PHILADELPHIA?When SBC President Frank Page addressed Southern Baptist editors meeting in Philadelphia Feb. 16, he offered many of the same answers he gave eight months earlier to some of the same reporters following his election in Greensboro, N.C.
A sweet spirit, evangelistic heart, and a commitment to biblical inerrancy and the funding mechanism known as the Cooperative Program remain the litmus tests for those Southern Baptists he soon will appoint to some denominational committees, he said.
And while the questions changed some to suit recent buzz among a few Internet bloggers and other Baptists, Page still encouraged critics to do a “reality check” before giving up on Southern Baptist ministry and mission.
“I sense a huge number of people?primarily laypeople, certainly pastors of small and medium-sized churches who are authentically, loving, Christian men and women?they want to win the world to Christ, care about people, help people in Jesus’ name.”
Building upon the evangelistic foundation of his predecessor, Bobby Welch of Florida, Page said he had asked the SBC’s LifeWay Christian Resources and the North American Mission Board to team with state and associational staffs to develop a national evangelistic strategy.
“That’s why I’m cautiously optimistic,” Page said while adding that Southern Baptists are “tired of fussing and fighting” and willing to stay on focus with missions and evangelism.
Part of the blame for the negative perceptions of the SBC lay at the feet of those “people who want to constantly cast us in a negative light because in so doing they can cast themselves as being positive in the life of Southern Baptists,” Page said.
Countering the critics is somewhat of a public relations problem, he noted. When talking with people who have left the SBC or are considering that option, Page said he acknowledges “constant antagonisms have driven away massive numbers of people.”
Instead of focusing on the negative, Page challenges those who are disenchanted with the SBC to take a closer look at the breadth of denominational ministry extending from New Orleans to the other side of the world.
“Go with me to the Katrina area where I’ve been three times in the last six months,” Page said. “Let’s go see who is nailing boards on walls, who’s gutting out the homes. You’ll find Southern Baptists doing 10 times more.”
On college campuses nationwide are Southern Baptist ministers who are making a difference, he added.
While visiting Nepal last year Page said he learned that the sound of Christian songs can be heard on any street in the capital city because there are now 5,000 house churches that didn’t exist five years ago, a result of Southern Baptist mission efforts.
It’s more than “patting ourselves on the back,” Page explained. “It’s just a reality check. If you’re looking for fault, you don’t have to look far, but let’s just be open and honest.
“Are there not things you can buy into?” he said.
“If after you’ve checked it out you don’t want to be a Southern Baptist, God’s work is not tied up in who we are. But praise God he can use some of us,” he added.