The Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention is fast approaching (June 12-13), so I want to take the next couple of weeks to share some thoughts on some of the things that will be coming up at this year’s gathering in Dallas, Texas. They are expecting a particularly large turnout this year (between 8,000 and 9,000 messengers – the largest since 2010 – as well as an additional 5,000-6,000 invited guests), which is due both to the location and the issues that will need to be addressed. I am thankful to be part of the SBC, despite the challenges we face, because our denomination is by and large focused on advancing the Kingdom of Christ by seeing men, women, and children put their faith in Jesus Christ. Yes, we have our squabbles and peccadilloes, which can be distracting, but the overwhelming majority of Southern Baptists want to see God glorified by the lost being brought into the Kingdom.
Still, we must address the issues and business to conduct. This week, I want to focus on the presidential election. I am thankful that for the past few decades (since 1979, at least) we have been blessed as a Convention to have some godly men serve as President of the Convention: Adrian Rogers, Charles Stanley, James Merritt, Fred Luter, and the current officeholder Steve Gaines, to name a few. There is usually another candidate(s) who is also a godly man, and sometimes those who lose in an election one year are renominated in a later year. This year represents such a case. JD Greear, who is the pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, was nominated in 2016 in a three-way race. He won on the first ballot but did not receive a majority, necessitating a run-off. He was in second place on the subsequent ballot, but because of some ballots being disqualified, neither he nor Steve Gaines had a majority. Rather than going to a third ballot, Greear stepped aside so that Gaines could be elected by acclimation. Greear has a strong record of both evangelism (928 baptisms in 2014) and mission engagement (at least 158 members serve as IMB missionaries, more than any other SBC church). His church is the largest CP giving church in NC, giving $1 million over the past two years (in 2017 alone, their Great Commission giving – including CP, special offerings like Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong, and state and local associational giving – was $3.8 million, 19% of undesignated giving). In addition, The Summit Church set a goal to plant 1,000 churches in 50 years. To date, they have planted 248, with 208 of those being outside the United States.
The second candidate is Ken Hemphill, who currently serves as Special Assistant to the President for Denominational Relations at North Greenville University in South Carolina. Prior to this, he served as the founding director of the university’s Center for Church Planting and Revitalization and as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1994-2003. Hemphill has stated that he would emphasize church revitalization should he be elected president, an emphasis that is close to his heart (he directed the Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative from 2003-2011). His home church in Hendersonville, North Carolina (First Baptist) reported 20 baptisms in 2017, along with a history of 10% CP giving percentage (the church also noted that it gave about 15% in total Great Commission giving).
Both of these men would serve will, I believe, and I am thankful to God that we have two fine candidates. When I cast my ballot, I intend to vote for Greear, based on his track record and vision for the future. Regardless of who wins, however, there will be no danger of the SBC drifting away from its core beliefs. That’s something great to think about!