This year the messengers of the Sothern Baptist Convention have the privilege of selecting one of three men for SBC president (who realistically serve two one-year terms). While no person is perfect and we’re all sinners, some saved by grace through faith, all three nominees seem to be men of godly character who love Jesus, love the church, and love the lost. Still, only one can secure the office, and as a messenger I have just a single vote to give.
I have pondered and prayed about what I will do with my vote (this heightened by the fact that this is my first SBC I’ve been able to attend).
Having no direct personal connections to any of these men, I have taken the time to read through multiple interviews they have conducted with various blogs and news outlets, including of course the interviews here at Voices. With each man, I find more strengths than weaknesses. That is good, and a happy foil to what we presently have offered on the main stage for POTUS.
Below, I give a summary of what I have gleaned from the interviews and conclude with who I plan on voting for, offered to you in alphabetical order.
Crosby. Trusting that each of these are men of God, there are three things that I am looking for in the president. First, is a commitment to local and global missions. Second, is a desire to bring greater diversity to SBC leadership and appointments, especially across ethnicities and church size. And third, a desire to challenge our churches to focus on loving God and neighbor.
David Crosby captures each of these elements.
While his church is still huge compared to mine (about a factor of ten bigger), Crosby is the smaller church guy of the bunch. There is debate over how small is too small to be able to effectively perform not only what the SBC constitution requires of the president but also what our convention has come to expect. Still, Crosby seems more than qualified and capable of holding such a position through he does not pastor a megachurch.
Of all the candidates, Crosby is the only one properly labeled a “Cooperative Program” candidate. His church might not give the same dollar amount as a mega church can, but the percent of their budget that goes to the CP is highest (ranging from 7-15% during his pastorate, according to the Baptist Press interview). While the other candidates have increased their giving to the CP over the past few years, Gaines and Greear’s churches give less than Crosby’s to the CP percentagewise.
Pastoring in New Orleans, Crosby serves in an area in need of great gospel light. His church has done much to minister to the people of the city through various “compassion ministries.” The two things that most strongly attract me to Crosby as a candidate is his desire to want to emphasize SBC churches doing compassion ministries in our communities along with our evangelism/”soul winning”; and he has led his church to adopt an unreached people group in Africa for whom they pray and to whom they have sent missionaries from their church on various trips.
Crosby doesn’t see a need to emphasize Calvinism as a point of contention and thinks we can and should be able to love each other and serve together under the bigger tent of the BF&M2000. As such, he will use our confessional statement as the measure of standard for appointments. Crosby also sees the need for greater ethnic diversity throughout the SBC and has committed to making diverse appointments.
There are two things that turn me away from Crosby as a candidate. First, and this is true about all three, though he sees the importance of including pastors and members of smaller churches in appointments, he has not said much about how he plans to do this. Second, of all the candidates, Crosby seems the most set against other giving methods such as Great Commission Giving. While his experiences with state conventions appear positive, being from Missouri mine have been a mixed bag. This is especially true in the fact that until recent years, moneys given to the convention through the CP went to help fund various lawsuits the Missouri Baptists have been involved with concerning “breakaway” entities.
Other faithful men and women have differing opinions on this matter, but personally I am not in favor of such extended suits and especially not of dollars going to them that could be used for missions endeavors. Means of giving such as GCG have a necessary place in my view.
Gaines. Steve Gaines has spoken much of the same language as Ronnie Floyd in terms of revival and spiritual awakening, as such he wants to emphasize prayer as part of his agenda as well as evangelism and stewardship. In terms of missions, Gaines has led Bellevue in several local efforts that seem similar to the “compassion” ministries Crosby speaks about. This through an emphasis called “Belleview Loves Memphis.” During his time as pastor, Bellevue has also increased its CP giving and is a large enough church that they gave almost one million dollars this past year. Still, from the most recent figures I could find, Bellevue’s CP giving is around 3-4%
Gaines believes it is imperative that churches train and urge good stewardship among their members. He urges that we as SBC churches cannot sit back and call it someone else’s problem when the IMB has to bring 1000 missionaries off the field. Increasing funds to the IMB starts with members giving more to their local churches, which then will increase the pool of money making it to the IMB, NAMB, etc., thus his desire to emphasize stewardship. I especially like Gaines’ overall missions emphasis of pray, give, and go—the same three words I (and many other pastors) use to encourage our churches.
A couple of things concern me about Gaines, however. First, though like the other candidates he says that the BF&M2000 along with personal qualifications will be what he uses as a standard in making appointments, Gaines is also the candidate that talks the most about Calvinism. This is a point in which I favor both Greear and Crosby more: we have coexisted throughout our history without issue, we can continue to do so if we will remain humble and keep a proper focus. The fact that Gaines speaks more frequently about the topic makes me unsure he will be as strong as a unifier in our convention as the other candidates.
Second, Gaines offers no clear plan for greater diversity with regard to appointments. He emphasizes several times that he will appoint those most qualified. Diversification, as many of us desire, is not a call to soften qualifications to meet whatever quotas. Rather, we see the need for greater intentionality in seeking qualified men and women from our diversity in ethnicities as well as greater inclusion of smaller churches and the younger generation. Such intentionality does not seem to be a priority for Gaines.
Greear. JD Greear also has a basic three-point plan of emphasis should he be elected president. Like Gaines, he wants to see a renewal in the church through a reawakening to the gospel. Greear’s other two points include increasing the involvement of the younger generation in the SBC, while respecting and seeking wisdom from the older, and intentionality in ethnically diverse appointments, also using the BF&M2000 as the standard of measure. Like the other two candidates, however, Greear has not been clear on how he will seek to involve smaller churches in such appointments.
As with Gaines, Greear’s church has increased its giving to the CP, but such giving still remains well below that of Crosby’s church percentagewise. This past year, approximately 2.4% of Summit’s undesignated receipts went to the CP. Greear is, however, a big proponent of Great Commission Giving, in which they have given 10% directly to various SBC ministries. Their total missions giving typically ranges between 15-20% per year. Greear emphasizes a continued need for his church and others to keep increasing giving to both the CP and GCG.
When it comes to the IMB, Greear’s church has been a strong example of support financially and in sending missionaries. Reflecting on the fact that budget shortfalls caused 1000 missionaries to come home, Greear calls for the younger generation to step up and not let die what the older generation worked hard to build. This is a needed call challenging us young guys to lead our churches to get more resources to those on the mission field.
Two things that make me uneasy about Greear. First, is the fact that his church’s CP percentage is the lowest of the three candidates. His church’s overall missions support is great, but in his call for us to increase giving to both the CP and GCG, I would like to see the Summit give even more to the CP without reducing their 10% GCG.
Second, is Greear’s response to the Baptist Message of Louisiana, and this negative is a mixed bag for me. We shouldn’t expect each candidate to be able to be involved in every interview request due to time constraints as pastors and family men, among other responsibilities. Still, Greear declining the BM interview comes across more as him holding a grudge due to less than positive interactions with the state paper in the past. To truly be a unifier across a diverse convention, one has to be willing to swallow his pride and still work with people, churches, and organizations that you might have personal reasons not to favor. Then again, the BM’s piece reads more as an equally begrudging hit against Greear. In my opinion, the write-up came across more as an anti-Greear smear piece than Christian journalism. Which, frankly, makes me less critical of Greear on this point.
One Vote. In this post I have detailed the positives and negatives as I see them in each of the three candidates. In deciding for whom to cast my vote, I come down fairly evenly between Crosby and Greear. In terms of what I am looking for in a candidate, and especially one solidly committed to diversifying appointments, I have ruled out Gaines. As a convention, I don’t think we lose if either of the three is elected. But I think we win more with a candidate devoted to intentionality in diversity.
I prefer Crosby’s smaller church background and missions work. I also prefer Greear’s emphasis on wanting churches to increase both CP and GCG, and devotion to the IMB.
I may change my mind as I continue to think and pray about this over the next several days, but when you factor in Greear’s desire to increase the involvement of the younger generation across the board, I lean slightly more toward Greear and shall be casting my vote for him.