NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Frank Page, president of the Executive Committee, cast a “Christ-centered, Bible-based” vision Feb. 22 for how Southern Baptists can work with God to accomplish His purposes in North America and around the world during the next decade.
“I simply ask you to join with me today in a simple way to follow not my agenda, not the convention’s agenda, but Vision 2020, a simple way to follow our Lord’s agenda,” Page said during his first report to the Executive Committee since assuming the role of president last fall.
Though he has come to a new leadership position during an economic downturn that has impacted the convention, Page said he doesn’t want Southern Baptists to adopt a mentality that they must retreat.
“As we all know, our convention over the last decades has taken a stand for biblical inerrancy. I thank God for that,” Page said. “But I believe that now a unified understanding and a call for an affirmation of an inerrant, infallible Word of God shall lead us to an even greater obedience of that Word. I believe that is where we need to be focusing now. As we affirm its inerrancy and infallibility, let’s do so by fleshing it out and living it in this world.”
First, Page wants to see the International Mission Board receive more support than it has received in its history.
“I want us to be an Executive Committee that does everything we can do to make sure that every man, woman, boy and girl on this globe hears the Good News of Christ,” Page said. “I’m not satisfied with just every unreached people group hearing the Gospel in some way that they’re reachable. I want us to reach them with the Gospel. I want you to know of my encouragement for and my support of the International Mission Board.”
Page also expressed firm support of the North American Mission Board and said he wants to see each person on the continent reached for Christ through evangelistic church planting and encouragement of existing churches.
Another component of the vision is for Southern Baptists to recommit to “quality, Bible-based, Christ-centered theological education.”
“As I heard our seminary presidents speak yesterday to one of our groups, it was my delight to say as a pastor of 30-plus years, I’m excited to say I could send a student to any one of those seminaries and be absolutely delighted,” Page said.
He asked Southern Baptists to join him in supporting the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission as they are salt and light throughout the country and especially in the nation’s capital, as well as the Woman’s Missionary Union as they continue in the task of educating and promoting missions in churches.
TRUST, HONESTY, INTEGRITY
Within Vision 2020 are some principles of operation, he said, starting with the principle of trust.
“I’m asking that we return to a covenant of trust. For too long there has been suspicion, turf protection and kingdom building,” Page said. “If that offends you that I said that, then maybe it should offend you that I said that. It is time for us to rebuild trust, that when we say something, we accept each other’s word as the truth. It is time for our partners to be able to trust us as we trust them. I promise you that I’m going to do everything in my power to rebuild in this convention a covenant of trust. Let us be governed by a principle of trust.”
Also, there must be a principle of honesty.
“While this may seem somewhat ridiculous to even have to state in a situation like this, I believe it’s time for us as brothers and sisters to be honest with each other and not to hide our feelings, our thoughts, that which we think may not be acceptable or even agreeable. Let us work together and adopt the principle of honesty as the operating principle in our ministry and work. Let us be honest with each other.”
Page pledged to live by the principle of integrity.
“I want our world as well as our own people to be able to trust that which is said, that which is written and that which is even intimated,” he said. “… I want us to be able to so have principles and persons of integrity at the helm that we know that they are speaking the truth and not trying to obfuscate in any way.”
And he pledged a principle of intergenerational appreciation and understanding in which Southern Baptists appreciate what has worked in the past, such as the Cooperative Program, as well as understand the present realities and show sensitivity to the future.
“I do truly believe that our convention is made up of a variety of very strong-willed and opinionated persons. Some probably hold onto the past simply for the sake of the past,” Page said. “Others want change in the future just because they think we need to change something, not knowing really what that might mean. Friends, I believe we have to have sensitivity to all the people in our convention.”
Page said these principles resonate deeply within his heart as what Southern Baptists must do if they’re going to see God’s work accomplished in this decade.
“I pray that the work of the Lord and the work of our convention will never become mutually exclusive. I know we need to work together and do what we do even better,” he said.
One of the greatest enemies of accomplishing the task is rugged individualism, Page said.
“I believe that has hurt our Cooperative Program. I believe the Cooperative Program is a distinctive of our denomination and unfortunately by many has been relegated to an ash heap of irrelevance as outmoded and outdated,” Page said.
Now is the time to return to an understanding of balance, he said.
“I believe we are called to do the work of missions as local churches at the same time we are calling ourselves Southern Baptists and we work together,” he said. “I know that independent Baptist churches can do a wonderful work with their own mission work, but I believe we are Southern Baptists and that calls for us to work together as well.
“I say that unashamedly. For too long we’ve allowed people to skew the understanding of the Cooperative Program by saying, ‘Well, you know just a small part goes to what I think is important.’ It’s time to point out the value of doing work together and say, ‘Well, that small part joins with the small part of many other churches to do a great work. And that smaller percentage of that state convention goes to work with many other state conventions to be able to do a great work.’ Let’s tell the whole story, not just part of the story.”
The Southern Baptist Convention cannot excel in the future, Page said, without an attitude of Christ-like selflessness.
“Our convention, we know, has fractured over the years into many different subgroups, and it is so now. Often there is a self-centeredness that unfortunately frequently mirrors our own society. I believe Christ-like selflessness is our only hope, and it is in short supply,” Page said, pointing to Philippians 2:1-5.
Vision 2020 will only be accomplished as the various segments of the Southern Baptist family recognize the need for selflessness, he said.
Referring to Hebrews 12:1-2, Page said, “I believe there’s a race we need to run, and we need to run it together. And I challenge you today to a vision called Vision 2020, a vision of clarity, a vision of principle, a vision of focus that together we can win this world for Christ.”
Erin Roach is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. For Baptist Press’ story on the Feb. 21 inauguration of Frank Page as SBC Executive Committee president, go to www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=34701.