JEFFERSON CITY—In his 17-minute keynote address to those gathered for the 8th annual Prayer Service for State Government Leaders, John Yeats, the new executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), urged citizens to pray for those who are in authority.
Yeats said obeying I Timothy 2:1-4 can lead people into a lifestyle of prayer that would help produce quiet and peaceable lives in communities that are under the jurisdictional authority of elected officials. His Jan. 4 message to the various Missouri officials and staff members at Concord Baptist Church was that Missouri Baptists would be praying for them and celebrating their various votes that line up with God’s will.
He first defined what “quiet and peaceable” living does not mean.
“It does not mean that we desire some kind of American theocracy,” Yeats said. “However, we refuse to bow down to natural secularism, which is the prevailing religion of our day. That is often the worldview propagated by our public institutions, and the outcomes, as we are discovering, are devastating to individuals, families, and public policy.
“It doesn’t mean that we will wink when organizations propagate their immoral practices by using the law to normalize their behavior. Legal does not make something moral, nor is the morality of something determined by its legal standing in the court of man. There is a higher authority than our civil government. And it doesn’t mean that we will look the other way when corrupt policies and regulations threaten our capacity to serve the Lord or to communicate God’s message of redemption and hope to all men and women everywhere. We want no hindrance to sharing the gospel, and we’re grateful that we’re in a state where that is so.
“Leading a quiet and peaceable life does not mean that we will ignore the reality that the greatest holocaust of human history gained its federal legal standing in 1973 and continues its bloody business of legally taking the lives of yet-to-be-born children—60 million precious souls. Do we honestly think that the God, the God, looks the other way at our nation while this atrocity continues?”
In defining what it does mean to live out these verses, Yeats asked Gov. Jay Nixon, the other elected officials, and the judges to forgive Missouri Baptists for sitting too long on the sidelines.
“Our plan is to organizationally walk toward becoming an engaged people—a people who want to work with you to make our state a place of peace and prosperity,” he said. “We favor neither political party, but our purpose is to encourage a biblical worldview in every aspect of life.”
Yeats said he can identify with elected officials even more after watching the movie “War Horse,” which depicts the horrifying reality of the leading character, a horse named Joey, being caught in “no man’s land” in World War I.
“He’s tangled up in a web of barbed wire, much like a lot of people are in our state and in our world,” Yeats said. “Some of you feel like you’re in ‘no man’s land,’ and you’re trapped between opposing worldviews. Each is determined to prevail. And I understand the rhetoric from opposing positions can sometimes be confusing and disturbing, especially when they deal with the significant moral issues of our day. And you feel the tension from opposing positions, and it’s tough.
“The opposing sides see the potential of our culture from two very diverse perspectives. One perspective is based upon the solid footing of principle and history and relational success. The other worldview is based on an emotive quest for normalcy by groups of individuals engaged in certain kinds of self-directed behaviors that history and common sense deemed abhorrent and abominable just a few decades ago. So as we pray for you, we pray that God will embrace your lives with wisdom—the capacity to view life’s circumstances from God’s perspective.”
Yeats said that when Missouri Baptists pray for elected officials, “it’s not just an exercise or some form of religiosity. We seek to speak to the heart of God for you today, believing that God will do something extraordinary in your lives in 2012 that will reveal His glory.”
Several MBC Executive Board members and pastors were in attendance.
“I think that he had some good emphasis on the role that faith plays in the public arena when it comes to politics, and that you can’t really separate the two,” said Justin Nelson, worship pastor, South Creek Church, Springfield, who is one of three Executive Board members on the Executive Director Evaluation Subcommittee charged with overseeing Yeats’ job performance. “He made some very bold statements, but I thought he did it with grace and tact.”
Bill Vail, pastor, First Baptist Church, Poplar Bluff, agreed.
“I thought it was excellent,” Vail said. “I liked the challenges to pray for our country and be good citizens and bring God back into the marketplace. I thought it was bold. He didn’t seem to mince any words but was appropriate in what he had to say.”
ALLEN PALMERI/associate editor