Dr. Jerry Vines served as Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida for 23 years, and was previous Pastor of Dauphin Way Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama. He has served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention, and now continues to minister through Jerry Vines Ministries. He is known as one of the best expository preachers in America, and is co-author with Jim Shaddix of Power in the Pulpit: How to Prepare and Deliver Expository Sermons.
SBC Today: What do you think are the greatest challenges confronting the SBC?
Jerry Vines: Theologically, will the issue of Calvinism create further division in the SBC. I have been a SBC preacher over 50 years. I have worked quite well with my Calvinist friends, many of whom I invited to preach for me. I have no desire to run all Calvinists out of the SBC; I think it would be divisive and wrong. But, current attempts to move the SBC to a Calvinistic soteriology are divisive and wrong. As long as groups and individuals seek to force Calvinism upon others in the Convention, there will be problems. There is a form of Calvinism that is militant, hostile and aggressive that I strongly oppose. I have stated before, so it’s not new news, that should the SBC move toward five-point Calvinism it will be a move away from, not toward, the gospel. I agree with Dr. David Allen’s assessments at the end of his chapter on Limited Atonement in the book Whosoever Will.
Methodologically, will the SBC try to be like the world to reach the world, or realize the church has the most influence on the world when it is least like the world. I am just astonished and saddened at the Howard Stern approach I am seeing in some of our churches. Holiness and separation seem to be missing in many of our churches.
Denominationally, will the SBC return to the societal method of supporting its work or continue to work together cooperatively to do together what we cannot do separately.
SBC Today: What do you see as the greatest opportunities open to the SBC?
Jerry Vines: Preparing to reach the nations that are literally coming to our doorstep, utilizing the breathtaking advances in technology that allow us to touch the world with the gospel, and responding to the willingness of thousands of our committed young people who want to go to the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I do not believe we will fulfill Matthew 24:14 in our age. That will be done during the Great Tribulation. But, we should certainly try to lessen the workload of the 144,000!
SBC Today: What are your thoughts about a possible SBC name change?
Jerry Vines: I’m not heated up about it. I do think it is part of an overall desire on the part of some to change everything that is connected with what Southern Baptists have been. I’m not convinced it is the detriment to reaching the lost some think it is. My ministry has been limited in its location. But, in 50+ years of trying to win the lost I never witnessed by including the fact I was a Southern Baptist. It was just not germane to the task at hand. Nor have I ever had anyone I witnessed to ask me if I was a Southern Baptist. That may happen in other parts of America or the world. I just am not into all of the marketing/branding stuff, I guess. But, if you look at it that way, Southern Baptist is a brand known worldwide for its belief in the Bible, evangelistic thrust, and mission outreach. I think the view that people identify it with slavery and racism is pretty well worn out.
SBC Today: How do you go about sermon preparation?
Jerry Vines: That’s a question that requires a book response! I describe my sermon preparation in detail in the book Power in the Pulpit: How to Prepare and Deliver Expository Sermons.
SBC Today: What is your evaluation of contemporary preaching?
Jerry Vines: It’s a mixed bag. Those who denigrate exposition think they are smarter and more creative than God, I guess. That’s why there is a lot of silly stuff and some crude, unseemly stuff coming from some of our pulpits. But, on the other hand, I am thankful for the large number of young pastors who are giving themselves to book-by-book exposition of the Scriptures.
SBC Today: What is the key to being a faithful/effective/successful pastor?
Jerry Vines: I think it is maintaining a daily walk with God that stems from the quiet time, daily devotions or whatever you want to call: the time when you read the Bible and let God talk to you and pray and you talk to God. Don’t start your day without it.
SBC Today: What is one key mistake that you see pastors and/or church staff members making that causes them problems in their churches?
Jerry Vines: Trying to change everything at once. I plead guilty to that when I was young pastor. In one of my churches I changed so much, one old wag said I’d changed everything in the church except the signs on the bathroom doors! I could have used a little more wisdom. And common sense.
The pastor/staff member would be wise to prayerfully, carefully and slowly look at everything the church is or isn’t doing. Some things may need to be changed. But, you probably won’t know that for several months. If there is a fence and you don’t know its purpose, don’t just assume there isn’t one and tear it down. Find out what the fence is intended to accomplish. You might see it needs to stay.
SBC Today: Who are two or three of your “heroes in ministry”?
Jerry Vines: Some of my heroes are in heaven. W. A. Criswell; Adrian Rogers; Jerry Falwell; John Phillips. I look upon Billy Graham, Warren Wiersbe and O.S. Hawkins as heroes in the ministry to me. I have looked up to these men all of my life.
SBC Today: What is the toughest lesson you have learned in ministry?
Jerry Vines: There are so many it is hard to narrow it down to one! I guess this: things are never as good as you think they are; and they are never as bad as you think they are. Oh yes, and I learned early that I’m not God; I’m not even Assistant God.
SBC Today: What are the most significant doctrinal issues that the church will struggle with over the next few decades?
Jerry Vines: Whether or not the church will be guided by a biblical theology or a manmade theology. Baptists should be neither Calvinists nor Arminians. They should strive to be biblicists. I refuse any man-centered labels. I want to be known as a simple Bible believer, trying my best to believe, teach and live what the Bible says. As Southern Baptists, we must come together, not as Calvinists nor non-Calvinists, but as Baptists committed to obeying the Great Commission in a revival of evangelism and missions.
SBC Today: What do you do for fun?
Jerry Vines: Watch college football, especially the Alabama Crimson Tide. Make fun of my stuffy preacher buddies. Pick at my hero, O. S.
SBC Today: Anything else you would like to tell us about?
Jerry Vines: Yes. I am finding great joy in serving Jesus in my fourth quarter ministry. I have all of the pleasure and none of the pain. I am so happy I feel guilty I’m not unhappy more often! I enjoyed my 50 years as a pastor. But, I’m enjoying preaching all over the country, writing, counseling pastors and just fellowshipping with Jesus. Remember, in our fourth quarter, the game is already won, we are just putting points on the board, running up the score!
SBC Today: Thank you, Dr. Vines, for your leadership in our convention and for the model and encouragement you offer for expository preachers.
Note to our readers: Dr. Vines welcomes your comments, but does not plan to participate in the comment thread.