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With young SBC leaders, Draper talks of ‘trans-generational relationship’

ST. CHARLES Mo. (BP)–Accountability and integrity have been pillars of Jimmy Draper’s ministry in the Southern Baptist Convention, and the 69-year-old president of LifeWay Christian Resources intends to retire with his reputation intact. By practicing those two Christian virtues, Draper hopes to help keep young leaders connected to Southern Baptist life.

“All of our trustee meetings are open meetings,” Draper said at the St. Louis-area First Baptist Church, Harvester, as he spoke to a group of 55 young SBC leaders in the seventh of eight dialogue sessions being held across the country.

“Any one of you can come to our meetings. We don’t have executive sessions. In September, they’ll have one executive session because they’ll call a new president, but other than that, we haven’t had an executive session of trustees in the 14 years I’ve been there,” Draper said.

Dressed in a business casual shirt and jeans, Draper sat down at one of the eight round tables set up to facilitate discussion among the young leaders at the April 25 session. He ate the same sack-lunch sandwich and chips they did. And several times during a lengthy question-and-answer session, he emphasized that he did not descend on them from Nashville in order to pontificate.

He said he likes it when the young leaders talk, calling it “reverse mentoring.”

“Let’s keep this going,” Draper said. “I hope you understand that I didn’t have any agenda when I came, and I didn’t have a sermon to preach to you, and I didn’t bring anything to try to push on you. I really wanted to hear, and that’s been the essence of these meetings.”

Draper answered, “I don’t know,” a lot as younger leaders pressed him for answers. Some of the younger leaders felt the need to toss in long statements with their questions. They also expressed frustration with the condition of the church in America.

“I think we’ve programmed ourselves to death,” one said.

Draper acknowledged their concern.

“I might not have a lot of answers for you, but if we really got to know each other, my heart, my passion, might be something that would bless you,” Draper said. “I would like to see a trans-generational relationship that’s very real. We can orchestrate some of that, but the truth is each of you is going to have to exercise a little bit of initiative.”

Draper added that, even though he may be 69, he can still type fast, and “I answer all my e-mail.”

He commended one man, who is 24 years old, for doing just that. This young minister has been asking for personal meetings with various well-known mega-church pastors within the SBC, and Draper said so far his requests have been granted.

“He called me,” Draper said. “He’s been in my office a half-dozen times in the last year.”

The culmination of Draper’s “Younger Leaders” dialogues will be Sunday afternoon, June 19, at LifeWay’s headquarters in Nashville, preceding the June 21-22 SBC annual meeting.

For more information about the June 19 session, contact Mark Marshall at (615) 251-2514 or e-mail [email protected].

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  • Allen Palmeri