MILWAUKEE — Leo Endel,
executive director of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention (MWBC), will
be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) at the June
15-16 meeting in Orlando.
Speaking at the Kingdom
Growth Conference in Milwaukee May 13, Endel said a group of associational
missionaries, pastors, and lay people from western Iowa and eastern Nebraska
had asked him to consider the nomination.
“After much prayer and counsel,
I do believe the Lord wants me to allow the nomination,” he said. ”I am
much less certain of the outcome. It will be in His hands, and, of course,
I’m comfortable with that.”
Endel said he hopes a
candidate from a pioneer area of the convention “will add a new work
perspective to the SBC conversation.”
The nomination will be made
by Wes Jones, area missionary/church starter strategist for the Northwest and
Southwest Iowa Southern Baptist Associations.
“In March of this year, God began
to lay on my heart that Leo would be a good candidate for president of the SBC,”
Jones said, calling Endel “a man of God, respected by those he works with, able
to work with a diversity of people, and having a willingness to help others
Jones said that Endel did
not take the suggestion seriously at first, but when he contacted him again in
early May, Endel promised to pray about the possibility.
Endel is the fourth
announced nominee for SBC president, joining Georgia pastor Bryant Wright,
Alabama pastor Jimmy Jackson, and Florida pastor Ted Traylor.
Both Endel and Jones
compared his candidacy in a field of prominent pastors from Southern states to
David taking on Goliath. Endel also identified himself with another
biblical warrior who won the battle against great odds by depending on God:
“My conviction for moving
forward with this comes largely from the sermon God was writing in me for the
Kingdom Growth Conference, a message about Gideon, titled, ‘From Faithlessness
to Fearlessness,’” he said.
The Kingdom Growth Conference is an annual
preaching and teaching event sponsored jointly by Lakeland Baptist Association
of Milwaukee and MWBC, in partnership with the North American Mission Board and
LifeWay Christian Resources.
As he preached his sermon at
the 11:30 a.m. session of the conference, Endel said that during preparation
for the message, “I was overcome by a flash of the obvious: this sermon wasn’t
just for you; it was primarily for me.
“For many reasons I was
reluctant to allow the nomination; I did not see myself in that kind of role
and doubted my ability to be a strong voice in a conflicted and confused
convention. It would be a David and Goliath style miracle for a new work
leader, especially a state convention executive director, to be elected to this
role,” he said.
Mark Elliott, director of
missions for the Eastern Nebraska Baptist Association, Omaha, Neb., called
Endel “a man of deep faith and unquestioned integrity.”
“The Southern Baptist
Convention is at a crossroads,” Elliott said. ”A strong visionary leader
who has demonstrated a lifestyle of cooperation will be required for us to
choose the right path for the future. Leo is a man of God who is willing to
approach others with genuine humility, listen to others with a desire to
understand, and speak to others with heartfelt graciousness.”
Endel became MWBC’s third
executive director in May 2002, leaving an 11-year pastorate at Southern Hills
Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa, which had grown in attendance from 35 to
around 500, sponsored three new churches, and increased missions giving while
undergoing two building programs.
When he left, Southern Hills was giving
13 per cent through the Cooperative Program, 3.5 per cent to the association,
and 2 per cent to local missions, primarily for church planting in Northwest
Endel’s father was in the
Air Force and his family moved from his birthplace of Tampa, Fla., to Anchorage,
Alaska, when he was six months old, and then moved 11 more times before his
high school graduation. Most of those years the family attended small Southern
Baptist churches near air bases in the upper Midwest, Alaska and the
He is a graduate of Central
Missouri State University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and is
currently a doctoral student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.