I did not vote for JD Greear on the first ballot in 2016. I did vote for him the second time around. I was prepared to do so again on the third ballot, but I was glad when he graciously stepped aside for Steve Gaines to become SBC President. While he was not obligated to do so, I believe it was the right thing for him to do under the circumstances.
But the 2016 election has very little to do with why I enthusiastically supported JD in this year’s election. I do not believe he was owed the presidency. I am always happy for any candidate who wants to serve in an elected office in the SBC to be nominated. Let the messengers decide.
And that’s exactly what we did Tuesday afternoon. JD Greear was elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention by an overwhelming margin of nearly 70-30. I expected JD to win. I had predicted it would be 60-40, but I also said that I wouldn’t be surprised if it was closer than that.
I was thrilled when the convention elected JD as President by such a wide margin. But why? Allow me to mention just a few brief reasons.
1. The gospel above all.
JD has made clear that it is the gospel above all at the Summit Church. He has also made clear that his vision for the SBC is the gospel above all. These are challenging times in our culture, and these are challenging times in the SBC. We need a leader who understands the importance of keeping the main thing the main thing.
JD has not only spoken about the gospel above all, he has led his church in that way. One of the ways this is seen is Summit’s participation in the SBC. The Summit Church gives more money to the Cooperative Program than any other church in North Carolina. While percentages are important, $500,000 per year to the CP is nothing to sneeze at. The Summit Church also has more people serving on the international field through the IMB than any other church in the convention.
JD Greear has proven himself to be a man with a laser-like focus on the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and proclaiming it to every tribe, tongue, and nation.
2. The need for more attention given to ethnic diversity.
Much progress has been made in this regard, but we still have more room for improvement. I believe that JD’s example at the Summit Church in this area has prepared him to lead our convention to intentionally include more ethnic minorities in positions of leadership and influence. I am also thankful he will have A.B. Vines and Felix Cabrera by his side as 1VP and 2VP as he leads out in this important way.
3. JD is a BF&M 2000 Southern Baptist.
This is important. It is important that JD himself affirms our confessional statement, but it is equally important that he does not wish to add to that statement. I fear we will always, as long as God allows the SBC to exist, be pushing against the desire on the part of some in our convention to narrow doctrinal parameters beyond that of the BF&M. We must stand firmly and unapologetically on our shared confession of faith, but we must never allow tertiary matters that go beyond this statement to divide us.
4. JD’s humility and leadership as a candidate.
This election process hasn’t been easy. JD has been unfairly attacked, and there has been quite a bit of conflict and difficulty in the SBC over the last couple of months. When confronted with unfair attacks, JD has responded by bearing in love with those who attacked him. When faced with tough issues, JD has spoken (tweeted) a clear and convictional word without unnecessarily fanning the flames of controversy. These actions have shown that JD’s willingness to step aside two years ago was not a political stunt but a reflection of his character.
5. This election sent a clear message.
I want to be clear here. I have nothing against Ken Hemphill. I think he is an honorable man. But some of his supporters worked very hard to spread division in our convention. The nomination speech that was made on Hemphill’s behalf even included a couple of digs at JD. By electing JD by such a wide margin, the messengers sent a clear message that secular campaign tactics have no place in our Southern Baptist Convention.
The election also sent a message to younger pastors and ethnic minorities that there is a place at the table for them.
For these reasons and more, I am glad that JD Greear is the next President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Let’s all commit to praying for him as he leads us this next year.