By Brandon Pickett, Associate Executive Director for the SBC of Virginia
That was the word many were using to describe the presidential election at the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis. It started with three candidates.
After the first ballot, it was down to two candidates, Pastor Steve Gaines from Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, TN and Pastor J.D. Greear from The Summit Church in Raleigh, NC. After the second ballot, there was still no winner because neither candidate received more than 50% (due to some disqualified ballots). That, itself, was historic. But then just before a third vote was taken, Pastor Greear voluntarily withdrew his name and put his support behind Gaines. Greear told the convention that he prayed the night before and believed “We need to leave St. Louis united.” He made the motion for Gaines to be elected by acclamation.
Gaines said he, too, had decided internally Tuesday night to withdraw but agreed to serve as president after a conversation with Greear. “There’s no way God is not doing something in all of this.” Gaines also said, “If the devil was trying to divide us, he failed and failed miserably.”
It truly was a unique moment in SBC history—a moment that shows how we can unite, not behind a pastor or president, but behind the mission to win souls and share God’s love with a world dying to hear the Good News of salvation. It was another example that what unites us is so much greater than what divides us.
That was the word many used in 1996 when a fellowship of pastors and churches joined together to form the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV). It was the first time something like that had happened in the history of the SBC. What made this movement truly unique, though, was that it wasn’t as much what they were against that caused them to coalesce—it was what they were for. These pastors and lay leaders didn’t rally around a man. They united around the inerrancy of Scripture and the importance of sharing that message through strengthening churches, supporting missions, and planting churches. They believed that half of all monies given through the Cooperative Program should be sent to global missions, national missions, and continuing seminary education through the SBC. That relatively small original group has grown to nearly 700 churches. Those foundational principles are still with us today and are even more firmly planted:
Biblical Truth | Local Church | Global Mission | Gospel Partnership | Fervent Prayer
The clarion call is still with us, the mission is still before us. The challenges are as great as they were in 1996 but so are the incredible Gospel opportunities. Only God knows what the next 20 years hold, but I’m sure it will be historic.