration, listing his many accomplishments within the Southern Baptist Convention through the years.
“Frank has a pastor’s heart,” Spradlin said. “He served as a pastor for many, many years. He loves pastors. He understands pastors. He has a deep commitment to help pastors in their tasks in the local church.”
Page also has the heart of an evangelist, said Spradlin, pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif.
“Frank regularly shares his faith. You can ask him anytime to share a story with you, and he will share a very current story, just something that happened in the last few days or few weeks at the most, of sharing his faith. And he encourages everyone around him to do so as well,” Spradlin said.
The new Executive Committee president has a leader’s heart and a servant’s heart as well, Spradlin told the group.
“He has a deep desire to do whatever God desires him to do, wherever God desires him to do it,” Spradlin said. “I guess the most important thing I could say about his heart is the most important thing I could say about anyone’s heart, and that is he has a believer’s heart. He has a love for our Lord. He is a follower of the Lord Jesus and all that that means.”
Page delivered a statement of his vision for the office, saying he wants to have priorities that would please the Lord.
“I really will be quite happy when tonight is over because I’m not real comfortable with this kind of attention, to be quite honest with you,” Page said. “I would be quite happy if you would forget me and remember our Lord.
“But God has called me to this position, and I am honored to be a part of this. So I speak to you tonight about a simple, biblical vision that I think the Lord brought to my heart,” Page said, pointing to Genesis 12, the passage where God promises to make Abraham into a great nation and bless him so that he can be a blessing to others.
“I think that God’s call upon Abraham’s life is precious, but is it not true of all of us, that God called us to be saved and God called us to serve Him in some capacity, shape, form or fashion?” Page said.
Page added he believes God is calling Southern Baptists to be a blessing to the nations: “I believe God’s call for Southern Baptists is that we would never rest until every man, woman, boy and girl on this continent hears the Good News of Jesus, so that they can say, ‘That person was a blessing to me.’
“I don’t believe God is going to be happy until every man, woman, boy and girl on the face of this earth hears the Good News of Jesus Christ,” Page said. “… I want us to be able to say as Southern Baptists, ‘We were a blessing.'”
In addition to blessing Abraham, God made demands of him, Page noted.
“I believe God demands a commitment from us. We are to serve Him with passion,” Page said. “We are to give Him first-rate loyalty for a first-rate cause. I believe God’s calling for Southern Baptists is to be closer than we’ve ever been before, to be purer than we’ve ever been before, to be more passionate than we ever have been before about sharing the Good News with a lost and dying world.”
Just as God’s demands upon Abraham’s life were lifelong, Page believes God is not finished with Southern Baptists.
“I know these men who are getting ready to speak are going to say some profound things to us, things we need to hear. But I just want you to remember with me tonight God’s vision for us is that He will bless us, but He wants us to be a blessing as well,” Page said.
Thomas Hammond, personal evangelism team leader for the North American Mission Board, delivered the inauguration message. Preaching from Mark 2, Hammond encouraged Page to model the qualities of the four friends who took their paralyzed friend to Jesus for healing.
Those four men were willing to adapt their actions to meet the friend at his point of need, to do whatever it took to help him, and worked together in unity, Hammond noted. Southern Baptists “are in desperate need of change,” with many churches plateaued or declining and many leaders disagreeing about the best way to bring renewal, but God is ready to do a new work and Southern Baptists’ best days may be ahead, Hammond said.
Page’s personal ethos of servant leadership is the kind of leadership Southern Baptists need to adapt to a changing world and be effective at fulfilling the Great Commission to make disciples, both in North America and around the world, Hammond said.
“Every time I’ve heard Frank Page preach, this is what I’ve heard him say: ‘We can win this world to Jesus, but we must do it together,'” Hammond said. “Frank, may the hand of God be upon you. May the Spirit of God give you wisdom and strength. May the mind of Christ be with you. God bless you as you lead us.”
MORRIS H. CHAPMAN
Morris H. Chapman, president emeritus of the Executive Committee, presented the Pages with a clock for their mantel to remind them of the value of time and the lessons Jesus taught about it.
“A clock is a mechanism for measuring 24 hours of each day of our lives. Time is the moment we have in the present,” Chapman said. “We do not live in the future. In fact, to live in the future is to be counterproductive in our lives. The past is gone and the future has not arrived. Jesus captured this when He said, ‘Live one day at a time. Tomorrow has too many worries.’
“Jesus would say, ‘If there’s one thing we need to remember about time, it is to live in the moment of the time you have that day.’ Therefore, do not worry. And in Matthew, the Lord gives us all of the things about which we should not worry, and when the list is complete, there is nothing else about which to worry,” Chapman said.
Proverbs 27:1-2 admonishes readers not to boast about tomorrow because a person does not know what a day may bring, Chapman said.
“So these are just two of the admonitions we have from the Holy Word of God — do not worry and do not boast,” Chapman said. “But both are associated with tomorrow, and God’s plan for us is to live today. We’re to plan for the future, but we are to live today. We are to fulfill His will in the life we’re living today. Time can be a friend if we use it effectively. Otherwise, it becomes our enemy.”
Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, delivered a charge on behalf of Page’s colleagues at the 42 Baptist state conventions. He challenged Page to remember that being a follower of Christ is a prerequisite to being a Christian leader.
“You will never catch up to Christ, but you must keep following Him,” Lance said. “Continue to be faithful to your calling.”
“Be a friend to your colleagues. You can’t do this job by yourself,” Lance said. “I appreciate your turning CEO into ‘Chief Encouragement Officer.’ We are going to be your friends, not your foes. We are going to be your colleagues, not your competition. We are going to be your allies, not your adversaries.”
Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and chairman of the Great Commission Council, delivered a charge on behalf of SBC entity presidents. He told Page he will find joy working for the “great people of God called Southern Baptists” because they are “people of the Book and people of the Cross.”
“We are the inheritors of a great heritage — people who have suffered persecution, people who have given sacrificially of their lives, of their earthly treasure to the cause of Southern Baptists,” Land said. “… Be our encourager. You are the person who really is at the apex of Southern Baptist life in terms of what people see. If there are controversial and difficult things to be done, let us do them. You be our encouragement.”
Recalling Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s famous 1962 “Duty, Honor, Country” speech at the United States Military Academy, Land urged Page to remind Southern Baptists that if Southern Baptists fail to fulfill their Lord’s commission, “millions of our Southern Baptists who have gone before us will rise up from their white crosses and they’ll remind us: duty, cross and missions.”
Ed Stetzer, vice president of research and ministry development for LifeWay Christian Resources, delivered a charge on behalf of Page’s colleagues at SBC entities. Stetzer reflected on the “courage and conviction” Page demonstrated when he was elected Southern Baptist Convention president at Greensboro, N.C., in 2006 and called on Page to help Southern Baptists move past their differences toward common goals.
Stetzer delivered seven “exhortations” to the new Executive Committee president:
— Stand for God’s Word. “I have said on many occasions that, in SBC national life, the battle for the Bible is over and won, yet some people seem to go on and bomb the rubble,” Stetzer said. “Help us never to lose sight of the Conservative Resurgence. We need to build upon it, but never let us get over it, lest we have to repeat it.”
— Stand for the Gospel. “It is easier to talk about Southern Baptists reaching the lost; it is harder to have the lost in your home,” Stetzer said. “You cannot lead what you do not live. None of us can. Live it, and then lead us to live it.”
— Stand for the Kingdom. “For too many, gaining a denominational office can be like gaining the whole world,” Stetzer said. “I struggle with losing my way…. Don’t make this [new role] your kingdom; make it a tool for God’s Kingdom.”
— Stand for a confessional consensus. “As the SBC reaches out to become more ethnically diverse and partner with contemporary, traditional and non-traditional churches, and work through the questions and issues of the future, it will be our strong confessional consensus that unites us in fulfilling the mission of God,” Stetzer said. “Don’t let us have multiple doctrinal statements; press us to have one. That is what a family of churches looks like when it works together.”
— Stand for accountability in our denomination. “Fight for the dollars we ask our church members to send to the Cooperative Program, Lottie Moon [Offering for International Missions] and Annie Armstrong [Offering for North American Missions]. Fight for the good stewardship of those dollars and resources,” Stetzer said. “Get rid of as much friction on the pipeline to funding the Great Commission as possible. Don’t let it get slowed down.”
— Stand for a denomination that joins God on mission. “We can become so consumed with the desire to ‘get along’ that we don’t get anything done,” Stetzer said. “Stand against the complacency and lack of engagement in our churches. Help sharpen our focus on God’s mission as a family of churches.”
— Stand to make it true that we are all about missions. “Call churches to long-term partnerships overseas and in North America. Missionaries are exhausted by our whirlwind, low-commitment travel hopping,” Stetzer said. “Fight for our churches to make long-term investments and partnerships with missionaries. Help our pastors and churches learn what will help, what is strategic.
“Some may say the SBC is in crisis, but I believe our cooperation and our common vision are worth fighting for,” Stetzer said. “There were and are some hills to die on, but we also need some hills on which to live. These are some hills worth standing on. I charge you, as the new Executive Committee president, to stand on those hills.”
Erin Roach is an assistant editor of Baptist Press and Mark Kelly is an assistant editor and senior writer.