Archives For Steve Gaines

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

Inauguration news round-up

ib2newseditor —  January 20, 2017

small American flags in the background

Time: Trump held a very Godly inauguration
Christianity has been a part of the presidential inauguration since George Washington laid his hand on a Bible for the very first swearing-in. So, it was not unusual that Donald Trump sought to involve faith in his inauguration. But the ways in which the 45th President invoked God in unusually blunt ways in his inaugural address were. He quoted a Psalm of David from the Bible to buttress his policy. “The Bible tells us, ‘how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.’”

S. Baptist involvement in the inauguration
The participation of at least five Southern Baptist pastors in inaugural activities for President Donald Trump continues a tradition of prayer, Scripture, and references to God surrounding presidential inaugurations dating back to George Washington. In addition to Friday’s activities, a Saturday, Jan. 21 National Prayer Service at the National Cathedral in Washington will feature Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd, Texas pastors Jack Graham and Ramiro Peña and California pastor David Jeremiah.

Muslims angry imam to participate in prayer service
A popular Washington-area imam’s decision to issue the Muslim call to prayer at Trump’s inaugural prayer service has sparked a heated debate among American Muslim community leaders and activists over the appropriate ways to engage with a president, who they say has repeatedly disparaged Islam. Mohamed Magid, a Sudanese-American imam, is the only Muslim leader listed on a lineup packed with Evangelicals and other faith leaders who are scheduled to participate in the National Prayer Service at the National Cathedral.

SBC Pres. Gaines pens Christian response to inauguration
Today Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States. As you know, Mr. Trump won a highly volatile election last November. Some see him as a candidate of much-needed change, readily resonating with his Reaganish slogan, “Make America Great Again!” Others see Mr. Trump as a less than desirable candidate for the highest office in the land. What are Southern Baptists to do?

Three S. Baptists nominated for cabinet positions
Three Southern Baptists — Tom Price, Scott Pruitt, and Sonny Perdue – have been nominated to serve in cabinet positions for the Trump administration. Price, a regular attendee at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., has been nominated as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Pruitt, a member of Tulsa-area First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Okla., has been nominated as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, was announced Jan. 18 as Trump’s choice for agriculture secretary.

Presidents who mentioned God in inaugural address
Every U.S. President has mentioned God in their inaugural address, even if speaking of the Lord in their own way, fitting with the times. With thanks to Bill Federer in America’s God and Country, consider this sampling of mentions.

Sources: Time, Baptist Press Washington Post, Baptist Press (2), Christian Post

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We live by God’s surprises,” said Helmut Thielicke. The German pastor was speaking in times more trying than ours, but in the darkest days of WW2, he could see the hand of God at work—and was amazed by it.

Dare we say the same of the year just past?

We were surprised by events we witnessed. In their unfolding, we sought the reassurance of God’s sovereignty. Here are some noteworthy moments for Baptists in Illinois—some heavy, some light—and what they may say about the year before us.

– The Editors

SBC candidates: Unity matters

What the U.S. presidential election may have lacked in civility, the 2016 election for Southern Baptist Convention President more than made up for in grace. When a close vote forced a run-off between Steve Gaines and J.D. Greear, the election seemed poised to divide Baptists over matters of theology and generation.

Instead, the candidates talked the night before the third vote was to be taken, and one bowed out, urging his supporters to vote for his opponent.

“It’s time for us to step up and get involved, to keep pushing forward and engaging in the mission with those who have gone before us,” North Carolina pastor Greear posted in support of Tennessee pastor Gaines. “It’s time to look at what unites us.”

On paper, this decade’s SBC presidents are a diverse bunch, not united by much in terms of their backgrounds and interests:

  • Atlanta-area pastor Bryant Wright (2010-2012), who recently spoke out in favor of ministering to refugees
  • Dynamic New Orleans preacher Fred Luter (2012-2014), elected as the SBC’s first ever African American president
  • Ronnie Floyd (2014-2016), pastor of a multi-site church in Arkansas and a prolific blogger who led the denomination toward a laser-like focus on prayer
  • And Gaines, elected in 2016, who has espoused traditional Baptist theology and his own intense focus on evangelism.

What does unite them is a logical progression in the things they have called Baptists toward: For Wright, it was a return to Great Commission principles. Luter’s presidency was marked by impassioned pleas for spiritual awakening and revival. And Floyd called Southern Baptists to their knees—for themselves, their churches, the denomination, the nation, and the world.

Gaines announced he will continue the emphasis on prayer at the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix. It may be a sign that the desire for unity, despite differences in age, theological perspective, and communication style, is actually, in Greear’s words, “what unites us.”

A new missions paradigm

After a season in which budget shortfalls and personnel cuts seemed to limit the future potential for Baptist missions engagement around the world, International Mission Board President David Platt continued to preach a message to the contrary.

“Limitless” is the word Platt has used to describe the mission force needed to take the gospel to places without it. To achieve that goal, he has said, the SBC has to think differently about missions and missionaries than we have in the past.

“Let me be crystal clear: the IMB is still going to send full-time, fully-funded career missionaries just like we’ve always sent,” Platt said during his report at the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis. “They are the priceless, precious, critical core of our mission force.”

But the IMB’s emerging strategy is to put around those missionaries a “limitless” force of students, retirees, and professionals—people who, to borrow Platt’s words, are willing to leverage their jobs and lives so that more might hear and respond to the gospel.

The newly redesigned IMB website reflects the strategy, with buttons for people in a variety of categories to search for opportunities overseas. There are needs for business consultants, healthcare professionals, construction engineers, and more. The IMB also offers training resources for churches to equip and mobilize members for missions, both short-term and longer.

Global mission “is not just for a select few people in the church, but for multitudes of Spirit-filled men and women across the church,” Platt said in St. Louis.

A year ago, when hundreds of IMB missionaries moved back home, the chances of getting the gospel to some of the world’s darkest places seemed dimmer. Now, with a strategy focused on everyday people like the ones who sparked a gospel fire in the New Testament, the opportunities seem endless. Or, limitless.

If I had a hammer

We’ll hear it a lot in the new year. On Halloween night in 1517, disgruntled priest Martin Luther nailed his 95 complaints on the church door in Wittenberg and started an ecclesial revolution. We’re likely to hear about it from all corners, including events at our seminaries, panels at the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, and bus tours of Germany. And we may have a few serious discussions about the theological direction of the SBC. Look for Reformation@500 in the pages of the Illinois Baptist throughout 2017.

Read Cloudy with a chance of surprises, pt. 1

Greear Floyd Gaines2

JD Greear, Ronnie Floyd, and Steve Gaines.

There are three winners at the conclusion of the SBC presidential race: Steve Gaines takes the position and the responsibility; J.D. Greear takes the mantel as most Christ-like, and Southern Baptists leave St. Louis unified behind a single presidential candidate.

Greear’s action, withdrawing his name from the race after two ballots failed to produce a winner, was a first for longtime observers of the convention. Greear guaranteed two things: many of his supporters who are young and are new to SBC life are more likely stay engaged if they do not feel pushed out by the older, traditional constituency Gaines represents. And Greear guaranteed himself a place in SBC leadership for decades to come.

Would anyone be surprised if Greear ran unopposed in 2018? The 50% of SBC messengers who had backed Gaines could easily support in the next election the young man who did the very mature thing.

Deferring to the older candidate is indeed a mature move. And, in this case, it’s wise.

Both Greear and Gaines cited the need for unity in the denomination in this decision. “For the sake of our convention and our mission, we need to leave St. Louis united,” Greear said.

Gaines said he, too, had considered withdrawing. He quoted a close friend who said to him after the first day of the annual meeting, “We’re in a mess, aren’t we.” After two ballots, Gaines was still four votes short of a majority, because 108 ballots were disqualified by improper markings. Messengers at the best-attended convention in a decade or more were split right down the middle.

“It’s tricky,” Greear joked as he stepped to the podium to make his announcement, referring to a rap music video produced by a member of his church that some had construed as endorsements by several SBC-entity heads. The crowd laughed.

But it would be tricky to lead the denomination with the membership divided into two camps: established and traditional epitomized by Gaines, and younger and Reformed led by Greear.

For the sake of unity, Greear withdrew.

Gaines had offered to make the same move.

At 43, Greear will likely have another opportunity to be SBC president. Perhaps at 58, it is Gaines’s turn. With his mid-South megachurch platform, Gaines is likely to lead the convention in renewed evangelism, which Floyd and others have said is so vital.

And Greear has a little longer to bring his half of the SBC populace into leadership to form a new mainstream and identity, rather engage in a tug of war with the old guard over theology and tactics. “We are united by a gospel too great and a mission too urgent to let any lesser thing stand in our way,” Greear said.

The two men hugged on the platform, as Gaines was declared the winner by outgoing president Ronnie Floyd.

He could have as easily said, We all win.

– Eric Reed

Steve GainesFirst Baptist Church in O’Fallon had a guest pastor in its pulpit Sunday morning. Memphis pastor and candidate for Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines delivered the message at each of the church’s three morning worship services June 12.

The Bellevue Baptist Church pastor lamented Southern Baptist’s lack of focus on evangelism. “What’s happening in the Southern Baptist Convention is a tragedy,” Gaines declared. “We’re in a 17-year nose dive. This is unprecedented, we have more SBC churches, but fewer baptisms. If the people in those churches we’re planting aren’t evangelistic and soul-winning, we’re not going to reach this nation.”

His primary sermon text was taken from Acts 2:40-47. Gaines used Christ’s instructions for the church to exhort churches today to be more evangelistic.

He urged Southern Baptists to invite God back into their churches. “When God comes to church people start getting saved and baptized.” When people walk into a church “it doesn’t need to be dead. It ought to be alive with the power of God.”

Gaines stressed, “We should never plan a worship service to attract people. Instead, we should plan worship services that will attract the manifest presence of God – He will in turn will attract the people.”

Sharing Christ isn’t difficult he noted. “If you knew enough to get saved, you know enough to tell someone how to get saved.”

Prior to the sermon O’Fallon’s Pastor Doug Munton, who will be nominated to serve as the convention’s First Vice President at tomorrow afternoon’s meeting, introduced Gaines as his good friend. He then endorsed Gaines for Southern Baptist Convention President saying, “I’m biased, I believe Steve is the right guy, at the right place, at the right time.”

Gaines is one of three candidates who will be nominated for the job of SBC President tomorrow afternoon. David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church, New Orleans, LA, and JD Greear, pastor of the The Summit Church in Raleigh, NC, are also candidates.