Gaines, others see God at work amid SBC's trials

by David Roach, posted Monday, June 04, 2018 (18 days ago)

EDITOR'S NOTE: The full statement of SBC President Steve Gaines follows this report.

Attendees of the 2017 SBC annual meeting in Phoenix prayed during convention sessions, as SBC President Steve Gaines and others have called Southern Baptists to do again this year in Dallas.
Photo by Matt Jones.
DALLAS (BP) -- Despite turmoil related to terminations and resignations of "several" Southern Baptists "from key positions of leadership," Southern Baptist Convention President Steve says, there are signs "the Lord is going to come upon us powerfully in Dallas" at next week's SBC annual meeting.

Meanwhile, prayer strategist Ted Elmore said he is seeing "more emphasis on prayer today" in Southern Baptist churches than he has "ever seen" in 25 years of leading Texas state convention prayer ministries. Baptist historian Stan Norman noted Southern Baptists, historically, "are at our best when our backs are against the wall."

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. wrote in a May 23 commentary that the SBC is facing its "own horrifying #MeToo moment" which stems from "an unorganized conspiracy of silence" about sexual misconduct and abuse.

But Gaines, pastor of Memphis, Tenn.-area Bellevue Baptist Church, told Baptist Press causes for encouragement in the convention are greater than causes for discouragement. He has called Southern Baptists to fast and pray for 21 days preceding the June 12-13 annual meeting in Dallas.

"In one week, thousands of Southern Baptists will begin gathering in Dallas for our annual meeting," Gaines said in written comments. "The past two months have been tough for our convention. Several leaders have resigned or have been terminated from key positions of leadership. This shocked us, but it did not shock the Lord. I believe God has allowed all of this to happen to drive us to our knees. He is calling us to repent of any sin in our lives and seek His face in humility and faith. And if we will humble ourselves and pray, I believe God will be glorified in and through us as we gather in Dallas."

Gaines provided BP 14 examples of the encouraging messages which have "inundated" him from people "fasting and praying" leading up to the annual meeting. Among the messages:

-- "During these days of intense spiritual warfare, plow ahead with great hope!"

-- "It's been a challenging week. The Lord is still on His throne (Isaiah 6)."

-- "God is bigger than all these things. This moment is not a crisis to Him."

"I'm convinced," Gaines said, "that God is humbling Southern Baptists and reminding us that we are nothing without Him. God is annihilating any pride we might have regarding ourselves or anything related to the SBC. He is reminding us that He does not need the SBC; rather, the SBC needs Him! We must humble ourselves, cry out in repentance and seek His face so He will restore us and use us for His glory in the years ahead.

"I also believe the Lord is going to come upon us powerfully in Dallas. If we will unite in fasting and prayer, and maintain a spirit of brokenness, humility and repentance, God will rest upon us. What the enemy has meant for evil, God will mean for good so that many will be saved (cf. Genesis 50:20)," Gaines said.

'A unity in prayer'

Elmore, prayer strategist for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and a curator of the prayer room at this year's SBC annual meeting, told BP Southern Baptists of all stripes seem to "hold a common consensus that we need to pray" in response to circumstances in the convention.

"I believe that common consensus is initiated by the Holy Spirit of God in the hearts of His people," Elmore said, "calling us to a unity in prayer." Such unity "seems to be the prelude in history to what God has done in mighty acts."

SBC annual meeting attendees are invited to gather in the prayer room as part of their ongoing cry to God, Elmore said. The prayer room will be located at the back of hall F in the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center and is open to all.

A multiplicity of small prayer groups developing in local churches Elmore has visited "are not on anybody's radar, but God is calling them to prayer and using them," he said, noting the social media hashtag #sbcam18 includes an increasing number of calls to prayer.

'The most demanding of challenges'

Norman, president of Williams Baptist University in Walnut Ridge, Ark., told BP the desire to pray amid a confluence of trying circumstances is similar to what Southern Baptists have experienced on past occasions before they saw God overcome challenges and win spiritual victories.

At least 43 SBC Annuals since 1845 made reference to prayer and fasting among Southern Baptists.

In the Reconstruction South, Southern Baptists "made significant church and personal sacrifices" to continue supporting home and foreign missions despite "the shattered economy," Norman said in written comments. When "a post-Civil War financial panic" left Southern Seminary unable to fund its endowment, God answered co-founder John Broadus' prayer to "provide a single donor whose means and generosity would set the school immediately on solvent ground."

Similarly, Southern Baptists have seen God work amid theological challenges and amid the need "to honestly and squarely confront our racist past."

Southern Baptists "now have been confronted with how we have not affirmed, supported, protected, encouraged, equipped and loved our sisters in Christ as the Lord intends for us to do," Norman said. "In many instances, we have hurt our sisters. This is painful, humiliating, embarrassing and convicting; and yet, as we have in the past when our backs are against the wall, we must confess, repent and seek reconciliation."

Baptists should not regard all the challenges in SBC history that spurred prayer "as equal in importance," Norman said.

Still, "it is in these times when we as Baptists, in submission to the lordship of Christ and in obedience to His Word, have humbled ourselves, repented of our sins and sought the face of God," Norman said. "We are a resilient people who have demonstrated the gracious blessings of God to empower and enable us to overcome the most demanding of challenges."

Gaines concluded, "I pray that when we leave Dallas at the close of Wednesday, June 13th, we will all be saying, 'Look what the Lord has done!'"

**********

“Reflections on Dallas”

By Steve Gaines

In one week, thousands of Southern Baptists will begin gathering in Dallas for our annual meeting. The past two months have been tough for our convention. Several leaders have resigned or have been terminated from key positions of leadership. This shocked us, but it did not shock the Lord. I believe God has allowed all of this to happen to drive us to our knees. He is calling us to repent of any sin in our lives and seek His face in humility and faith. And if we will humble ourselves and pray, I believe God will be glorified in and through us as we gather in Dallas.

I actually have great hope for our meeting in Dallas. Over the past several weeks, I have been inundated with encouragement and reports of people praying and fasting for our annual meeting and for me as I seek to lead us. Here are just a few comments I've received:

-- During these days of intense spiritual warfare, plow ahead with great hope! Praying for you and Donna. Honored to be on this journey with you.

-- It's been a challenging week. The Lord is still on His throne (Isaiah 6). Love you and praying for you.

-- Praying for you believing the Lord for supernatural wisdom to lead through these challenging days. Our wisdom rests not on the wisdom of man but on the power of God (cf. 1 Cor. 2:5).

-- You're being prayed for often regarding our upcoming gathering in Dallas.

-- Praying for you as we approach the SBC. Thank you for keeping Evangelism as the focus for these past two years. I pray our Lord will grant you wisdom, strength and courage.

-- Satan's strategy becomes so clear. Thank you for leading us to pray and to see this for what it is: spiritual warfare.

-- Praying for you and very thankful for you.

-- Praying for you and Donna. No need to respond.

-- Praying for you as you lead us at the SBC.

-- Praying for you continually as you near the end of your term as SBC President. You are specifically positioned to lead now more than ever especially with all the distracting noise and attacks from the enemy.

-- Praying for you daily as you prepare for Dallas.

-- God is bigger than all these things. This moment is not a crisis to Him. He will use you. You are strong in Him. God is bigger.

-- Praying for your spiritual leadership and the ability to direct the masses and keep focused on the Savior. Know I am lifting you up.

-- I'm committed to spend extra time praying for you this week leading up to the convention. God will guide you.

I'm convinced that God is humbling Southern Baptists and reminding us that we are nothing without Him. God is annihilating any pride we might have regarding ourselves or anything related to the SBC. He is reminding us that He does not need the SBC; rather, the SBC needs Him! We must humble ourselves, cry out in repentance and seek His face so He will restore us and use us for His glory in the years ahead.

I also believe the Lord is going to come upon us powerfully in Dallas. If we will unite in fasting and prayer, and maintain a spirit of brokenness, humility and repentance, God will rest upon us. What the enemy has meant for evil, God will mean for good so that many will be saved (cf. Genesis 50:20).

If we disagree with the position of another, we must do so in a polite, Christlike way. We must show the world how to lovingly disagree without attacking another.

I pray that the name of Jesus will be lifted high as we meet in Dallas. I pray that the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts will be acceptable in His sight. I pray that we will glorify Him in every word and deed. I pray that we will defer to others, model Christlikeness and openly display the fruit of the Spirit.

I pray that when we leave Dallas at the close of Wednesday, June 13th, we will all be saying, "Look what the Lord has done!"

I am praying! I'm trusting the Lord! I'm in agreement with you, fellow Southern Baptists! Greater is He who is in us than he that is in the world!

Let's show the world how God's people do God's business for His glory!

3 John 2,

Steve Gaines

Pastor, Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis, TN

President of the Southern Baptist Convention

David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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