Editor's note: Dr. Frank Page began his service as president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee on October 1, 2010. In August, SBC LIFE chatted with him about his new role.
From your perspective, what will be your primary role as president and chief executive officer of the Executive Committee?
I believe my primary role as president and chief executive officer the Executive Committee will be to help coordinate the work of our wonderful Convention. I see also my primary role as being an encourager. I want to encourage those who supported this wonderful work over the years to be ever prayerful and consistent in that support. Also, I want to reach out to younger generations and help them to see the value of cooperative work. I want them to see that cooperative ministry can occur only where there is Christ-like selflessness. ??My primary role is to be an encourager to all generations and help them realize that we can truly do more together than we can do separately.
But also, the president and the chief executive officer of the Executive Committee plays a crucial role in establishing a long-term vision. I do believe that the president of the Executive Committee must work in conjunction with the elected SBC president who is often seen as the public face of Baptists; but the Executive Committee president and CEO has a strategic role in establishing a long-term vision, and as leader of the Great Commission Council, helps pull together a unified group who can work together to see the Great Commission accomplished.
How did the Lord lead you to be willing to be considered, and, if elected, to serve?
The longer my wife and I prayed about this possibility, the more we felt God leading in the process. In fact, as we prayed and pondered, we became aware that God had been preparing me for this throughout my entire life. He also confirmed this through Scripture and the counsel of trusted prayer partners.
In what ways do you believe the Lord has prepared you for this role through your previous ministries and service?
God has prepared me for this role in many ways. With that being said, let me be very clear that I've often stated I do believe that the enormity of this job transcends any one person. That is why I need the prayers of God's people! However, in some way, God has prepared me as pastor of a large church which transitioned from a declining church to one that is extremely mission-minded, community-focused, and increasingly evangelistic. I believe that is what God wants to do with the Southern Baptist Convention. Also, having served as SBC president from 2006 to 2008, I began to see the inner workings of the Convention. I became friends with almost all executive directors of state conventions. I became friends with the entity heads of all our agencies. I developed relationships at many levels. This is going to help me a great deal in this new role. Also, having recently come from the North American Mission Board, yet again I saw the inner workings of our denomination. I saw the deep commitment of denominational workers who truly want to help churches reach this nation and this world for Christ. All those roles have prepared me to try to be an encourager to our Convention so we can become what God wishes us to be.
As you prepare to take your very first steps in this exciting and challenging new ministry, what word(s) of encouragement would you offer Southern Baptists?
This is a very important question. I encourage Southern Baptists to follow the Bible rather than the way of our culture. We are in the day and time of increasing negativity. In fact, there is a negative spirit in most every area of life and it has often afflicted us in church and denominational work. I encourage people to let the Lord bring about a spirit of kindness, of reconciliation, forgiveness, and unity.
I also encourage Southern Baptists to realize that we must not only share Christ but we must live out the commands of Christ, or in other words, we need to treat each other the way Christ commands us to treat one another. I'm asking Southern Baptists — from entity presidents to pastors, missionaries, to people in the pew — to make covenants about how we will relate, how we will agree as well as how we will disagree. I believe that we need to be Jesus people!
You were a member of the GCRTF. What are your hopes and expectations regarding the recommendations of the GCR Task Force, particularly as they relate to the SBC Executive Committee and to you as the president and chief executive officer?
I have great hopes that Great Commission Resurgence Task Force recommendations will encourage all of our entities and churches to be more serious and forthright in accomplishing the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus. I truly hope that!
Perhaps more than ever, people are talking about how best we can work to see the command of our Lord Jesus accomplished. People are talking about the Cooperative Program. People are giving scrutiny to all missions giving. It is my hope and expectation that the Executive Committee will join those who have been praying about how to address these recommendations. Everyone that I know wants to see more money go to missions. Doing mission work at this Convention, along with the other wonderful tasks that we are called to perform, will best be accomplished if the Executive Committee and other entity trustee boards work together with the staff to see a plan implemented that will truly encourage us to be ever more diligent in this task.
In your press conference at the SBC, you made a point of distinguishing between viewing the approval of the Task Force report as recommendations to be considered by the appropriate trustees, as opposed to actions to be taken. Would you speak to that?
The Great Commission Task Force called forth its recommendations to the convention in Orlando this past June. It is extremely important that everyone understand that those were recommendations. They were a vision statement. Southern Baptists have a clear system in place whereby trustees and staff of various entities and agencies spend time in prayer and study as to how to best address any recommendation that comes from the convention. It is a system of checks and balances. The convention does not do the work of the boards and trustees. That's why we elect them, and that's why we have them. I do not believe that anyone in any agency ought to ever take lightly any recommendation from the convention. At the same time, it is incumbent upon those who are given authority to take the time and opportunity to study how best seek to address these recommendations.
It is my belief that the Executive Committee and other affected agencies will perform their duties and bring back, through the convention, a report on how the recommendations from the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force might be addressed in a way that brings glory to the Lord and encourages the people of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The Task Force introduced the giving category of "Great Commission Giving." Since the Convention's adoption of the report, some have asked what the role of the state conventions will be in promoting both Cooperative Program and Great Commission Giving. How would you respond to them?
The issue of Great Commission Giving has brought about a great deal of discussion and interest. I've said for a long time that I believe the Cooperative Program is the best way for us to do our work together. However, I've also stated I support all mission giving and all mission work. For example, when a church is involved in a mission trip that is not Cooperative Program supported, do the people of the church as well as the pastor and staff celebrate the work of that group and that mission trip? The obvious answer is yes.
At the Southern Baptist Convention we need to continue to celebrate all mission gifts. However, at the same time, let me be clear that I will be promoting the Cooperative Program. We will celebrate all missions giving but we will promote the Cooperative Program. In fact, the recommendations from the Task Force do not promote Great Commission Giving; instead, they reinforce the priority of the Cooperative Program. Great Commission Giving is a way to describe other mission giving on the ACP or the Annual Church Profile. I'm delighted that the Task Force recommendations involve a "tightening" of those gifts so that only Baptist works will be counted. I praise God for churches, such as the ones I pastored, which believe in supporting the Cooperative Program and, at the same time, believe in going and doing missions on a local, national, and international basis.
We have just bid farewell to your predecessor following eighteen years of service. When you retire from this position, what do you hope to have accomplished in your tenure at the SBC Executive Committee?
When I retire from the position of president and chief executive Officer of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, I hope to have accomplished several things. I hope that I will have been able to lead in the processing of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force recommendations in a way that will honor our Lord and encourage people to increased giving, witnessing, and mission work.
I also pray that at the end of my tenure I will have been able to witness a unity like nothing we've ever seen before. I believe that John 17:21 points out to us the evangelistic effect of unity.
May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.
The words of Jesus are extremely important here. I believe that God wants us at least to be unified in a common purpose. It is my prayer that I will help point us in the right direction and that God's people will pull together instead of apart.
With that in mind, I hope to cultivate a covenant of trust within the Southern Baptist Convention. From an internal perspective, I deeply long to see the SBC become truly unified.
From an external perspective, I pray that by the end of my tenure the lost world, particularly our country, will have seen that Baptists are people who truly love Jesus and that He loves them as well. I pray that we will been able to put on a kinder and gentler face to our nation so that instead of being known for what we are against, we will be known for what we are for!
What request would you like to make of Southern Baptists?
I would encourage Southern Baptists to pray like never before. The call to prayer is often avoided or given a quiet assent, but it is rarely heeded in all earnestness and seriousness. We're in a day and time of extreme need. Billions of people have yet to come to Christ. Our Convention is fractured in many different ways and forms. If ever there was a time when we need the people to pray, it is now!