OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–John L. Yeats, editor of the Indiana Baptist the past 18 months, will assume the duties of editor of the Baptist Messenger, newsjournal of the Oklahoma Baptist Convention, Nov. 1.
Yeats, 47, a native of Caddo, Okla., was unanimously elected by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma board of directors at its Sept. 9 meeting in Oklahoma City.
As the eighth editor of the 85-year-old Baptist Messenger, Yeats follow Glenn Brown, who will retire Sept. 30 after 10 years in the post.
Yeats presently serves as recording secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention and was a pastor in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas before assuming the editor’s role in Indiana.
“We had determined Indiana was the place God wanted us to be,” Yeats told the directors, “but when you put your life in God’s hands, anything is likely to happen.”
With a distribution of 94,000, it is the third-largest circulation paper in the state behind the Daily Oklahoman and Tulsa World, both daily newspapers, and fifth in circulation of Baptist state papers following Texas’ Baptist Standard, The Alabama Baptist, Mississippi’ Baptist Record and South Carolina’s Baptist Courier.
Yeats said he first visited with BGCO Executive Director Anthony Jordan about the editor’s job while at the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Dallas in June.
However, it was after the second interview with Jordan and senior associate executive director and support services team leader Robert Haskins, that Jordan said he and Haskins walked to the parking lot, looked at each other and “knew he was the one.”
Yeats, a graduate of Dallas Baptist University with a major in secondary education and minors in communications and literature, holds a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.
He served a year as pastoral intern at Eastwood Baptist Church, Tulsa, 1977-78, under the tutorship of Tom Elliff, now pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, and president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He moved to Indiana from South Park Baptist Church, Grand Prairie, Texas, where he served as pastor from 1991-96, following four years as pastor of Shawnee Heights Baptist Church, Topeka, Kan. He has also been pastor of South Prong Baptist Church, Waxahachie, Texas, and associate pastor of First Baptist Church, Mansfield, Texas.
Jordan said Yeats brings a set of gifts that are important to the future of Oklahoma Baptists. “He is an administrator, businessman, has the ability to lead and is gifted with a pastor’s heart,” Jordan said. “A lot of skills besides writing are necessary for this job. I was impressed with his caring heart, who he is as a person and his clear-headed thinking.”
Yeats’ denominational service includes service on the SBC Executive Committee, Resolutions Committee and Christian Life Commission (now Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission), serving on the latter as administrative committee chairman and program committee chairman.
Yeats said he sees the Messenger as a tool that keeps together the fabric of life, weaving together churches, associations, the state and Southern Baptist Convention.
“One of the things I see occurring is that we’ve approached this thing secularly,” Yeats said. “I would compare a Christian publication to a baseball diamond. Generally you have content, distribution and advertising and the three bases. I would add home base as advancing the kingdom of God.”
He added, “The paper should stand as a beacon of light giving knowledge. That’s going to be done, not just in copy, but behind the scenes on our knees.”
Yeats said he hopes to keep the publication strong by communicating the truth while presenting it in a kind fashion.
When asked his criteria for running a story, Yeats said, “I would have to ask if the story will encourage, inform and help over the term.” Yeats added he would try to carry a balanced perspective. “I try to stay as close to the middle as I can, and a shade to the right.”
Dana Williamson is assistant editor of the Baptist Messenger.