A few months ago, I posted at my website, JohnYeats.net, a list of attributes for SBC leaders. At the moment I wrote, several SBC ministries were without leaders. As you might expect, there was a massive scramble, blog posts, and hype by too many to fill those leadership posts with people who would be of our personal liking.
If we are to be the people of God on mission with God, our particular personal “liking” or persuasion about a leader is not the order of the day. Like pastoral search committees in local churches, the key for cooperative ministry leader searches is to discover God’s perspective, not the whims of certain brokers of power or popularity. Effective search committees spend more time seeking the Lord and less time flipping through bios and profiles.
In the simultaneous absence of leadership at New Orleans Seminary, LifeWay, the International Mission Board, and the SBC Executive Committee, I did write in 2018 a list of three basic descriptors clarifying the leaders we yearn to follow:
A man of God—demonstrates the disciplines of the faith. The man God chooses for us must be passionately committed to obedience to Christ. He is consistent in his time in the Word and prayer. He boldly seizes opportunities to share a gospel witness and he loves the churches who comprise the SBC.
A man of integrity—humility captivates his style of leadership. The honest man knows he is not entitled to any position of influence. Therefore, how he holds accountable a multimillion-dollar finance sheet or his personal finances demonstrates his servant leadership.
How he uses his words to communicate with the smaller-in-attendance church leader or a megachurch pastor demonstrates he is a man under authority. How he works with an administrative assistant through a difficult process, or with colleagues who head a huge mission organizations or a theological institution, speaks volumes about his being a man who regularly washes feet like his Master.
Not everyone who aspires to be a leader should be. Someone who thinks he wants the post should go quickly to the cross and surrender himself afresh. May godly humility once again flourish among us.
A man of loyal discernment—current practices reveal his true heart. He has lived long enough, faithfully served long enough, to gain the experience necessary to discern what is of God and establish his loyalties.
In our Southern Baptist context, the Missouri Baptist Convention context, or a local church context it is imperative that a new leader’s current practice reveals discerning loyalty to the education and promotion of the Cooperative Program as the primary mission funding methodology for our churches. This is not something to which he merely offers intellectual assent; rather, he has discerned that the CP is our primary conduit for our Southern Baptist work together. He must be a leading advocate for CP among people, churches, associations, and networks.
These attributes could be said of leadership posts in all levels of Southern Baptist life: national, state, associational networks, and local churches. These attributes would facilitate the rebuilding of trust, model humble leadership, encourage godly living in our homes and churches, and prayerfully lead to a resurgence of cooperative mission among our pastors and our churches.
Last month, I was attendant to my responsibilities as Missouri Baptist Convention executive director at the SBC Executive Committee. Each of the new leaders of the SBC entities were present to give a report, and I can share with you that to the man, each of the new guys demonstrates the attributes I listed above. I am grateful for the respective search committees. Each new leader is an answer to much intercession.
Where do we go to from here?
We must not cease to pray for one another. No matter the role we have in God’s purposes, we must continue to pray for those who lead. Pray for our pastors, our associational directors of missions, our state missionaries, and our national and international personnel who are working where the Lord has called them at this moment in history.
At the same time, we must be a gospel witness right where we are. In a matter of three weeks, Missouri Baptists gather in Branson (October 28-29) for our annual meeting and to celebrate the work of God in our churches and cooperative ministries. We also have the opportunity to share the testimonies about our personal witnessing with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us live on mission and seize the day for the glory of our merciful, gracious God.
The world is watching—they want to know if we authentically love them. They are watching to see if the manner in which we treat one another is different from the world.