The end of each year tends to spark reflection on what could have been, what may be and the uncertainties of both.
The end of each year tends to spark reflection on what could have been, what
may be and the uncertainties of both.
One of the exercises of newspaper staffs is to recount who passed from the
scene during the year just ended. Every year we are struck by the long list
of personalities from entertainers to scientists with significant to monumental
accomplishments who died the previous year.
This review of people who are no longer on this earth causes many to ask, “Who
will take their places?”
Indeed, some of the stellar personalities who, as Shakespeare wrote, “shuffled
off this mortal coil” this past year altered life as we know it. History
has somehow been shaped by their passing through it.
Who will take their places?
On a smaller stage, people who did not necessarily shape national or world
history but who had a significant impact on hundreds, or thousands, or tens
of thousands have passed through the gates of death during the last year. While
life certainly goes on, the death of these folks takes away a powerful influence
Who will take their places?
This is a significant time for people with the God-endowed gifts of leadership,
exhortation and inspiration to step forward, especially in Baptist life. As
much as history is shaped by events, it is shaped more by people who usually
cause and/or shape events and who have a determined grand vision that can inspire
others to accept them as their own and can effectively exhort them to move forward
in power, commitment and determination.
Southern Baptist life is punctuated with people God has used as just this kind
of leaders. No names will be listed because there is no desire to stir debate
rather than thought, but every part of Southern Baptist life was birthed and
has grown from the timely vision of people who not only had the vision, but
the ability to rally people to bring the vision into reality. This is true in
missions, missions support, education, discipleship and charity.
It seems by surveying the history of the last 30 years that the time is “fulfilled”
for leaders to emerge who have been endowed with new visions and dreams, and
who can inspire millions of Southern Baptists to accept them as their own, and
move mightily toward them.
It could well be that some of the institutional leaders now in place can rise
to that level. It may be that some strong pastors can be used of God in mighty
ways to bring about a broad-sweeping renewed commitment to and support of evangelism,
missions, church growth, discipleship training and stewardship.
Certainly there have been leaders with compelling visions and leadership on
the theological issues of the last 30 years, and the goals they inspired have
been accomplished. The same kind of leadership can now focus on the work of
Does this say significant work in these areas has not been done in the last
decades?Certainly not. But who would say we have achieved as we should, or that
we are now on target as we must be? The Southern Baptist Convention is like
the mountain climber who topped a mountain after days of arduous climbing. When
he reached the apogy of that peak, he saw another mountain that was even higher
and asked himself, “Do I want to sit here and enjoy the view I have earned,
or do I want to go back down, or do I want to set my goal on the next mountain
top and go forward?”
If we go forward, who will lead us?
A man in his fifties stood beside the grave of his 80-plus year-old mentor
who had been a friend, confidant, encourager and promoter of countless younger
men. Standing beside him was a sixty-year-old, a close friend of the younger
man. The younger man looked at the casket at the bottom of the open grave and
said somberly, “He was so much to so many. Who will take his place?”
The older man remained silent for a thoughtful moment and then replied, “You.”
Who will lead us?