North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear, one of three pastors to be nominated for Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president in June, responded to six questions Baptist Press (BP) posed to each candidate.
Greear’s nomination was announced March 2 by Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, Fla.
During the 14 years Greear has pastored The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., worship attendance has grown from 350 to just under 10,000, Scroggins said in announcing the nomination. The Summit’s total baptisms increased from 19 in 2002 to 928 in 2014, the last year for which statistics are available through the SBC’s Annual Church Profile.
Among Greear’s work in the SBC, he has led The Summit to plant more than 20 churches in North America in conjunction with the North American Mission Board (NAMB). When Greear’s nomination was announced, The Summit had more International Mission Board missionaries on the field than any other congregation in the convention – a statistic the church told BP the IMB had confirmed. Greear himself served two years with the IMB before being called to The Summit.
Greear holds doctor of philosophy and master of divinity degrees from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
The new SBC president will succeed Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd, who was elected to the first of two one-year presidential terms in 2014.
Q&As with each of the other two nominees – Louisiana pastor David Crosby and Tennessee pastor Steve Gaines – also appeared on Baptist Press. BP requested each nominee to respond within 150 words to each question.
J.D. Greear’s answer to BP questions
BP: What influence on the Southern Baptist Convention do you pray to have during the two consecutive one-year terms that an SBC president typically serves?
GREEAR: First, we need a continued re-awakening to the gospel. Revival begins not with the world awakening to Christ, but the church getting “re-awakened” to the gospel. Times in our country may be dark, but – based on past history – that actually means conditions are incredibly ripe for revival.
Second, we need to bring a new generation of Southern Baptists to the table, partnering with older generations in the cooperative missions of the SBC. There is a new wave of excitement about the SBC, but many are still sitting on the sidelines. We’ve been given a rich legacy, and it’s time we, the rising generations, pick up that torch, taking personal responsibility for the mission.
Third, we need to see diversification in the SBC’s leadership. About one in five Southern Baptist churches are now predominantly non-Anglo, and we want to see our brothers and sisters from these non-Anglo backgrounds join us in leadership.
BP: If elected as SBC president, in what ways do you envision calling Southern Baptists forward in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission and undergirding the Cooperative Program (CP)?
GREEAR: To the churches who choose to affiliate with the SBC, I would say that we must take ownership of our entities and mission. More than 1,000 missionaries coming off the field isn’t “the SBC’s problem.” It’s our problem. We need to respond with intentional, sacrificial generosity, giving away more than we feel we can spare. We must rest on the promise that as we seek the Kingdom of God first, He’ll supply the rest of what we need (Matthew 6:33).
The CP should remain our best and primary means of giving, but we should encourage other cooperative ways to give, too. God is doing new things in the coming days, and we must respect the autonomy of Southern Baptist churches in responding to that. The entities of the convention exist for one reason – the Great Commission. We must constantly re-evaluate everything we do in light of that. Mission above all.
BP: Describe ways you have led your church to be involved in Great Commission outreach through Southern Baptist cooperative missions and the Cooperative Program.
GREEAR: Currently, we have 150 of our members serving overseas through the IMB. We’ve also, by God’s grace, planted 26 Southern Baptist churches through NAMB here in the U.S., sending out over 400 members, all in the past 5 years. We have a God-sized goal of planting 1,000 churches by 2050 through the entities of the SBC, and our people have rallied behind that vision.
Over the same period, we’ve also tried to demonstrate the kind of increased, sacrificial giving the hour demands. Three years ago, our church voted to increase our CP giving by 230 percent over the course of five years, and we were able to complete that two years early. On January 1, we took our 2016 giving to $390,000 for the year. Our “Great Commission Giving” has remained consistent at 10 percent for four years, and our total missions giving has remained between 15-20 percent of undesignated receipts.
BP: In what ways do you see the SBC president coming alongside leaders of the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, GuideStone Financial Resources and the convention’s six seminaries to undergird and encourage their respective ministries?
GREEAR: God has given us tremendous leaders – men and women of God raised up for the hour – in these entities. He sent us a Conservative Resurgence, then a Great Commission Resurgence, and the leadership of our entities reflects those great movements. Here’s what excites me: past grace is evidence that God intends to bestow future grace. These are exciting days for Southern Baptists. God didn’t act to preserve institutions, but to advance the mission.
These entities exist to assist local churches in the work of the ministry, not to do ministry for them. The local church is God’s “Plan A.” Churches plant churches, raise up leaders, send out missionaries and evangelize their cities. I’ve been encouraged to see these entities begin asking how they can better serve the churches. I hope to represent Southern Baptist churches of all shapes and sizes well to these entities, pressing in on that very question.
BP: If elected as SBC president, how do you foresee speaking to the next generation of Southern Baptist leaders to be involved in expanding the convention’s Great Commission work?
GREEAR: Those of us in the younger generation “stand on the shoulders” of faithful, older generations. We should honor them, learn from them and unite with them. We need to humbly ask lots of questions. (As my mentor Paige Patterson told me, “Never tear a wall down before you know why it exists!”) And we must continue supporting the mission structures that have made Southern Baptists the most prolific church planting people on the planet. We must own our convention.
Again: great days are ahead. Why would the Holy Spirit have been so gracious in the Conservative Resurgence if not to give us an unprecedented effectiveness among the nations? The SBC’s best days are before us. They have to be: more than 6,000 people groups remain unreached, and history cannot end until that changes. It is time again to expect great things of God, and then attempt great things for God.
BP: What do you see as the key moral issues of our day, and how can the SBC president represent Southern Baptists as America increasingly moves away from Judeo-Christian values?
GREEAR: Antagonism toward Christianity is growing, but this is no time to despair. The early Church didn’t grow exponentially because the government was behind them, but because they trusted the Spirit and proclaimed the gospel boldly. Thus, while we will continue to advocate for religious liberty, we must also live as the counter-cultural people of God, a unique community where the fragrance of Christ is sweet and distinct. The darker our culture becomes, the brighter the light of the gospel shines forth.
We must aim for the same paradox Jesus embodied – “full of grace and truth” (John 1:17). Truth without grace is fundamentalism. Grace without truth is vapid sentimentality. The Great Commission is that we proclaim the Gospel; the second Great Commandment is that we love our neighbors. Both should be evident among Southern Baptists. We must not only speak the truth of Christ; we must do so with the spirit of Christ.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)