Tennessee pastor Steve Gaines, 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.
Gaines’ nomination was announced March 9 by former SBC President Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga.
Among Gaines’s leadership roles in the SBC, he has served as a member of the SBC Committee on Nominations, a trustee of LifeWay Christian Resources, a member of the committee that proposed a revision of the Baptist Faith and Message in 2000 and chairman of the SBC Resolutions Committee. He preached the SBC convention sermon in 2004 and served as SBC Pastors’ Conference president in 2005.
During the 11 years Gaines has pastored the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., the congregation has averaged 481 baptisms per year, according to the SBC’s Annual Church Profile. Previously, he pastored churches in Alabama, Tennessee and Texas.
Gaines holds doctor of philosophy and master of divinity degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
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 North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear – also appeared on Baptist Press. BP requested each nominee to respond within 150 words to each question.
Steve Gaines’ answers 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?
GAINES: I want to build on the wonderful foundation that has been laid by our current president, Ronnie Floyd, by being a catalyst for spiritual awakening and revival. The SBC needs fresh fire and wind from heaven. It will come through fervent prayer and seeking God. I also want to emphasize soul winning. The SBC is currently in a 15-year downward nosedive in baptisms. In 2014, we baptized 100,000 less than we did in 1999. Pastors must lead their churches to verbally share the gospel with lost people, and also extend evangelistic invitations when they preach. I also will focus on stewardship. Individual Christians must give more to their churches so our churches can give more to the Cooperative Program (CP) so we can send more missionaries overseas. We need to put 1,100 missionaries back on the foreign fields instead of calling them home.
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?
GAINES: We must emphasize the Great Commission, which is: “making disciples, baptizing disciples, and teaching disciples.” Making disciples includes winning lost people to Jesus. If not, then there is no evangelism in the Great Commission. I will call Southern Baptists back to our historic roots of being soul winners – people who proactively, intentionally and verbally share the gospel to win people to Jesus. Each person we win to Christ must then be baptized. We do NOT need to deemphasize baptisms as a valid metric to measure our evangelistic effectiveness. Baptisms are a biblical metric. Every person who was saved in the New Testament was baptized! Once a person is saved and baptized, he should be taught and discipled so he can grow in Christlikeness. Financial stewardship is part of being a disciple. Christians must give more to their churches so churches can give more to the Cooperative Program.
BP: Describe ways you have led your church to be involved in Great Commission outreach through Southern Baptist cooperative missions and the Cooperative Program.
GAINES: At Bellevue Baptist Church, over the past six years we have increased our Cooperative Program giving from $250,000 per year to $1 million per year. We have been the top giver to the CP in our state for several years now. We have annually increased both the amount given and also the percentage. Since Great Commission outreach should be done at the local church level, the associational level, the state convention level and the national convention level, we believe in supporting each of these financially and with our participation.
We win people to Christ in Memphis through personal soul winning and also through multiple evangelistic ministries. On the national level, we are planting churches in the Seattle area through the Send North America emphasis. Bellevue also serves overseas in evangelistic outreach and church planting efforts in partnership with our International Mission Board (IMB). We believe in cooperating with other Southern Baptist churches.
BP: In what ways do you see the SBC president coming alongside leaders of the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board (NAMB), LifeWay Christian Resources, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, GuideStone Financial Resources and the convention’s six seminaries to undergird and encourage their respective ministries?
GAINES: I will emphasize the need for all of our national entities to work in cooperation with one another and also with our state conventions and local associations to fulfill the Great Commission. Southern Baptist churches do not need to digress to a societal form of giving to support our various agencies at various levels. State conventions must not be pressured into giving such high percentages to the national entities that they are unable to evangelize their own states. We must seek to have a unified way of funding all levels of SBC missional work, and that is the Cooperative Program.
We must discourage a spirit of competition between the national entities and the state conventions and local associations. All of these levels of SBC activity are vital to our success in carrying out the Great Commission. Southern Baptists will advance if we focus on cooperating instead of competing against one another.
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?
GAINES: Our son is a 33-year-old pastor of a Southern Baptist church here in Tennessee. I encourage him and all the next generation of Southern Baptists to get involved in SBC life at every level. Local associations provide fellowship and ministry opportunities that are encouraging. State conventions allow younger Southern Baptists unique opportunities to reach lost people in their states. God has brought the world to our cities and states. There are over 3 million lost people in Tennessee and 18 million in Texas. We can reach the world by reaching the lost people in our states! I also encourage the next generation to support the national SBC by being involved in church planting through NAMB and a variety of worldwide missional opportunities through the IMB.
No other gospel preaching fellowship has greater potential for providing comprehensive involvement for the next generation than the SBC at all its various levels of ministry.
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?
GAINES: The three key moral issues in our day are abortion, sexual immorality and racism.
The SBC, including the president, must continue to be a champion for the unborn and their right to life. We must never waver regarding the fact that the Bible teaches that life begins at conception. Every unborn child is an eternal soul.
We must also continue to provide a prophetic voice crying out in the wilderness of a morally confused culture regarding sexuality. We must advocate for biblical marriage. The only marriage Jesus affirmed was heterosexual, monogamous marriage – one man married to one woman for life. God created males to be males and females to be females. Gender is biological, not psychological.
Regarding race, all people are created in God’s image. Thus there is only one race – the human race. Christians must lead by example by loving everyone, regardless of skin color.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)