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One-On-One with Dr. Frank Page (Part 2)

In part two of SBC Witness' interview with Dr. Frank Page, Dr. Page discussed various issues dealing with the convention.

 

SBW: What do you think was the most important issue/resolution to come out of San Antonio?

FP: I think the most important part of the convention to come out was Ed Stetzer’s sermon, in which he challenged us to become missionaries of the twenty-first century, to become culturally relevant in our day and time, and he is so right. We train our missionaries throughout the world to be culturally relevant. Why can’t we do that here? So, that to me was the most important thing. Yes, there were many other important things that happened but I would say Ed Stetzer’s sermon was one of the most important words spoken and I believe and hope the people heard and listened.

 

SBW: Can you tell us your view on the resolution that was passed about re-affirming the BFM? There seem to be at least two different views on what exactly transpired.

FP: That’s a great question. The truth is that the BFM is somewhat like the United States Constitution. It’s interpreted by everyone according to their particular perspective. The resolution is being interpreted according to everyone’s own perspective, which is understandable. I think what happened, and yes, I was very much in favor of that motion – I think what the people were simply saying was this, “We do not need to become a legalistic denomination. We are definitely conservative, inerrantist people.” And the Baptist Faith and Message, that by the way, ten years ago was seen as a fundamentalist document and people were wondering how anybody could sign such a thing, and now it’s almost seen as a Moderate document. It’s amazing at the switch that has occurred.

My point is, I think the Baptists were simply saying, “We’ve gone far enough." We don’t need to put more strict parameters on everybody. We can’t agree on everything and to constantly amend the Baptist Faith and Message will lead us into an absolute anarchy. If you’re going to put in there something about speaking in tongues, are we also going to clarify whether we are a Calvinist or non-Calvinist denomination? Where does it end? It doesn’t.

At some point we have to say, “these are primary issues.” I think that is what the Southern Baptist Convention said in San Antonio: “This is our guiding document. Please be careful.” I think it was a plea. It was not a requirement. That’s why everybody can interpret it the way they want. Please, let’s not become a legalistic, narrow-minded denomination that expects everybody to agree on every primary, secondary, and tertiary point of doctrine.

 

SBW: What, in your opinion, is the most exciting thing happening in the SBC right now?

FP: The currently-being-developed 10-Year Strategy for Evangelism. I am very very excited about that. The details will be announced next year in Indianapolis, but, that to me, is the absolute most important thing that I could ever get on the table. The strategy is to have a multi-faceted, flexible, 10-year strategy for evangelism. Bobby Welch did a wonderful job of telling us what we need to do, but, at the same time, our churches need better to know “how.” It’s kind of a two-fold thing: seeking the revival that I believe God wants us to have and begging for that and at the same time to have a plan and a place to put some feet to the prayers, so, I’m excited about that.

 

SBW: What do you feel is the biggest threat to the SBC right now?

FP: People with personally-driven agendas that would rather see their agendas accomplished rather then joining together to do missions and evangelism.

 

SBW: Many have said that the SBC is in a period of transition or flux. Do you think this statement is true, and if so, what do you hope the convention will look like on the other side of the transition?

FP: I definitely do think that it is in a period of transition, or else I would not be president. Obviously, there are many people who are looking for a different style of leadership. There are people who are looking for some change and some involvement of people who have not been involved. There is some rejection of some more tightly-held control by a few people, so I think in the future it is going to be a far more democratic convention.

I believe that there are going to be multiple people running for multiple offices in the future which I think is very positive and very encouraging. I think we are going to continue to see our people rise up and make some decisions. So, it (the convention) is in transition. Some of those transitions may be very difficult but I think it’s going to be a far more democratic convention and I’m encouraging lots of people to consider running for president: young, old, black, white, Hispanic, Asian; I’m just considering a lot of different people to run for different offices as well.

My hope is that it will be a far more democratic convention then it has been, but it is in transition. How much in transition we will see. If my election was a blip on the screen and it goes back to one-candidate chosen months ahead by a certain number of people, then obviously the transition was short and will not have a lasting or long influence.

 

SBW: You have been a vocal defender of the Cooperative Program. Could you briefly share why you think it is so important for local churches to heartily support the CP?

FP: It is important for churches to adopt the lifestyle of Christ, which is a lifestyle of selflessness, which says that which happens beyond us is more important, and I think it is a tremendous opportunity to be involved in something bigger then ourselves, to cooperate in a team effort, and I just think that is following the lifestyle of Jesus.

We know, I know, everybody knows that our churches these days, because of information accessibility, etc., we don’t need a denomination like once we did. My point is we need to be needed. The CP is the greatest way to cooperate. There are some tremendous things happening out in our foreign mission field right now. Being a part of the CP is a way to be a part of that. There are some great things happening in our seminaries. Being a part of the CP is a way to be a part of that. There’s just so much going on that the CP enables a church to be a part of, and again, exemplifying selflessness, and just a spirit of saying, “We can work together and do a lot more together then we can separate.”

 

SBW: There has been a lot of discussion recently about the Cooperative Program and the complicated formula that decides where money is allocated. Because of this, some churches elect to bypass the system because they do not want their money going to certain entities. Do you think the CP needs to be overhauled, or do you think it’s fine the way it is?

FP: I would encourage a major study of the Cooperative Program. I think the states (state conventions) need to take a serious look at how much stays in the state, how much goes on to international missions and other ministries such as seminaries. I have for a long time in this state (South Carolina) been a strong proponent of taking a serious look at where the money is spent and how much goes where. I think it’s time to do some serious re-studying of all of those issues. I think it all ought to be out on the table.

 

12. When historians look back in a couple of decades, what do you hope they will say about your time as SBC president?

FP: I’m already hearing some people say that what they think, and if this were said it would be fine, that Frank Page was the people’s president. That my election was absolutely unexpected by Him and everyone else and that it was a rising up of the people to say, “We want something different.” I would think that looking back on it, it will be seen as a people’s movement.

 

14. The issue of barbeque sauce is one of intense conversation. Do you prefer mustard-based, ketchup-based, vinegar-based, or "no comment?" We understand your potential avoidance to this complicated and potentially explosive question.

 

FP: Vinegar, vinegar, vinegar. Vinegar-based barbeque, eastern North Carolina. I love it all. I had enough barbeque beef brisket to float a battleship last week. I like tomato-based, I like mustard-based, but I love vinegar-based. It’s very different and I hate vinegar, but vinegar-based barbeque: I like it.

 

Make sure to check back in a few weeks for the next interview in our One-on-One series.