Fully Engaged—at Home and Abroad
This article first appeared in the Winter 2015/2016 issue of SBC LIFE.
Leading the church to do ministry outside the church’s four walls has been Frank S. Page’s passion since his conversion to faith in Jesus Christ.
“I was not raised in a Christian home and it was often not the happiest of homes either,” Page, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, wrote in a recent blog post.
“Elsie and Raymond Hampton, a sweet couple who lived near us, came and knocked on our door as we were new in the area and invited us to Vacation Bible School and Sunday school at Southside [Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina],” he wrote.
“Sometimes, I would beg people to pick me up and give me a ride to church. It was during one of those times on a Sunday night that I was in church by myself as a nine-year-old boy,” Page wrote. “I felt the Holy Spirit of God speaking to my little heart in a powerful way. On that evening, I gave my life to Christ, trusting Him as my Lord and Savior. On that day in 1961, my life changed forever.”
Over the next half-century, Page, who knew even prior to the night of his conversion that God had called him to Christian ministry, earned three degrees from Southern Baptist institutions, served as pastor of six Southern Baptist churches, was elected twice as SBC president, and served as vice president for evangelization with the North American Mission Board. He was honored by the SBC Executive Committee on September 21 for five years of effective leadership in his current role.
The Centrality of Scripture
Page decided early to build his life and his ministry on the solid foundation of God’s holy, inerrant Word.
“Having been raised in a home which was less than stable and often less than positive, I needed a foundational anchor,” he told SBC LIFE.
“I found that in the Word of God. It became an anchor to my life, providing direction and pointing me to the Savior.”
Challenged by Seminary Professor Bill Tolar, Page committed himself in the fall of 1973 to read through the Bible each year, a practice he has done for the past forty-two years. Those who know him well know that every day he has a new “favorite” verse of Scripture and tweets a verse of the day from his daily reading.
Mentored by pastors Norman Livengood and Calvin Capps, Page learned to share his faith in any setting. But he wasn’t content to do ministry alone.
“I wanted to equip more Elsie and Raymond Hamptons to reach unchurched families like the Pages,” he said.
The churches he served participated in the SBC’s Continuing Witness Training evangelism strategy. In 1989, Page wrote the Advanced Level CWT Manual. He continues to seek out soul-winning opportunities and participates in Crossover prior to each SBC annual meeting.
His churches willingly followed his lead. For example, Lafayette Baptist Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina, recorded 265 baptisms in six years of ministry, for an annual ratio of one baptism for every nine to ten people who attended Sunday school.
During his ten-year ministry at Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia, the church averaged eighty-five baptisms per year and doubled in Sunday school attendance from 730 in 1991 to 1,527 in 2001.
Baptisms grew steadily at First Baptist Church, Taylors, South Carolina, from forty-five baptisms in his first year to more than 140 each of his last three years at the church. Average attendance more than doubled, from 1,100 to 2,300, with some Sundays over 2,500.
At NAMB, he was instrumental in planning and launching GPS, God’s Plan for Sharing.
Church Planting and Missions
“I always felt that it was important for the churches that I pastored to be involved in mission work,” Page told SBC LIFE.
His first pastorate was at First Baptist Church of Possum Kingdom Lake. He led the church to participate in a resort ministry at the lake, where he preached each Sunday morning in the summers at the Texas state recreation area.
Page’s first experiences in international missions occurred at Live Oak Baptist Church in Gatesville, Texas. The church helped build a medical missions supply building in the Big Bend area of Mexico and later assisted local churches in Monterrey, Mexico.
LaFayette Baptist Church helped revitalize nearby Lake Rim Baptist Church, which had been a struggling mission for many years. LaFayette also provided opportunities for Page and his wife Dayle to participate in mission trips to Norway, Germany, and Australia. In addition to that, the church sponsored a Vietnamese mission primarily for Vietnamese refugees who were settling in the Fort Bragg area.
“God was truly at work” during his pastorate at Gambrell Street Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, Page said.
“We were able to take seminary students who had a call to ministry and place them in areas of deep need. We were heavily involved in the Nuevo Laredo area of Mexico” and established or supported “thirty-two local missions, which included Japanese, Chinese, Laotian, Cambodian, Spanish, and Portuguese congregations, as well as an African mission.”
Gambrell Street also established six house churches, an equal number of apartment churches, and planted several English-language congregations, he said.
According to the church’s Annual Church Profile for those years (1987–1991), the church grew by 25 percent in membership and more than 30 percent in average Sunday school attendance, reaching a peak of 1,331 in average Sunday school attendance, with 160 baptisms in Page’s final year as pastor.
In a ten-year pastorate at Warren Baptist Church, the church helped plant a local Asian-American church and worked closely with Miracle Making Ministries to touch lives in an impoverished area of downtown Augusta. The Church was also involved in doing domestic mission work in Wilmington, North Carolina, and Hazard, Kentucky.
“We also developed a medical missions ministry which, at that time, was the largest in the SBC,” Page said. Teams went all over the world ministering to people and helped churches across the United States. The primary area of international mission work was Ecuador where teams served in numerous places throughout the country.
Also, during the time at Warren Baptist and continuing in his ministry at Taylors First Baptist Church, teams of church members were sent to minister to missionaries during their annual regional meetings. A team of members would care for the children during the day while their parents were involved in meeting sessions. Vacation Bible School was provided for the children. Other church members ministered to the adults such as hair dressers, estate planners, counselors, lawyers, medical personnel, and more. These trips served in places such as diverse as England, Cypress, Thailand, and Zambia.
Commenting on his ministry at historic Taylors First Baptist, Page said, “We saw things happen at a level never before even dreamed.” While the church had ministered in Brazil in the past, they were able to move to a whole new level, he said.
Volunteers from Taylors First planted a church in Fortaleza, Brazil, and, working with Rob Blackaby, helped plant Southwinds Church in Calgary, Canada, which later planted another church.
Locally, the church launched the Kensington Apartment ministry that continues to this day, Page said, and planted First Korean Baptist Church of Greenville and the Betania Iglesia Bautista Hispanic ministry. Planting The Well Church in neighboring Simpsonville and Ridgeview Baptist Church in the northern part of the county soon followed. Additionally, the church helped to plant a church in the only gated community in West Virginia in the city of Charleston.
“We also revitalized and replanted a church with a fascinating name, the Southern Bleachery Baptist Church in Greenville, and were also able to plant an international church in Zumbo, Mozambique in Africa,” he said.
In addition, Taylors First engaged an unreached people group called the Cha-chi in the coastal jungle of Ecuador. “While we helped plant several churches there, a church planting movement took hold and at the time I left there were churches in sixteen of the twenty-five Cha-chi villages,” Page said.
Confidence in Cooperation
In addition to growth in evangelism and missions, each church Page served provided strong Cooperative Program support for Southern Baptist missions and ministries. In 2006, when Page was elected SBC president, Taylors First gave 12.5 percent of the church’s undesignated gifts through CP and an additional $300,000 through the two mission offerings.
“In Southern Baptist life, it is not either support the SBC through the Cooperative Program or lead your church to be on mission with God. It is both/and,” he said.
“I love missions! I love church planting! And I love cooperation!” Page said. When a church engages in servant evangelism while providing support for cooperative missions and ministries through CP, it “touches lives, changes perceptions about the local church, and shares the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said.
“The bottom line is simply this—as churches became more involved in missions, evangelism, and church planting, God’s hand of favor will increase upon them. They will experience healthy growth, life transformation, and evangelistic increase,” he said.
“To God be the glory!”
This article was written by Roger S. Oldham, vice president for Convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee and a member of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee.