I came to Missouri because God called me here. I felt God wanted to do something great in Missouri, and He invited me to join in. It has been 19 years, and I do not regret one second of the time I have spent serving the Lord in Missouri.
It has not always been easy, but such is to be expected in a fallen world. When you start a newspaper with zero readers, it is a God-sized project. Given the continuing battle over the Bible between conservatives and moderates as well as legal control of the convention’s various ministries, I can understand why some people thought I was crazy for coming. “Oh, those Missourians don’t know how to do anything but fight,” were the mutterings at Southern Baptist Convention annual meetings. Never mind that they were usually said by a person who was part of a failed effort to save their state convention from liberalism. “Oh, conservatives don’t know how to run anything,” embittered moderates whined. There were Southern Baptists who believed the “Conservative Resurgence” in Missouri would fail – and that I would never survive as editor.
But God had a plan.
God blessed efforts by Southern Baptists to affirm His inerrant, infallible and sufficient Word. That does not mean we have been perfect. But I believe we honored God by declaring to the world that His Word is Truth.
I am proud to have supported the “Conservative Resurgence” in Missouri, an effort known as Project 1000, started by the incomparable Roger Moran (the Troy wielder and yours truly remain close friends). I can’t begin to name all the pastors and volunteers who saved the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) from theological liberalism. From the first day I arrived, I pledged to every one of them to staunchly defend their righteous cause. I hope they look at The Pathway as a blessing that honors the Lord Jesus Christ.
My first nine years were difficult. An executive director wanted control of The Pathway and me terminated. Then another executive director fell from grace that devastated the convention. Arguments broke out between competing conservative factions. It seemed like mayhem, not ministry.
Then John Yeats arrived.
A friend who was on the executive director search committee asked me to privately meet. As soon as I walked in, I said, “We have got to call John Yeats.” We had been friends for years and Yeats had been runner-up in a previous executive director search by the MBC. My friend replied: “We already have.” In a matter of weeks, John and Sharon Yeats arrived.
They found a convention in the throes of a 17-year legal fight over trustee control of its entities. Conservative factions were sniping at each other. No progress was being made with minority groups in St. Louis and Kansas City. The convention seemed to flounder.
From the first day, John Yeats brought credibility to a state convention that sorely needed a vision of reaching people with the gospel. He made staff changes, not for the sake of change, but to secure leaders that would serve and work together – thus the term “synergy,” a favorite of Yeats. It means the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. The synergistic energy in the MBC has become dynamic.
I look forward to the day our colleges supply not only pastors and teachers, but all the nursing needs of The Baptist Home (a journalist or two would be nice, too). The Missouri Baptist Foundation is helping churches with ministry in ways we never thought we would see two decades ago. And I challenge anyone to find a more impactful ministry than The Missouri Baptist Children’s Home – and it is not just foster care and adoption. Its sex trafficking ministry is breaking new ground. And much of it is happening because everyone is pulling together.
Meanwhile, Yeats has reached out to minority communities, so much so that their numbers in convention life are rising. We should all rejoice that we have our first convention president of African-American descent in Jon Nelson. Expect more.
Finally, there is no bigger supporter of The Pathway than John Yeats. He has contributed mightily to The Pathway’s extraordinary growth in circulation and influence.
It is hard to believe John and Sharon Yeats have been in Missouri for a decade. I thank God for sending them to Missouri. I am blessed to be a small part of what a faithful and mighty God is doing through Missouri Southern Baptists.