An interview with J.D. Greear

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Thursday, June 14th, 2018.

Glad to have you along for today’s episode of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up, new leadership at the Southern Baptist Convention. This week in Dallas, the SBC chose a new president to follow Tennessee pastor Steve Gaines.

Two years ago, it took a third ballot to pick Gaines. After two inconclusive votes, North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear withdrew.

But this year, Greear won a first ballot victory—taking nearly 70 percent of the vote.

REICHARD: WORLD Radio’s J.C. Derrick caught up with Greear backstage at the convention.

J.C. DERRICK, MANAGING EDITOR: Pastor Greear, you have a large church, a wife, four kids. I know you’re not sitting around wondering what to do with your time. Why did you want this job?

J.D. GREEAR, GUEST: Well, I mean, really, my wife and I felt like that it was a way that we could serve those who have gone from our church overseas. My call to the ministry began as a call to the mission field. I served for a couple of years overseas in a Muslim unreached people group. And God never relinquished that call to the mission field. He just showed me the way I was going to do that was as a pastor. And so for the last, you know, 15, 16 years, it’s been raising up people from our church to go, and there’s, I think, 250 members of our church that live somewhere overseas.

Plus, we’re very committed to church planting. And so if they’re going to go and step out there, then we who stay on this side of the pond, have to be committed to being good mobilizing and support structures. It’s like William Carey famously told the English baptist, he said, “I’m willing to dangle on the end of the rope there in India, but you got to be committed to holding securely to the other end.” So, when some older members of the SBC came and said, “We feel like this is a good opportunity and it’s your time,” after praying about it, my wife and I said, “Okay, we’ll make ourselves available if we can be of assistance in the Great Commission that way.”

Now you’ve put out some priorities, and I want to drill down on a couple of those real quick. One of them was that you wanted to increase the cultural and racial diversity of the SBC. Can you talk a little bit about what that means to you and just kind of how you would go about doing that as president?

GREEAR: Yeah. So, the United States is changing and everybody realizes that. And so when we say that we want to have cultural diversity in our leadership, that’s not so much like an act of generosity on the part of the majority community as much as it is a recognition that we need the shared wisdom and perspective and experiences of our brothers and sisters of color. I mean, because of the multicultural church, the diversity of the church is a picture of God’s glory. But for far too long, that’s not been something that we’ve been engaged in. We’ve just preferred to kind of stay within our lanes and our tribe.

The SBC is actually quite diverse when you look at the constituency. But the leadership doesn’t yet reflect it. And so I’m hoping to see many more of our brothers and sisters of color step up into these positions of leadership and use whatever influence I have to help make that happen.

And the first and second vice president, I believe, are both people of color, correct?

GREEAR: Absolutely. A.B. Vines, first vice president, is an African American and Felix Cabrerra, second vice president, is Hispanic ethnicity. And I think it just presents an incredible picture that here you’ve got, well at least they’re calling me a younger pastor at 45 years old, I’m not sure if I qualify as that, but you got somebody from a younger generation as well as the three of us make up black, white, and Hispanic. I think it’s a beautiful picture to put out to the world.

Now the Southern Baptist Convention has over 15 million members, but I believe I saw it was somewhere around 5 million weekly attenders. So can you talk about that gap, what it would take to close it and if there’s, you know, what you as president could do to close that gap.

GREEAR: Yeah, a lot of churches don’t report, so it’s really hard to get a read on it. Really, I’m less concerned about the gap between 5 and 15 [million], and I’m concerned about the gap between 5 million and all the people in the world, all the people in the United States that don’t know Jesus. And so, what Southern Baptists are concerned by is over the last several years, we’ve not seen an increase in the people that we’re reaching and baptizing. And so we’ve got to ask some questions about why isn’t God growing our churches. You know what I mean? God designed the church to grow. And sometimes, yeah, we have to labor in faithfulness even when there’s not a lot of fruit. But I mean, Jesus’ promises in the New Testament about the gospel is that it brought forth abundant fruit. And so we want to say, “God, we want you to reach this next generation.” You know, God’s greatest works are not a thing of the past, they’re a thing of the future. And there are still 6,000 unreached people groups in the world that have no gospel witness, which means the greatest movements of the gospel are in front of us. And so, we would love for God to use our generation and our network of churches in pursuing that.

Last question I want to ask you is about, there’s been some controversies, some changes, obviously, recently around the Southern Baptist Convention. David Platt, stepping down from the IMB. Frank Page has recently stepped down. Obviously there’s the controversies related to Paige Patterson. Can you talk about this particular moment in Southern Baptist history? What do you make of it, and where are things going from here?

GREEAR: Yeah. You know, it’s been definitely been a time where a lot of us are doing some soul searching, because it appears that God is shaking us. And all those guys you just mentioned have different reasons why they stepped down. But there’s been a lot of revelations of immorality and just not handling leadership in the right ways. The Bible says judgment starts at the House of God, and whom the Lord loves he chastens. And I’m encouraged in one sense because this might mean that God is purifying his church so that he can use us in the days to come for the purposes of the Great Commission.

I’ve been praying Psalm 67, which is, you know, “God, be merciful to us and bless us and cause your face to shine on us.” Why? The psalmist says, “So that your name might be known in all the earth and your salvation among all nations. Let the peoples praise you.” That is why the SBC exists. It doesn’t exist to be a large denomination or a political force. It exists to mobilize ordinary believers for the purpose of completing the Great Commission. And I think God may be shaking us so that His spirit can, can use us more powerfully for those purposes.

REICHARD: That’s pastor J.D. Greear, the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention, speaking with WORLD Radio’s J.C. Derrick.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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