Draper urges young leaders to embrace accountability
By Allen Palmeri
April 19, 2005
ST. CHARLES – Accountability and integrity have been pillars of Jimmy Draper’s ministry in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and the 69-year-old president of LifeWay Christian Resoures intends to retire in December with his reputation intact.
By practicing those two Christian virtues, Draper hopes to help keep young Southern Baptist leaders connected to Southern Baptist life.
“All of our trustee meetings are open meetings,” Draper said April 25 at First Baptist Church, Harvester, in St. Charles as he spoke to a group of 55 young SBC leaders.
“Anyone of you can come to our meetings. We don’t have executive sessions. In September, they’ll have one executive session because they’ll call a new president, but other than that, we haven’t had an executive session of trustees in the 14 years I’ve been there.”
Draper displayed considerable humility during his meeting at First Baptist Church, Harvester. Dressed in a business casual shirt and jeans, he sat down at one of the eight round tables set up to facilitate discussion among the young leaders. He ate the same sack lunch of sandwich and chips that they did and emphasized to them several times during a lengthy question-and-answer session that he did not descend on them from Nashville in order to pontificate. This has been his custom each of the seven times he has held such meetings across the country.
He likes it when the young leaders talk. He calls it “reverse mentoring,” and he says that it is healthy.
“Let’s keep this going,” Draper said. “I hope you understand that I didn’t have any agenda when I came, and I didn’t have a sermon to preach to you, and I didn’t bring anything to try to push on you. I really wanted to hear, and that’s been the essence of these meetings.”
Draper said “I don’t know” a lot as younger leaders pressed him for answers. Some of the younger leaders felt the need to toss in long statements with their questions. They also expressed frustration with the condition of the church in America.
“I think we’ve programmed ourselves to death,” one said.
Draper, who preached before 21 people April 24 at Weldon Spring Baptist Church, acknowledged their concern.
“I might not have a lot of answers for you, but if we really got to know each other, my heart, my passion, might be something that would bless you,” Draper said. “I would like to see a trans-generational relationship that’s very real. We can orchestrate some of that, but the truth is each of you are going to have to exercise a little bit of initiative.”
He commended one man, who is 24 years old, for doing just that. This young minister has been asking for personal meetings with various well-known megachurch pastors within the SBC, and Draper said so far his requests have been granted.
“He called me,” Draper said. “He’s been in my office a half dozen times in the last year.”
Draper said that even though he is 69 years old, he still types about 100 words a minute.
“I answer all my e-mail,” he said.