In recent days the most frequently asked question for me has been: Do you know John Yeats and what is he like? The answer to the first part is always “yes.” I approach the answer to the second part with, admittedly, some bias, but truthfully.
I first learned about John Yeats while studying for a master’s degree at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1998. One of my areas of study focused on “The Conservative Resurgence” in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), a movement that affirmed God’s Word as inerrant and infallible and saved the convention from going down the disastrous liberal path taken by most Mainline Protestants. Yeats had served as editor of the Indiana Baptist, which at the time was the only theologically conservative state newspaper in the SBC. The Indiana Baptist was so popular among Southern Baptist conservatives that people throughout the nation subscribed to it. As you might expect, Yeats did this amid considerable criticism from moderate leaders.
For someone whom God called out of secular journalism, I needed wise counsel as I sought to see what God had for me in Christian journalism. One of a handful of people to which I turned was John Yeats. We had never met, but I called him anyway, not knowing what to expect.
Meanwhile John, by 1998, had become editor of the highly respected and growing Oklahoma Messenger. He always seemed genuinely pleased each time I called and much of the advice he offered in our conversations has proven indispensable during my 11 years in Southern Baptist journalism (two as a national correspondent for Baptist Press and nine as The Pathway’s founding editor). His graciousness persists even today. Our relationship has been enriched through the years as we have enjoyed times of fellowship at the annual state newspaper editors’ conference, at SBC annual meetings and at SBC Executive Committee meetings. I can personally testify to the love and respect SBC leaders have for John. In fact, just the other day while we were riding and talking, a prominent SBC leader called him to offer congratulations to say that the Missouri Baptist Convention will be blessed by having him serve as executive director.
John is smart, but humble. He is a leader who listens as easily as he directs. He is a scholar, but has “common sense.” Most importantly, he loves Jesus and he loves people. It will not take long for Missouri Southern Baptists to see all this and once they do, I’ll probably not see John much because he will be in such demand.
John is a Godly father who is in love with his sweet wife, Sharon. Sharon is going to be a blessing to Missouri Southern Baptists. She goes everywhere with John. If you have a meal with them (as Bernadette and I have on several occasions), don’t be surprised following the blessing, that John and Sharon plant a big ole kiss on each other. The love and respect they have for one another is evident.
John told me recently that, through much research, he has developed a position paper called “The Seven Functions of a State Convention.” I suspect we will be hearing a lot more about these seven functions. I know such issues were part of the discussions the search committee had with John and they made it clear to the MBC Executive Board that they were very impressed with his answers and ideas.
The Missouri Baptist Convention has been through a tumultuous period these past two decades. There would be normally enough challenges facing a new executive director without all the issues that have impacted the MBC in recent years. While the challenges are substantial, I have no doubt as to where John Yeats will draw his strength and wisdom – from the very words of God.
The Baptist Building staff, a mixture of people hired by a variety of past executive directors, will be impressed with John’s commitment to Christ, his willingness to listen and the courage to make decisive decisions. He will tell truth with compassion and resolve. He is not afraid to lead and understands the value of teamwork.
I look forward to John’s columns in every Pathway starting with the Nov. 1 edition. He is a skilled communicator and his insights will help Pathway readers in their daily walk with Christ. He will make Pathway better through his contributions. He will make me better as an editor. And I believe with all my heart, with God’s help, he will lead in a way so the MBC becomes all God wants it to be.
I know John and Sharon covet our prayers as they make the move from Louisiana and as he begins his service in Missouri. I hope you can attend the SBC’s annual meeting Oct. 31-Nov 2 at Tan-Tar-A when John will be installed as the 20th executive director of the MBC. It will be a historic moment for the MBC and a happy day.
DON HINKLE / editor