"The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is a fellowship of about 46,500 Baptist churches and another 4,500 mission churches (churches that have not yet established their autonomy as self-governing congregations) scattered across the United States and its territories."
Southern Baptists will be voting for a new president at its next gathering in St. Louis just three months from now. 'WHO' will it be?
Based on the nominations thus far, it appears the Southern Baptist Convention has come to the proverbial fork in the road. When the messengers convene in June to handle the convention's business, they will be voting for either J.D. Greear or Steve Gaines (as it stands right now). We thought we would put together some information about these two pastors that you might find helpful.
Earlier this month, the Baptist Press announced that J.D. Greear's name will be placed into nomination for SBC president. Here is some of the information they shared about J.D.
North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear will be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Florida pastor Jimmy Scroggins announced today (March 2).
Greear, 42, "is leading his generation to live out a passion for the SBC, missions and the local church," Scroggins, pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., wrote in a news release stating his intention to nominate Greear during the SBC annual meeting June 14-15 in St. Louis.
During the 14 years Greear has pastored The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., worship attendance has grown from 350 to just under 10,000, Scroggins said. Total baptisms increased from 19 in 2002 to 928 in 2014, the last year for which statistics are available through the SBC's Annual Church Profile.
Scroggins said The Summit's "149 people currently with" the International Mission Board marks the largest total from any church in the convention — a statistic the church told Baptist Press the IMB has confirmed. Greear himself served two years with the IMB before being called to The Summit.
Closer to home, The Summit has planted 26 churches in North America in conjunction with the North American Mission Board.
J.D. Greear received his undergraduate degree from Campbell University and his M.Div. from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition, J.D. completed his Ph.D. in Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where he is also a faculty member. It should be noted that Greear aligns himself with the Neo-Cal camp. For example, The Summit Church is listed in The Gospel Coalition directory, the 9Marks directory, and the Acts29 Network.
On his website, he has a recommended reading list which includes the following books: Radical Reformission (Mark Driscoll), The Cross Centered Life (C.J. Mahaney), Nine Marks of Healthy Church (Mark Dever), Desiring God (John Piper), The Holiness of God (R.C. Sproul), Humililty: True Greatness (C.J. Mahaney), and Don't Waste Your Life (John Piper).
As residents of the Research Triangle area where J.D. Greear pastors, we have watched his empire grow. It has been our observation that The Summit has planted satellite churches in strategic locations and has been successful in attracting quite a few attendees from other churches. We know some of the congregants at The Summit who have left established churches in our area to become part of this new work. Greear's church has locations near college campuses in our area, which attract quite a few young Christians. I have attended The Summit twice (at different locations), and it was interesting to watch J.D. Greear on the big screen (a la Mark Driscoll) rather than in person. He preaches live primarily at the main campus, and each satellite campus has a pastor that oversees that particular flock.
J.D. Greear has written a post explaining why he is running for president of the Southern Baptist Convention. In it he lists his four biggest passions that God has placed on his heart:
1. To continue and deepen our focus on gospel-centeredness in both theology and mission
2. To engage our culture with both grace and truth
3. To call for a new era of engagement in the agencies and boards of the SBC
4. To platform and equip non-Anglo pastors and members
Back in 2009 J.D. Greear was appointed to a committee called the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. Interestingly, Donna Gaines (wife of Steve Gaines) also served on this committee.
The second nominee for president of the Southern Baptist Convention is Steve Gaines, who has served as senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church (just outside of Memphis, Tennessee) for 11 years. I (Deb) owe a debt of gratitude to his predecessor Adrian Rogers for inspiring me to go deeper in my Christian faith. Dr. Rogers, who passed away in November 2005, was a non-Calvinist, and I am fairly certain that Gaines is following in his predecessor's footsteps. The Baptist Press published an article about Steve Gaines' nomination. Here is an excerpt:
Gaines' presidential nomination is the second to be announced for the SBC annual meeting. North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear's nomination was announced March 2.
Gaines is married to Donna and has four children and nine grandchildren. He holds master of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
This Baptist Press article also included the following information:
"When Steve Gaines shared his prayer journey he and [his wife] Donna had travelled, I was touched by his clear call to allow himself to be nominated," Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., wrote in a news release stating his intention to nominate Gaines during the SBC annual meeting June 14-15 in St. Louis.
"Steve struggled with this nomination as he has always believed this office should seek the man," Hunt continued. "With such a passionate desire for spiritual revival in our churches and nation, and knowing him to be a man of deep intense prayer, it brings joy to my heart to nominate Dr. Gaines."
During the 11 years Gaines has pastored the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., the congregation has averaged 481 baptisms per year, according to the SBC's Annual Church Profile. Previously, he pastored churches in Alabama, Tennessee and Texas.
Giving to the Cooperative Program is a topic that garners much discussion when it comes to selecting the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Here is some pertinent information provided by the Baptist Press regarding J.D. Greear's church (The Summit) and Steve Gaines' church (Bellevue Baptist).
According to the Baptist Press article, here is information regarding The Summit's giving.
In his release, Scroggins said the church "voted last year to give $390,000 to the Cooperative Program in 2016, making it one of the top CP giving churches in the state of North Carolina and the SBC." He noted this marks a 230 percent increase in The Summit's CP giving [emphasis mine].
Three years ago, the congregation voted to increase its giving through the Cooperative Program over a five-year period to 2.4 percent of undesignated receipts, the church confirmed to BP. The Summit reached its goal two years early.
As of Jan. 1, 2016, The Summit began forwarding all its CP giving through the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC), the church said. Previously, it forwarded some funds it regarded as CP gifts directly through the SBC Executive Committee for distribution according to the CP allocation formula. In 2013-14, for instance, it gave $96,000 directly to the EC, according to the 2015 SBC Annual. The BSCNC reported CP receipts of $54,000 from The Summit in calendar year 2014. Adding the two numbers together yields the $150,000 the church self-reported as "CP giving" on its 2014 ACP — a total amounting to 1 percent of undesignated receipts.
The Summit's Great Commission Giving "has been at or around 10 percent for the last several years," Scroggins wrote. Great Commission Giving is a category of giving established by SBC action in 2011 that encompasses giving through CP, Southern Baptists' unified program of funding state- and SBC-level ministries, as well as direct gifts to SBC entities, associational giving and giving to state convention ministries.
According to ACP data, The Summit's Great Commission Giving was 13 percent of undesignated receipts in 2014, 12 percent in 2013 and 15 percent in 2012.
The Summit's Great Commission Giving includes more than $1 million annually to IMB-related causes and more than half a millions dollars to NAMB-related causes, the church told BP. The Summit additionally is in the process of funding an endowed chair at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary to the total of $500,000.
Bellevue Baptist Church
Information provided by the Baptist Press indicates the following about Bellevue's giving:
Bellevue's finance committee is recommending that the congregation give $1 million during its 2016-17 church year through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists' unified channel for funding state- and SBC-level missions and ministries. That will total approximately 4.6 percent of undesignated receipts, the church told Baptist Press.
As of April 1, 2012, Bellevue began forwarding all its CP giving through the Tennessee Baptist Convention, the church said. Previously, it forwarded approximately $200,000-$340,000 annually in CP through the TBC, according to ACP data, and designated about twice that amount to be forwarded to the SBC Executive Committee for distribution according to the CP allocation formula, the church said.
The shift in giving methods resulted in an increase from giving 1.3 percent of undesignated receipts through CP in 2011 to 2.6 percent in 2012, according to ACP reports. Bellevue increased that percentage to 3.5 in 2013 and 3.8 in 2014. Between 2011 and 2016, the church has increased its CP giving by 278 percent, according to BP's calculations.
The church's Great Commission Giving totaled approximately $2.5 million over the past two years and is anticipated to be $1.3 million (6 percent of undesignated receipts) for the congregation's 2016-17 church year, which begins April 1, Hunt said. Great Commission Giving is a category of giving established by SBC action in 2011 that encompasses giving through CP as well as direct gifts to SBC entities, associational giving and giving to state convention ministries.
Hunt said Bellevue has collaborated with the International Mission Board to lead evangelism training in 34 countries since 2007 and "at the request of the IMB … has been a strategy church for Jinotega, Nicaragua, since 2007." The church also reported a $150,000 gift to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions last year and anticipated an equal gift for 2016.
Bellevue is partnering with the North American Mission Board to plant churches in the Northwest and has planted 10 churches in other areas, including work with Native Americans in three locations, Hunt said.
Total missions giving for next year is anticipated at 18 percent of Bellevue's undesignated receipts, the church reported, and includes the "Bellevue Loves Memphis" initiative, a service evangelism campaign launched by Gaines in 2007.
We would be remiss if we didn't mention that shortly after Steve Gaines began serving at Bellevue in 2005, he mishandled a pedophile situation. Back in 2007 the Baptist Press reported on the controversy, as follows:
In December, controversy erupted at the church when several members claimed that pastor Steve Gaines had failed to discipline a staff member allegedly involved in sexual misconduct with a child. Already under some pressure from church members dissatisfied with his leadership, Gaines announced during worship services Dec. 17 that the church had placed Williams — on staff at the church for 34 years — on a leave of absence. Gaines then wrote a letter to the 30,000-member congregation two days later, explaining why the decision had been made.
“I learned about this in June from the minister involved and believed that the issue was settled,” Gaines wrote. “Two weeks ago, I was surprised to find out it was not. Some people have questioned why I waited for several months. It’s simply this: I acted out of heartfelt concern and compassion for this minister because the event occurred many years ago; he was receiving professional counseling; and I was concerned about confidentiality.”
According to the investigative committee report, Williams engaged in “egregious, perverse, sexual activity with his adolescent son” over a period of 12-18 months. Williams then became convicted of his actions, stopped and asked for forgiveness. He never sought counseling until recently, when his son initiated it. And neither Williams nor his son revealed the matter to anyone else at the time.
Williams apparently thought everything was fine between him and his son until November 2005, when his son indicated to him that everything wasn’t resolved. His son told him their relationship would be severed for a period of time. After that encounter, “the circle of knowledge about Paul’s sexual activities with his son started to grow,” the report recounts.
Two other staff members at the church -– Jamie Fish and Webb Williams -– as well as Gaines learned about Williams’ actions throughout 2006. Coombs said his committee had uncovered no evidence that former pastor Adrian Rogers knew anything about Williams’ actions.
According to the report, Williams’ son and two friends approached Gaines on Dec. 7, 2006, asking why Williams was allowed to continue to serve on Bellevue’s staff. It was after this meeting that Gaines informed other members of the staff, including Coombs, Vander Steeg and others, and began the investigation.
Coombs acknowledged in his report that Gaines, Fish and Williams erred in not coming forward sooner with their knowledge of the situation.
To prevent such inaction in the future, the committee recommended a complete review of the church’s policies and procedures. Coombs said implementation of new policies and procedures should take place as soon as practical.
In addition, the committee recommended additional training for the entire staff about how to handle such matters -– including individual training for those staff members with knowledge of Williams’ actions.
The church also will provide counseling and support for any individuals “who feel they have been harmed by Paul’s actions or feel they have been hurt by the church’s action of not dealing with Paul earlier,” according to the report..
It will be interesting to see the outcome of this presidential race, and we will be sure to report on it. With less than three months to go, we are certain there will be some politicking in the SBC.
J.D. Greear's fan base has already come out with a rap endorsing their candidate. Suddenly, these two video clips have come to mind: Go Wayne Grudem and the Broadway Skit about C.J. Mahaney. We are left wondering who is really being glorified…
In God's sovereignty, Southern Baptists will be meeting in the "Show Me State" to demonstrate how the convention will move forward. Which fork in the road will the SBC take?