As the candidates jostle among themselves in the race for United States president, the race for Southern Baptist Convention president has become a two-man race. Last week, Florida pastor Jimmy Scroggins announced he will nominate J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., to be the next SBC president. Today, Georgia pastor and past SBC president Johnny Hunt announced he is nominating Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., to serve in that position.
Greear, 42, is seen by some as part of a new wave of younger SBC leaders. While Gaines, 58, is seen by others as an establishment candidate. With the convention three months away, there is plenty of time for additional candidates to throw their hats in the ring for the office and for other SBC posts as well.
Cooperative Program giving has become an important benchmark for recent SBC presidential candidates and it looks like that will continue. Scroggins said in his press release that Greear’s church, The Summit, “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.” A 230% increase in The Summit’s CP giving according to Scroggins.
Baptist Press reported, “Three years ago, the congregation [The Summit] voted to increase its giving through the Cooperative Program over a five-year period to 2.4% of undesignated receipts…The Summit reached its goal two years early.”
Baptist Press also talked with Gaines’ Bellevue and was told the “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% of undesignated receipts.” Baptist Press calculated “between 2011 and 2016, the church has increased its CP giving by 278%.”
The SBC is also focusing on increasing baptism numbers in its churches after multiple years of decreases. Annual Church Profiles (ACP) show The Summit’s baptisms have increased from 19 in 2002, when Greear arrived, to 928 in 2014. Gaines has served as Bellevue’s pastor for 11 years. The church, which was previously led by the late Adrian Rogers, has averaged 481 baptisms per year during his tenure according to ACP reports.
Both candidates are married and each have four children (Gaines also has nine grandchildren). And, both hold master of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees, Greear from Southeastern Seminary and Gaines from Southwestern Seminary.
The 2016 Southern Baptist Convention will take place June 14-15 in St. Louis, MO. Current SBC President Ronnie Floyd is finishing his second term in the post. Floyd is pastor of Cross Church, Northwest Arkansas.
Scroggins, pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., nominated Greear March 2, and Hunt, and pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., nominated Gaines March 9.