SBCLIFE: Last spring, you announced your intention to develop a ten-year vision to challenge Southern Baptists to spiritual renewal. What progress have you made toward this goal?
Page: During the past eighteen months, I have visited personally with every state convention executive and each SBC entity leader in his field of service, listening and learning. In concert with Kevin Ezell at NAMB, we have appointed and met with two advisory councils to give us insight into the perspectives of Hispanic and African American Southern Baptists. We plan to appoint an Asian American advisory council later this year. In addition, I began visiting our ethnic fellowship presidents a couple of months ago and hope to visit with each one over the next twelve months.
It has also been my privilege to visit with pastors and church leaders from churches of all sizes across the country. I routinely survey the Baptist blogosphere to see what’s on people’s minds. We’ve hosted several focus groups that have included younger pastors, middle-aged pastors, and older pastors—both CP-supportive and CP-skeptical—to hear their perspectives. I’ve met with state CP and stewardship directors and shared a meal with numerous individuals across the country to gain a greater understanding of the many faces of Southern Baptists—our hopes, those things we have in common, and our points of difference. I have spent the last couple of months pulling my thoughts together to lay out my challenge to the SBC in June.
SBCLIFE: What are some things you have heard and seen that stand out?
Page: First and foremost, we are a people who are passionate about the Great Commission. Everywhere I go, I hear stories and see firsthand what God is doing in and through the churches of our Convention. It is interesting that, individually, we are a very positive people about what God is doing in the areas of ministry we can touch and feel.
At the same time, we are not as positive about those who are not in our personal friendship and ministry networks. I see and hear a tremendous amount of mistrust and suspicion about what others may or may not be doing for the Lord. Simply put, we don’t trust others. We don’t trust their motives. We don’t trust their actions. We don’t trust their hearts.
It may be a pastor concerned that those who work for the state or national conventions are living it up at the expense of those who pay the bills, or a state worker expressing angst about the ministry of an SBC entity. Sometimes, it is those who embrace a particular doctrinal perspective expressing fear that those who embrace another may be gaining the upper hand in Convention influence, particularly in regard to the doctrine of salvation—most notably, Calvinism versus non-Calvinism—and the doctrine of the church—elder rule versus congregationalism, Landmarkism versus evangelical ecumenism, free worship styles versus traditional worship, and other church-related matters.
SBCLIFE: As we approach this year’s annual meeting, what is your greatest hope for the Convention?
Page: I keep returning to my initial challenge when I was elected to this role two years ago—we must experience a revival of Christlike selflessness. I said a few months ago at Southwestern Seminary that I am cautiously optimistic about the Convention’s place in Kingdom business. The rampant individualism that shuns cooperation will hurt us; but it won’t kill us. It’s the lack of trust, the suspicion that divides us, the vying for the upper hand in Convention politics; these things will destroy us.
I’m not interested in building a denomination; I long to see us working side by side, hand in hand, to build His Kingdom. Jesus said it best, Seek first the Kingdom of God. When we seek our agenda first, all that we long for will elude us. When we seek His Kingdom first, everything we need will be added to us. That’s His promise, not mine. I hope that this year’s annual meeting will be another step forward toward a genuine revival of Christlike selflessness and Kingdom priorities.
SBCLIFE: Do you have any final comments?
Page: I said last year that our Convention has taken a stand for biblical inerrancy. I thank God for that. I believe such an affirmation should lead us to an even greater obedience of that Word. That is where we need to be focusing now.
I also believe strongly that the Cooperative Program is the fuel that drives the missions and ministries of the state conventions and the SBC. I’d like to see Southern Baptists have enough confidence in our cooperative efforts in missions and ministry to increase their support for this vital lifeline. I long for every man, woman, boy, and girl in our own country and around the globe to hear the Good News of Christ, whether through IMB’s “Embrace” challenge or through NAMB’s “Send North America” challenge.
I believe strongly in the high-quality preparation our students receive through our seminaries. The twenty-first century world these young men and women will face is a far different world than we faced in my generation. We must prepare them to stand strong for Christ when the time of persecution comes to the believing church.
And, there has never been a more strategic time for moral advocacy in our nation’s capital, on Wall Street, and on main street. When the foundations are destroyed—and they are quickly eroding—what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3).