J. D. Greear, to the surprise of no sentient person, will be nominated for SBC president this June in clammy Dallas.
What I thought was a great moment in 2016 between Steve Gaines and him has already been recounted here and still appreciated by most of us I believe even if it has been discounted if not forgotten by those who populate the SBC’s alternate universe. Greear’s candidacy has predictably created a disturbance in that universe. It was expected, especially after the declaration of, ahem, “non-war” war in the form of another Conservative Resurgence-like protracted, year-after-year-after-year “non-fight” fight to rid the SBC and her offices, entities, and trustee boards of Calvinists or at least until some degree of equilibrium is achieve in the unforseeable future. Like one longtime church member told me when I had been at a new church for a short time and there arose serious conflict, “We expected it.” It was expected and there have been virtually instantaneous promises of opposition candidates. So be it. We are battlin’ Baptists, after all.
But it is sad to see some of the alleged rationale behind the opposition. If it were mere anti-Calvinism, that would be easily understood. But now it’s a meld of anti-Calvinism and negative spin of a stellar record of evangelism, church planting, mission support, and Cooperative Program support.
Cooperative Program: Megachurches always have lower Cooperative Program percentages. J. D. Greear’s church, The Summit, is at 2.4% of undesignated gifts. That is below the SBC average of around 5% but in my estimation a rather healthy percentage for a megachurch. Steve Gaines’ church is higher but still below the SBC average. The Summit has been North Carolina Baptist’s top CP giving church for the past two years of record. Sure, we used to be in double digits as a CP average…a generation and a half ago. Those days are gone. They are not coming back. Thank God for the churches who give still 10, 15 percent and more but may I quote Adrian Rogers here? “Dollars pay the bills, not percentages.” I think Adrian is an icon to the SBC, including the alternate SBC universe. I suggest listening to him if not me.
Church Planting: The Summit has planted 248 churches, 208 of those outside the U.S. I’m not a big fan of the mother church/satellite church system but I’d make some allowance if a church is doing their franchises and spinning off dozens of churches and giving to the general mission support of the SBC through Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, the Cooperative Program, and associational misisons. Isn’t this exactly what we want done, local churches voluntarily choosing to serve the Lord as they feel led and cooperate with the thousands of other likeminded churches?
Mission personnel: It is reported that The Summit has more members, 158 is the number reported, serving with the International Mission Board than any other single church. It would be difficult to find fault here but, let’s not despair, the rabid critics are nothing if not creative. The slam is that The Summit is a net consumer of SBC mission dollars. That is, the number of members under appointment by the IMB cost far more than the church gives to the CP and the mission offerings.
I’ve pastored churches with members serving overseas with the IMB. My church was, accordingly, a net consumer of SBC support. Enormous sums are required to take a missionary family through candidacy, appointment, and field support sums that would have required my church’s entire budget year-after-year-after-year. The entire idea of cooperation is that many churches pooling resources for the benefit of all will generate the support that enables the smallest, most impoverished SBC church to tell their members that if they respond to God’s call, we have, together, the means to support them. God help us if we, for whatever reasons, define cooperation down to a base, vulgar level of net contributing churches and net consuming churches. Whom, I would ask, is the more cooperative Southern Baptist under that philosophy?
Generational Transition: Steve Gaines is 61. Fred Luter is 61. Ronnie Floyd is 62. Johnny Hunt hit MediCare age last year. J. D. Greear, he who seems to be able to find his razor only once a week or so and who never met a tie he liked, is 44 years of age. Greear says one of his emphases will be “engaging the next generation in cooperative mission.” God knows we need that.
I thought Greear was a good choice in 2016 but Steve Gaines, a Traditionalist, was elected. Fine. I thought he did and has done a good job. I voted for him last year. I think Greear is a great choice for 2018. I may sweat it out in Dallas for the election. And, who knows, maybe the convention will come together in another awesome, authentic moment.