JEFFERSON CITY – John Yeats wants to get to know you, and wants you to get to know him.
As the newly named executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), Yeats is jumping into the role ready to go, beginning with the annual meeting at Tan-Tar-A.
Although new to Missouri, Yeats is no stranger to convention service. He comes to the MBC from the Louisiana Baptist Convention, where he served as director of communications and public policy and before that he edited the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger for eight years. Before that he was director of communications for the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana. Yeats has been the recording secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) since 1997 and has pastored churches on a full-time or interim basis in Montana, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Louisiana.
He earned his bachelor’s degree from Dallas Baptist University, where he met his wife, Sharon. From there, he finished his M.Div. at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and has since received a D.Min. from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Div. from American Christian College and Seminary.
But a biography and resume can only tell you so much. The Pathway sat down with Yeats to get to know him better.
The Pathway: Tell us your personal testimony.
John Yeats: As a small child, my family left southeastern Oklahoma in search of work. We landed in Arlington, Texas. One of our neighbors, Mary Bowen, would come be each Friday and ask my parents if my brother and I could come over Saturday morning to her house with some other kids in the neighborhood. We would sing, she would tell a Bible story, we ate freshly baked cookies, and she would take us back to our house. She was persistent and every Sunday morning she came by the house to invite my parents to church, but my dad would send my mother to the door to say, “Not today.”
One morning my dad saw her coming and told my mother to go to the door and say, “We are coming today.” On that day, the Lord moved in the hearts of my dad and mom and they joined the Northside Baptist Church.
A few months later, my parents bought a house on the southeast side of Arlington and joined a group of people from Northside to plant a church that became the Hillcrest Park Baptist Church. It was through the ministry of this new church plant that I received Christ. I had been asking my parents a lot of spiritual questions so they wisely invited the pastor over for Sunday lunch. It was there in my home that my pastor walked me through the Roman’s Road and I prayed to receive Christ. Six weeks later I was baptized and started my faith journey.
PW: What about your call to ministry?
JY: While I was in high school, I attended youth camp. The Lord spoke to my heart that I was living a compartmentalized life. I was living one way at home and church but living more like the world with my friends. At the camp, I got alone and the Lord used Romans 5-8 to show me that He desired nothing less than wholeness. Soon, I realized that obedience for me meant surrender to the call of God. As I have proceeded by faith, the Lord and has confirmed that call. Today, I am not only captivated by His call, but I am eternally grateful.
PW: Why are you a Southern Baptist?
JY: As a child, I was part of a Southern Baptist church plant and discipled through Southern Baptist ministries. I was educated at a Southern Baptist college and seminary. But we all know that as Southern Baptists, we all have a bit of an independent streak in us. When I was in Topeka, I saw the Cooperative Program in motion, and I saw churches going beyond the Cooperative Program to buy strip of land to help us plant a church. Another team of churches from Texas came up and helped build our building. Another church came and helped us with our first Vacation Bible School. There was all this team work for the Kingdom goal. That solidified in my heart why I am Southern Baptist. I really am convinced that God, through His grace, has given us a method of funding missions that is head and shoulders above any independent ministry that exists today. Our best days are ahead.
PW: Speaking of that, what do you think about the possibility of changing the name of the SBC?
JY: While I think our capacity as Baptists to study something is valuable, I question the timing of it. Our greatest need right now is not a new name, but a new heart. We must have revival and spiritual awakening to quicken our churches. If we want to attach a new name to that, that’s fine, but just because we vote on something doesn’t give us a new heart that is passionate about souls that are lost and serving one another. Until we get there, the timing is all wrong to be talking about this secondary issue.
PW: Who are some of your influences or heroes?
JY: I could point to Sharon my wife. I could point to each member of the SBC Great Commission Council and say that they personally influence my life. My [former] executive director, David Hankins, is one of the SBC’s greatest thinkers.
PW: You just mentioned your wife. Tell us about Sharon and your family.
JY: When you open the pages of your Bible to Proverbs 31, you read the most apt description of my precious. Sharon is my love and my best friend. She is passionate about walking with the Lord. Her faith is much more straightforward than mine. She is a prayer warrior. She and I are partners in the strictest sense of the word. We are our strongest accountability partners and both of us are passionate about living lives characterize by holy behavior, prayer, witnessing, love for one another and generosity toward the work for the Lord and others. We like each other and it gives us the greatest joy to experience this life together. She goes with me wherever I go to do my work. She could stay home and become wrapped up in work or a local ministry, but she believes God’s call is that we be a ministry team.
PW: And your kids?
JY: Our three sons are extraordinary young men with families. John-Mark is the senior pastor of the Normandale Baptist church in Fort Worth, Texas. He is married to Angie and they have four adopted children. Joel lives in the Indianapolis area and is a skilled auto mechanic with multiple certifications. He is married to Julie and they have two children. Jordan lives in Austin and works for a web service company. He is married to Amy and they have two children.
BRIAN KOONCE/staff writer