Paige Patterson and I met over twenty years ago, and for most of that time, I have served with him and under his leadership in varying degrees of closeness. I have seen him when he was up and when he was down. I have seen him laugh often, but I have seen him weep. I have seen him lead in good times and in bad.
Through all the ups and the downs, I have found him to be the most consistent person I know in sticking to his core convictions. Many people know at least some of his theological convictions: the inerrancy and sufficiency of God’s Word, biblical church government, pre-millennial eschatology, and on and on. And most of those people know he is very consistent in those theological and biblical convictions. But perhaps you do not know his key personal and leadership convictions as I have observed them.
- Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)
Love for lost souls flows from him in a way you can touch and feel. He never meets a stranger or someone he considers different or not worth his time. He only meets saved people whose story he wants to hear or lost people he desperately wants to tell Christ’s story. The line of people, several of whom have gone on to leadership in the Evangelical ranks, who will credit him in Heaven for sharing Christ with them will be long indeed. His heart and mind are always, always on the lost and Christ’s love for everyone.
- All we must do is to please God. (Paige Patterson, thousands of times)
He has repeated this guiding life statement somewhere in the deliberation of every significant decision I have witnessed. He is a leader. He wants to lead to a tangible victory. But that is not what ultimately is important to Paige Patterson. His goal is not victory because he serves under the Commander in Chief who already has won. His goal is to please God, a goal which flows out of his love for God and His Son, Jesus. As he seeks to please God, he ever recalls: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
- . . . for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:20)
Dr. Patterson (as so many know him) often refers to his mixed heritage of both Texan and Irish, a bad combination for anger, and he often thanks God for taming his anger though he readily admits that he must submit to the Lord on it regularly. He has repeated this verse in my presence far more often than I can count. The other side of this verse for him is Ephesians 4:29-32:
“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” This is who he seeks to be.
In my time with him, he has made many thousands of decisions. With the vast majority of these decisions I have agreed, and with some I have disagreed. Seldom when I agreed with him have I later found his decision to have been flawed, but often when I disagreed, I have had to admit he was right after all. As a pastor and leader of God’s people, he must answer to God, and I try not to expect him to answer to me lest I get in God’s way.
A very few times I have second-guessed his decisions, which I later often have regretted, but I never second-guess his motives. They always, consistently, flow in the order above:
- Love for the lost;
- Pleasing God;
- Being kind, forgiving, and without wrath.
Paige Patterson is not perfect. He regularly confesses that. He is not without sin, nor is his decision track-record spotless. Yet I only wish I was as consistent in these three convictions, convictions I, too, hold, but not as faithfully as he.
 Paige Patterson is President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has a long list of achievements and awards and has met and known numerous world leaders. He served two terms as President of the Southern Baptist Convention and is credited as the key leader in moving that Convention back to its roots of trust in the truthfulness of the Bible. (See http://paigepatterson.org/ and https://swbts.edu/)