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Draper's listening session builds bridges, clears the way for the passing of the baton

Emerging Leaders roundtable held at North Metro First Church


LAWRENCEVILLE - Jimmy Draper, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, is conducting a series of "listening sessions" in strategic locations across the country for Southern Baptists' emerging young leaders.

North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville was the site of the most recent listening session on March 17. The 125 plus attendees gathered to express their concerns about the present and their hopes and fears about the future of the Southern Baptist Convention.

J. Gerald Harris

James Draper, president of Lifeway, stands at left while speaking with Jim Millirons, specialist with New Church Development Ministries of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Listening on, center, is Tommy Ferrell, pastor of Briarlake Baptist Church in Decatur.

Host pastor Frank Cox introduced Draper, who initiated the session by stating, "Revival never started with denominational servants, but with young, dynamic, passionate, convictional leaders. Those of us who have tried to provide leadership are about to pass the mantle to you. Take this denomination and change it to meet the needs of your churches."


Need for validation

After opening remarks and the introduction of Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Director J. Robert White and North American Mission Board President Robert Reccord, those in attendance divided into small groups to share their concerns. Two hours later, Draper conducted a plenary session to field comments, observations and questions.

Several younger pastors indicated their innovative ministries and worship styles need to be validated by convention leadership. Todd Dionne, minister of education at Mountain View Baptist Church in Thomaston, commented, "In order to reach the people in this post-Christian culture some of us have had to overcome the model of ministry that has been in place for so long."

Dionne continued, "Too often we have put methods and models of ministry on an equality with scripture. That is unfair. We need the present leadership to validate our newer, more innovative approaches to ministry as biblically sound."

Draper responded by agreeing that convention leadership "must guard against saying, 'if it's innovative, it's heresy.'"

Dionne concluded his remarks by saying, "You restored doctrinal integrity for our convention, now validate us. Our methods may be different, but our doctrines are pure."


New emphasis on new battles

Tim Hunter, pastor of Horizon Fellowship in Loganville, added, "We've heard about the theological battles, but maybe our emphasis now needs to be on missiological battles. We need to be more concerned about building a horizontal kingdom than a vertical kingdom, by that I mean we need to be more concerned about building more churches than building big churches."

Danny Garrett, pastor of Victory Baptist Church in Douglasville, echoed the concerns of others who expressed an interest in getting larger churches to help smaller churches so that the feeling of competition could give way to a spirit of partnership.


Mentors needed

John Morgan, pastor of Sagemont Baptist Church in Houston, Texas; Mark Corts, former pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston Salem, N.C.; and Larry Wynn, pastor of Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula were cited as those who have had a mentoring ministry.

Scott Kindig, who serves through GBC Student Ministries, exhorted the pastors, "I havenít met a leader who is critical of younger pastors who are doing Godís work and leading people to faith in Christ. So, if you need a mentor, I encourage you to go get one."

Acknowledging the conservative resurgence that started in 1979, many agreed that another resurgence was now needed Ė a resurgence to unleash the emerging leaders so that together Southern Baptists can reach every segment of society from the Builders generation to the Mosiac generation.

Jeff Hawkins, pastor of Belmont Baptist Church in Calhoun, said, "There are two things that pastors have to deal with in the church that may cause them to lose their ministries. First, there is the matter of worship styles and second, there is the matter of how churches are governed. We need a conventionwide emphasis on the biblical role of pastors, deacons, and laity."


A pastorís role

Draper replied, "Unfortunately, we have all too often defined the role of the pastor by [businessmen] Peter Drucker, Lee Iacocca and Jack Welch. We need to define that role by the Bible. If you (pastors) are marked by the average statistics half of you will be fired before you retire."

Draper added, "This convention canít unravel fast enough to hurt me. I will end my ministry at LifeWay in February, but I love this convention too much to sit by and not attempt to set it on a course to succeed in the future."

Richard Mark Lee, pastor of First Baptist Church of Sugar Hill, remarked, "We need to have this kind of discussion in Georgia. I am pro SBC, but I donít know if I ever want to be a part of the convention political process. I have a mission field to reach and that is a full-time responsibility. However, I think these meetings are good because they build bridges and help us get connected."

White responded, "We will do more of this. I believe we need to be innovative. You will never hear me be critical of contemporary worship. Iím just not."

J. Gerald Harris

Young ministers from across the state met at North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville to dialogue on the future leadership of the SBC. Among those ministers was Danny Presten, right. Presten is a church planter in downtown Atlanta, where his congregation meets at a Starbuck's coffee shop.

Marty Duren, pastor of New Bethany Baptist Church in Buford stated, "We hear the [phrase] Ďintentional transition.í That is good. We donít want there to be a revolution in order to take over. Donít ask the young leaders to take over unless you are willing to pass on the reigns of leadership."

Draper explained, "When I say take it, I mean receive it. When I went to college I discovered that freshmen had to wear those beanies. The sophomores hazed us. But one day we discovered that there were almost twice as many freshmen as there were sophomores. So we decided to haze the sophomores. There are more of you than there are of us now. Take the baton as good stewards of a great entrustment."

Billy Godwin, pastor of Ephesus Baptist Church in Douglasville, asked, "We didnít shed blood to preserve this denomination. When you look at us, what concerns do you have as you contemplate passing the mantle to us?"

Draper confessed, "The years of resurgence were difficult. Perhaps we have been hesitant to let go because we are afraid you may embrace something that is not scriptural. We may also fear that we will drive you to go somewhere you donít want to go: and we fear that you will accept something other than a biblical foundation."


In the right direction

Reflecting on the meeting Randy Reese, pastor of New Rocky Creek Baptist Church in Mansfield, commented, "To me the answer to what we are facing in the convention is the anointing of God, the power of the Holy Spirit and a sweeping revival. We are in a battle. We must be doctrinally sound, but folks who donít hold to that view, people who wonít even accept the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, are influencing us."

Continuing, Reese explained, "The 2000 BF&M is a confession, not a creed. A creed is something we can believe; a confession is something we must believe. I do believe what we have done today is a step in the right direction."

Danny Presten, a church planter in downtown Atlanta, has a church that is meeting at a Starbucks. He admitted, "I have never thought much about the convention. I came to this meeting to find out what it means to be involved in the convention. I think Iíd like to have a say in the convention, but I donít know how that will take shape. I know I have a responsibility to the convention and I want to know what it is."