By Mike Massar
When I attended the Graduate Theological Foundation of Notre Dame, there were thirty-five different colleagues, all from different denominations and places. While I was there, they were very curious about what kind of Baptist I was. Over the years, I have had that question asked of me on different occasions and in different ways. Awhile back I came up with an answer that I think defines me well denominationally. My response is, “I’m a ‘Jimmy Carter’ Baptist.” Usually when I say that, people nod in understanding.
President Carter has been a defining individual for some time. He has been an example, in so many ways, of what a former President of the United States should be. And with his work with the New Baptist Covenant, his writings, and his world-wide involvements, he has helped clarify for many what a Baptist should be.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget Carter’s participation in the inauguration weekend of Bill Clinton. The night before the inauguration there was a special worship service at the First Baptist Church of Washington, D.C. Bill Moyers directed the order of worship. Ken Medema led in music, and all kinds of Baptists from the world of politics were in attendance. The Clintons and the Gores showed up and took their seats in a couple of pews near the side. I assumed that they would slip out during the service, because they had a long and significant day coming up, but they stayed the entire time, and loved it.
At one point in the service, Moyers called on President Carter to make a few remarks. President Carter said several things and then turned to the Clintons and the Gores. He said something to the effect that there would be all kinds of people in Washington giving them advice and telling them what to do. But then he paused and said, “If you’re looking for good guidance, you won’t find any better than those who are in this room. They love our country, and they love God. Trust them to give you good advice.” I loved that moment. President Carter once again gave such simple yet profound wisdom.
As many of you know I will retire from serving as the state coordinator for Louisiana’s Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, effective after our state meeting at this year’s annual meeting in Dallas. With my impending retirement from serving as your coordinator, people have asked what I am going to do. My response is once again defined by President Carter. “I want to be a Baptist like Jimmy Carter; and I want to retire like Jimmy Carter, encouraged to keep pushing for new ideas and new ways to share the love of Christ with this world.
I thank you for the opportunity you gave me. I have been blessed immeasurably by my service alongside so many of you. I pray that God’s graces continue to encourage Louisiana CBF Baptists, and I look forward to our future encounters.
Grace and Peace.
Mike Massar currently serves as the coordinator for CBF of Louisiana and pastor of University Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La.