A voice of reason Dr. Jimmy Draper, the President of LifeWay, will retire effective Tuesday evening. This is sad in that he has provided tremendous leadership over the years. It is exciting, however, in that Dr. Thom Ranier will be his replacement and Dr. Ranier will do a tremendous job, I am confident.
Dr. Draper has written a column for some time now called LifeWay@Heart that is emailed to those on it's mailing list. In his most recent, and final, article Draper says goodbye to Southern Baptist's from his position of leadership. He has some tremendous things to say but in light of the recent struggle regarding cooperation I thought that a good portion of the article was aprropriate for us today. Enjoy!
A second tension we face is what I spoke of at the Southern Baptist Convention last June. We are in danger of choking the life out of the future of the SBC by dabbling in peripheral matters and neglecting the heart of our convention, which has always been missions, evangelism and cooperation. The added challenge here is to incorporate younger Southern Baptists into the leadership of our convention.
I spent a lot of time the past two years calling for the inclusion of younger leaders, but also for younger leaders to engage the convention and not back away. I have met many of these men and women and I am impressed. They are accepting the challenge. They want to earn the right of relevancy and to partnership in the ministry of the SBC. They want to push to the spiritually hard places and they are willing to suffer hardships to press into those places to share the gospel among individuals in the world's out-of-the way places or in their own neighborhoods.
Some across the convention point to the complainers among the younger leaders and despise the youth of the entire group. As a result we often get side-tracked into nonessential matters. This in turn can create larger barriers for our work together. We may become guilty of sacrificing cooperation with the sword of inflexibility. All the while the white fields waiting to be harvested stand decaying.
This is not new rhetoric; several of us entity leaders have been saying this stuff for years. It all sounds good when stated, but there is a disconnect between what is said and what is done. We should all--not just the SBC's leadership--set an example of devotion to Scripture, personal integrity and cooperation.
A place to begin is on our knees. It is tough to criticize those for whom we pray. How my heart aches at the research that reveals we spend less than 7 minutes a day in prayer. Brothers and sisters, we cannot do God's work in our way. The only way to know and do the will of God is to fall on our face before Him, asking for His direction and responding in obedience. We must pray more purposefully and more passionately.
Closely related is humility. Individuals motivated by personal agendas reek of arrogance. God hates arrogance. I am encouraged because I believe there is a growing desire for humility in the hearts of God's people. I believe there is a movement beginning to take place where Christians are dissatisfied with the comfortable, materialistic, ineffective Christianity they've been living and are truly seeking God. My heart's desire is that humility will consume the Church and consume our convention.
Morris Chapman said four years ago that the Southern Baptist Convention stands at a crossroads, that we can be a convention that reaches the ends of the earth with the gospel or one that relegates itself to being an inconsequential regional convention. The choice is ours. Time is slipping by, and I believe God has allowed the SBC to linger a bit longer at that crossroads.