When Southern Baptists gather in St. Louis for the annual meeting of the Convention, one of the most important items of business will be the election of a new president. So far, three candidates have been announced as potential nominees for the highest-elected office in the Southern Baptist Convention: J.D. Greear, Steve Gaines, and David Crosby.
The election of the SBC president is important because a Convention president can set the tone for the denomination, provide leadership, and make appointments that can have a lasting affect upon the denomination.
For example, the election of Adrian Rogers in 1979 launched the beginning of the Conservative Resurgence. The election of Paige Patterson in 1998 led to the revision of the Baptist Faith and Message in 2000. The election of Johnny Hunt in 2008 resulted in The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Recommendations adopted by the Convention in 2010.
What is the future of the Southern Baptist Convention? Will the Convention once again place a priority on evangelism? Will our theology become more reformed? Will our mission boards merge? Will Great Commission giving become preferred over Cooperative Program giving?
Will we become more effective in reaching the ethnic groups around us? Will the emphasis on church planting ever produce the desired results? Will Southern Baptists regain their diminishing influence in the nation? Will we become more successful in building churches that are multi-generational and multi-racial? Will we become incidental in the midst of what has been called “The Great Evangelical Recession”?
God could very well use the new president to help us answer some of these questions and turn us in a direction that would be pleasing to our Lord and Savior, but who will it be? The answer to that question could be important to our future as a denomination.
J D. Greear
J.D. Greear, 42, pastor of Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina, will be nominated according to a Baptist Press report on March 2. During the 14 years Greear has been pastor the worship attendance has grown from 350 to just under 10,000 and total baptisms increased from 19 in 2002 to 928 last year.
Summit currently has 149 people with the International Mission Board and has planted 26 churches in North America. The church has nine campuses and nearly 20 percent of the worship attendees come from non-Anglo ethnic groups. One of the congregation’s campuses is Spanish-speaking and another is located in a prison.
Three years ago, the congregation voted to increase it’s giving through the Cooperative Program over a five-year period to 2.4 percent of undesignated receipts. Summit reached its goal two years early. BP reported that the church “voted last year to give $390,000 to the Cooperative Program in 2016.” However, according to ACP data, Summit’s Great Commission giving was 13 percent of undesignated receipts in 2014, 12 percent in 2013 and 15 percent in 2012.
Greear is married to Veronica and has four children. He holds master of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees from Southeastern Seminary.
Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, TN, will also be nominated according to a Baptist Press report on March 9. Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, made the announcement, saying, “Steve struggled with this nomination as he has always believed this office should seek the man.”
During the 11 years Gaines has pastored the Memphis-area church, the congregation has averaged 481 baptisms per year, according to the SBC’s Annual Church Profile.
Bellevue’s finance committee is recommending that the congregation give $1 million during its 2016-2017 church year through the Cooperative Program. Between 2011 and 2016, the church has increased its CP giving by 278 percent, according to BP’s calculations. Total missions giving next year is anticipated at 18 percent of Bellevue’s undesignated receipts.
Bellevue has collaborated with the International Mission Board to lead evangelism training in 34 countries since 2007; and has partnered 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.
Gaines stated, “I would like to continue [current SBC president] Dr. [Ronnie] Floyd’s emphasis on seeking God for a spiritual awakening and revival. I’ve been praying for an awakening for a long time, and that’s really my heart. I want the manifest presence of God in our churches and also in our denomination.”
Gaines is married to Donna and has four children and nine grandchildren. He holds master of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees from Southwestern Seminary.
David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans, will also be nominated according to a BP announcement on March 24. Former SBC President Fred Luter made the announcement, commenting, “I have watched David the last 10 years here in New Orleans as he has taken leadership of all the churches and pastors of our city in helping to rebuild New Orleans, which everybody knows was totally destroyed [in 2005] by Hurricane Katrina.”
During the 20 years Crosby has pastored First Baptist Church the congregation has given between 7 and 15 percent of its undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program. The church has averaged 658 in worship and 24 baptisms annually over the past five years.
Some 20-25 percent of worship attendees at First Baptist come from non-Anglo groups; and the church had 4,235 instances of individuals participating in missions’ projects in the most recent year reported.
The church has taken 14 trips to Ghana over the past six years in conjunction with its adoption of an unreached people group through the encouragement and guidance of the International Mission Board. The church also sponsors NOLA Baptist Church, a NAMB church plant, and Crosby is a founding board member of New Orleans Baptist Ministries, the umbrella organization that operates Baptist Friendship House on behalf of NAMB and the local association.
David is married to Janet and they have three children and eight grandchildren. Crosby holds a master of divinity from New Orleans Seminary and a doctor of philosophy from Baylor University.
Go to St. Louis and vote for the man you would like to see lead Southern Baptists as our next president. It could be a pivotal vote in a crucial time for our Convention.