Interview with SBC Presidential Candidates: Part Two, Steve Gaines

 At the fast-approaching SBC in St. Louis messengers from our Southern Baptist churches will be tasked to elect the new President of the SBC. This is a significant responsibility, one that we at B21 and thousands of Southern Baptists take seriously. So, in an attempt to facilitate all of us becoming more informed voters, B21 has sent a list of questions to each of our candidates.  We will feature each candidate’s response in a three-part post.

Our second post features the answers from Steve Gaines, Senior Pastor at Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis, TN

Be sure to register and attend our lunch panel Tuesday at the 2016 SBC in St. Louis where we will be sure to discuss these similar pressing issues with all of our panelists.

Register here!

  1. Why are you allowing yourself to be nominated? What would you hope to accomplish as president of the SBC?

Being the president of the SBC is not something I have personally sought. Rather, I sensed an overwhelming calling from the Lord to allow my name to be nominated for this position of service. If elected, 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 so we can send more missionaries overseas. We need to put 1,100 missionaries back on the foreign fields instead of calling them home.

  1. What are the biggest threats facing the SBC, both within and without?

Our national entities need to work in cooperation with one another and also with our state conventions and local associations to fulfill the Great Commission. SBC 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 I believe that is the Cooperative Program.

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 be vocal advocates 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 through example by loving everyone, regardless of skin color.

  1. What were your thoughts on the GCR and how do you think the GCR is going across the convention?

Originally the GCR was created, among other things, to celebrate the financial support of SBC churches regarding special SBC projects outside the purview of the Cooperative Program (CP). GCR giving is a good thing as long as it does not take away a church’s involvement in giving to SBC missions through the CP. Most pastors don’t want church members to designate most of their offerings to areas outside the church budget. Even so, SBC churches should avoid designating most of their mission dollars to exclusive areas. That is a societal approach to missions that would prove harmful to our overall SBC mission efforts. The Cooperative Program is still the best primary way for SBC churches to support SBC work financially. GCR giving should be used mainly to recognize participation in special SBC projects outside the work supported by the CP.

The GCR also encouraged the North American Mission Board to focus more on church planting, evangelism, and leadership training to help pastors and churches reach their communities with the Gospel. Without any doubt, the emphasis on church planting has been a great “win” for the SBC over the past 3-4 years. However, we must focus more on evangelism and providing leadership for churches to reach our cities for Christ. Even though we have more churches than ever, the SBC is in a 15-year nosedive in baptisms. There were 100,000 fewer people saved and baptized in 2014 than in 1999. That needs to change. If we are going to have a “Great Commission Resurgence,” we must have a “Great Soul Winning Resurgence.”

4. What are your thoughts on the new directions of NAMB and IMB?

Bellevue is helping planting churches in Seattle in cooperation with NAMB. Yet we understand that merely planting churches does not guarantee that lost people will be saved. Since 1999, the SBC has steadily increased in our number of churches, yet we have simultaneously decreased in our number of baptisms. Planting churches does not mean that we will win more people to Christ. The churches we plant must be soul-winning churches. Church plants that do not win people to Christ do not deserve our financial support.

Regarding the IMB, I am concerned that we have asked 1,100+ of our IMB missionaries to come home due to lack of funding. We must enhance our efforts in our SBC churches to teach biblical financial stewardship principles to garner more financial support to help put more full-time missionaries back on the foreign fields.  I am all for people volunteering to go oversees as IMB missionaries, but I do not want our SBC churches to adopt the pattern of independent missionaries that are forced to raise their own financial support. Again, that is a societal approach of funding. It has not served other Christian denominations well, and it will not serve the SBC well.

  1. If you could change one thing at the annual meeting, what would it be and why?

 I’d continue and even enhance the prayer meeting for spiritual awakening and revival on Tuesday nights. In fact, I’d make it one of the major highlights every year in the SBC annual meeting. Our primary need in the SBC is spiritual awakening and revival. That comes through prayer and repentance. Both the church and missions were birthed in white-hot prayer meetings (cf. Acts 2, Acts 13), not business meetings. Where prayer focuses, God’s power falls. America needs a spiritual awakening among God’s people, and that will only come when we pray and seek Him fervently for it.

  1. Is the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 a sufficient doctrinal statement for Southern Baptist cooperation, or do other things need to be added?

The BF&M 2000 is a human document. Thus it is neither inerrant nor infallible. It has been changed twice (1963 and 2000). Who is to say that it will never need to be changed again in days to come?

I served on the committee under Dr. Adrian Rogers that drafted the BF&M, 2000. Overall, I believe it an excellent theological document. At present it seems to be broad enough to include both Calvinists and non-Calvinists (like me). It was designed to be a doctrinal statement that would be broad enough for all Bible-believing Southern Baptists. As long as it serves that purpose, I have no problems with it as is. However, I would never say that any human document such as the BF&M 2000 would never need to be altered in the future.

  1. Our convention is diverse theologically, especially on the issue of Calvinism and Non-Calvinism. How will you engage these issues and how will you help everyone work together?

The SBC has always had Calvinists and non-Calvinists. I’m fine with that, as long as one side does not seek to dominate the other. Calvinism does not need to be taught as the exclusive, optimal theological viewpoint in our seminaries. Non-Calvinist students should not be subjected to Calvinistic professors who proactively seek to convert them to Calvinism. None of our seminaries should have a faculty of professors who are exclusively Calvinistic. Non-Calvinistic professors should be an integral part of each one of our seminary faculties because most Southern Baptists are not Calvinists, and they are the ones that fund our seminaries and pay the salaries of our professors.

That being said, Calvinists and non-Calvinists in the SBC need to work in harmony. I am not a Calvinist, but I have good friends who are and we are able to serve Jesus together harmoniously. As long as any Christian will pray like it matters and share the gospel with lost people like it matters, I can fellowship and cooperate with that person. In the coming days we will face multiple onslaughts that will surely be leveled at all of God’s people from an increasingly secular, anti-Christian culture. Thus, we will need to unite with and serve with all Gospel preaching Christians.

  1. How will you try to encourage and incorporate young Southern Baptist pastors in to the convention’s work?

I encourage 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.

  1. How do you explain the decrease in baptisms in the SBC and what do we need to do to address this issue?

 We have not emphasized soul winning. We must once again highlight intentional, proactive, personal evangelism in the SBC. When W.A. Criswell, Herschel Hobbs, Adrian Rogers, Bailey Smith, Jimmy Draper, and Jerry Vines used to preach at our annual SBC meetings, they stressed soul winning – verbally sharing what the Bible says about Jesus with lost people in order to persuade them to repent of their sin, believe savingly in Jesus, and receive/accept Jesus as Savior and Lord so they can experience regeneration (i.e. being born again).  Our SBC pastors must train their staff members and lay people to intentionally share Jesus one-on-one and win souls to Christ.

Preachers must also give evangelistic invitations at the end of their sermons, clearly telling lost people how to be saved. Every time they preach, they should share the Gospel and give their listeners the opportunity to be saved. If they do not want lost people to walk forward after their sermon during an invitation hymn, they should provide another appropriate venue such as going to a nearby counseling room so that lost people can become Christians immediately after the sermon is over. The Gospel has not been preached if the preacher does not tell the people how to become a Christian and then persuasively give them the opportunity to become a Christian then and there. Benign, tepid, indifferent Gospel invitations at the end of biblical sermons sabotage the evangelistic efforts of a Gospel focused church.

10. What has it been like to follow the pastorate of Adrian Rogers? What lessons have you learned?  

Dr. Rogers and I were great friends. He served as a mentor for me for many years. He wanted me to come to Bellevue, but I was reluctant to follow such a legendary man of God. I preached his funeral two months after arriving at Bellevue, and the next year and a half was very difficult. If Donna and I had not been called of God to Bellevue, we would not have endured. But God intervened, and the last nine and a half years have been some of the best years of our ministry. Bellevue is a wonderful place to preach the Gospel and serve Jesus. Memphis is a fertile mission field. Each week, we see people of every age and ethnic group join our church. Each week Bellevue looks more like Memphis and heaven. Donna and I are grateful to serve Jesus and the city of Memphis with the wonderful brothers and sisters at Bellevue Baptist Church because Bellevue desires to be a catalyst for spiritual awakening in Memphis, the nation and the nations.