The Southern Baptist Convention has been in an obvious state of transition for a year or more in terms of executive leadership. Perhaps never before in our history as a national convention have we had three key leadership vacancies at the same time. The president of the SBC Executive Committee was the first to be filled with Frank Page elected to the post. Not long after that announcement, Kevin Ezell was named as new president of the North American Mission Board. Very recently, the announcement of Tom Elliff was made concerning the presidency of the International Mission Board.
In my time of service in Baptist life, I have come to know all three of these leaders. I have felt led to offer some reflections concerning them as agenda-setting leaders for Southern Baptists. All three of these men bring unique gifts to their respective positions. They each have the opportunity to serve in exemplary fashion in their leadership roles.
Frank Page is a relatively well-known leader in Southern Baptist life. He served as SBC president in 2006-2008. Frank is a veteran pastor, having most recently served the Taylors First Baptist Church in South Carolina. As a pastor, he was known for his aggressive mission endeavors and for leading his church to be a more than 10 percent contributor through the Cooperative Program. That example stands tall for us as a family of faith.
My wife and I have family members in the Taylors church, and we have come to know Frank Page through that relationship. His leadership at the church was well received, and he was also involved in the local association and state convention. Frank Page knows Baptist life from personal involvement and not just through a study of it or from secondhand information.
Frank has already visited half the state conventions, and he plans to be in every one of them by the end of his first year. I am glad to say that he has been to see us at the State Board of Missions, and another visit is on the calendar to be made in a matter of weeks.
All of this experience and the gestures of support speak volumes for our new leader. I predict Frank Page will lead us well in the future. His efforts at mobilizing a national campaign for the Cooperative Program are well underway. His relationships with key leaders in the SBC and in state conventions are very healthy. I am pleased to call him a friend and colleague.
Kevin Ezell was named as the president of the North American Mission Board six months ago. To some, this was a bit of a surprise. Kevin has been a highly successful pastor of the Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky. His church became a model for multi-campus congregations. Kevin’s nomination was given high-profile endorsement by numerous SBC leaders who have known him well.
I met Kevin some years ago at an evangelism rally in Montgomery. Our conversation was brief but a good one. During the last six months, while he has assumed the leadership of NAMB, we have come to know each other well. Through our mutual friend, Bob White, executive director for Georgia Baptists, we have built the foundation for a good working relationship. Bob White was Kevin’s pastor in Paducah, Ky., years ago.
Kevin Ezell has admitted to having a huge learning curve and, to be honest, most people who might have assumed the leadership role at NAMB would have the same experience. As I have come to know Kevin, I have grown to admire his relational skills. He is a very personable individual. He is also a quick learner, which will help him immensely in this new role. Anyone coming from the pastorate to a convention leadership position has some kind of learning curve to overcome. Being a quick and sharp learner is a valuable asset for him.
I have found Kevin Ezell to be one who welcomes candid opinions and straightforward observations. We have developed a good working relationship in this brief time, and I believe it is a good solid foundation for the future of our partnership.
As some know well in Alabama Baptist life, the SBC entity with whom we work the closest is NAMB. All state conventions work in cooperation with this mission board for a North American missions and evangelism strategy. Kevin is working hard to develop a forward thinking approach toward the future, which includes a cooperative relationship with state conventions. I join others in applauding this effort.
The most recent announcement made concerning SBC leadership is that of Tom Elliff for the International Mission Board. Tom has done it all in SBC life. He comes from a family which has generations of pastors and preachers who have been faithfully serving the Lord. Tom Elliff and his wife have served on the mission field in what is now called Zimbabwe. His pastoral experience is excellent.
Like Frank Page, he was called upon to serve as president of the SBC for two terms. Until just a short time ago, he was a high profile vice president at IMB with a very close relationship with the missionaries on the field. This is a valuable background experience for him. IMB needs someone as their leader who knows what ministering on the mission field is like. Tom Elliff has that kind of firsthand knowledge.
Tom will bring focus, direction and stability for some years to come. He will offer a unique blend of a pastoral heart, missionary zeal and leadership experience for the International Mission Board. This is needed now more than ever, with the emerging challenges before us.
A year ago, like many of you, I felt no small amount of uncertainty as to where we will go, in terms of leadership for the SBC. Having three major vacancies coming along about the same time was enough to create an air of uncertainty. Now, I feel much more encouraged about our future. This trio of leaders will lead us well as we look to the uncertain days ahead.
Frank Page will give excellent leadership from his influential position. He is already off to an excellent start, as evidenced by his first meeting with the Executive Committee. Kevin Ezell is working hard to be a good partner and visionary leader. Tom Elliff is a well-known veteran leader who will not have to learn the basics at this position. He already has most of that mastered. I believe he, too, will partner well with all elements of our SBC life.
We have a good team of leaders now in place. Let us pledge to pray for them and to work with them. They are fine Christian leaders who need our prayers and personal support. I am hoping for better days in the future as we seek to be on mission with the Great Commission.