A message from Dr. John Yeats Executive Director-Treasurer
Our vision as the missionary staff of the Missouri Baptist Convention is to transform lives and communities with the gospel. We pursue this vision by cooperating with all Missouri Baptists to make disciples, multiply churches, and develop leaders. And we carry out this mission in submission to biblical authority, which sets the standards for diversity and ethnic conciliation.
In Intensional: Kingdom Ethnicity in a Divided World, D.A. Horton writes: “Ethnic conciliation is accomplished when we affirm (not ignore or idolize) the ethnic heritage of every human being and seek to remove animosity, distrust, and hostility from our interpersonal relationships. I believe that the only people qualified to take up the holistic work of ethnic conciliation are those who follow Jesus – because we are the only ones who have experienced both conciliation and reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:17-20; Eph. 2:11-22). Jesus’ finished work has not only reconciled us to God but has also brought us – from all different ethnicities – into one family! In Jesus alone, the nations have conciliation.”
Our conduct with respect to diversity and ethnic conciliation is built on the following biblical truths:
1. God has created every human being in His image. All people are equal because of their relationship to the first humans, whom God directly created (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7, 21-22). Further, all human beings possess the imago dei, or image of God. This biblical doctrine declares that all people, regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, abilities, socioeconomic class, or even behavior – whether godly or sinful – bear the image of God and thus retain God-given worth and dignity. The imago dei extends to every human being without exception. Therefore, every person is to be treated with the utmost respect.
2. Every human being is fallen. Sin, which entered the human race through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, has spread to all humanity, as well as to the created order (Gen.3) and, as a result, there is conflict, hatred, contention, injustice, racism, oppression, and a diminished sense of community throughout the world. All people are born with an inclination to sin, and all people act upon this tendency to live independently of God through willful rebellion against Him. This alienates people from God and merits His divine justice (Rom. 3:10, 23; 6:23).
As followers of Jesus, we recognize that the world is not as God created it or intended it to be, and that humanity and the world system in which we live descend further away from God. Sadly, Christians contribute to this malaise as we fall into temptation and sin – often grievously. Yet God has called us to resist temptation to personal sin and to work for the benefit of those who suffer the most beneath its weight (Rom. 5:12-21; Eph. 2:1-10).
3. God has sent His Son to redeem us. Sinful human beings and the fallen world in which we live would spin desperately out of control, with no hope of being restored to a right relationship with our creator, apart from the finished work of Christ. As the eternal Son of God, Jesus left the glory of heaven and came to earth, adding sinless humanity to His deity via the miracle of the virgin birth, on a mission to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). Jesus’ sinless life, sacrificial and substitutionary death on the cross, and physical resurrection from the dead purchased the salvation of all who repent and trust in Him – without distinction of ethnicity, gender, age, ability, or social status. This truly is good news for all people, who are called to repent and believe (Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:44-47; John 3:16; 5:24; Acts 10:34-43; 17:30; 2 Cor. 5:21; Eph. 1:7; 2:8-9).
4. God has called His people to love one another and to love others. Biblical love is a defining characteristic of those who truly follow Jesus. We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, to love our enemies, strangers, foreigners, prisoners, outcasts, and all in need. This includes people who disagree with our beliefs – and even those who persecute us for our beliefs (Ps. 82:3-4; Matt. 5:43-48; Luke 10:25-37; John 13:34-35; Eph. 4:1-6; Jas. 1:27).
5. God calls Christians to a gospel community. This includes loving families in which mothers and fathers give themselves sacrificially to one another, and who raise their children in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). This means membership in diverse local churches that make disciples and minister to their communities, protect the vulnerable, help widows and orphans, and that voluntarily cooperate with other churches to accomplish more for the sake of the gospel together than they could alone. A congregation reflecting the beauty of gospel community fulfills the scriptural expectation expressed in Ephesians 3:10, “through the church, the manifold wisdom of God is made known” and expands our evangelistic witness in the world. (Matt. 28:18-20; Gal. 3:26-29; Eph. 5; Heb. 10:19-25; Jas. 2:1-13;).
6. Christ is redeeming people from every tribe, people, tongue, and nation, who stand now and forevermore in the presence of God in unified worship (Rev. 5:9-10). Further, Jesus has promised to return to set things right. One day, all people will stand before Him and give an account of their lives, including how they treated others (John 5:28-29; Rom. 14:10; 1 Cor. 4:5; Rev. 20:11-15). He then will purge our fallen world of sin and its stain and restore creation to its pristine perfection, dwelling personally with those He has saved (2 Pet. 3:10-13; Rev. 21-22).
Missouri Baptists form a community of nearly 1,750 diverse, independent local churches, cooperating for the sake of the gospel. We strategically strive to be the hands and feet of Jesus across our state, and the degree to which we are successful reflects the depth of our commitment to the principles highlighted above.
We understand that unity is not uniformity. The diversity we witness in the body of Christ should be seen in the composition of our congregations, missionary staff, institutions, and public policies. As one example, the MBC’s governing documents constitute our guide for nominating, electing, and superintending MBC officers, trustees, and other leaders. We encourage all Missouri Baptists to be familiar with these documents, and to nominate and elect godly leaders who reflect our great diversity.
Finally, as a missionary staff under biblical authority, we embrace a calling that goes beyond tolerance, compliance, or obligation. We genuinely seek personal and community transformation with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our community of Missouri Baptists should present a foretaste of the scene in heaven in which a rich diversity of people made in the image of God and transformed into the image of Christ engage in unified worship around the throne.
As the MBC’s executive director-treasurer since 2011, I joyfully strive to lead all Missouri Baptists toward biblically-grounded goals of diversity, ethnic conciliation, and inclusion. Among these goals are the following:
1. Pull out the noxious weed. That means leading Missouri Baptists to pray diligently for a spiritual revival that loosens the hard soil of our hearts, allowing the Lord to pull out the weed (sin) of racism — to pluck it out by the roots! It also means crying out for such a movement of God’s Spirit that churches and communities are transformed by unconditional love into safe havens for rearing a new generation that walks in the ways of God.
2. Engage diverse leaders in the process. This means stressing to the Nominating Committee the importance of qualified, ethnically diverse candidates for service on the various boards and commissions of the MBC. This includes encouraging MBC church members nominating candidates for these openings.
3. Seek diversity for missionary leadership. All MBC ministry leaders must do their utmost to seek and hire qualified, ethnically diverse candidates for missionary and staff positions.
4. Tell the story of God’s work. That is, publish books, articles, and web-based resources demonstrating the biblical mandate of ethnic conciliation.
5. Set historical precedents. As a statement of authentic repentance for the past, successfully cultivate ethnically diverse leaders among Missouri Baptist life so that officers of the MBC and trustees of the entities reflect the diverse mosaic of Missouri.
6. Bring together best practices. As executive director, I am encouraging a presidentially-appointed ethnic conciliation task force to study the complexities of Missouri Baptist history in the context of the sin of racism. This task force would bring recommendations to the Executive Board and messengers to the Annual Meeting to assist churches and church leaders with best practices for ethnic inclusion.
7. Function as a public policy mouthpiece for high-value life issues. We must use MBC public policy and the Christian Life Commission to help save the lives of minority children, countering the eugenic philosophy of Margaret Sanger that promotes euthanizing the lives of minority children in their mothers’ wombs, and providing a clear alternative with compassionate ministries. Further, we must uphold the sanctity of life until natural death and make The Baptist Home affordable for each demographic and a welcoming place for minorities; assist godly, virtuous foster care families; develop a support system for those caught in human trafficking; and seek ways to provide scholarships for minority undergrads and seminary students.
8. Listen more, talk less. We must offer a listening ear for the various demographics under the tent of the Missouri Baptist Convention of churches. We should seek collaborative ways to break down barriers to ethnic conciliation, and develop specific, timely solutions that emerge from the conversations.
9. Lean into the awkward. Faith requires that we move beyond superficial, faddish, or popular movements to set a unique course following the Lord in all things to serve together as brothers and sisters for the sake of the gospel. We must be seen as wise —defined as “perceiving life experiences from God’s perspective.” This enables us to celebrate the greatness of our God in the context of difficult and awkward situations.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of goals, but it is a list rooted in God’s word. And the word of God has equal application to all people in every culture, language, ethnicity, and nation.