Editor’s Note: The Arkansas Baptist News recently interviewed Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. Floyd has been nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), which holds its annual meeting June 10-11 in Baltimore. Floyd was asked a variety of questions to give Arkansas Baptists a better understanding of the pastor who is a candidate for perhaps the most visible leadership role in Southern Baptist life. Some of Floyd’s answers were edited due to space constraints. This article is part of a two-part series. Part two will appear in a future edition of the ABN.
Arkansas Baptist News
SPRINGDALE – Texas-born Ronnie Floyd has called Arkansas home since 1986 when he became pastor of First Baptist Church, Springdale. Nearly twenty-eight years later Floyd is a die-hard Razorback fan and pastor of Cross Church (formerly First Baptist) – one of America’s largest evangelical churches, with five campuses in Fayetteville, Rogers, Springdale and most-recently, Neosho, Mo.
In addition to serving in the local church, Floyd has served in numerous leadership capacities in the Southern Baptist Convention on local, state and national levels. He currently is the general editor of LifeWay Christian Resources’ Bible Studies for Life curriculum series and as lead pastor and strategist of Send North America, the church planting initiative of the
North American Mission Board (NAMB).
Perhaps most notably, Floyd chaired the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Task Force, which led to a strategic shift in the way Southern Baptist entities carry out the Great Commission, including a shift in the way money is allocated for kingdom work.
ABN: What do you see as major challenges of the Southern Baptist Convention as a denomination in the 21st century?
Floyd: I believe the greatest challenge we have is for a fresh, mighty move of God across our churches and across the leaders of our churches, as well as across the leaders of our convention. … But I think also we have to find a way … to accelerate the completion of the Great Commission in our generation. I really believe Southern Baptists have more than solved “this is the direction we are going.” We have chosen the path. We are very committed to the authority of Scripture. We are very committed to how we comprise that in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. We are very committed to doing what we can to fulfill the Great Commission. I think the path is set. What we need to do is to try to find a way to accelerate the pace. I do think there is another massive challenge in Southern Baptist life and that is relating to the issue of funding, funding the vision in a greater way. It is not that Southern Baptists are not funding the vision; they are funding the vision, even in a challenging economy the last several years. … But, it is a matter of, “Where does the vision need to go?” “What needs to happen in the next decade relating to the financial resources and its future in Southern Baptist life?” … regarding all those things that we fund – from our mission offerings as well as through the Cooperative Program.
ABN: This is obviously a very pivotal time in the history of our nation and the world. If you are elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, what role do you see your presidency serving?
Floyd: I believe, more than anything, I want to serve Southern Baptist churches and the conventions that make up and comprise the Southern Baptist Convention and the entities of the Southern Baptist Convention. I want to be able to be used as a pivotal leader in areas where God raises up opportunities. And I don’t know if any of us know what that looks like. We may know more about the way it looks if, indeed, I am elected, and then the course of what happens over the next year to two years if I were to be privileged to serve. And so, I think, more than anything, I want to serve. I think, then, I want to lead. And I am already a major prayer supporter of what we do.
ABN: Do you feel the role of president of the Southern Baptist Convention is to promote an agenda – to help Southern Baptists have a vision for what God wants them to be?
Floyd: What I know right now is that, if the Lord lets me do this, I want to extend a strong call to Southern Baptist churches, pastors and to who we are as a people to what I would call “extraordinary prayer,” for us to see revival personally, revival in our churches and, I believe, an awakening in America, so that we can see the Great Commission escalated to its rightful place of priority and accelerated to its completion in our generation. I have become deeply moved and challenged through some of these prayer gatherings that we have led for pastors. And I have been challenged by the words of Jonathan Edwards, the man that God really used to be one of the major catalysts for the First Awakening. And he talked about the challenge to have explicit agreement together, visible union and extraordinary prayer.
ABN: As we read the news, we see what is happening across the world, and I see, and I know you do as well, revival and spiritual awakening happening in various places in the world, but not so much here in the United States. What do you see that we have to do as a nation, as a people, and how Southern Baptists can be a catalyst in helping the United States return to God?
Floyd: History shows any, any movement of God that has ever shaken a nation, ever shaken a major region of the world, has always happened that prayer precedes it. I mean, wouldn’t it be incredible if we could have strong, strong commitment to that across Southern Baptist life and our churches? Sometimes I’m reminded of the importance that we know that we want prayer everywhere else in our public arena. … We need to let prayer become somewhat a priority sometime when we get together in worship, rather than making it lower than the announcement time. And until we see prayer moved up and a commitment to that, and a strong pursuit of God, I mean, that’s what churches need to be revitalized, that’s what every one of our churches need to become more evangelistic, that’s what it is going to take to see more money given through our churches toward reaching the world, together as Southern Baptists. I mean, that’s what it is going to take.
ABN: You are obviously a theologian, and I am not. Any great awakening has started with prayer, but from my study of awakenings and movements, there is also an aspect of repentance. That is also a key component, isn’t it?
Floyd: I don’t think we can ever undervalue the need for repentance. I think we come back to the basic essential, or the imperatives I would even call it, the blueprint, as some say, in 2 Chronicles 7:14. And we’ve got to come back to experiencing the presence of the Lord like never before, and that’s really what revival is. … Revival is the manifested presence of God in our lives. Man, it is so refreshing when we have those showers, those moments, and we need a downpour. We need a gully washer.
ABN: This is one of the questions that came from one of our pastors: “What are some definite actions you believe we can take as Southern Baptists to better protect from child abuse in the denomination? How can we accomplish that vital need while respecting local church autonomy?”
Floyd: Wow! I really have not thought about that too extensively – because it really is a local church issue more than anything else. The only thing I would say in regard to that: … When churches would exchange membership of members, that if there is a trail that exists, we need to have the honesty with the other church that it does exist, whether that is in regard to someone working in a situation as a volunteer or whether they work in a situation as a prospective employee.
ABN: Here is another pastor question: “What are some definite actions you feel can be taken to combat the stigma attached to mental/emotional health issues in the church, especial among ministers? How can we provide better support to isolated pastors facing these challenges?”
Floyd: Last year I brought a motion to the Southern Baptist Convention regarding two mental health challenges. In a reality, our motion, and what we intended for that to happen, is really happening – that is to get the SBC entities and the Executive Committee to inform Baptists as to what we are doing. I never would have thought that we are not doing anything, but we need to know what we are doing and we need to communicate that. And if we are not doing what we need to be doing, then we need to get up to what we need to be doing. This is an issue that Southern Baptists can’t sit out on. This is a front-line issue that is hot on the heart of any spiritual leader because his church deals with that, with membership, and many pastors’ families walk through those same journeys. And I think with the entities of the Southern Baptist Convention that care for pastors, they are going to be compassionate toward helping that pastor. As far as taking the stigma away, I think we are in the process of that … by us having the conversation. I mean, I was asked recently, Was my goal reached? Yes, for the first time in the history, that I know of, of the Southern Baptist Convention, we are having a conversation about it. And they are having it where it needs to be … within each entity of the SBC and I would imagine even some of our state conventions are dealing with that issue. And they are closer to the churches, so I think state conventions, in their ministries to pastors – which the state conventions really, really try hard at ministering to those pastors – that since they are closer, that’s probably going to be one of the more effective ways and places where they can receive assistance – even though I do know that the North American Mission Board has a ministry that they have created called “Pastor to Pastors” that is led by Dr. Michael Lewis and I also know that LifeWay has some of the responsibilities of caring for the leaders of the SBC. So, prayerfully, those matters will help. Also, as a matter of information, as the general editor of Bible Studies for Life, the largest curriculum series in the SBC, I made an appeal last summer upon return from the SBC, that we use one of the lessons in Bible Studies for Life regarding the mental health challenges, and I even suggested who we ought to enlist to write that (Frank Page) … because he has led that as a parent, as well as a pastor, and has an enormous heart for it. And, so, I encouraged them to enlist him and let him be the author of that lesson, and that’s done. And if I am not mistaken, I believe it is coming out this, maybe sometime before the SBC ... which will help the stigma, by the way, because the churches will have the conversation. And when churches get out there and start having the conversation, that will take care of the stigma.
ABN: This is another pastor question: “Next year’s meeting is in Columbus, Ohio, – your first year as SBC president if you are elected. It is expected that it will be weakly attended. … Would you support tabling any important motions or actions until the next year, rather than taking a vote with a small group of messengers?”
Floyd: I really don’t have anything to do with the business part of the convention at that point. That’s probably an Executive Committee issue. But I would pray that somehow, some way, that we will develop a strategy to encourage people to want to come to Columbus, Ohio. Because Columbus is one of the largest cities of America that is very much in need of Jesus Christ. It is a great city, and obviously the home of Ohio State University, and I think it is a great statement for the SBC to go and to make a difference. And, if I am elected president, I will do everything I can to mobilize messengers there. So, I hope we don’t have that issue.
ABN: As a follow-up to that question from the same pastor: “I am told there will be a motion made at this year’s annual meeting directing the SBC Executive Committee to study the possibility of allowing the messengers to meet at remote locations to conduct business of the SBC in the future – sort of like a multisite church like you pastor. How do you feel about such a proposal and the practicality of it being implemented?”
Floyd: I would have to see the proposal itself. ... Until I saw it, I don’t think I could respond to that, just by the nature of the ambiguity of it.
ABN: The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force – which you chaired – recommended sweeping changes to the way the Southern Baptist Convention operates. I think we can all agree with that. Kevin Ezell, in particular, has come under fire by some regarding decisions he has made as president of the North American Mission Board. Do you feel that Ezell is simply following the mandate of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force in the way that the agency is being operated now?
Floyd: First of all, I have high regard for Dr. Ezell. Secondly, the Southern Baptist Convention spoke highly in favor of the GCR proposal, at least 75 percentile. So, when Dr. Ezell went to the North American Mission Board, some of that which he implemented was implementing the will and the message of the SBC. The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force and the Southern Baptist Convention does not tell its entities what to do and how to operate those matters. But we lay in generalities relating to those. For example, move at least one-half of your financial expenditures toward church planting. All right, what is that doing? It’s making a major shift toward church planting in the future. But, we didn’t tell them how to do it; we didn’t tell them any of those matters. We did talk about major cities and the needs of the gospel, as well as underserved areas in the United States. With that, how they do that is between them – between Dr. Ezell and his board of trustees. And I trust that, in cooperation with executives of the state conventions and, of course, the entities of the SBC, that would be done in the highest manner possible.
In the next installment of this interview, Floyd discusses Cooperative Program funding and his own church’s increased support of the Cooperative Program, his involvement with LifeWay curriculum, his “small church” roots and the question of Calvinism in Southern Baptist life.
Contact Caleb Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org.