Bellevue pastor shares goals and hopes if elected convention president
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
BROWNSVILLE — Tennessee Baptist pastor Steve Gaines of Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, will be nominated for the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention during the SBC annual meeting June 14-15 in St. Louis.
Georgia pastor Johnny Hunt announced he would nominate Gaines on March 9.
In an interview with the Baptist and Reflector March 14 in Brownsville, Gaines said he was approached about allowing his name to be nominated at the end of last year’s meeting. Current SBC president Ronnie Floyd of Arkansas is in his second and last term.
Throughout the year others have asked if he would be willing to be nominated. Gaines, though, said he never “aspired” to hold that office. Gaines recalled that his predecessor at Bellevue — the late Adrian Rogers — once said, “That office (SBC president) should seek the man rather than the man seeking the office.” “That was a good statement,” Gaines agreed.
Nearly four weeks ago while in Nashville for a meeting, Gaines was once again asked by several SBC leaders to allow his nomination. Two weeks later while preparing a sermon on “Self Appointed or Spirit-Anointed Leadership” from I Kings 1, Gaines said he felt a clear call from God to allow his nomination. After talking with his wife Donna and sensing she felt the same call, Gaines agreed to be nominated.
He is the second announced nominee for the position. North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear was announced as a nominee on March 2 by Florida pastor Jimmy Scroggins.
While some might view the two nominees as the “old guard” (Gaines) and the younger generation (Greear), Gaines disagrees.
Noting he is 58 years old and Greear is 42, Gaines observed, “58 is not old and 42 is not young.” The Bellevue pastor observed that those under the age of 40 need the “wisdom” of those over 40 and those over 40 need the “fire and spark” of those under that age. “We need each other,” he stressed.
Describing Greear as a friend, Gaines said it’s just a matter of “two Southern Baptists who love each other and have allowed their names to be submitted as nominees.”
For Gaines, his nomination is the culmination of years of service to Southern Baptists on all levels, including the SBC. Gaines has served on the SBC Committee on Nominations, as a trustee of LifeWay Christian Resources, as a member of the committee that proposed a revision of the Baptist Faith and Message in 2000, and as chairman of the SBC Resolutions Committee. He preached the convention sermon in 2004. Gaines also has served as president of the SBC Pastors Conference and the Tennessee Baptist Pastors Conference.
“I love the Southern Baptist Convention,” he acknowledged.
Though born in Mississippi, Gaines’ family moved to Dyersburg so he was reared in Tennessee and grew up in First Baptist Church,
A graduate of Union University, Jackson, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, Gaines has served as a senior pastor of Baptist churches of different sizes for
“I understand the needs of every size church,” he told the B&R. “There is no such thing as a small church. Every church is big in the eyes of God,” he said.
Gaines also is an advocate of local Baptist associations and Baptist state conventions as well as the national SBC and its entities. “We need every level and we need unity at every level,” he stressed.
Gaines is a strong supporter of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and its executive director Randy C. Davis. “Randy’s leadership is one of the primary reasons Bellevue is more involved in the state convention and for its recent decision to raise its Cooperative Program giving,” he said.
In Bellevue’s current fiscal year that runs through March 31, the church will have given $850,000 through the CP. In the church’s next fiscal year, which begins April 1, the church has announced it will give $1 million through the Cooperative Program, which according to Baptist Press, is about 4.6 percent of the church’s undesignated receipts.
Gaines observed that there is currently a soul-winning problem and a stewardship problem in the Southern Baptist Convention. We are not telling people about Jesus like we should and we are not giving enough money through the Cooperative Program to support all the things that are needed.”
If elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention,
Gaines said there are five emphases he would like to see occur on his watch.
First, he said he would continue current president Ronnie Floyd’s emphasis on revival and spiritual awakening. “We want to see God’s people changed and challenged through revival which will result in us winning the world to Christ.”
Second, Gaines said he wants to “call Southern Baptists to be the greatest army of prayer warriors in the world. I want to see thousands of people really engage in fervent prayer for their communities, their nation, and the nations.
“Prayer invokes the power of the Holy Spirit,” he continued. “We can do nothing of eternal value without the anointing of the Spirit of God,” he stressed.
Noting that the Holy Spirit only anoints those people and those churches that pray, he said his desire is for Southern Baptists “to be the most prayerful group of Christians in the world.”
Gaines’ third emphasis revolves around his passion for evangelism. “I want us to have a Great Evangelism Resurgence,” he stressed. He recalled that when he started out in the ministry 30-plus years ago leaders in the convention talked about soul-winning and witnessing. “You don’t hear that today. That has to become part of our DNA again.”
Gaines recently wrote a book on evangelism and soul winning entitled Share Jesus Like It Matters that is being taught to the members at Bellevue. “Evangelism is verbal (opening your mouth), it’s Scriptural (it’s telling what the Bible says about the gospel), and it’s Christocentric (it’s about Jesus). We have to tell people about Jesus so they can get saved. It’s that simple,” he said.
Fourth among his emphases is a desire to see SBC churches “serve our communities in such a way to provide a unique platform to share the gospel.” Eight years ago the congregation began “Bellevue Loves Memphis.”
“We find a need and meet it and we find a hurt and heal it,” Gaines said of the service projects which are held across Memphis and Shelby County. The service projects are held once a quarter. Since they began eight years ago the church has held 33 work days with 30,000 volunters giving 106,505 “man hours” on 945 projects, resulting in 505 professions of faith, Gaines noted. In addition, the church has a mobile dental clinic which provides free dental services in some of the poorest areas of the city. He estimated that Bellevue volunteers have provided $2.8 million in free dental care. While doing so, they have been able to share the gospel and have witnessed 1,276 people be saved, Gaines said.
“Any church of any size can minister to the physical needs of their community and use it as a platform to share Jesus. When people know that you genuinely care about them they will listen to you as you share the gospel,” he observed.
Finally, Gaines wants to see an emphasis on “Jesus-centered racial reconciliation” throughout the Southern Baptist Convention. “We all know our country is polarized ethnically and racially in many ways,” Gaines said. Church should be a place where that does not occur, he said, citing his own congregation as an example.
Every Sunday on the main Bellevue campus in Cordova people of all nationalities gather together for worship. “We look more and more like Memphis and heaven every week.
“We are not a white church. We are a Jesus church and a people’s church,” he said. “We believe that God created everyone in His image. We believe that God loves everyone and we believe that Jesus died for everyone and that everyone can be saved regardless of race.”
Gaines is optimistic that Southern Baptists will embrace these emphases if he is elected. “Our nation is at a critical moment. Morally, we are coming apart at the seams. People are looking for leadership.
“Southern Baptists need to stand united and provide spiritual leadership for a nation that has lost its way,”
“I believe if Southern Baptists will lead the way, other gospel Christians will join in and we can have a true great awakening in America, but we (Southern Baptists) need to lead the way.”