NASHVILLE (BP) -- At more than 47,000 churches strong, Southern Baptists can have a massive spiritual footprint -- they just have to harness the power of prayer and their resources for the sake of the Gospel, Ronnie Floyd said.
"God has blessed us greatly," said the new president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. "We must rise up."
Floyd sounded that clarion call Monday at the end of his inauguration service. He told the crowd of several hundred Southern Baptist leaders gathered at First Baptist Church, Nashville, that prayer, unity and a hyper-focus on missions were necessary to finish the task, or at least begin it for the next generation to finish.
"I believe God wants me to call upon and to help mobilize a convention of churches and millions of Christians who have massive resources to do one thing -- we must reach every person for Jesus in every town, in every city, in every nation and every country across this world," Floyd said.
During the inauguration service, pastors and leaders from every level of Southern Baptist life prayed for Floyd and challenged him to lead the convention into gospel unity. Several speakers, including his son, Nick, acknowledged Floyd's "epic wake-up times," or how he customarily gets up at 3 a.m. to pray. Nick took over the role as senior pastor of Cross Church of Northwest, Ark., where his father previously served for nearly 33 years.
Johnny Hunt, senior vice president of evangelism and leadership for the North American Mission Board, said it's Floyd's decades-long habit of meeting with God that inspires Southern Baptists to trust him as a "man of consecration" in addition to being a man with strong giftings in both administration and vision.
"We're believing that you're going to pray and hear from our heavenly Father," Hunt said. "We trust your time with the Lord."
K. Marshall Williams Sr., senior pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church, Philadelphia, Pa., called him "a man of prayer and fasting."
"You've already demonstrated authenticity as an ambassador of the Almighty," Williams said. "Lead us now to be authentic ambassadors of the Almighty."
Kathy Litton, NAMB's director of planter spouse development, served at Cross Church in years past and said that for the staff, working with Floyd was a "constant lesson on leadership, vision and strategy."
"Few will ever work harder or with more passion than Ronnie," she said.
But not only that -- Litton said Southern Baptists are getting a double blessing in Floyd's wife, Jeana.
"She is deeply admired and beloved by the Cross Church family," Litton said. "She has always been heavily involved and invested as a pastor's wife."
Even in the Floyds' process of deciphering the call to Nashville, "she was deeply and personally convictional about hearing and obeying the voice of God to leave a place that was dear to her heart," Litton said.
"She is a woman who pursues God and displays a hunger for Him."
Grace Thornton is a writer based in Birmingham, Ala. With reporting from Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.