Why I Am Voting for Steve Gaines for President of the SBC

Why I Am Voting for Steve Gaines for President of the SBC

Yesterday the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention voted for president of the SBC. And then, because it was too close to call, they voted again. That was too close, too. So this morning, we were all prepared to vote a third time.

That third vote won’t happen, because the third vote won’t be necessary. I’m withdrawing my name from contention, and pledging my full support to Pastor Steve Gaines.

Steve didn’t ask me to do this. This was my idea. He was incredibly gracious when we talked about this and prayed about this last night. And we both sought counsel from some of the godly men that encouraged us to be nominated in the first place. Together, we feel this is best for the SBC and best for the Kingdom.

Through this whole process, I’ve been praying for unity. I know that Pastor Steve has as well. But if we go to a third vote, and one of us wins by one half of one percent, it doesn’t matter which of us it is—it’s hard to see how that makes us a united body.

The task for those of you who voted for me is not to complain that things didn’t go our way. It’s to follow the example of our Savior, who came not to be served, but to serve. It’s time for us to step up and get involved, to keep pushing forward and engaging in the mission with those who have gone before us. It’s time to look at what unites us.

We exist as a convention of churches because we believe that we can do more together than we can do apart. What keeps us from splitting into a thousand different directions is one thing: our unity in the gospel of Jesus. We stand together because God saved us, and we want to see him save others—whether that’s in our neighborhoods or on the other side of the world.

I came to this convention with the conviction that the best days for the SBC were ahead of us. And I’ll be leaving this convention with the very same conviction. The greatest works of God aren’t in our past; they’re in our future. It’s time again for us to expect great things of God, and to attempt great things for God. So stand with me as we lift up the arms of our brother, and the next president of the SBC—Steve Gaines.

Theological Clarity in a Confused World: The Baptist Faith and Message 2000

Theological Clarity in a Confused World: The Baptist Faith and Message 2000

By Clint Pressley, Senior Pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC

As cultural Christianity wilts beneath the pressure of moral collapse and sexual confusion, it is important that biblically-minded Christians hold onto the “faith once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (BFM 2000) serves as a strong and clear statement of faith, equipping our churches for the onslaught of relativism in which our people live. As Southern Baptists we have a rich heritage of biblical fidelity, doctrinal clarity, and theological precision. The BFM 2000 is a tremendous tool that will serve the SBC well moving into the 21st century. I am thankful to serve within a denomination that is unapologetically orthodox and clear on our statement of faith.

Continue reading “Theological Clarity in a Confused World: The Baptist Faith and Message 2000”

The Middle East, the SBC , and the Future of Local Associations

The Middle East, the SBC , and the Future of Local Associations

By Darren Casper, Director of Plant Midwest and Associate Executive Director of the Saint Louis Metro Baptist Association

A few years ago I was sitting in a fourth story apartment in the heart of a very prominent city in the Middle East. Inside that apartment were a few other American pastors like myself who were exploring potential partnerships in that part of the world. Also present were several IMB personnel, as well as leaders from other GCC (Great Commission Christian) organizations. Continue reading “The Middle East, the SBC , and the Future of Local Associations”

Diversity Is Not the Goal; Community Is

Diversity Is Not the Goal; Community Is

By Jerome Gay, Lead Pastor of Vision Church in Raleigh, NC

I recently had a conversation with a fellow African-American pastor who doesn’t think diversity is something we should pursue. As he put it, “White people won’t follow us,” and as a result he sees nothing wrong with a 100% African-American church. I’ve also spoken with a white pastor whose reason for not seeking diversity as a priority is, as he put it, “Homogeneity is easier to manage and multiply.” This pragmatic approach was enough for him and his elders to totally ignore a segment of the population.
Continue reading “Diversity Is Not the Goal; Community Is”

Kingdom vs. Empire: What’s the Real Goal of Church Planting?

Kingdom vs. Empire: What’s the Real Goal of Church Planting?

By Vance Pitman, Pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas, NV

From the late 1960s to the turn of the century the dominant missiological movement in North America was known as the Church Growth Movement (CGM). Pioneered by men like Donald McGavran and C. Peter Wagner, CGM focused on re-energizing the declining church in North America. There are many positive results of the movement that have had tremendous impact on reaching people for Christ. But there is at least one tragic result. Many Christians came to view their local fellowship as the finish line of the mission. Because of this, many pastors are more concerned with building their own empires rather than expanding God’s kingdom. The real aim of any one church—or our convention as a whole—is so much bigger than one church in one location, no matter how big it is.

It’s All About the Kingdom.

If you’d asked me for most of my Christian life, “What is the book of Acts about?” my answer would have been, the birth and growth of the local New Testament church,” and would have read most of the lessons through the lens of, “How does this apply to our church in this community?” But when God called me to relocate my family to Las Vegas to plant a new church, I came to a new and life-changing discovery through that journey related to the book of Acts: it’s all about the expansion of God’s kingdom! Consider how the book opens:

“To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the Kingdom of God.”—Acts 1:3, NASB

Did you see it? Luke is describing the last 40 days Jesus lived on earth. For 40 days Jesus made appearances to His followers and for 40 days He only talked about one thing, “If you forget everything else I’ve taught you, don’t forget this!” That one thing? The kingdom of God.

That shouldn’t be surprising. Earlier in his ministry Jesus commanded his disciples, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). The passion of Jesus’ life and ministry was the expansion of God’s kingdom.

The Apostle Paul, consumed with Christ’s life, lived out this same passion. That’s why when you get to the very end of the book of Acts, as Paul awaits execution, we find him doing what Jesus did:

“And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the Kingdom of God.”—Acts 28:30-31a

The book of Acts opens with Jesus spending 40 days talking about nothing but the kingdom. The book of Acts ends with history’s greatest church planter talking about nothing but the kingdom.

What is the Kingdom of God?

There are many ways that people define the kingdom of God. Here’s a definition we’ve landed on at our church: The kingdom of God is God’s sovereign activity in the world resulting in people being in right relationship with himself.

Of course, people getting into right relationship with God always ends with those people forming into local churches. But the kingdom of God is the big picture of what he’s doing all over the world. God is on a mission redeeming a people to himself. The glorious finale of this mission is described like this:

“And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom.’”—Revelation 5:9-10a

There is the goal. There is the finish line. Eternity is all about God’s kingdom. That is what the mission is all about!

Church Planting and the Kingdom of God

When we begin to understand the importance of God’s kingdom, it changes our view of church planting. Here are just a few thoughts about church planting in light of the kingdom.

  1. The finish line — The church being planted is not the finish line. The church is the starting line. The finish line is God’s kingdom expanded to every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.
  2. Why plant a church? — The local church is the gathering place to teach people about the King, disciple them in kingdom living, and it is a launching pad for God’s kingdom to be expanded locally and globally, which will, of course, result in more churches until the King himself comes to take over
  3. Think city, not church — God’s call is ultimately not to a church but to a city. A church being planted is simply a platform to engage the city and expand God’s kingdom, which will result in a lot more churches besides just yours
  4. We need a pronoun revival — It’s not about growing “my” church (which can easily become about growing “my” empire). It’s about expanding “his” kingdom.
  5. Something bigger — When God births a church he always has the nations on his heart. It’s never just about one church or one city. It’s the kingdom!
  6. Measure of success— The measure of a successful church is not its seating capacity. The measure of a successful church its sending capacity. How many people are we sending to join in God’s mission of expanding his kingdom locally and globally?
With a passion for God’s kingdom, Pastor Vance Pitman had a vision to launch a church focused on joining in God’s activity locally and globally – thus, Hope Church was born in the fall of 2001. From a small group of eighteen adults in a living room, Hope’s fellowship has grown to over 2,000 people in small groups desiring to connect people to live the life of a Jesus follower. Vance has led Hope to understand that what God is doing is bigger than one church. Since its launch in 2001, Hope Church has sent hundreds out of its fellowship on mission, invested millions of dollars in God’s global activity, and planted over a dozen churches in the Western U.S.

A Vision for Generational Unity in the SBC

A Vision for Generational Unity in the SBC

By Rob Wilton, Pastor of Vintage Church in New Orleans, LA

We need each other now more than ever. Just as in the days of Acts, younger men are seeing visions. Older men are dreaming dreams. These visions and dreams are not at war against each other. They are battle cries, but not ones of division and rivalry. No, these visions and dreams are a rallying battle cry against the darkness and a battle cry of the gospel of our Lord.

What excites me the most about the SBC is our capacity to unite the God-honoring dreams of the old with the God-honoring visions of the young. You will find this not only within our local churches, but also in every SBC entity. Legacy churches are partnering with church plants. Conventions are sharing their platforms with the next generation of pastors. Church planters are welcoming the legends of the faith to lead them and their congregations.

On the flip side, what concerns me the most about the SBC is anything that threatens unity between the generations. For every leader and church that has recognized the necessity of multi-generational partnership, there are as many leaders and churches that are not working together. Many have attempted to launch new visions as if they are the only show in town. Others have continued to sustain an old vision, dogmatically and inflexibly, as if they are the only show in town.

I have the privilege of serving on the NextGen Council for GNO Inc. This organization has executed a phenomenal multi-generational strategy for the future of New Orleans. At the Katrina 10 year anniversary, Michael Hecht (President of GNO Inc.) shared that our first 10 years have been record-breaking, but easy, because we have picked low-hanging fruit. The next 10 years and beyond are going to be much more difficult. One essential change that he highlighted for this success is a multi-generational partnership of the old and the new in our city.

Although we are experiencing great progress in the SBC, it remains a challenge for the young and old in our convention to work together. For those who are planting new works as if they can do it alone, time will show this strategy fails. But for those who have established a strong work without raising up the next generation, time will also show this strategy fails; fruitful ministries will become lifeless monuments.

Regretfully, I have often been one of the young men who has arrogantly forged ahead without seeking the counsel of the previous generation. I wish I could take back some of those conversations and actions. It has been a hard-fought and painful lesson to learn that my ministry would not survive without the strategic wisdom and partnership of those who had gone before me. I had to become a pastor to realize that I had no clue about being a pastor. Thankfully the Lord has been gracious to teach me how to depend on others. There is no way that Vintage Church would have survived these past seven years without a multi-generational partnership. I am incredibly grateful to all who have not only served us, but those who have invited us to serve with them.

As I have prayerfully reflected on this important multi-generational partnership, the Lord brought me to King David’s powerful reflection of God’s call on his life. This reflection is a challenge to both young and old.

To the young seeing visions: God calls by his grace, not by our works.

“Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord God!”—2 Samuel 7:18-19

King David was not only humbled before God; he also recognized that the Lord had been doing a great work for a long time. This vision God has given you is an incredible gift of grace He has been giving to His church for generations before you. You didn’t build it, and you didn’t earn it.

To the old dreaming dreams: God calls in his power, not in our performance.

“And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord God! Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it.”—2 Samuel 7:20-21

King David knew any accomplishment for God was because of the power from God. This dream that you have seen fulfilled has not happened because of your performance, but rather because of the empowerment of the Spirit of God. God didn’t move because He loved your strategy. He moved because He loves the lost.

To the young and old, God calls for his glory, not for our gain.

Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.”—2 Samuel 7:22

King David boasted in the Lord because he understood any vision and dream from God is for God. Keep serving the Lord in such a way that God alone receives all glory and praise!

Rob Wilton is the Founding and Lead Pastor of Vintage Church in New Orleans, LA. He also serves as Chaplain for the New Orleans Saints. Recently, Rob has founded the Gx Network which unites the church plants that Vintage Church has sent out around the country. Rob graduated from North Greenville University (B.S), New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (D.Min.).

Can Calvinists and Non-Calvinists Work Together on the Same Staff Team?

Can Calvinists and Non-Calvinists Work Together on the Same Staff Team?

By Dr. Rob Peters, Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, NC

A frequent question among Southern Baptists is whether Calvinists and non-Calvinists can work on the same church staff. My answer is: it depends.

It can be done, but it takes intentionality. Continue reading “Can Calvinists and Non-Calvinists Work Together on the Same Staff Team?”