Archives For Steve Gaines

Old Holy Bible and the American Flag

As we approach July 4th, many pastors preach about Christians in America repenting of sin and turning back to the Lord so that He will bless His churches. One text they often use is 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NASB):

“[If] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Is that an appropriate application of this text?

To be clear, these are God’s words spoken to Solomon, King of Israel. Likewise, the “land” referred to was the land of Israel. When the Israelites sinned against the Lord, He would send the plagues mentioned in verse 13. But if they responded by humbling themselves, praying, seeking God’s face and turning from their wicked ways, God would hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land.

Can Christians in America find any appropriate application from this text?

The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:16 (NASB), “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” The word “Scripture” in this text referred to Old Testament Scripture. That would include 2 Chronicles 7:14, rightly interpreted.

Likewise, when the apostle Paul cited Old Testament examples of rebellion in Israel’s history that prompted God’s punishment, he noted that they also served as warnings for Christians living under the new covenant. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:11-12 (NASB), “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.”

Is America Israel? No. Is God an American? No. But can warnings and promises to God’s people in the Old Testament be applied to Christians today? Absolutely.

Regarding 2 Chronicles 7:14, it is very appropriate for any Christian to obey the spirit of this text by endeavoring to humble himself or herself, pray, seek God’s face and turn from wicked ways, trusting that God will hear, forgive and heal.

The apostle Peter, speaking to a group of first-century Christians, said this: “For you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God” (1 Peter 2:10 NASB). Today, followers of Jesus are God’s people. Christians are those who are “called by [His] name.” Therefore, it is appropriate that we apply the timeless truths of 2 Chronicles 7:14. How suitable for all Christians in America, and in any other nation, to humble ourselves, pray, seek the Lord’s face and turn from our wicked ways, asking Him to graciously hear from heaven, forgive our sin and bring spiritual healing to the ailing, impotent churches in our land.

In 2 Chronicles 7:14, we note three precepts that are consistently called for by God throughout Scripture: humility, hunger and holiness.

The first requirement for such spiritual healing is humility. “[If] My people who are called by My name humble themselves.” It is always good for Christians to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). God will share His glory with no one because God alone can handle His glory. Every redeemed human being should give all glory to Jesus for salvation and every benefit it brings.

Frankly, modern Christianity is marked by far too much arrogance and condescension. For instance, all of us need to use great caution and wise deliberation when posting on social media. The Bible says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29 NASB). The word “unwholesome” is the Greek word sapros, meaning “rotten.” Here it refers to speech that is likened to “garbage” or “trash.” Frankly, there is too much “trash-talk” on social media. Humility is always becoming in any child of God.

The second requirement for spiritual healing is hunger. We see it in 2 Chronicles 7:14 in the words: “(If) My people who are called by My name … pray and seek My face.” Jesus urged His followers to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6 NASB). All Christians in America — and other nations — would do well to increase our hunger for godliness. We should taste and see that the Lord Jesus is good (cf. Psalm 34:8).

The final requirement for spiritual healing is holiness. “[If] My people who are called by My name … turn from their wicked ways.” Holiness comes by means of repenting from sin. Repentance means to confess our sins and turn away from them. That leads to true holiness.

These three emphases from 2 Chronicles 7:14 — humility, hunger and holiness — are much needed among Christians today, whether we live in America or not. Just because 2 Chronicles 7:14 was not written to Americans does not mean that Christians in America cannot benefit from its admonitions by obeying its precepts. Again, “all Scripture is profitable.” The warnings in the Old Testament “were written for our instruction.”

Many Christians in America are praying for a fresh spiritual awakening and revival among those of us who know Jesus Christ. I for one am praying for American Christians to embrace genuine humility, hunger and holiness. I am also praying that the Lord will graciously see fit to hear from heaven, forgive our sin, and send His much-needed healing.

When I think of it that way, I don’t know of a verse in the Bible that serves as a better guide for praying for revival than 2 Chronicles 7:14.

–Steve Gaines is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church. This column originally appeared at BPnews.net.

Gaines pledge .and prayerJPG

Steve Gaines prays for America following a recognition of veterans Tuesday morning prior to delivering his presidential address.

Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines delivered a more personal presidential address than his recent predecessors, choosing to focus on prayer and the devotional life of the pastor rather than the state of nation or the declining baptism and membership numbers of the denomination.

“This past year I emphasized prayer everywhere I went; this next year I am going to emphasize soul-winning everywhere I go,” Gaines said, recounting his preaching engagements with state conventions and seminaries. Gaines said he will announce later in the SBC Annual Meeting his desire to appoint a soul-winning task force to explore ways Southern Baptist to be more effective.

LifeWay released the annual compilation of Annual Church Profiles from SBC churches last week. It showed a 4.89 % decline in baptisms and a half-percent decline in membership to 15.2 million members.

“How in the world are we going to make it?” Gaines asked, echoing pastors in need of spiritual encouragement and renewal. “We’re going to make it by doing things God’s way.”

Preaching from Acts, Gaines urged pastors to seek new strength from prayerful encounters with God. “We minister to the Lord in worship, prayer, and fasting,” he said, ticking off a three-stage process. Next, “he ministers to us through the anointing of the Holy Spirit. After we have ministered to the Lord and he has reciprocated, we are to minister to others with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Gaines pointed to Paul and others in the book of Acts as examples of men whose evangelistic work flowed from their prayer life. “If you will tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love, there are (people) who want to hear it….

“Nothing, nothing, nothing can stop the gospel.”

Gaines’ sermon was less of a state-of-the-union address, and more an exhortation punctuated by prayer and worship. Gaines and his daughter led worship after the message.

As Adrian Rogers successor at Bellevue Baptist Church in metro-Memphis, Gaines is completing his first one-year term as SBC President.

— Eric Reed in Phoenix

Opening Day of the SBC

ib2newseditor —  June 13, 2017

Opening Day SBC

The first official day of the Southern Baptist Convention is underway, following three days of pre-meeting activities. Outside the Phoenix Convention Center, LGBT protestors are standing in a circle on the corner nearest the main entrance, receiving instructions on how to talk with messengers about gay and transgender issues,

In the press room, the question is “How soon before someone on the platform says, ‘The Southern Baptist Convention only exists two days a year?’” It’s an inside joke for people who cover the convention 365 days a year, but who recognize that our un-denomination only takes official actions when messengers gather annually to vote.

On the platform, SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page is presenting the gavel to SBC President Steve Gaines, who, tapping the ancient mallet gently on the podium, declares the meeting officially open.

And, after 21 days of fasting and prayer, Gaines begins explaining the rules for conducting business, and starting a meeting themed “Pray: For such a time as this.”

Pastor of the Memphis-area megachurch Bellevue, Gaines is expected to be re-elected to a second one-year term as president. Illinois’ own Doug Munton, pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon, will complete his term as first vice-president.

The main issue, as best we can tell, is whether messengers will bring any motions concerning the future of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and its president, Russell Moore. Speculation among convention regulars is that the ERLC will not be chastised for actions in the 2016 election that perturbed some pastors and church members—but messengers can bring most any kind of motion.

The last opportunity for introducing new business will be at 3:45 p.m. (PT) today. Moore’s report is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. It will be the last item of business.

Watch the livestream at http://live.sbc.net/.

-Eric Reed in Phoenix

SBC candidates

The slate of nominees for Southern Baptist Convention offices to be elected in Phoenix represent a push toward greater diversity in SBC leadership.

Walter Strickland, special advisor to the president for diversity at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, will be nominated for the role of first vice president (currently filled by Illinois pastor Doug Munton). Strickland also teaches theology and operates a consulting agency to assist churches and organizations with diversity-related issues.

“As our nation and our convention become more diverse, it is imperative that our leadership reflect the diversity that marks the Kingdom of God and Heaven itself,” said Georgia pastor James Merritt, who will nominate Strickland. “Beyond that we need people in leadership that reflect the best of Southern Baptists theologically, spiritually, and personally.

“Walter Strickland meets both of these needs perfectly and I am excited about nominating him for the position of first vice president at our upcoming annual meeting in Phoenix.”

Also to be nominated in Phoenix is Jose Abella, pastor of Providence Road Baptist Church in Miami, Florida. Abella, one of the preachers at this year’s SBC Pastors’ Conference, planted the bilingual congregation in 2010.

“Jose is a loving picture of what Southern Baptists are working to become,” said Georgia pastor Michael Lewis in a news release about the nomination, “effective in an urban context, multiplying churches, reaching different generations, ethnicities and socioeconomic groups, all while being faithful to Scripture.”

A third SBC leader, John Yeats, will be nominated for office in Phoenix. Yeats is executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention and will be nominated for his 21st term as SBC recording secretary.

First elected to the post in 1997, Yeats designed the process currently used to get information from the convention floor to the platform at the Committee on Order of Business, Baptist Press reported.

Yeats said he and his wife, Sharon, who serves beside him on the convention platform “are deeply honored by Southern Baptists to serve our Lord in this role.”

Steve GainesSteve Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church, will be nominated for a second one-year term as SBC president by his son Grant Gaines, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn. Gaines was elected last year after North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear pulled out of the race before a second run-off election.

For more information about the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, go to sbcannualmeeting.net.

– From Baptist Press reports

Phoenix rising

When Baptists gather in Phoenix next month, they’ll address the challenges of taking the gospel to a world that seems less inclined to hear the message, and doing so with fewer resources to get the job done.

Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention June 13-14 will also meet against a very different political backdrop than a year ago, and could contend with the fallout of recent debate fueled by a raucous and divisive U.S. presidential election.

Or not.

Recent calls for Convention-wide unity—and similar statements by SBC leaders—could rule the day in Phoenix, where Baptists will focus on prayer, evangelism, and financial stewardship, said SBC President Steve Gaines.

“I believe Southern Baptists can be used of God to spark a mighty movement of prayer, evangelism, and discipleship across our nation and around the world,” said Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in metro Memphis, Tenn., in announcing the meeting’s theme. “Pray! For such a time as this” is based on Luke 18:1 and Esther 4:14.

“If we will pray and abandon ourselves to the Lord, he will use us exponentially to take the gospel to people,” Gaines said.

SBC personalities

Similar to the previous few annual meetings, Gaines said the 2017 gathering will include seasons of prayer, as well as a personal evangelism emphasis on Tuesday evening led by Greg Laurie.

The California evangelist also will lead a Harvest Crusade Sunday, June 11, as part of the annual Crossover evangelistic effort that precedes the Southern Baptist Convention (see Nate Adams’s column on page 2 for more information). Organizers say the event at University of Phoenix Stadium, which holds 65,000 people, promises to be the largest single gospel presentation in Arizona history.

Focus on stewardship
Following the example of previous annual meetings, the gathering in Phoenix will include a panel discussion with SBC leaders. This year’s topic: financial stewardship.

Gaines told Baptist Press Southern Baptist churches cannot give more to SBC missions and ministries than church members give through their local congregations.

“The solution for increased funding for world missions begins in the heart of every individual believer in Christ,” he said. “Southern Baptists need to get our financial houses in order.

The Cooperative Program—Southern Baptists’ unified giving channel for supporting missions and ministry around the world—is likely to be a topic of conversation in Phoenix as well. In February, Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, pastored by former SBC President Jack Graham, announced they would temporarily escrow their CP giving because of positions taken by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

ERLC President Russell Moore, a vocal critic of now-President Donald Trump during the campaign, has apologized for comments that seemed directed at all evangelicals who supported Trump, and the ERLC’s executive board released a statement in April pledging their support for Moore. The statement also called for unity in the SBC despite differences, a sentiment echoed by Gaines.

“I believe all of us who are recipients of grace and forgiveness should grant him the same forgiveness that we desire from the Lord,” Gaines said after Moore and the ERLC executive board released the statement. “It is high time that we put all of this behind us….It is time to move ahead and work together to double our efforts to take the gospel to our nation and the nations.”

If the recent controversy surrounding the ERLC does make an appearance at the SBC, it could be in the form of a motion from the floor, or during the Q&A time following Moore’s report, which is the final item on the meeting schedule. International Mission Board President David Platt could also face questions about the IMB’s support of a Muslim group’s fight to build a mosque in New Jersey. (Like the ERLC, the IMB also signed on to a friend of the court brief in support of the group.)

In February, Platt apologized for how “distracting and divisive” the brief was, and pledged that in the future, the IMB “will have a process in place to keep us focused on our primary mission.” Still, the mosque debate could spark a religious liberty conversation in Phoenix, as could President Trump’s controversial travel ban for people from some majority Muslim countries into the U.S.

Online pre-registration for the Phoenix meeting is now open at sbcannualmeeting/sbc17. Messengers and guests are required to be registered and properly badged in order to enter the general sessions June 13-14.

For more information about the Southern Baptist Convention’s June meeting in Phoenix, go to sbcannualmeeting.net.

– With info from Baptist Press

Steve GainesIt seems a fair question, especially following the loquacious and public presidency of Ronnie Floyd. Steve Gaines, by comparison, is almost invisible. This is not a criticism of Gaines, that he would have a different style as Southern Baptist Convention president. That is to be expected. Each president makes his own way and leads from his own strengths. But Gaines’s style, working in a less public way that his immediate predecessors, leaves us wondering: What is Steve Gaines doing?

And we find ourselves hoping that he’s focusing on issues that we just haven’t heard about yet.

Floyd wrote. Floyd spoke. A lot. Almost every week Floyd published on his blog and in Baptist Press his thoughts on righting the denomination and meeting the culture conflict head on. He quickly assumed a statesman position for his two years in office, urging support for missions and the Cooperative Program. We in the local Baptist news media came to rely on his thoughtful, well-reasoned analysis of current events.

Gaines, on the other hand, has spoken for publication rarely. He offered a few comments in the election season and after the January inauguration, mostly encouraging Southern Baptists to pray for the Trump Administration. And in February he addressed Baptist newspaper editors and state convention executive directors in Los Angeles. Gaines spoke on Trump’s election, appointments, and early actions as president. And he urged prayer for revival in America. Gaines has themed the 2017 SBC Annual Meeting “Pray: For Such a Time as This,” following Floyd and his predecessor, Fred Luter, in bringing Southern Baptists to our knees for spiritual awakening.

But it’s his comment on the complaints about the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and its president Russell Moore that, we hope, gives a glimpse at Gaines’s work behind the curtain.

“I hope the kind of talk we have been hearing is not the direction in which we are going. I hope Russell will remain in his position and that we have reconciliation with a lot of people,” Gaines said in Los Angeles. His comment came almost simultaneously with the announcement by Dallas-area pastor Jack Graham that his megachurch, Prestonwood Baptist, would be holding in escrow its $1-million offering through the Cooperative Program. Graham expressed concerns about the direction of the SBC and the ERLC, in particular, after an election cycle marked by anti-Trump tweets, Moore’s ongoing concern for refugees, and the “friend of the court” support of a freedom of religion case, in which both the ERLC and the International Mission Board (IMB) opposed onerous government regulations placed on a New Jersey mosque.

Southern Baptists do not need another era of suspicion, doubt, and sometime demagoguery. Our mission cause is too important to withhold funding over ancillary anxieties. The reconciliation that Gaines spoke about requires behind-the-scenes diplomacy and skillful mediation. That’s what we might hope Gaines is doing, even if we never hear about it publicly.

-Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist

State Baptist paper editors met for their annual meeting Feb. 14-16 in Ontario, Calif. and heard controversial issues addressed by Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines and International Mission Board President David Platt. As the meeting was taking place Prestonwood Baptist Church, pastored by former SBC President Jack Graham, announced its decision to escrow gifts previously forwarded to support the Cooperative Program while it discusses concerns about the direction of the Convention.

steve-gaines-with-editors

Steve Gaines

Gaines on Trump, ERLC, IMB
In a question-and-answer session Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church, told editors he voted for Trump as president because of his pro-life stance.

Referencing Trump’s campaign slogan, Gaines noted that the only way to really make America great again is by winning people to Jesus Christ and mentoring them and changing society through the people they influence.

Discussing the fallout following the issuance of Trump’s executive order on immigration, Gaines said, “At some point we need to understand that God is not an American and is not Republican or Democrat. Christians need to remember that we have dual citizenship, with our allegiance first to the Kingdom of God.

“It’s important to remember that to some degree we have more in common with a believer in a lost country than an unbeliever in our own country,” Gaines said.

“We certainly need to vet people coming into our nation to be sure we are safe from those who would do us harm. That’s why I have locks on my doors at night to keep my family safe.

Concerning controversy involving Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore’s political comments during the election, Gaines said he hopes there would be less divisive talk coming out of the ERLC.

“I hope the kind of talk we have been hearing is not the direction in which we are going. I hope Russell will remain in his position and that we have reconciliation with a lot of people,” he said.

Regarding the amicus brief involving a New Jersey mosque which has embroiled both the ERLC and the International Mission Board in controversy, Gaines said he believes IMB President David Platt would possibly think twice before the mission board enters such a case.

“You may not agree with his theology but he has no arrogance whatsoever in his heart. I really don’t think he would have signed the document [favoring government permission for the construction of the mosque] if he knew the ramifications.

Platt’s apology
“I apologize to Southern Baptists for how distracting and divisive this has been,” Platt said when he met later with Baptist state paper editors.

“I can say with full confidence that in the days ahead, IMB will have a process in place to keep us focused on our primary mission: partnering with churches to empower limitless missionary teams for evangelizing, discipling, planting and multiplying healthy churches, and training leaders among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God.”

The apologies occurred amid ongoing discussion of an amicus curiae — Latin for “friend of the court” — brief joined by the IMB supporting the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, N.J., (ISBR) in its religious discrimination lawsuit against a local planning board. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission also joined the brief.

In December, U.S. district Judge Michael Shipp ruled the Planning Board of Bernards Township, N.J., violated federal law when it required the ISBR to include more than twice as much parking in its site plan for a proposed mosque as it required for local Christian and Jewish houses of worship.

In his ruling, Shipp acknowledged the amicus brief, stating it “supports” the ISBR’s arguments that unlawful religious discrimination occurred.

Platt added, “I am grieved how the amicus brief in the recent mosque case has been so divisive and distracting. And my purpose in bringing it up here is not to debate religious liberty, but to simply say that I really do want IMB to be focused on [its] mission statement.”

Tennessee pastor Dean Haun resigned as an IMB trustee in November because he said joining the brief did not comport with IMB’s mission and could be viewed as an improper alliance with followers of a religion that denies the Gospel.

Gaines on CP, state conventions, revival
Concerning the Cooperative Program, Gaines said there is no biblical imperative for churches to tithe 10% of their receipts to CP, regardless of how good the SBC missions support program is. Churches today have a number of their own ministries for reaching their communities for Christ.

While Bellevue Baptist doesn’t give 10% through CP, Gaines his wife Donna are motivated to give a tithe because of the good work they see going on in their community as well as around the world.

Gaines urged, “State conventions need to be proactive and reach out, embrace them [young pastors and leaders], cultivate them. You know, it’s far easier to talk about someone than it is to talk to them. When you talk to them you get on their level, you empathize with them. And that’s what it’s going to take.”

Looking to the future of the nation, Gaines spoke about his desire to see revival once again sweep America. “The last time it occurred was the Jesus Movement of the early to mid-1970s. That’s when we as a denomination reported the largest number of baptisms in our history. Many missionaries and pastors and church staff members came out of that movement and changed America. It can happen again, and that is my prayer.”

Prestonwood escrows CP
Prestonwood Baptist Church’s decision to escrow gifts previously forwarded to support Southern Baptist cooperative missions and ministries was announced Feb. 16.

Mike Buster, executive pastor for the Plano, Texas, church, provided a statement to the Baptist Message explaining that the action had been taken because of “various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission that do not reflect the beliefs and values of many in the Southern Baptist Convention” and that it is a temporary move.

The decision impacts $1 million the 41,000-member congregation would otherwise contribute through the Cooperative Program.

But Graham subsequently explained to the Baptist Message that his congregation’s concerns are broader than just one personality.

Instead, he described an “uneasiness” among church leaders about the “disconnect between some of our denominational leaders and our churches.”

“I’m not angry at the SBC, and neither are our people,” Graham said, “and I’m not working to start a movement to fire anyone.

“This is a difficult decision for me, personally,” he added. “I love Southern Baptists, and still want to be a cooperating partner as we have been for many years.

“We’re just concerned about the direction of the Southern Baptist Convention, and feel the need to make some changes in the way we give.”

Moore told Baptist Press in a statement, “I love and respect Jack Graham and Prestonwood Baptist Church. This is a faithful church with gifted leaders and a long history of vibrant ministry working and witnessing for Christ.”

– Reporting by Baptist Press, Georgia Christian Index, and Louisiana Baptist Message