by Diana Chandler
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — The supremacy of the Gospel will motivate Southern Baptist Convention President J. D. Greear as he leads Baptists to evangelize, plant churches, and mobilize college students for the Kingdom, he said in announcing his theme for the 2019 SBC annual meeting.
Greear stated his theme as “Gospel Above All” and expressed that he will reflect on the Gospel “again and again” during his term.
“It is the Gospel that is the source of our renewal, and it is the Gospel that should be our defining characteristic as a people,” Greear said in his first presidential address to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee at its fall meeting. “The Gospel should be what people think about and talk about when they think and talk about us.”
Empowering cultural diversity, engaging the next generation in cooperative missions, encouraging churches to “take the next step” in church planting, and preventing sexual abuse are also among his goals, said Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
As part of his focus on the Gospel, Greear will also launch the “Who’s Your One?” personal evangelism initiative in January 2019, he said. He will challenge churches to use their own style and personality in encouraging each church member intentionally to share the Gospel and build relationship with one person over the course of a year.
He presented his pledge to appoint a Sexual Abuse Study Initiative as a Gospel issue rather than a reaction to current events and political whims.
“Our churches really ought to be known as the safest places on the planet for the vulnerable. Isn’t that at least the heart, the most basic thing of our Gospel?” Greear asked, referencing Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28, Come unto Me all ye who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.
“Practically speaking, clarity on this issue is critical to evangelism in the next era,” Greear said.
“If the next generation does not believe that our churches are a safe place,” he said, paraphrasing EC member Bill Prince, “then they won’t come to our churches nor to what we do…. If they don’t come to our churches, they will probably never learn to trust Jesus as their Savior.”
Contentious debates that go beyond unifying characteristics of the Gospel will not direct his work, he told the Executive Committee members and staff, state convention executive directors and presidents, and SBC entity leaders.
“Our disagreement on finer points of theology should not tear apart our unity in the Gospel,” Greear said. “Calvinism is never an issue to me…. I can assure you that what is not biblical is sitting around bickering about finer points of theology when people are lost and going to hell.
“I agree with (former SBC president) Johnny Hunt. I do not know all there is to know about the particulars of Calvinism,” Greear quipped, “but what I do know is that the more I go and share Christ, the more people seem to keep getting elected.”