"The local church is the headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention," said Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, reiterating a core facet of Southern Baptist life.
"The Executive Committee building is not ," Page said of the EC's offices in Nashville, Tenn., "but the local church is.
"And that's why I spend as much time as I can in the local church, and I take invitations on a first-come, first-served basis," Page said of his Sunday morning visit to Pleasant Grove Baptist Church north of Bucklin, Mo., a community of about 500 people in rural Linn County.
Pleasant Grove is an open-country church that has been a light in north Missouri since 1843.
Pleasant Grove pastor Brian C. Baker asked if Page would be willing to come, and March 6 was an open date for both Page and the church, which runs about 45 in Sunday worship.
Page's visit provided a boost -- 53 in Sunday School and around 60 in church. Baker introduced Page as a consummate pastor, a denominational servant and a follower of Jesus Christ.
"Pleasant Grove is proud to be a Southern Baptist church," Baker said. "We were one of the charter Southern Baptist churches in 1845...."
"I try to be as many places as I can, visit with all kinds of Southern Baptists," said Page, who calls himself the "Chief Encouragement Officer" for the Southern Baptist Convention.
Did he see some encouraging things at Pleasant Grove?
Page was quick to mention one of the church's seven deacons, Jim Thompson, who hosted Page at his home March 5.
"My friend, Jim here, goes and picks up two little girls who live up the dirt road from him," Page said of Thompson's commitment to provide the two girls with transportation to church.
"That's very kind. That's just encouraging, to see that kind of outreach going on, neighbors taking care of neighbors," Page said. "That's what Christians do, and it's exciting to see that.
"That's what happened with me," Page continued. "I was not raised in a Christian home, and I had an older family that lived up the street who invited my siblings and me to go to Vacation Bible School and Sunday School.
"That's how the Lord found me, so I always appreciate seeing that."
The day before he preached, Page spent some time in the city of Chillicothe, Mo., and the community of Ethel -- whose population pales in comparison to Bucklin -- sharing his insights about pastoral care and visitation. Missouri pastors, lay leaders, and state and associational leaders saw that Page, who was inaugurated Feb. 21 as the sixth president of the SBC Executive Committee, can still sound like the pastor of First Baptist Church of Possum Kingdom Lake in Graford, Texas, which he once was.
"He's down to earth," Thompson said. "He's just people -- very accommodating. He has a way to talk to people that makes them feel good, so we had a good time."
Standing at the original pulpit of Pleasant Grove on Sunday, Page described himself as "a poor, country, eastern North Carolina redneck." He rose from those humble roots in Robbins to various pastorates to the presidency of the SBC from 2006-08, to a vice presidential post with the North American Mission Board and, now, to his Executive Committee post.
Pastor Baker's orders from "headquarters" had been for Page to preach however the Lord led him, and Page chose John 4:7-30, the account of Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well.
"This woman came to Christ and then she started sharing Christ," Page said. "Two of the greatest areas in the Christian life are finding Christ and then to share Christ. It's what God wants."
Page told of a friendship he built with a prospect over the course of 16 years. He kept praying for the man and eventually learned of his conversion to Christ. Now the man has won someone else to Christ. Every Christian should ask God to give him or her someone like that, Page said.
"This woman's past was forgiven, her present was altered, her future was changed -- and that's what God wants to do with you and me," Page said.
Allen Palmeri is associate editor of The Pathway (www.mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of churches affiliated with the Missouri Baptist Convention.
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