NEW ORLEANS – Frank Page, speaking at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, cited “seismic pressures” within the Southern Baptist Convention that must be overcome for the advancement of the Great Commission.
Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, was on the seminary campus in early February for a trio of appearances to engage and encourage students and ministers.
In a segment of the online interview series “Conversations,” Page spoke about the state of the SBC and acknowledged some challenges.
“Last year I worked real hard with Calvinist and non-Calvinist leaders. I think some of that pressure was relieved, because godly men and women from both sides of that issue said, ‘We have got to start talking to each other and not at each other,’” Page said. “That’s very positive, but the reality is we still have pressure points.”
Page said other pressure points include issues like “How do we do church in the 21st century?” and “How do we support mission work in the 21st century?” But at the same time, those hard questions are encouraging, he said.
“It excites me particularly that we have some younger pastors who are asking the hard questions,” he said.
Photo by Frank Michael McCormack.
Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, right, speaks with New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Blake Newsom during the recording session for the seminary’s online interview series “Conversations.”
Page said the primary point to remember is keeping God central and staying focused on the task at hand.
“The world is winning a lot of battles. If there was ever a time we needed each other, it’s now,” he said. “We need each other in the battle we face in our culture and in our world.”
Regarding the future of the Cooperative Program, the funding mechanism by which Southern Baptists collectively support ministry and missionaries around the world, Page said, “Do you believe in Acts 1:8? It’s the only way I know where you and your church can be a part of seeing Acts 1:8 accomplished fully, consistently and concurrently.”
Prior to the Cooperative Program, ministry leaders and missionaries had to raise their own support from individual churches. The Cooperative Program cuts that step in the process by pooling funds from individuals and churches and dispersing them to ministries and missionaries. Still, Page said there’s some room for improvement.
“There needs to be some adjustment in the percentages, and I will tell you that’s happening,” he said. “I will tell young ministers: If you want to see [changes] happen even more, support it from the inside and don’t criticize from the outside.”
Also in the interview, Page spoke about what he learned from God after the tragic loss of his daughter Melissa to suicide. Page emphasized that suffering comes in many shapes and sizes.
“It’s not a question of if we will suffer; it’s a question of when and how. And everyone does,” Page said. “I’ve learned that [God is] real, that He really cares. His grace really is sufficient.”
Page cautioned those facing the pain of losing someone to suicide not to blame each other and not to blame God. Page said he realizes that he could have done some things differently, but he added, “The truth is, I did the best I could at the time with what I knew.”
Page chronicled his family’s story in the book Melissa: A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide. He said the book can be a powerful tool for those considering suicide, for pastors ministering to those considering suicide, and for people who have lost loved ones to suicide.
“Conversations” is a video interview between NOBTS dean of chapel Blake Newsom and noteworthy chapel speakers who come to New Orleans Seminary. The Frank Page Conversations segment will be released March 17.
Speaking in Leavell Chapel at NOBTS, Page preached from Revelation 2:1-7, the letter to the church at Ephesus. Page pointed out four keys elements of Jesus’ message to the church: a call, a commendation, a condemnation and a command.
The call, Page said, is Jesus calling the church back to living according to His lordship. In chapter 1, Jesus describes Himself as “the one who is, who was and who is coming” and “the Alpha and the Omega.”
“He is the Lord of the church. He is in the midst of the church. He’s listening to the hallway conversations in the seminary and in the church. He knows your thoughts. He’s in your midst,” Page said. “He is not out yonder; He is right here.”
Jesus also commends the Ephesian church for what the people are doing well, Page said.
“‘I know your deeds; I know your hard work,’” Page said. “They were commended for their patience. They were getting it done in the midst of a pagan city. They were commended for their sensitivity to evil.”
Jesus then moves to His condemnation of the Ephesian church: “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”
Page said the text does not go into detail about what that first love is specifically. From the greater context of Scripture, though, Page said he has an idea.
“Scripture tells us what our first love ought to be: The Great Commission. Acts 1:8,” he said. “Many passages tell us that the first love of the early church and the first love of every church ought to be a love for lost people.”
With that in view, Page said today’s church, just like the Ephesian church, is failing.
“We have adopted a cultural lie that no one will talk to you about the Lord …,” Page said. “I do share Christ, but I’m telling you this: People don’t like the church much anymore, but they will talk to you about Jesus.”
Page closed with the threefold command to the Ephesian church: remember, repent and do. “Remember, therefore, from where you have fallen,” verse 5 says. Repent by turning from the wrong and turning to the right, Page said.
“And do the first works,” he said. “Let’s get back to what God called us to do. That call of renewing our first love is upon us today.”
After chapel, Page hosted a third meeting – a Q&A session with NOBTS students and area pastors to discuss ministry in the SBC and current convention issues.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Frank Michael McCormack writes for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)