John Yeats led communications for SBT Fellowship of churches

January 6th, 2019 / By: Jane Rodgers | TEXAN Correspondent / comments

John Yeats led communications for SBT Fellowship of churches

John and Sharon Yeats

Editor’s note: As the SBTC enters its 21st year, we will be sharing reflections from those who laid the groundwork for a new state convention. The TEXAN interviewed John and Sharon Yeats at November’s 20th anniversary celebration at Houston Second Baptist Kingwood for this article, the first of a yearlong series.

KINGWOOD Constructive change often depends on an effective communication network to engage like-minded people in common goals, something Thomas Paine kept in mind when penning Common Sense at the dawn of the American Revolution.

John Yeats knew it, too.

Years before the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention was formed in 1998, Yeats realized that theologically conservative Baptists in Texas needed a publication representing their views. Yeats, now executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention but then pastor of South Park Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, began producing The Plumbline, a periodical distributed widely to Southern Baptists in Texas who were concerned about denominational liberalism.

“We would go into the fellowship hall of our church, lay pages out on the tables, walk around the tables to assemble them and mail them out,” Sharon Yeats told the TEXAN.

Before the SBTC’s formation, John was called away to the Indiana convention to lead state communications and public policy efforts, followed by similar roles in Oklahoma and Louisiana. He became Missouri’s executive director in 2011. A member of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, he has held the elected post of SBC recording secretary since 1997. He has pastored churches in Texas and Kansas.

“This 20-year anniversary of the SBTC means a great deal,” John said. “Our church that we pastored here in Texas was at an impasse in that we could no longer doctrinally cooperate with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. So we looked for a suitable alternative and helped lay the groundwork for that alternative by publications and networking,” he said, noting that his Grand Prairie church became a “common site” for theologically conservative Baptists to meet.

“It was just a delight to see the thing blossom,” Yeats said of the SBTC’s founding, adding that he had recommended Jim Richards as the convention’s first executive director. Yeats said he had served with Richards and Gary Ledbetter, SBTC director of communications, on the SBC’s Christian Life Commission, which later became the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Yeats lauded the SBTC executive director’s leadership style and said that Richards’ guiding principles had become a model for other state conventions. 

Yeats also praised the idea of a confessional fellowship, stating that in his own state’s convention, this “gives us a platform to communicate with people about who we are as Missouri Southern Baptists.”