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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.

One-On-One with Dr. Frank Page

 One of the visions of SBC Witness is to interview a personality of the convention ever so often in order to receive insight on his or her views on the goings-on of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Dr. Frank Page, President of the Southern Baptist Convention, recently took some time to enlighten us on some issues.

This interview will be divided into two parts. In this first part, Dr. Page speaks of how being president of the convention has changed him as a man and pastor and also gives some advice to young pastors who are just entering minsitry.

The second part of the interview will be posted tomorrow. Make sure you read all about what Dr. Page thinks of the future of the SBC, the Baptist Faith and Message, and the Cooperative Program in tomorrow's post.

 

SBW: What is the most important thing that you have learned in the past year while serving as SBC president?

FP: The most important thing that I have learned in this past year is that God’s people are tired of fussing and fighting amongst Baptists and ready to do some serious work for the Lord. They are ready to be led in a unified way. I think the most important thing that I’ve learned is there is a grass-roots group of people that are just yearning for a new day with much more emphasis on missions and evangelism; I really believe that.

 

SBW: How have you grown spiritually in your fellowship with Christ by serving as SBC president?

FP: It has driven me to my knees virtually every day. It has drawn me closer to Christ then ever in my life because I have become more and more aware of my inadequacies as well as His adequacy. I have definitely gained a deep, deep appreciation of His power in my life. I also have to say this, that it has made me deeply dependent on and appreciative of God’s people praying for me. That has stood as the source through which the power of God has come and I am humbly aware of that.

 

SBW: How do you think serving as SBC president will make you a better pastor in the future?

FP: It’s made me aware of what I think is important and what is not important. It’s going to make me far wiser and discerning on matters that we really need to emphasize and that which we do not need to emphasize. So I think it’s going to make me a better pastor in several ways and that’s certainly one of them.

 

SBW: What have been you favorite, as well as worst, experience while serving as SBC president?

FP: Probably my favorite experience while serving as president was probably spending two hours with Rudy Giuliani and being able to share Christ with him. That was absolutely profound. I mean, to the point that at the end of the time of two hours I was able to ask him to pray and to receive Jesus with me, which he refused. But that was a wonderful witnessing experience.

The worst experience while serving as president is that there was a time not too far into the experience where I realized that there were people intentionally trying to hurt me. There were some people trying to spread some not true things about me and I had to be very confrontational in those situations. I won’t go into any specifics, but that obviously – you know, there are people that think that I must love conflict. I don’t love conflict.

 

SBW: Has it been difficult to find the necessary balance required to pastor a large church while serving as convention president?

FP: No, it has not. And that my sound a little bit odd, but it hasn’t, because I made a promise early on that I would not hurt the two primary callings of my life, and those are my family and my church. And so, while it may not have been easy, it has not been difficult because I quickly decided if there was a conflict, the SBC presidency would not be a primary calling and it would have to suffer. So, honestly, that’s not been tough. I’ve had to make some hard decisions but I knew what was right to do.

 

SBC: Many of our readers are seminarians and young ministers who are right out of seminary. What advice would you offer to a future pastor or a beginning pastor?

FP: Good question: multi-faceted of course. I would say, “Keep your focus on the Lord and His calling for your life. Do not be distracted by ambition of where always you need to be but concentrate on where God has you right now and serve Him with all your heart. Be a Kingdom-minded person. Be careful to stay away from distractions that will pull you away from missions and evangelism – and there are multiple distractions out there. Stay focused, stay clean, stay deep in prayer and ask for God to guide you every day. Pray every day the prayer of Jabez, that God would expand your boundaries and make sure you are praying for that to be done in ministry and evangelism and that God would give you somebody to witness to everyday.” Those are some of the things I would share with a young minister.

And as a far as convention stuff, “Don’t give up on us yet.” I intentionally involve large numbers of young people. I just got a letter yesterday from a 27-year old that served on one of our most important committees this year, thanking me for the tremendous opportunity for that, so I am attempting strongly to involve younger pastors in the process. And again, there are some guys out there that are screaming and demanding a place at the table. Because one demands it does not mean that one deserves it. At the same time I am intentionally trying to involve our younger generations in the process because, if you look statistically, our youngest generation is our least evangelized in the nation. And I have deep concern about that.

Make sure to catch Part 2 of the interview tomorrow.

 

A Belated Father’s Day Charge

 As Dr. Al Mohler so aptly put it, “Father's Day is fast becoming America's most socially awkward holiday.” Indeed, the absence of many fathers in so many children’s lives make celebrating Father’s Day an awkward time – even in the church. Yesterday morning, I struggled to teach a children’s message that the kids would understand since many of them either (a) don’t have a father, or (b) hardly ever see their father. Kids are having a hard time relating to a simple biblical and social concept such as fatherhood.

Tragically, even in homes where fathers are present in body, these fathers are often absent in mind. Most of the time, even in Christian homes, fathers are either passive pansies or ultra aggressive cavemen. Thankfully, the Bible gives us many patterns of how to be fathers to our children. In our morally-inverted world, we would do well to look at what it says. I know that many of the readers of this site are spiritual leaders among their communities, but let's remember that being a spiritual leader starts first in the home. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says,

"4Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6"These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7"You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8"You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.9"You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (NASB)

This charge is given to all of Israel. However, fathers would do especially well to heed this command since they are called to pastor the home. It’s interesting to note that before we can be good fathers and leaders of our homes we have to first understand that the Father (YHWH) is God and that He is part of a Triune Godhead (v.4). In order to be a God-honoring father we must first honor God. Out of this command flows three others. We are to:

1. Love God (v.5) – We are to love God with all of our heart (our intellect, or mind), with all of our soul, (our will, our essential person), and with all of our might (or strength, literally with intense physicality). In summation, we are to love God with all of our being all the time, fully and completely. We will not be a God-honoring father until we love God entirely. Second, we are called to:

2. Live God (v.6-7) – Looking at verse seven, there are three main ways that we can live our faith to our children. First, by teaching our children the Bible. It is never too early to read Scripture to your children. Won't it be wonderful if your children never have a memory of you, their father, not daily reading them the Scriptures? Some fathers catechize their children, which is a good practice, but it should not be a substitute for Scripture-reading and studying.

The second way we can live God is by talking your children the Bible. Verse 7 states that you “shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” We should constantly be immersing ourselves and our family with Scripture so that we may practically live out a Christ-honoring life.

A third way we can live God is by showing your children the Bible. How do we talk to our children? Do we yell at them? Do we get visibly frustrated with them? Do we discipline them out of anger? Do we ignore them? If we claim to be Christ-followers and are consistently teaching and talking the Bible to our children we must show our children that we can walk the walk as well as talk the talk. It is not true that it’s better to see a sermon and not just hear one. Our children need both.

Finally, we are to:

3. Keep God (v.8-9) – Scripture tells us to bind these words as a sign on our hands and as frontals on our forehead and that we should write them on the doorposts of our house and on our gates. We must keep God around the house and present everywhere. Yes, it would be beneficial to have reminders of God in the house but let’s beware of how we do this. Jesus rebuked the Jews who took this command literally (Matt. 23:5) because they were doing this practice to glorify themselves.

Let’s be careful as we put fish symbols on our cars, wear Christian t-shirts and WWJD bracelets. When we wear these symbols we bear great responsibility to Christ. If we are going to speed, cut people off on the interstate, and be a reckless driver, let’s take the fish off the back of our car.

I believe the principle in these verses is to celebrate and confess God consistently and diligently.

Love God. Live God. Keep God. If we can even make an attempt to heed these words we will be better fathers, our children will have better mentors, and our churches will have better shepherds.

Hell, Fire, and Brimstone

Tuesday morning, at about 5:45 am, I awoke to the sound of loud beeping that was coming from our smoke alarm. As I opened my eyes, I saw smoke slowly rolling into our bedroom. Half-asleep, I immediately shot up and ran just a few feet away into our 9-month old son's bedroom, where the fire was burning. I was shocked to see a fire about the size of what you would see burning in a fireplace. Fortunately, I remembered that my son was in our bed because he woke up a few hours earlier.

My wife quickly called 911 and I ushered our sleeping baby boy out of our room (which is located adjacent to his room) and into his mother's arms. I then grabbed the fire extinguisher, cut the safety cord, and ran back into the baby's room. In the 1 minute it took from the first time that I saw the fire, as well as the last, the flames were now reaching the ceiling.

As one is spraying the contents of a fire extinguisher into a room that is engulfed by flames, he doesn't anticipate the volume of smoke that is inhaled and blocking his sight. You often hear of the effects of fire, but not of smoke. I sprayed as much as I could in about 5 seconds before I couldn't breathe or see. I could literally feel smoke burning the inside of my nostrils.

I ran out of the house and approx. 2 minutes later the fire department came to the rescue. After breaking the front door down, they then shot about 90 gallons of water into our baby's room and ended the threat.

Upon walking back into the house, my wife and I saw how soot covered the entirety of our home. As we entered into the baby's room it was evident that had our son not been in our bed he would have suffered at least from smoke inhalation.

In God's divine mercy and providence, our baby boy Jackson, woke up at 3:30 am and we laid him in the bed with us. 99% of the time I usually wait for him to fall asleep and then gently place him back in his crib.

However, that night, as I waited for him to fall asleep I had a strange peaceful feeling and decided that I wanted my son to sleep with his parents that night.

All I can say is that $40,000 in structural damage as well as thousands of dollars in property damage/repair/cleaning later, the entire family is safe. The baby has been checked by a doctor and is fine.

However, the real eye-opening part of the entire experience is that I got a slight taste of Hell Tuesday morning.

Fire is hot. Smoke is hot. And the damage they can do together is breathtaking.

Our church has baptized 7 adults over 18 years of age in the past 2 months. We are in the middle of VBS this week and Jesus is being preached. Over the past few weeks we've noticed how little attacks have been going on in the church that haven't before.

I am confident that Satan's demons are attacking our church. A fire during VBS – which happens to be the most important week of the year for my job description?

Make no mistake about it, brothers, if you preach Christ unapologetically Satan and his demons will attack you in some way, shape, or form. It may be disasters, it may be through gossip, it may be through unruly selfish church members. Whatever it is, the Devil has no dealings with a lukewarm church. If you are preaching Christ, hold on.

I had a taste of Hell on Tuesday morning. Hell is real. It is a place of pain. It is a place of suffering. It is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. And a lot of people are going to spend eternity there and God has called every believer to do what he can to preach Christ.

Hell is real. People are going. Preach Christ and hold on.

Rice and Patterson

Bart Barber over at Praisegod Barebones has written an excellent post comparing Luther Rice and Paige Patterson. It's well worth the read.

BBQ

 There are a few things in life that people will never agree on. Such issues are which college football conference is the best, baptist polity, and barbeque sauce.

I've lived in a few different places in my life. Growing up in Columbia, SC, I thought that the only type of barbeque sauce that existed was a mustard-based mixture. However, a friend from Georgia introduced me to a tasty ketchup-based style that excited my pallet.

When I lived in Texas I had some type of sauce that was good but it gave me heartburn.

When I moved to North Carolina I fell in love with vinegar-style.

We here at the Witness are vastly interested in which type of sauce you think is the tastiest.

If you look at the post below this one, you'll see a very scientific poll and we want you to take it.

What type of of barbeque sauce is the tastiest?

Unity or Doctrine? A Critique of the NBCC’s Goal

Here is an interesting question: What is more important as Baptists: unity or doctrine?

Former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter and Mercer University President Bill Underwood have organized a conference entitled the "New Baptist Covenant Celebration." It will meet in Atlanta in January 2008.

The purpose of the celebration is to, "have a major demonstration of harmony and a common commitment to personify and to accomplish the goals that Jesus Christ expressed in his sermon to His hometown of Nazareth," stated Carter.

The conference lists 28 Baptist organizations and 5 media outlets which do not respectively include the Southern Baptist Convention or the Baptist Press (an SBC entity).

There will be, however, some the 16 million Southern Baptists in attendance, despite being left off of the website's participant list. Again, part of the stated goal is to demonstrate harmony.

This begs two questions:

1) What are the goals that Jesus Christ expressed in his "hometown homily?"

You may recall that Jesus entered the synagogue on the Sabbath (as became His custom) and picked up the scroll of the book of Isaiah and read a passage of Scripture that pointed to Himself. It said,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19, ESV)

Was Jesus just speaking to the financially poor? Was Jesus just speaking to those who are physically blind and physically oppressed? No. He was and is also speaking to those who are spiritually poor, those dead in their sins. He also speaks to those who are spiritually oppressed, living under the tremendous weight of the power of sin. He also speaks to those who are blind to the Gospel and are waiting to sing the refrain of the old hymn, “was blind but now I see” when their spiritual eyes are opened to the life-saving power of Jesus Christ.

However, this message, the message of a life-changing and life-saving Jesus-power, was not popular then, is not popular now and will not be popular in the future. The real meaning of Jesus’ message to his countrymen was rejected then and it is rejected now and will be rejected until He comes back to judge the living and the dead.

After doubting who Jesus said he was simply because he was speaking to his homeboys, Jesus spoke a word of condemnation to them and compared himself to the prophets Elijah and Elisha while comparing the Nazarenes to a famine-starved land and unhealed lepers. After this comparison, the Gospel of Luke records:

“When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.” (Luke 4:28-30, ESV)

They cared not to hear Jesus speak the Words of Truth and drove Him out of their city while trying to erase His name from this earth. Many have tried to do the same to the message and the man of Jesus from that day onward but Jesus continues to “pass through their midst” as His message lives on and will forever live on throughout eternity.

This leads us to a second important question:

2) What is more important? Being united or being doctrinally sound?

I am not proposing that the supporters of the NBCC are not doctrinally sound. They have their own rational hermeneutic of interpreting Scripture that is beyond the scope of this short essay to delve into. Is it better for Baptists to unify themselves, despite doctrinal differences (some being major) just because we all prefer dunking to skimming?

No doubt the minds behind the NBCC are more concerned with people’s temporal needs (which are important) then their eternal need.

Republican presidential candidate and former SBC pastor, Mick Huckabee, was scheduled to attend and speak at the January gathering but has recently withdrew his name and time from the event because of the "unprecedented personal attack” on current President and Christ-follower (member of the United Methodist Church) George W. Bush by former President Carter. Carter recently stated that the Bush administration's foreign policy was "the worst in history."

It seems that former President Carter would rather hub-bub with Credo-Baptists while simultaneously attacking anoother Christ-followers’ job performance.

Carter further stated, “the overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me.” That statement smells of old-time politics and un-buried hatchets.

Baptists, even Southern Baptists, eventually have to answer the question: What is more important? Unity or Doctrine? Fortunately, Southern Baptists have been answering this question in the latter for years now and will continue to answer this in the future despite the cries of “unity” from other hermeneutically-challenged organizations.

But most importantly, the life-changing power of Jesus will continue to be preached throughout SBC churches because eternal salvation and unity with Christ through spiritual reconciliation is mankind's ultimate need, rather then financial salvation and unity with itself through temporal relationships.

A Legend Passes

  The Reverend Dr.Jerry Falwell, founder of Liberty University and pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia went to be with the Lord today.

To say the least, Dr. Falwell was a Southern Baptist who influenced untold thousands of people for Christ during his 73 years on the earth. He was the consummate example of a man leading a life of faith in His calling over seemingly insurmountable odds. He started Thomas Road Baptist with 35 members and presided over the church as it eventually grew to 24,000.

Falwell also started a Christian college, now Liberty University, which has over 21,000 students in its enrollment and also boasts a tremendous seminary.

Falwell also was the driving force behind the creation of the "Moral Majority" which was then instrumental in electing Ronald Reagan as president in 1980 and solidifying the Republican Party with Evangelical Christians.

It was this marriage of politics and Christianity which drew Dr. Falwell much ire from the secular media as well as Democratic (and some Republican) congressmen.

Whether one agrees or disagrees of how Dr. Falwell chose to influence the culture for Jesus Christ, one can not minimize the giant footprint that he has left in our convention, our culture, our nation, and even our world.

For a full biography on Dr. Falwell, you may click here.