NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, used the Book of Jonah to exhort Southern Baptists to heed the call of God to accomplish the Great Commission.
Most people think the miracle in the Book of Jonah was that a fish swallowed a man and the man survived, Page said at the Executive Committee meeting Sept. 17 in Nashville, Tenn.
“But I tell you that’s not the big miracle of the Book of Jonah. The big miracle of the Book of Jonah is that God would speak to a human being,” Page said.
The book, only 48 verses long, is “packed with the sweet message of God for a people that He loved and a man that He wanted to go tell a story.”
“It speaks of the compassion of the Lord for a people who are lost, even a blasphemous people whom God saved from impending judgment,” Page said.
Commentators who study the Book of Jonah spend a great deal of time trying to determine what kind of fish swallowed Jonah and how he could have survived, Page said, noting that he did the same when he wrote about the book for the New American Commentary Series.
“I’m telling you I did a lot of studying. In fact, I got so tired of studying fish I didn’t want to eat fish for months afterwards,” Page said. “… Why would you spend so much time studying the gullet size of mammalian species in the eastern Mediterranean and the ongoing effect of mammalian digestive juices upon the epidermis of a human being? …
“If it’s a miracle, what does all of that matter? If it’s a miracle, God could have made a guppy big enough to swallow Jonah,” Page said. “The miracle is not that a fish swallowed Jonah but that God would even put up with that man.”
God’s call came to Jonah a second time, Page said. “That’s a miracle.”
“My question tonight is simple: How many times is God going to have to speak to us? How many times is He going to have to tell us as believers to get the job done?” Page said. “I believe His call as we’ve already heard has not been revoked, and I believe He wants us to get serious about winning this world to Christ.”
As he travels throughout the Southern Baptist Convention, Page tries to explain the work of the Executive Committee, which he said can be hard for most people to grasp. With a relatively small staff, he said, the Executive Committee handles legal and policy issues, produces publications, relates to the public and keeps track of convention finances.
“What I want to do is try to find money so that our entities can do what God has called them to do, so that our International Mission Board will not have over 1,200 missionaries ready to go but they can’t go!” Page said, referring to streamlining budgets so that more Cooperative Program funds can be distributed for the Great Commission.
Churches need to be planted all over the United States and Canada, Page told EC members, and seminary students need to be trained without incurring tremendous debt.
“God’s call has come again and again and again: Get it done. Get it done. Get it done,” Page said. “… He wants us to have a strong home base with an aggressive global vision, and He wants us to help make sure that we can get it done.”
Noting that God repeated his call to Jonah, Page said, “Pouting prophet though he was, he went out and did what God called him to do the second time. How many times will God have to call Southern Baptists before He says, ‘I’m going to call somebody else’?
“I don’t want to be left on the sideline. I don’t want to be a part of a declining denomination. I don’t want to be a part of a failing system. I want to be a part of getting done what God said get done.
“So I just challenge you tonight that we as an Executive Committee would see ourselves as a central hub that’s trying to do everything we can to get the fuel out there for everybody to get their job done,” Page said. “That’s what I believe God wants us to do. So I encourage you tonight, I challenge you tonight, and I thank God for you and the gospel work to which He called us.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press.)