NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Jimmy Draper was lauded as friend, father, pastor and statesman during a celebration of his life and ministry Feb. 12 at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Draper, president of LifeWay since 1991, was honored for completing 50 years in the ministry in September 2000, celebrating his 65th birthday in October and serving in his 10th year at LifeWay. The celebration, initiated by LifeWay trustees, was held in connection with their Feb. 12-13 semiannual meeting.
“You know a person by the friends he keeps,” said Kirk Humphreys, a friend, former trustee chairman and Oklahoma City mayor, who emceed the evening. “You’ll find that Jimmy Draper has thousands and thousands of friends. He’s touched our lives in so many ways.”
As a special recognition, Humphreys presented Draper and his wife, Carol Ann, with a citation proclaiming Feb. 12 as Jimmy Draper Day in Oklahoma City. Draper served as pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, a suburb of Oklahoma City, from 1970-73.
Bailey Stone, director of evangelism for the Baptist General Convention of Texas until his Feb. 15 retirement, noted that he preached a revival in 1949 when Draper accepted God’s call to the ministry at age 14.
“He started out at the head of his class in ability, leadership and integrity,” Stone said. “He’s still like that. That’s my friend forever, Jimmy Draper.”
Shirley Favazza of Kansas City, Mo., and her husband Frank met the Drapers in 1965 when he (Draper) became pastor of a mission church of 125 members, Red Bridge Baptist Church. When they left five years later, the church had 1,500 members, Favazza recalled.
“We watched God use Jimmy Draper as he poured out his life for the people. He endeared himself to everyone just quietly doing what God called him to do. When you’re a friend of Jimmy Draper’s, you have a friend for life,” said Favazza, who also served as Draper’s executive assistant from 1991-98.
George Harris, pastor of Castle Hills Baptist Church, San Antonio, Texas, said he met the Drapers in 1959 when both were pastors commuting to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.
“God has prepared the man,” Harris said. “I have watched God get him ready for the Sunday School Board, now LifeWay.”
On a personal note, Harris said, “In the crisis moments of my life, when you have to take off the mask and say this is where I hurt, this man has ministered to me. He’s the man I’ve been able to open my heart to.”
Bill Anderson, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Clearwater, Fla., and a former trustee chairman, said, “Before God, I believe from the beginning of the search process for a president, there was only one man who could do it. The role that Jimmy plays here is a cosmic role. Nothing touches the denomination in as many ways as the Sunday School Board, now LifeWay.”
Terry Horton, a layman from First Baptist Church, Euless, Texas, where Draper served as pastor from 1975-91, said, “A man asked me the other day if I had a mentor. I said I did. He’s my best friend. He’s taught me more about faithfulness and loyalty.
“He’s one of the busiest men I’ve ever been around in my life, and yet he’s always got time for people. Your friendship makes me want to be a better Christian,” Horton said.
Randy Draper, the eldest of the three Draper children, said, “Whether you know him from the outside or whether you know him from the inside like I do, he’s the same.”
He cited his father as a man of character, love, humor and the ultimate servant.
“He’s never going to ask you to do anything he’s not willing to do himself,” Randy Draper said.
Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, said Draper “literally pastors the Southern Baptist Convention.”
He called Draper a man of compassion, cooperation and conviction.
“He’s never once stood down from the conviction that this is God’s work,” Chapman said.
In a videotaped tribute, Southern Baptist Convention President James Merritt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church, Snellville, said, “When I think of what a Christian statesman should be, I think of Jimmy Draper.
“I want to thank you for your influence. I want to thank you for your witness. I want to thank you for your testimony,” Merritt said.
Responding, Draper said, “I like to think if I’ve done anything significant here it’s to free up some very talented people to work.”
Since assuming the presidency in August 1991, he said he has preached 1,100 sermons, visited 11 countries, spoken in 242 churches and attended 110 state convention meetings and 75 associational meetings. He said he has made multiple visits to the six Southern Baptist seminaries and the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary. He has conducted listening sessions at every state convention headquarters.
“These have been busy years, exciting years. I want to finish well,” Draper said. “Thank you for giving me the privilege of serving here. We look forward to what God is going to do in the future.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: JIMMY DRAPER AND TERRY HORTON, THE DRAPERS, AND A PRESENTATION.