Category Archives for Interviews

An Interview with Steve Gaines

March 27, 2012

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.
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An Interview with Bill Harrell

March 6, 2012

Bill Harrell has served as Pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez, Georgia, for over 30 years. Over this period he has led this 200-year old church to quadruple its attendance, increase its membership by over 2,000 members, and begin hosting a region-wide “Strength for Today” television program. He has served in a number of positions in the Augusta Baptist Association, Georgia Baptist Convention, and SBC, including serving as the Vice-President of the Georgia Baptist Convention and as Chairman of the SBC Executive Committee.

SBC Today: What do you think are the greatest challenges confronting the SBC?

Bill Harrell: If answered completely the answer to this question would require the space of the entire blog, but in short there are two main problems facing us. The first is the new, aggressive Calvinism which has emerged over the last twenty years or so. As I have stated before, I have no problem with a person being a Calvinist. I have had a numbers preach at Abilene over the years and count those people as close friends. The differences in our theological underpinnings have never been a source of tension between us. However, when there are those who have an agenda to change the SBC into a Reformed convention by using the Calvinistic theological model, then I have a problem with that. For a number of years there has been a plan to raise up an “army” of Calvinists in an effort to capture the SBC for the Reformed position. People will deny this and use all kinds of “doubles-speak” to talk around it but anyone who has been involved even in a casual manner knows this is true. And, at the present time, we are experiencing problems which stem directly from this effort. The growing number of churches which have been split or disrupted by this effort is evidence that something is amiss. I know that there will be a hue and cry about my stating this, but I am stating something that many others see even if they are too timid to call attention to it. If I had more space, I could easily develop my answer to a greater degree.

Secondly, I think that the contemporary worship model has taken us exactly where I and some others have said it would. Human nature being what it is, people always want something more “with-it” and “hip” than they had the last time. They will always be pushing the envelope to keep the excitement high and draw a crowd. This all got started with Bill Hybels and Rick Warren back in the early nineties and it has now reached ridiculous levels in many places. I think we must keep something very important in mind. In our worship we must always try, to the best of our ability, to mirror the image of what took place on the cross because what took place there was the most serious business in the history of the world. And, we can only be in our worship experience because of what happened there. Our worship should be oriented toward and energized by that event and not by what the world says we should do to get a crowd. From the cross, Jesus did not say, “it is finished now go have yourselves a good time.” He did not expect that we would use the trappings of the world to help draw people to him. I believe that many churches have totally lost their vision of who they are and what they should be doing. I am not saying that we should have long, sorrowful faces and sing dirges during worship. I think we should exhibit joy as we worship God, but we should not dishonor the death of Jesus on the cross by employing worldly methods to the extent that our human nature has led us to do. We are different and we should show the world we are different. We cannot win the world by being like the world and the contemporary movement needs to learn that lesson.
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An Interview with Kevin Apperson

February 14, 2012

Kevin Apperson began North Las Vegas Baptist Church in his living room in 2003. He earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering from UGA and his MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Elizabeth have five children, the youngest of which has Down Syndrome.

SBC Today: What do you think are the greatest challenges confronting the SBC?

Kevin Apperson: I see several issues that are, and will continue to be, hot-button issues within the SBC. I think that any one of these may be very divisive in the ranks of the SBC, but I also believe in the old maxim that it is “better to be divided by truth than united in error.” In no particular order, here are the issues that I see:

  1. I am afraid that our SBC churches and institutions may be practicing the Great Omission as they seek to perform the great Commission. Matthew 28:19-20 gives us a clear mandate to go into all the world with the gospel AND teach the people ALL THINGS that Jesus commanded. In other words, Jesus seemed to say that salvation through faith in Him was absolutely necessary, but that growth/maturity/sanctification should accompany this salvation. I see a trend in many churches of all sizes in minimizing holiness and accommodating worldliness all for the supposed purpose of sharing the gospel. The book of James tells us that whoever wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. This teaches that our churches should not seek to emulate the carnality of this world in which we live. I have been disappointed in the seminary in which I serve in promoting a man like Mark Driscoll as one who should be emulated by our young pastors. I am disappointed when I see so much emphasis on a carnival like atmosphere as the church goes to extremes in pushing the sex envelope with risqué language that promotes more worldliness than holiness. Salvation is not the end point in the life of the Christian but rather the beginning point. In our quest for seeking the salvation of the world, we have forgotten God‘s command of seeking purity within our lives and abstaining from the leaven that corrupts. The leaven is being accommodated in areas within the SBC, and it takes just a little to do a lot of damage.
  2. The theological understanding of those whom Jesus died for will continue to be an issue. There is a significant difference in understanding the nature and character of God when one approach says that Jesus died for all, and another approach says that He died for a select group known as the elect. I believe that a great majority of Baptists have what I believe is a correct soteriology in confessing that Jesus died for all, and that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Those in the reformed camp believe in a God who was graceful to save some, but who did not make salvation truly possible for the rest. This issue will continue to divide Baptists.
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