Leading up to this year’s Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Dallas, SBC president Steve Gaines answered questions from Baptist Press (BP) regarding this year’s gathering and lessons and rewarding moments he’s encountered during the past two years.
Photo by Adam Covington
Steve Gaines, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, gives the president’s address during the first day of the SBC annual meeting June 13 at the Phoenix Convention Center.
Nearing the end of his second and final one-year term as SBC president, the pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., specifically addressed this year’s SBC election and some of the challenges the convention faces in the months ahead. See related story.
Below are Gaines’ written responses to BP’s questions.
Q: Share your thoughts on this year’s SBC meeting, the theme, and why it was chosen.
A: I’m looking forward to gathering with thousands of Southern Baptists in Dallas in June. Our theme for the 2018 annual meeting is: Testify! Go. Stand. Speak. This theme is based on Acts 5:20: “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.” The artwork has a definite Texas flare.
I want to challenge all Southern Baptists to boldly testify of the saving work that Jesus Christ has accomplished for all of us. I challenge all Southern Baptists to be willing to go wherever God tells you to go, stand for the truth of the [g]ospel of Christ, regardless of how counter-cultural it becomes, and to open your mouths and speak the words of the [g]ospel with lost people in a persuasive manner for the purpose of winning them to faith in Jesus. A real gospel conversation must include a gospel presentation and a gospel invitation.
As my former evangelism professor, Roy Fish, always said, “You can’t serve Jesus with a zipped lip.” Southern Baptists must verbally share the [g]ospel with lost people and win them to Christ.
Q: How can Southern Baptists pray for this year’s meeting and the SBC? And share what you’d like to see happen during the meeting.
A: Pray for the Lord’s manifest presence to envelop all of us, from the first prayer on Tuesday morning to the closing prayer on Wednesday afternoon.
Pray that the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts will be acceptable in God’s sight (Psalm 19:14). Pray that God will set a guard over our mouths and keep watch over the door of our lips (Psalm 141:3).
Pray that Jesus alone will be glorified and exalted.
Pray for everyone who preaches and for everyone who presents a report to be anointed with the Holy Spirit.
Pray that every messenger will be considerate and Christlike in all interactions with others.
Pray that all of us will be [g]odly examples to a lost world that will be watching and listening.
Pray that we will conduct the Lord’s business “properly and in an orderly manner” (1 Corinthians 14:40).
Pray that during our meetings we will discuss issues in a united, civil, Spirit-filled way.
Pray that when we leave Dallas, we will do so with a genuine unity of spirit and purpose – to reach lost people throughout the world with the saving [g]ospel of Jesus Christ.
Q: Approaching this year’s SBC presidential election, is there anything you’d like Southern Baptists to keep in perspective or to pray for?
A: So far, we know of two godly men who will be nominated for President of the Southern Baptist Convention. J.D. Greear and Ken Hemphill are both Christ-like men who have led wonderful, evangelistic churches. Both have earned [doctor of philosophy degrees], and both love the Lord and the Southern Baptist Convention.
As the current president of the SBC, I want to go on record that I have not, do not and will not officially endorse or support either of these men over the other. I know and love them both. Whoever the messengers elect as president in Dallas, I will support 100 percent.
To clarify, at the SBC meeting in St. Louis (2016), after J.D. and I met, I said that I would “be willing” to nominate him this year. However, as J.D. and I thought more and prayed about that, we both concluded that it would not be good for any existing president of the SBC to ever nominate anyone to be his immediate successor. That would give too much power and influence to the existing president. Thus, with J.D.’s agreement and approval, I have declined from doing that. Again, I love both of these men and will support either of them that is elected in Dallas.
I urge all Southern Baptists to pray to our sovereign God and to ask Him to have His way regarding the election for all the officers in Dallas including who will lead us as our next president.
Q: What are some lessons you’ve learned during your time as SBC president?
A: I’ve learned that God loves Southern Baptists and He is using many of us in unique ways to fulfill the Great Commission. I admire every pastor of every Southern Baptist church that leads his congregation week in and week out, preaching the word, evangelizing the lost and equipping the saints to carry out various ministries.
I love the directors of missions in our associations that rally the local churches to share the [g]ospel with lost people and disciple those who become believers in Christ. I also thank God for the state convention executives. I believe our state conventions are the backbone of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The state [executives] are the champions when it comes to supporting the Cooperative Program and missions, as well as local evangelism. I am also grateful for the amazing work by our national entities and their leaders.
I anticipate good things to come in the years ahead, especially as the pastors, the local churches, the associations, the state conventions and the national entities genuinely unite to reach the world with the [g]ospel of Jesus Christ.
Q: Share some challenges and rewarding moments during your time as president?
A: Obviously, we face the challenge of seeking new leaders to fill two of our most important leadership roles – the president of the International Mission Board (IMB) and the CEO of the SBC Executive Committee. We must have godly, spirit-filled leaders in those positions. We all know that everything rises and falls on leadership. We need to pray that the Lord will place the exact people He wants in these two vital positions.
As far as rewarding moments during my time as president, there are too many to count. I committed to Bellevue that I would not miss a Sunday for the Southern Baptist Convention except for the annual meetings, and I have kept that commitment. As a result, our church has actually grown during the last two years. However, I have traveled a lot during the week. I have enjoyed preaching in all but one of our six seminaries.
I have attended the board meetings of the IMB, [North American Mission Board] and GuideStone. I have also preached at multiple state convention gatherings, and other SBC meetings. I am amazed at the strength of the Lord’s work among Southern Baptists. What is happening among us is a “God-thing.” We are planting and watering, but He is the One giving the increase.
I am praying and believing that in the days to come the Lord will pour out His Spirit in a fresh way on Southern Baptists, and we will see more people saved and baptized than ever before. I pray that God will open the heavens and come down afresh on all of our pastors, churches and entities, and that the latter glory of the SBC will be greater than the former. I pray that we will be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and that we will be the salt of the earth and the light of the world as we penetrate the culture with the [g]ospel and proclaim it to the ends of the earth.
Let’s show up in Dallas, and let’s ask God to show up there as well!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shawn Hendricks is editor of Baptist Press.)