Tolliver examines what Lord requires
OSAGE BEACH—Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Interim Executive Director David Tolliver came to the 173rd annual meeting of the MBC at Tan-Tar-A with a question that he was able to place before the messengers on Oct. 29.
Preaching out of Micah 6:8, Tolliver wondered, “What does the Lord require of you, or what does the Lord require of me?”
Before he was through preaching that evening, he posed nearly three dozen questions that hinted at sour attitudes and political subterfuge that perhaps were alive within the body. Even though feelings of anger, mistrust, suspicion and resentment may have been present in the meeting hall, Tolliver worked hard not to pass judgment, sticking with the text. His goal was to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with his God.
“Woe to the Missouri Baptist who in complaining about the sins of others sows discord among the body of Christ,” Tolliver said. “If we ever expect to experience the blessing of God on our churches and in this convention, that stuff has to stop tonight. Right now.”
Tolliver became interim executive director on April 10 after having served nearly two years as the MBC’s Cooperative Program leader. Before coming to Jefferson City, he served six years as pastor of Pisgah Baptist Church, Excelsior Springs, a total of 8½ years as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, St. Louis, and Oak Hill Baptist Church, St. Louis, after a merger, and five years as pastor of Friendship Baptist Church, California.
He is a man with deep roots in Missouri, and his love for the ancient pathways came through loud and clear in his Micah 6:8 message. His great-grandfather, R.L. Maness, developed a strong ministry in Franklin County to the point where he started many of the churches there. His grandfather, Max Payne, served as pastor of Central Baptist Church, Eureka, for 32 years. And his father, Phillip Tolliver, ministered more than 45 years as a Southern Baptist in Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa and Missouri, with many of those years in Missouri.
“There was a time when it took more than just the ability to put a sentence together on a blog to gain a hearing,” Tolliver said. “There was a time when it took more than just the desire to be heard to gain a voice. I remember when we listened to those who were more experienced than we were. I remember when we felt that their years perhaps had taught them something that perhaps you and I could learn from them.”
The echoes of Tolliver’s musings about Missouri Baptists walking humbly, or in a lowly fashion, before their God evoked memories of his 2004 MBC presidential address at First Baptist Church, Raytown, when he said, “I have learned that those who think they know the most probably understand the least.” As interim executive director, Tolliver has wondered several times over the summer what people would be expecting him to say on Oct. 29. In the end, it did not matter. What matters most, he said, in a sermon outline that he patiently went over so that the text could be felt, is that God wants him to be fair-minded, firm-minded and fresh-minded in his position, functioning with a fervent heart, a forbearing heart and a forgiving heart while living a life that is faithful, fulfilled and fragrant.
Tolliver’s voyage as interim executive director has seen choppy seas. Before his Oct. 29 sermon, his wife of 35 years, Myra, sang “The Anchor Holds” to an eventual standing ovation even as images of Disaster Relief heroism flashed on the two big screens. Tolliver, who calls himself “nothing but a country preacher,” has but one anchor these days—Jesus.
Some have commented on the character quality of humility that they plainly see in Tolliver for God’s glory. Those same observers would contend that he has tried to humbly manage the day-to-day operation of the Convention even though the ship appears to be battered. But humility is not necessarily in-your-face prophecy, which means that in the end, when messengers were asked to apply the biblical teaching of Micah 6:8 to their own lives, Tolliver just made a simple appeal and left it at that.
“We’re going to do business as the Missouri Baptist Convention that we rightly need to do, but before we do business as a convention, we have got to do business with God,” he said.
People then came toward the front of the platform to kneel before a holy God.