My vote for SBC President is going to go to the least known of all the candidates. Leo Endel is the Executive Director of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention. After quite a bit of thought, I’ve decided to cast my vote for him. I’d like to tell you why.
In the interests of full disclosure, I will tell you that Leo is a close friend of mine. We arrived in Iowa about the same time and spent a lot of quality time in the state office serving on the Iowa Executive Board. When Leo was elected president of the Baptist Convention of Iowa, I was elected first vice-president. Leo led the Iowa convention through a very difficult transition as our current (and wonderful) executive director was hired. We were in the hallway at the hotel in Des Moines talking about what was happening when Leo told me he might be leaving Sioux City. I thought he was probably taking a bigger church in Missouri until he told me he was headed to his current state executive job. I was floored. A couple of years later, when the pastor that followed him in Sioux City left after only two years, Leo asked me if he could put my name in at Southern Hills. So, Leo and I have been friends for nearly 20 years and he is the one who put my name in at my current pastorate.
You might think that I am voting for Leo out of loyalty and friendship. But it’s not quite that simple. Anyone who has read what I have written recently knows that I am a passionate supporter of the GCR Task Force report. Leo does not completely share my enthusiasm. That gave me a little pause. This difference in perspective made my decision a little more difficult. Could I vote for a close friend who does not fully support the GCR?
But, in reality, the next president of the SBC will have no influence on whether the GCR passes. By the time he takes office the votes will be counted. If the GCR passes, the next president will influence the implementation process. Leo is uniquely qualified to lead that process.
Here’s why I’m voting for Leo. He is a friend, but that is not the reason. I know him well enough to know that he has the character, the competence and the personality to lead the SBC as it implements the Great Commission Resurgence recommendations (hope springs eternal – I’m assuming they will pass). Here’s what I know about Leo that I believe makes him the right man for this time.
1) I know that Leo is a Great Commission Christian. Iowa is not an easy place to build a Baptist church. Sioux City can be a difficult place. But Leo came into a small, struggling church in 1991 and left a vibrant, growing fellowship when he headed to the even more frozen north. Leo lived out the Great Commission for 10 years in Sioux City and I see the fruit of that regularly. He planted churches. He led people to Christ.
In other words, folks – Leo is what we want the SBC to become!
2) While Leo is not a strong supporter of every element of the GCR Task Force report, neither is he a “died-in-the-wool” opponent. If Leo is elected and the GCR is passed, Leo will be faithful in carrying out the wishes of the convention.
3) Component 4 will replace the current cooperative agreements between NAMB and the state conventions with a new system. It also intends to focus more of our work outside the Deep South states. Who better to lead us than a man who has spent his life in new-work states and done so successfully, who has actually negotiated these cooperative agreements and will be able to give input on how to make the new structure more successful. In this, Leo stands alone among the current candidates.
None of the other candidates can help with that process the way that Leo can. He knows the importance of state convention and NAMB cooperation and will be a great resource as they figure out a new way.
4) Leo is a down-to-earth, regular guy. If you are the pastor of a church of 45 or 85 or 165, Leo understands your ministry. He served in those kinds of churches (and led them to grow). He works with small churches every day in Minnesota and Wisconsin (up here, 200 is a megachurch). He is a man devoid of pretense.
I was a little shocked that the so-called “SBC Majority” group endorsed a Southern megachurch pastor over Leo. He is exactly the kind of man that group purports to represent. Yet, they chose a megachurch pastor with a mediocre record of Cooperative Program support instead of a man who has devoted his life to pastoring and supporting smaller churches.
5) I support Leo because he has devoted his life to service outside the Deep South. If the SBC truly wants to expand beyond the borders of Dixie, they need the perspective of a man who has built a successful church in someplace other than Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama or Florida.
If we want to grow nationally, perhaps it is time for a president who understands what that takes!
6) Leo Endel’s support of the Cooperative Program should serve as an example to all. far more exemplary than any of the other candidates. Southern Hills is a leader in Cooperative Program giving in Iowa, and Leo is responsible for that. During Leo’s tenure, this church gave more than 12% to the CP.
7) Leo is a Baptist statesman, a man of grace and character. I cannot give any details of what went on in the years before Jimmy Barrentine became our state Executive Director. I can only say they were difficult days. Leo led our convention through that tumultuous time with strength and humility. He never acted selfishly or defensively. He sought the convention’s best, not his own.
The next few years will not be easy years in the life of the SBC. The kind of character and selflessness Leo exhibited here will be needed at the national level. He handles stress with grace and strength.
8 ) Leo is a conservative, Bible-believer, but he is no ideologue. He is not going to be someone who looks to exclude people who differ from him on minor issues. To use the famous words of our immediate past US president, Leo is “a uniter, not a divider.” That is his personality and character.
You have the chance to vote for someone who:
- Has demonstrated a genuine commitment to the Cooperative Program. (Well above the 10% standard)
- Has built a solid church in a new-work area.
- Has experience in leading conventions through difficult times.
- He has worked closely with NAMB.
- Is a man whose ego is seldom on display.
- Is one of us.
So, I am convinced that Leo Endel is the kind of man the SBC needs in this time. Hey, we’ve been electing Southern megachurch pastors for 30 years.
Maybe its time we elected a regular guy who serves the Lord and Southern Baptists in the frozen north.