Spiritual awakening, soul winning and stewardship will be the three-pronged emphasis of Steve Gaines’ Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) presidency, he told the SBC Executive Committee (EC) Sept. 19.
“Leaders have to lead” in personal evangelism, SBC President Steve Gaines told the SBC Executive Committee Sept. 19.
Addressing the EC via video because of a scheduling conflict, Gaines said America’s morally deteriorating culture evidences the need for revival and awakening. He asked Southern Baptists to pray for revival using Psalm 85:6 and Habakkuk 3:2 as prompts.
Revival “is a renewal from heaven,” said Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn. “It is when the fire of God falls” as depicted in Acts 4:31, which states, “When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak God’s message with boldness.”
Evangelism is closely related to revival, Gaines said, noting pastors and other spiritual leaders must renew their passion for winning souls to saving faith in Christ.
One important component of evangelism, Gaines said, is the evangelistic invitation pastors should extend at the close of every message they preach. While an altar call, in which people walk to the front of a worship area to indicate their response to the gospel, is not the only valid form of evangelistic invitation, he said, Bellevue utilizes an altar call weekly and sees people come to faith in Christ through it.
“We need not only to share the gospel, but give [people] the opportunity to repent of their sins, to believe savingly in Jesus,” Gaines said. “… If we don’t give that invitation, I don’t care what else we preach; we have not preached the gospel.”
Evangelism in the pulpit, however, is not sufficient, he said. It must be accompanied by personal soul winning by every believer – especially church and convention leaders. Gaines suggested praying for lost people by name daily and looking for opportunities to share the gospel one-on-one.
“Leaders have to lead,” he said. “If you and I don’t do [personal evangelism], how can we expect anybody else to do it?”
Gaines expressed concern that the harsh rhetoric of some Christian leaders regarding the 2016 U.S. presidential election could inhibit their witness.
“When we speak prophetically, I want to encourage us to speak with kindness,” Gaines said. “The litmus test for me is this: Whatever I say, whatever I put on social media, whatever I say from the pulpit or in personal conversation” should not “prevent me from being able to share the gospel with that person to whom I’m speaking.
“If they would not listen to me share the gospel after I said something because I said something that was rude and inappropriate” about a political candidate, “then I have messed up,” he said.
Regarding stewardship, Gaines advocated the practice of tithing, which involves believers’ giving a tenth of their income to God through their local churches. While some argue the New Testament does not specifically require continuation of the Old Testament’s 10 percent standard, Gaines cited Matthew 23:23 to argue God’s commandment to tithe remains in force.
“I don’t believe that we in the New Testament [era] need to give less than people in the Old Testament,” Gaines said. “If you can’t trust God with 10 percent of your money, how can you trust God with your eternal soul?”
Tithing by every member of every Southern Baptist church would provide “all the money we need to support every ministry” at the church, associational, state convention and SBC levels, he said.
Gaines concluded by urging, “If we don’t have a national revival … let’s at least have a revival among Southern Baptists.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)