After finishing up the second service last Sunday, I raced off the campus for home to grab the sandwich Gayla had ready for me. With bags in hand, we jumped into her car and Gayla drove us to the airport for a 3:00 flight. Although it ended up taking a couple of tries to make it to Houston (that’s a whole other story), we finally made to St. Louis just after midnight. As we made plans for this trip, we had made contact with Warren and Pat Greenwalt, former members of our church. Warren would pick us up at the airport, since Pat was flying from Dallas on Sunday evening. As it turned out, Pat’s flight had also been delayed, the Greenwalts still took us to our hotel. (And by the way, the four us sat together on Wednesday evening at a Cardinals game!)
Gayla and I attended the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors Conference on Monday. The music and preaching touched our souls, especially as Passion led the worship on Monday evening and Pastor Greg Laurie delivered us to the Word.
The SBC Annual Meeting began on Tuesday and concluded on Wednesday. With a theme of “Awaken America: Reach the World,” I want to report that this convention encouraged me in so many ways. Our convention took steps to reaffirm biblical principles and to recommit its passion for personal evangelism. Three words describe the overall thrust of the meetings: agree, unite, and pray. We did much together to make these happen.
We also had an election for convention president. Ronnie Floyd of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas was completing two years as president. Three pastors were nominated: David Crosby, FBC New Orleans; Steve Gaines, Bellevue Baptist, Memphis; and J. D. Greear, Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham. None of these godly men received the needed 50% plus 1 to win. Gaines and Greear were in a runoff.
The vote result was not announced until just ahead of the Tuesday evening time of worship and prayer for spiritual awakening. Gayla and I happened to be seated just behind Gaines. Only in a Baptist meeting with only two candidates would it be possible for neither to get a majority. Gaines received 49.96% of the votes while Greear received 47.8% because 108 votes were declared “illegal.” The bylaws require that all votes be counted towards the total, so Gaines was 3 votes short of a majority. We watched how Gaines reacted and how he would tell his wife as she joined him. We had the opportunity during the service to pray in a circle that included several of the Gaines family.
Later Gayla and I prayed that Greear would drop out, since Gaines was so close to winning the ballot. We also watched as someone tapped Gaines on the shoulder so that they could talk. Then Gaines returned to his seat and talked briefly with his wife before slipping out.
The time for next runoff ballot would occur just before 11am on Wednesday. As the convention hall began to swell with messengers as that time neared, we could feel the anticipation of something big. That something big came when Ronnie Floyd announced that he would recognize both J. D. Greear and Steve Gaines so that they could speak. Greear told the convention 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. I just wanted Jesus to be lifted high and the convention to be united.”
Just after Gaines had been elected by acclamation, Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church, Pensacola, preached the convention message from Psalm 133, the very passage to which the Holy Spirit drew Gaines and Greear the night before. The Lord gave us great unity.
I am so hopeful about our future. Would you join me in praying our church and our convention of churches as Gaines leads us to emphasize spiritual awakening, soul-winning, and stewardship?