WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. — For the first time in Williams Baptist University history, a sitting president of the Southern Baptist Convention visited campus Wednesday as Dr. Bart Barber, a native of northeast Arkansas, delivered the weekly sermon from the university chapel.

Barber, who grew up in Lake City, Ark., was elected president of the SBC in June. He addressed a crowd of students, faculty and staff in UMA’s Manley Chapel.

In his chapel address, Barber noted that while some Williams students will serve on the church staff, most are simply “called to be church members.” The SBC president spoke about Matthew 18:15-20 and encouraged students to learn how to be peacemakers in their churches, regardless of their role in the congregation.

Barber noted that Jesus encouraged his followers to talk privately with someone when they had a problem with them, rather than complaining to others.

“If someone is doing something that you see is wrong, speak up,” Barber said. “You don’t have to text 15 other people first to tell them. Do you want to win the argument, or do you want to win your fellow church member? Be someone who has the courage to speak directly to someone.

Barber then encouraged students to learn how to intervene and bring about peaceful solutions to conflicts.

“Be someone who is willing to try to help make peace between the other people who are in your church,” Barber said. “It’s so important. Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’ It is not about loving peace. It is not a question of preferring peace. Jesus is talking about those who will actually help to make peace.

After his sermon, Barber met and spoke with several students about his message.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to have Dr. Barber in Williams to deliver our weekly chapel message,” said WBU President Dr. Stan Norman. “We are grateful for his commitment and work in the Southern Baptist Convention and for all the work he has done for Williams Baptist University in his current role. We look forward to working with him and hope to see him back on campus soon for another opportunity to interact with our students.

WBU is a private Christian university in Walnut Ridge, Ark.

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