JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP)–Southern Baptists in Missouri got a new executive director for their state convention Aug. 27 when the Missouri Baptist Convention executive board voted 48-2 to call Cape Girardeau native David Clippard to fill the post.
With his high school sweetheart and wife of 32 years, Suzanna, by his side, the 53-year-old Clippard grinned and responded with a simple “yes” when MBC President Bob Curtis, pastor of Ballwin Baptist Church, Ballwin, asked, “Do you accept [our call]?” The executive board, state convention staff and visitors nearly filling the Baptist Building’s Gold Room in Jefferson City erupted into thunderous applause.
“Finding God’s man has been the number one goal of the MBC executive director search committee,” said Kenny Qualls, search committee chairman, MBC first vice president and pastor of Springhill Baptist Church, Springfield. “I believe after almost nine months of prayer by Missouri Baptists and after following and fulfilling the guidelines given by the executive board, I am convinced in my heart that David Clippard is God’s man for Missouri.”
The executive board action was the culmination of a nationwide search by the 11-member search committee that began with more than a dozen “listening sessions” throughout the state in January and February. Missourians were asked in those sessions what they most wanted in an executive director and the answers were used as criterion during the search.
“Those who are looking for an executive director who is an administrator will appreciate David’s experience in the business world and his years as a state convention worker,” said David Tolliver, search committee member, MBC recording secretary and pastor of Pisgah Baptist Church, Excelsior Springs.
“His overwhelming credentials and leadership in Evangelism Explosion will bring a fresh emphasis in sharing the gospel and reaching the lost. His church staff and pastoral experience fills out the job requirements and description given to us by Missouri Baptists,” he added, referring to the statewide listening sessions.
Clippard, who begins his new ministry Sept. 9, succeeds Jim Hill, who resigned in October after he determined he could no longer work with conservatives who now hold an overwhelming majority on the executive board. Hill, who was elected MBC executive director by a vote of 37-8 at a time when the executive board was controlled by moderates, is now president and chief executive officer of Springfield-based RDI Consulting, a fundraising and strategic planning consulting business geared toward nonprofit agencies.
Following Qualls’ introduction, Clippard stepped to the podium to deliver a 45-minute address.
Declaring himself a theological conservative who believes the Bible is God’s infallible, inerrant Word, Clippard exhorted Missouri Baptists to join hands in four biblically based priorities he has set for the MBC: evangelism, church planting, equipping churches for ministry, and missions.
“Winning the lost to Christ must be a priority because it was the first and last message Jesus preached on this earth,” he said, quoting Matthew 4:19 and Acts 1:8. “We Baptists are good at saying evangelism is a priority, but I am from Missouri and Missourians say, ‘show me.’ We need to do evangelism, not preach about evangelism.”
When asked by an executive board member when was the last time he shared the gospel with someone, Clippard answered, “To our waitress in the restaurant this morning,” a response that drew several “amens” throughout the room.
“Church planting is a priority because there is no county in North America that has a greater percentage of churched people today than they had just 10 years ago,” Clippard said, continuing with the second of his four priorities.
“What was the most ‘churched’ society in all of history? It was Victorian England. It was in this time period that the highest percentage of any population was regularly attending church and was influenced by Christianity. These were the years of Charles Haddon Spurgeon and other great preachers. It ended in 1915.”
Clippard noted the present condition of churches in England.
“One-third cannot find a pastor. Average Sunday School attendance is 34. The average number of baptisms of new believers is one-half person per church per year. Every nine days an evangelical church closes its doors and a new mosque is opened every 15 days.”
Citing the high water mark for the “churched” in the United States, 1955-57, Clippard then asked, “What will we look like in another 40 years?
“Today, our culture fights to save the whales, eagles, spotted owls and spotted newts. But we pay no attention to the sale of aborted babies and their body parts. We do not have many years left wherein our churches can exercise influence in our culture. These are days of urgency.”
When it comes to helping churches grow, his third priority, Clippard challenged the state convention staff not to do ministry for the church, but rather to work alongside the local church and “assist it in every way possible to accomplish its ministry.
“The local church,” he said, “is God’s plan for reaching the world.”
The convention staff must be “a team of people with a passionate heart for ministry to MBC churches,” he said. “At the convention level we will have people called by God to serve out of their passions and ministry strengths. We want them to serve you. If you need them, call them.
“The convention will pay their expenses to serve you,” he continued. “If you need pulpit supply, then use them. They are a ‘cheap date’ in the sense that you don’t need to pay them for travel. The convention will provide that, since they are not required by the convention to work or preach on Sundays. If you want to give them an honorarium or take a love offering, that would be good. But I am sure they are like me and we expect nothing. If you bless them, God will surely bless you.”
Clippard said his fourth priority, missions, would stress both domestic and international partnerships.
“We want to see thousands of Missouri Baptists in hands-on soul-winning missions worldwide. When a person walks with our International Mission Board missionaries sharing the gospel from hut to hut in Africa, Asia or even neighboring Mexico, you no longer have to persuade them about the urgency of missions, the importance of the Cooperative Program or the need for their personal witness. They return from mission trips changed.”
Clippard also said he would like to see a fulltime MBC evangelist assigned to the State Capitol in Jefferson City to “love and minister to everyone from the janitors up to the governor.” He said the ministry would have nothing to do with politics, but would focus on loving people and ministering to their needs.
Born Jan. 29, 1949, in Cape Girardeau, Clippard graduated from Jackson High School in 1967 and the University of Missouri in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics.
Clippard noted how deep he and his wife’s roots run in Missouri Baptist life.
“I was raised in First Baptist Church, Jackson,” he said. “I was saved at Peaceful Valley RA [Royal Ambassadors] Camp near Perryville. I attended Sunbeams, Royal Ambassadors, Training Union, Sunday School and sat through more two-week revivals on un-cushioned oak pews than I can remember. It would get so hot during the summer revivals that even with the window opened a small boy like me would still fall asleep under some of the preaching.
“Once I sat on the front row of the balcony with the preacher’s son. It was hot and the meeting was long. I was falling asleep and every time my head fell forward, it would rap on the banister. My mom was in the choir and she was having a fit.”
He shared how his wife, a registered nurse, has two cords of frontier Baptist preachers that converge in her lineage.
“Her grandfather was a country doctor in Cape Girardeau who often set broken bones and treated gunshot wounds on the family’s kitchen table,” he said. “His father was William Addison Davault, a Catholic seminary student who became a fiery Baptist preacher in Bollinger County.”
He said Suzanna’s grandmother also shared a rich Missouri Baptist history through the life of Tom Jenkins, an attorney-turned-preacher, then professor who taught at Will Mayfield College in Marble Hill and later at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
Clippard said there was a time when he was a student at the University of Missouri that, “I asked myself, ‘Why am I a Baptist? Am I a Baptist just because my family is so tradition bound?’
“If my grandmother even knew I had such a thought in my mind, she would have washed my skull with lye soap to get such nonsense out of my head,” he recalled. “To her, there simply were no options. But her convictions grew out of years of Bible study, prayer and church involvement. I needed to know who I was.”
After reading the Bible’s pastoral epistles, Clippard said he came to the personal conviction that, first, he was a Baptist.
“I believe that the local Baptist church is the closest thing to the New Testament church in its life and practice that I can see or understand,” he said.
“Second, I came to the conviction that I was a Southern Baptist. Even in my early years, the Cooperative Program of financially supporting missions seemed to have more than just the mark of human genius about it. For me, it seemed to have the very inspiration of God.
“I am a Missouri Southern Baptist because there is a substantial foundation that supports it. The Bible is our foundation for life and practice. Our Bible is the Word of God; it does not simply ‘contain’ the Word of God; it is the Word of God.
“So I am a Southern Baptist because Southern Baptists are people of ‘The Book,’ he said. “Everything we do and believe is not from creeds or confessions. We define our faith and practice from the Bible.
“I am a Southern Baptist because Southern Baptists are not ashamed to set a moral compass for our nation and our culture. We call sin — sin. Adultery is not an affair. It is sin. Alcoholism is not a disease. It is sin. Homosexuality is not genetic; it is a choice and it is sin.
“I am a Southern Baptist because our Savior, Jesus Christ, is the answer to sin.”
After his presentation, the executive board retired for lunch before returning for a public question-and-answer session. A variety of questions were asked, ranging from “What book have you recently read?” to “Do you support the legal action taken by the MBC executive board?”
Clippard said he was in full support of the executive board’s action to go to court to restore Windermere Baptist Conference Center, Missouri Baptist College, Missouri Baptist Foundation, The Baptist Home and the Word & Way newsjournal to full MBC accountability. He said the trustees were wrong to make their boards self-perpetuating and urged them to return the five entities to the MBC.
“Missouri Baptist people have, through 167 years of blood, sweat, tears and sacrificial giving, created these entities to meet strategic ministry needs,” he said. “We look forward to their soon return to the family of Missouri Baptist life so together we can fulfill the very purposes for which they have been supported.”
Clippard said he was ordained into the gospel ministry in 1981 while serving as associate pastor/evangelism for Southcliff Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. He earned a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1984.
He was vice president of North American ministries for Evangelism Explosion International in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., from 1983-88. He still serves on Evangelism Explosion’s board of directors. During his time in Fort Lauderdale he also served on staff as interim minister of adult education at First Baptist Church, Fort Lauderdale, with O.S. Hawkins, then the church’s senior pastor and now the president of the SBC Annuity Board.
Clippard was pastor of Sarasota Baptist Church, Sarasota, Fla., from 1988-96.
Since 1996, Clippard has served the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma first as director of evangelism, then most recently as one of three associate executive directors working directly under the executive director, Anthony Jordan. His management responsibilities included the areas of evangelism, church planting and Baptist collegiate ministries (37 campuses) throughout Oklahoma.
In closing his presentation to the executive board, Clippard invited all Missouri Baptists to join hands in growing God’s kingdom.
“I invite every Missouri Baptist to come join us in this great work,” he said. “We will not be distracted from evangelism, starting new churches, building healthy churches and participating in world missions. If you share this vision, come, let us arise and build.”
The Clippards have three children, whom they homeschooled: Matthew Ryan, 26; Kristen Anne, 24; and Mark Andrew, 21.