In an interview with SBCToday.com, Florida pastor Dr. Tommy Green related why he signed “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.”
“First of all, I signed the statement not because of any political or divisive reasons. Nor did I affix my signature in an effort to be argumentative or elitist,” said Green, pastor of FBC Brandon, Fla.
Green also serves on the Florida Baptist Convention’s State Board of Missions, is former president of the Florida Baptist Convention, and has concluded in 2012 two consecutive terms as a trustee of Southern Baptist Seminary, Louisville, Ky., where he served as chairman for two years.
“I signed the statement because I believe it is representative of biblical salvation,” Green said. “It is consistent with my preaching, my teaching, and my personal faith and practice in ministry as I understand the Scripture, and is also consistent with the leadership I try to exert as a pastor.”
SBC Today: What do you think are the greatest challenges confronting the SBC?
Ken Keathley: For all the changes the SBC and the nation are experiencing, the greatest challenge is still the same: reaching the lost with the gospel. We are not a denomination in the traditional sense of the word. The SBC and its entities exist for the sole purpose of enabling Baptist churches to collectively obey the Great Commission. People without Christ are lost. They are not simply prospects. They are persons for whom Christ died.
SBC Today: What do you see as the greatest opportunities opening to the SBC?
Ken Keathley: We are quickly losing the cultural comfort of being the largest religious group in the Bible Belt. The social environment of the nation as a whole is becoming much less friendly to the Gospel and scriptural norms. However, I believe this is also a time of opportunity. During the 20th century, cultural dominance in the rural south caused Southern Baptists to be rather careless in a number of crucial areas. We became shallow theologically and sloppy methodologically. The distressing direction that America is headed in is now forcing us to walk against the grain. But that means we have the opportunity to present Christ in a clear and definitive way. Society as a whole is rejecting our Christian heritage, but I can’t think of a better time to do one-on-one evangelism.
Dr. Steve Gaines is the pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. He has earned a baccalaureate degree from Union University, and the MDiv (1984) and PhD (1991) degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Gaines has also served on the State Board of Missions for the Alabama Baptist State Convention, served on the committee to revise the Baptist Faith and Message in 2000, preached the keynote sermon at the 2004 convention in Indianapolis, and served as president of the 2005 SBC Pastor’s Conference in Nashville. He is also the author of a popular devotional called Morning Manna, and in 2007 he published When God Comes to Church.
SBC Today: What are some great things that are happening in your church?
Steve Gaines: In 2007, we began a ministry called “Bellevue Loves Memphis.” It is a service-evangelism model that has helped us become more involved in community missions in our region. We try to “find a need and meet it; find a hurt and heal it.” For years, liberal churches have participated in social ministry, but they have neglected genuine evangelism. We’ve coupled social ministry with soul winning and found it to be a powerful combination. Social ministry is not an end in itself. Rather, it is a means to the end of soul winning. Social ministry opens the doors for us to verbally share the Gospel.
In the past several years, Bellevue has worked with inner-city schools repairing grounds and facilities and tutoring students. We’ve assisted the City of Memphis with clean-up efforts to remove urban blight. We’ve distributed massive amounts of food and clothing to needy people. We have also ministered to people in prison, as well as those who are shut-ins and in nursing homes. We’ve repaired facilities of inner-city churches. We have purchased and manned a mobile-dental clinic that has provided over $1 million in free dental care to those who cannot afford it. We always verbally share the Gospel with the people to whom we minister.
People don’t go to heaven because they minister to the poor. But people that are on their way to heaven will desire to engage in ministry to “the least of these.” If you don’t care about helping people in need, you have every reason to question whether or not you are really saved (cf. Matt. 25:31-46). Every local church should minister to “the least of these” in their community and couple it with soul winning. It will change you and your church.