3 questions with J.D. Greear on the future of the Southern Baptist Convention

Communications Staff — June 21, 2009

J.D. Greear serves as the lead pastor of the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. Before starting at the Summit in 2002, Greear worked with the International Mission Board among Muslims in Southeast Asia. Greear presented the opening message at the 2009 Pastor’s Conference.

SBTS: In a recent blog post, you talked about the need for Southern Baptists to not merely maintain the hill that was taken through the Conservative Resurgence, but to instead “take more hills.” What “hills” do you have in mind?

J.D. Greear: The Conservative Resurgence was a wonderful blessing for all of us: it rescued us from the deadness of liberalism. As I understand it, the goal of the Conservative Resurgence was to return us to the centrality of the Gospel.

Now what is happening is you have some competition for what is going to define the Southern Baptist Convention: is it going to be the finer points of certain doctrines? Worship styles? Political platforms? Or is the essence of what unites us in the Southern Baptist Convention going to be the Gospel and the Baptist Faith and Message?

I am a very committed Baptist and I want us to go forward — right now it has the term Great Commission Resurgence — to say that we have to be willing to strip down anything that gets in the way of completing the Great Commission.

If you looked at the Conservative Resurgence as a way of returning to faithfulness to the doctrines that Paul taught then I think the Great Commission Resurgence is a return to the spirit that Paul had in doing whatever it took to reach people. A lot of us will say we are faithful to Paul’s doctrine, but are we faithful to his spirit that says: we do it all for the sake of the Gospel, we become all things to all men.

SBTS: You have said publicly that God is calling the Summit Church to plant 1,000 churches in the next 40 years. Talk about how this vision fits with supporting the Cooperative Program.

Greear: In the book of Acts, you see that church planting was the goal. The agency that plants local churches in Acts is the local church. You see this in Acts 11 and Acts 13.  The local church is God’s evangelism program.

We don’t want a renewed emphasis on church planting in the Southern Baptist Convention. We want a renewed emphasis on churches planting churches through the Southern Baptist Convention. That is an important distinction.

We are grateful for the International Mission Board and the other agencies of the SBC, but they are not there to do our ministry for us. They are there for us to do our ministry through them or in partnership with them.

We say that there is bad parachurch and good parachurch: bad parachurch is ministry that says to the local church, “I will do your ministry for you;” good parachurch says, “I will help do your ministry better.” The SBC was designed as good parachurch. Over time it has become bad parachurch.

I know that this is a complex issue. But I know that we have to let the local churches take the initiative and let the parachurch become the vehicle through which the local church does its ministry. Cooperative Program giving is a part of this picture. Representing a younger generation, a lot of us are not committed to giving to bureaucracy. We want to see a streamlined process where the majority of the money we give makes it to the purpose for which it was given.

SBTS: What do pastors in their 20s and 30s in the SBC need to do to impact the current and future direction of the SBC?

Greear: Southern Baptists have always respected and — to their credit — acknowledged movers. If your idea of trying to change the convention is to climb the convention ladder … who wants to do that?

Instead, reach people. Do things that are innovative. Go crazy with the Great Commission in your community and around the world. My experience has been that the attention comes when you do these things because Southern Baptists — for better or worse — love things that work. I think that is best way to influence the direction of the SBC.

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