My Four Biggest Passions as President of the Southern Baptist Convention

Posted by Pastor J.D. on March 3, 2016

For those of you here at the Summit: I’m accepting a nomination for SBC President, which is a volunteer position. The nature of the position means I’m not going anywhere. I am your pastor and will remain as actively involved in this church as ever.

God first called me into ministry by calling me to the mission field. After serving overseas, he made clear that the role I was to play in the spread of the Great Commission was as a pastor, but he never relinquished that call to the field.

For the past 14 years, I have been trying to faithfully follow God in that call–serving the Great Commission by making the Summit a church that takes the Great Commission seriously. We want sending capacity, not seating capacity, to be our highest aspiration.

The Southern Baptist Convention began with a vision for missions, too. I am proud to be a part of the SBC and grateful for the legacy that prior generations have left for us. Yes, we’ve made our share of mistakes. Early Southern Baptist leaders’ complicity in the institution of slavery was despicable. We are, like all people, broken and sinful. But God brought repentance, and he has worked graciously in us despite our sins.

In recent decades, many great Southern Baptist men and women labored in faith, at great personal cost, to restore our denomination to biblical fidelity. Their courage is a light of inspiration to us.

His great work in the past gives me great anticipation for what he will do in our future. Past graces are almost always evidences of God’s intentions to bestow future graces. What he does, he does for the purpose of seeking and saving the lost. It’s all about the Great Commission. We have only to ask, the Holy Spirit tells us through the psalmist, and he will give us the nations as our inheritance (Ps. 2:8).

It is with this spirit of grateful humility that I am accepting the nomination for presidency of the SBC. When I was approached by several older SBC leaders asking me to consider this role, quite honestly, it took me by surprise. I know that the Holy Spirit often speaks through his Church (Acts 13:2), so we took their counsel seriously. As my wife, our pastors and leadership team, and I prayed, we sensed that God had indeed done things in our hearts and in our midst that may have prepared us for this. We believed we were supposed to at least make ourselves available. If it “seems good to the Holy Spirit and to the people of the SBC,” we are willing (Acts 15:28).

Here are four of the biggest passions God has put in my heart for this time:

1. To continue and deepen our focus on gospel-centeredness in both theology and mission

Southern Baptists have always been a “gospel” people. In recent years God has raised up many to remind us that the gospel is not simply the “entry rite” into Christianity, but the focus of our mission and the core of our discipleship.

The gospel is the good news that Jesus died in our place to restore us to God, and offers us abundant life in him through his resurrection. This is good news for non-believer and believer alike. It both saves the sinner and makes the saint come alive. Fire to do in the Christian life comes from being soaked in the fuel of what has been done. The way we will grow in Christ in the future is not by progressing beyond the gospel, but by doing deeper into it. I am grateful for what we have seen in recent days on this, and want to see that deepened and continued.

2. To engage our culture with both grace and truth

The Apostle John said that Jesus’ ministry could be summed up in one phrase—grace and truth (John 1:17). If we are to engage our culture like Jesus, we should aim for that same balance. Truth without grace is fundamentalism. Grace without truth is vapid sentimentality. Failing in either puts us out of step with Jesus. We must not only speak the truth of Christ, we must do so with the spirit of Christ.

Southern Baptists should be known for their excessive love toward their neighbors and nations. As the Emperor Julian complained about the Christians in his day, “How can we stop the growth of these wretched Galileans! They take care not only of their own poor, but ours as well!” We must, like Christ, enter into the world that God loves, with the courage to speak the truth and the compassion to do so with grace. As the late Francis Schaeffer explained, love on display in the church is God’s final apologetic to the world.

3. To call for a new era of engagement in the entities and boards of the SBC.

As I mentioned above, our Convention is rooted in, and organized around, a passion for missions. It is at the heart of who we are—and at the heart of God, too.

I see two things here as the need of the hour: First, it is time for the next generation of Southern Baptists to take personal responsibility for the entities of the Southern Baptist Convention. The budgeting shortfalls that have led to more than 1000 missionaries coming off the field is not “the SBC’s problem.” It is our problem. It is time for us to step up and own this mission, and the vehicles God has given us for accomplishing it, as our own. The next generation needs to sacrificially give, support, and serve in these entities, boards, and institutions. God has given us tremendous leaders in them. It’s time for us to step up and engage.

Second, we want to encourage the Convention to continue to create more efficient structures for resourcing and sending missionaries, adapting to the needs and opportunities of a new generation of churches. The Spirit of God is doing new things in our generation, and we need a Convention that responds to that. By no means does that mean we scrap the old. The Cooperative Program continues to be our primary way to resource our efforts in the Great Commission. At the same time, the SBC has recognized the category of “Great Commission Giving” as a legitimate way to support Southern Baptist mission. We need to respect the autonomy of churches in deciding where and how to allocate their resources between these, and to celebrate both as faithful service to the Kingdom of God. We need increases in both.

The Summit Church has tried to demonstrate the kind of sacrificial giving that we are calling for. Three years ago, our church voted to increase our Cooperative Program giving by 230% over the course of 5 years. By God’s grace, we were able to complete that this year, two years ahead of schedule. On January 1, we took our 2016 giving to $390,000 for the year (2.4% of undesignated receipts), making us the leading CP contributing church in North Carolina. Our “Great Commission Giving” has remained consistent at 10% now for four years, and our total missions giving has stayed between 15–20% of our undesignated receipts. By God’s grace, we will continue to do more.

Both churches and Southern Baptist institutions need to ask what they can do to get more resources to the field. C. S. Lewis once said, “The only safe rule when it comes to generosity is to give away more than we can spare.” Churches ought to give away more money to mission than they feel like they can spare, trusting that when we seek the kingdom of God first, he’ll supply to us the rest of what we need.

In like manner, our institutions, at all levels, need to ask how they can get more money to the mission. In particular, we applaud those State Conventions that have taken such great strides in getting more money to the field. Many have asked hard questions and made notable sacrifices. To choose only one example, Tommy Green of the Florida Baptist Convention has been a wonderful inspiration—leading his convention to a 51-49 split (i.e. 51% passed on to the Executive Committee, which distributes it toward NAMB, the IMB, the seminaries, and other entities, with 49% kept in the state). And he has indicated that he wants to do more. My own state convention here in NC, under the leadership of Milton Hollifield, Jr., is striving to get more money to the field. We want to see those efforts continue. We believe the Spirit of God is leading us to take radical measures in response to the pressing needs of the hour, and that if we put his kingdom first in all things, he will take care of us (Matt 6:33). As Hudson Taylor said, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”

4. To platform and equip non-Anglo pastors and members

The SBC is not yet known for being a diverse group. Just a few years ago, neither was our church. But as we have asked God to help us in this area, we have seen God move in breathtaking ways. Nearly 20% of our church is now non-white. About 50% of our campus pastors and worship leaders are non-white. Our church still has a long way to go, but we are proof that diversity is possible.

I want to see minority leaders take places of real prominence in the SBC, such that diversity might become a hallmark of our denomination. While we will never fully reflect the diversity of heaven, we should aim to show the world a uniquely united fellowship. The Church should reflect the diversity of its community and declare the diversity of the Kingdom. As it was in the days of the Apostle Paul, this could be one of our most powerful testimonies to the world around us (Eph 3:10-11). There is one race of man. One Creator of all. One problem, sin. One solution, the blood of Jesus. One hope, the glorious return of Jesus.

I’m thrilled at the prospects of what God might do in this denomination going forward. I am grateful for the incredible, effective two years Pastor Ronnie Floyd has given us. I nominated him for his second term last year, and I think everyone agrees he has exceeded expectations in every way. Thank you, Pastor Ronnie. We stand in your debt.

Building off of Pastor Ronnie’s faithful service, I believe that we in the SBC are approaching a moment where we will see the gospel go deeper into people’s hearts and wider into the non-believing world (Colossians 1:5–6). Our best days lie ahead. They have to! There are still over 6,000 unreached people groups in the world, and history cannot end until they have been given a gospel witness. It is time again to expect great things of God, and then attempt great things for God.

Pray for me over the next weeks and months. I am first a husband and father and second a local church pastor. These have been and will remain my primary assignments. My wife, our pastors and leaders, and I believe that we are following the leading of the Holy Spirit in putting our “yes” on the table. Pray that God gives all of us grace for the future. We are sheep, that is for sure. We need to trust in the Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep and promised the success of the church in every generation, world without end (Eph 3:20–21).

Pastor J.D.


J.D. Greear is pastor of The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, NC and author of Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (2011) and Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (2013). More

27 responses to My Four Biggest Passions as President of the Southern Baptist Convention

  1. After sitting under your teaching for several years, I support your nomination. The SBC, just as its members, needs to continually renew its commitment to global missions. Praying for you and your family.

  2. JD, I would love for you to take on this role. One thing you and David Platt can help us think through is a whole new funding model to multiply missionaries across the world, not to reduce our numbers. It will require a radical, outside the box, approach that may rile some sacred cows, but position us for incredible growth and success. With over 45,000 SBC churches and now less than 3,500 missionaries, that’s 1 worker for every 13 churches. We can do better than that! How? By creating a “decentralized” method of support raising, where each worker is fully trained and has full responsibility to raise their support. Its the way Cru crew from 1 to 16,000 workers over a 25 year period. It not only attracts the kind of leaders we want in the IMB, it develops them into leaders! Our ministry ( has trained 12,000 workers from 600 organizations over the last 15 years how to launch their ministry and raise their support. As an ordained SBC Pastor, I would be honored to help SBC/IMB think through viable options and approaches to turn this whole ship around.

  3. Stephen Hobbs March 3, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    We became the largest , greatest missions endeavor in the world by having a centralized mechanism for funds thus taking the burden of fund raising off of the backs of our missionaries. Any model that changes that will be stepping backward not forward. The biggest problem facing us a Southern Baptist is the decline and virtual death of personal one on one soul winning. If we lead from the top down , attention pastors, with personal soul winning, our churches will grow and the financial picture will improve. As a personal challenge, I humbly ask, How many did you personally win tho the Lord last year? Not in a group setting, not from the pulpit, but simply one on one. ???

  4. We fully support JD taking this role but wholeheartedly disagree with Pastor Steve’s idea to raise support. The cooperative model has worked very well as one who has served under that model and had many friends who raised their own support. They often spent more time raising support that working in the field. Support tended to ebb and flow and cause them great anxiety and stress, not knowing how the support would be from month to month. It also created two classes of support raisers – rock stars who could easily raise tons of support, and Strugglers who were fairly ineffective at casting vision or promoting their cause. This had nothing to do with how effective they were on the field, simply who did a better job of “selling” the project to the supporters. One size never fits all, and I know you can produce stories of those raising support who claim they would never go back to a funded model. But please do not change the system to promote your cause. Those of us on the field under this model do not want that type of system implemented.

  5. Nothing thrills my heart more than “the four biggest passions God has put in your heart”. At each period I was fist-pumping behind the computer…and one time I took out my handkerchief and used it as a rally towel…and then Cayla, my wife, looked at me really weird. :) But seriously, from gospel to diversity I was thanking the Lord for what He is doing in the SBC. I commit to pray for you.

  6. JD, I am thrilled that you have accepted the nomination. Your doctrinal soundness and heart for the world are refreshing. The point you made about equipping non-Anglo pastors and members is something that is heavy on my heart in the SBC. It is time that SBC churches reflect ethnic diversity. I pray that God will use you to bring ethnic diversity and unity to the SBC. It is long overdue!

  7. Am I the first Woman responding here? I may be and because of this, I am thinking of your family at this time. Over here in Okinawa, Japan, many of us listen to your teaching and read your books. Pastor Greear, you have a gifting for preaching, a knowledge of the Word and love for Jesus, AND for missions that is rarely seen. Also, I am not comparing you to anyone else here, but another of our favorite pastors whom we listen to regularly, is “cutting back” on life commitments as he wants to refocus – especially on his family. I am thinking with those types of thoughts – about your family, your wife and four precious children. Do not mean to play the
    Devil’s advocate, but though our denomination needs someone just like you at this time, please do not undertake this task at this time. There will come a day when the timing will be perfect. Praying for this huge decision and thank you for your ministry and life.

  8. I look forward to voting for you while attending my first Convention ever, having not gone before because I am a small church pastor but finally get the opportunity to go. That’s I humbly and respectfully ask you to make an effort to make this Presidency about the backbone of the SBC as well, the small church. All can’t give great amounts but all can give greatly. I think it is wonderful that your church has done this.

    Remember the Macedonia church in this as well. I want as a small church pastor to lead our church to be one like them. In my opinion, a both/and model would be great because people called from churches like yours to the mission field have a deep well to draw from, but someone from my church would not. It would be a great disservice to the small church to leave us to adopt a model proposed by one of the commenters, where you train people in fundraising in that model. What about the introvert that God calls to the mission field that would never be as successful in fundraising as the extrovert? The CP model does well for this type of leader. Diversity of personalities and gifts are also Biblical, and should be advocated for as well. Let’s not allow extremism, even with good intentions dictate our future.

    God bless on your nomination.

  9. Chris Pappalardo March 8, 2016 at 6:36 am


    Thanks for the encouraging note! I think we should have that line of yours posted in every church in America: “All can’t give great amounts, but all can give greatly.” Nailed it.

  10. Chris thank you for encouragement. That just came across my heart but I know it’s a biblical truth. Maybe we should start and promote the CP as the Widow’s Mite Mission Ministry.

  11. JD, as one who grew up in an SBC church I am so pleased to see David Platt and now potentially you in these roles. Can you speak to how one goes about influencing a culture of churches that has, in my 30 years at least, united around what they’re against rather than what they’re for? I’m speaking anecdotally, but thinking here about stereotypes like alcohol, Sunday dress, modern music, models other than Sunday am, pm, and Wed night…

    I loved my upbringing, but it seems that the SBC churches not consumed by these things are ones that have been planted or re-planted in the recent past (such as the Summit and the Village). How do you get the focus where the focus belongs in more established churches?

  12. Friends, I am just burdened as to how all of us (and each of us!) can fulfill this Great Commission mandate given to us. As the body of Christ we have been at it for 2,000 years and as Americans 204 years (sent out our 1st foreign missions team in 1812), but we still have 2.5 billion people cut off from the gospel! We can NOT do business as usual, and we must really stretch out there to think outside the box! Jesus had no central fund He created or modeled. He lived and ministered off the ongoing support of individuals (Luke 8:1-3). He then sent the 12 out in Luke 9 to do the same, and the 70 out in Luke 10 to do the same. They were to split up, go to a city to do ministry, but first to go door to door to find an individual (a person of peace) who would provide them room and board while they were doing their ministry. But, lets not get bogged down in funding models. That is penultimate. The ultimate? Lets do WHATEVER we have to in order to flood the nations with Great Commission workers. THAT priority needs to pull the train and shape EVERY decision. Recent stats tell us 85% of ALL Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists in the world will live and die and NEVER even meet a Christ follower. If that is true, that should not only keep us up at night on our knees, but drive us to set aside any “business as usual”, “we’ve always done it this way” sacred cows and be willing to put EVERYTHING on the table. As David Platt might say, “It may be time to get RADICAL.” Friends, I’m 61 and I’ve lived with one model for 40+ years, and we seemed to be going backwards rather than forwards. Humility and wisdom might tell us to at least consider other options. Will you be open minded? You can go to to see if there really is a biblical and historical basis for “personal support raising” to fund our SBC/IMB wokers around the world.

  13. Chris Pappalardo March 9, 2016 at 10:19 am

    Patrick, I just sent you an email with some suggestions. Let me know if you didn’t receive it. :)

  14. In October 2014, you addressed the ERLC on the subject of “Preaching Like Jesus to the LGBT Community.” In that speech, while you made it clear that the Bible condemns homosexuality as sin, you also urged Christians to be “among the chief advocates against abuse, injustice, and discrimination against the gay community.” It was a very nice line, which garnered applause. However, as far as I know, you have never followed through on your own teaching. From October 2014 to March 10, 2016, I have not heard you say one word or perform one action in opposition to abuse, injustice and discrimination against gay people. Not about anti-gay violence, not about gay youth homelessness, and not about laws abroad infringing on the basic human rights (freedom of speech, assembly, etc.) of gay people. Am I wrong, or is this about what we can expect if you win the presidency of SBC?

  15. Chris Pappalardo March 11, 2016 at 9:01 am


    Thanks for your note. Since Pastor J.D.’s ERLC speech in 2014, we’ve touched on the issue of homosexuality a couple times here at the Summit. Part of that was a weekend message you can watch/listen to here:

    And then Pastor J.D. wrote up a series of articles here:

    I hope that gives you a little more of a picture of how we’re trying to faithfully love those in the LGBT community with both truth and grace. If you’re curious for more, we’re holding a forum on April 12 encouraging our people to reach out to our gay friends and neighbors with compassion: If you can’t come to the event itself, it’ll be posted online within a few days after the event.

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