Editor’s Note: This column expands upon a blog posted recently on www.baptistandreflector.org. Be sure to check the website regularly for articles and columns as they develop.
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
In February, the International Mission Board learned that President David Platt was returning to the pastorate, so trustees are now in the process of searching for a successor. This will be an important hire because the individual will be leading Southern Baptists’ largest missions-sending organization.
A search committee has been chosen and is in the process of looking for Platt’s successor. As I have said before, the person who leads the IMB ideally should have missionary experience and be a strong believer and supporter in the Cooperative Program.
But recently another SBC leadership position opened that is just as, if not more, important.
Frank Page resigned as president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee in March after acknowledging “a morally inappropriate relationship in the recent past.”
That was shocking news and a stark reminder that faithful, strong leaders can stumble. Christians must constantly be on guard as Satan will attack on a consistent basis. My hope is Southern Baptists won’t be so critical of Frank Page that they will forget to pray for him and his family. Regardless of the mistake he made, he has done a lot for the kingdom and many people are in heaven today because Frank Page led them to the Lord. He also was a strong advocate for the Cooperative Program and he practiced what he “preached.” The churches he led as pastor supported the Cooperative Program.
The person who replaces Frank Page just may be the most important hire the Southern Baptist Convention will have in the next decade, even more important than the next leader of the International Mission Board.
Why? Because the president and CEO of the Executive Committee will be the face of Southern Baptists. He will be the most important cheerleader and advocate of the Cooperative Program. He will be the person who will work with state convention leadership to help promote the Cooperative Program, which funds every level of an Acts 1:8 strategy, enabling Southern Baptists to reach people for Christ across the street, in their states, and around the world.
Unfortunately, I am not convinced that every SBC entity head has totally bought into the concept of cooperation and the Cooperative Program. They may give lip service, but most seem more interested in their own entity, rather than the best interests of Southern Baptists as a whole.
I hope I’m wrong, but that’s what I have observed from afar in recent years.
It is imperative that the next leader of the SBC Executive Committee be 100 percent totally supportive of the Cooperative Program. He must understand the importance of Baptist state conventions in the life of the convention and welcome them as equal partners. Without everyone on board for the Cooperative Program, we will eventually drift back to the old societal method of giving. That would be a tragedy, but sadly, there is evidence that we have already started down that path.
Pray for the search committee for the new Executive Committee president and CEO as well as those who are searching for the next leader of the International Mission Board. They have a tremendous job ahead of them. Pray that both committees will totally seek the individuals God has in mind for these positions. Personal agendas must be set aside. It can’t become a popularity contest. We must seek God’s men for these positions. Too much is at stake for the future of the denomination.