The time is upon us. The election for the Southern Baptist Convention’s President will be happening next week in St. Louis, MO (June 14-15). Not to be overly dramatic, but this election marks the most important election in the SBC since that of guys like Adrian Rogers and Bailey Smith in the early years of the conservative resurgence. In the conservative resurgence of the 80’s and 90’s we took back the seminaries and convention from the liberals and neo-orthodox who had taken control of Southern Baptist academia. We now have a chance to elect a leader who will, I believe, take the Conservative Resurgence to greater heights.
You have two main candidates running and they are J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina and you have Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. These two candidates are wildly different. While they are both dear brothers in Christ they represent two fairly differing ideologies and platforms. Gaines represents the old-guard Baptists of the 70’s-80’s, basing his platform on getting more confessions, baptisms, and members into the convention. He’s wanting to push a heavier emphasis on invitations in messages and revival. He’s more in line with the “religious right” and would be similar to your Charles Ryrie’s, Jerry Falwell’s, and Robert Jeffress’. We here at the Baptist Review worry that a Gaines presidency may push us into a more a-theological, anti-intellectual environment here in the convention, which is something we would hate to see because that kind of anti-intellectual Christianity cannot stand up against the left’s barrage of attacks. We feel this way not because Gaines himself is “anti-intellectual”, but because when the focus is taken off of deep, expository, biblically grounded preaching and lost in favor of revivalistic topical preaching, you see congregants not immersed in the word, which has far-reaching consequences.
Greear on the other hand represents the upcoming, younger leaders in the SBC. His emphasis is on Great Commission work like missions, church-planting, racial-reconciliation, and engaging the culture with a biblical worldview. Greear has also been a very big proponent of Southern Baptists from different streams, whether old-guard or YRR, working together for the spread of the Gospel. When you think of Greear, you should think of guys like Russell Moore, David Platt, Al Mohler, and John Piper. Greear has proven that he respects and really treasures the good things the old-guard of Baptists have taught us, even sighting Paige Patterson as his mentor. We here belive that Greear has a chance to be the best president the SBC has had to date. We think he will foster great theological discussion, send more missionaries than other candidates, and have a far better understanding of how to connect and engage with the culture.
Up until now the SBC has fought the fight of Biblical Inerrancy inside the convention, and we have won overwhelmingly, but now it is time to take our high view of scripture to its logical conclusions.
All of Scripture is Gospel-Centered; the whole storyline of scripture is about Christ. We need a president who truly exemplifies this belief.
The Christian religion is also a religion of cultural engagement, we are to “go therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” and we need a president that is devoted to mission-minded, God-glorifying, Christ-centered cultural engagement across the whole globe. We also have over the past few years elected and put amazing people into leadership roles in the SBC. We have guys like Russell Moore heading up the ERLC, David Platt courageously heading up the IMB, and Kevin Ezell faithfully serving as President of NAMB. Alongside that we have some truly great men leading our seminaries. Guys like Al Mohler (SBTS) and Paige Patterson (SWBTS) were instrumental leaders in the conservative resurgence and faithfully serve their respective seminaries. Also, guys like Jason Allen (MBTS) and Danny Akin (SEBTS) are doing amazing jobs shepherding and guiding their seminaries into awesome, Biblically faithful learning institutions. We also have leaders like Jeff Iorg (GGBTS) and Charles Kelley (NOBTS) faithfully serving their institutions. It is time to put a person in the President’s seat who will not just lead the SBC as it is, but who will drive us into a deeper understanding of our doctrine, heritage, and true theological conservatism so that we can stand against the rising tide of liberalism in our culture.
As the culture shifts more and more to the left, we are going to have to be Christians that can stand up the left with air-tight apologetic arguments and engage the world with dignity, intellect, and love for the people.
On top of that, as the Muslim presence grows in areas where the SBC thrives, we need leaders that are passionate for the salvation of Islamic souls to the Kingdom of Christ.
For all these reasons above, we at The Baptist Review support J.D. Greear for the president of the SBC and hope you will too. Pastor Greear has laid out a platform for his presidential run that will be presented and discussed here. First, Greear says that he wants “To continue and deepen our focus on gospel-centeredness in both theology and mission.” This is far and above the most important point of the platform. The SBC has always been a mission minded denomination, for that I am thankful, but we must remember that our theology always fuels how our missions work. If we have a shallow understanding of the Gospel of Christ then we will create shallow converts in our missions, shallow disciples in our churches, and our witness will be shallow in the world. A shallow gospel understanding will simply not do against the deep, dark mess that is our culture. Greear has shown through his ministry that he has a heart for deep, sound, gospel thought and that will be instrumental in his presidency. He said in one article, speaking of our need to focus on the gospel,
“The gospel is the good news that Jesus died in our place to restore us to God, and offers us abundant life in him through his resurrection. This is good news for non-believer and believer alike. It both saves the sinner and makes the saint come alive. Fire to do in the Christian life comes from being soaked in the fuel of what has been done. The way we will grow in Christ in the future is not by progressing beyond the gospel, but by doing deeper into it. I am grateful for what we have seen in recent days on this, and want to see that deepened and continued.” -J.D. Greear
This is the kind of leadership we need. This is the gospel we need if we want to send missionaries out into the hardest places in the world. This is the gospel of Christ that men will live for, and most importantly die for so that the church will spread throughout the globe! Greear also has a history of being a missionary to Muslims in hard to reach places back when he was an IMB Journeyman, he even has a great book on apologetics to Muslims called Breaking the Islam Code (Which I would recommend to everybody). This knowledge and experience from evangelizing followers of Islam will be invaluable to Southern Baptists when dealing with issues like ISIS, apologetics to this large religion, and helping us cultivate a heart for Muslim people.
Second, Greear also calls for Southern Baptists to, “To engage our culture with both grace and truth.” As Christians, we have a really hard time doing both of these things at the same time. We love to pick one or the other. Sometimes we as Baptists have loved to speak the truth to people about homosexuality, abortion, voting, and a whole host of other issues, but we have forgotten to show grace, mercy, and love to the people we are speaking to (I’m guilty of this myself). This is not the way Jesus, Paul, or any other New Testament Christian encouraged us to act. Sometimes we go the other way. We will want to show the love of Christ to people, but we forget what that really means, and end up giving approval to sin. This is also an unacceptable.
We must, as a Convention, stand up for the truths of scripture without compromise, but we must do it with love and grace.
Third, Greear has said we need “To call for a new era of engagement in the entities and boards of the SBC.” J.D. Greear would be representative of the next generation stepping into leadership roles in the SBC. We see too many young people not participating in their local, state, and national conventions, and it doesn’t seem like they ever plan to. I think this is a bad thing; we need to be able to work together with the older people in the SBC as leadership is eventually transitioned from one generation to the next.
The conventions and associations have served us well for a long time in organizing missions, supporting churches, and providing fellowship for pastors and we do not want to lose this. I believe that Greear would make it to where younger guys like us feel more comfortable engaging in denominational life, and this would be an amazing thing for us and the older generation as we learn to work together.
This is already being seen in SBC leadership with Russell Moore (44 years old) and David Platt (36 years old) heading up major convention entities. Greear (42 years old) would be the next step in passing the torch to the next generation of Southern Baptists. It is also good the Greear plans to continue to encourage churches to give sacrificially to missions and the Cooperative Program so we can continue to get more missionaries out in the field, and make it more accessible for students to get seminary level training. Greear states, “We want to encourage the Convention to continue to create more efficient structures for resourcing and sending missionaries, adapting to the needs and opportunities of a new generation of churches. The Spirit of God is doing new things in our generation, and we need a Convention that responds to that. By no means does that mean we scrap the old. The Cooperative Program continues to be our primary way to resource our efforts in the Great Commission. At the same time, the SBC has recognized the category of ‘Great Commission Giving’ as a legitimate way to support Southern Baptist mission. We need to respect the autonomy of churches in deciding where and how to allocate their resources between these, and to celebrate both as faithful service to the Kingdom of God. We need increases in both.” With this focus on giving we should be able to get the IMB completely back on its feet financially and get more and more missionaries back into the field.
Lastly, Greear caps of his platform with this extremely important statement, saying that we need to “To platform and equip non-Anglo pastors and members.” This is extremely timely and necessary, especially here in the south. One Christian Rapper once said, “The most segregated time of the week is the Sunday Service.” In some places this is astonishingly true, and brothers this ought not be so. Christianity is not a white religion, nor is it an American religion.
Christianity is a trans-cultural, trans-ethnic faith and the Bible could not be clearer there. This is the faith delivered to the Jews and Gentiles! Christ has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, so why is it that we keep trying to put that wall up again?
We so often attend our white churches with our white pastors and white members. Or on the flip side we attend our black churches with our black pastor and black members. I could go on and do this for every ethnicity. Why is it that we do not see that many churches around here where you have a black pastor with white, Hispanic, black, Arab, and Asian members or any other combination of those? It is because many of us still have hidden prejudices that we do not care to unearth or admit. Greear has a thriving church in North Carolina where many ethnicities come together in one church to sit under pastors of different ethnicities.
Multi-ethnic churches are a beautiful picture of people worshipping as one unified people, a people unified by the only bloodline that matters, the bloodline of those in Christ by faith!
Greear plans to further racial reconciliation in the SBC which is something he has proven able to do on the local church level.
It’s these reasons that we support J.D. Greear over Steve Gaines for president of the SBC. We here at the Baptist review pray that whoever gets the presidency will serve the Lord faithfully and carry this convention in the right direction. We would also like to encourage pastors to go out to the convention and vote for J.D. Greear to help us move the SBC more towards biblical faithfulness. For the Glory of the Lamb that was Slain, Soli Deo Gloria.
Just for fun, here is a video of the “JD Greear for SBC President Rap”
-Will Standridge, II