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Southern Baptists will decide between Greear and Hemphill at June 12-13 annual meeting in Dallas

February 1st, 2018 / By: Tammi Reed Ledbetter | Special Assignments Editor / comments

Southern Baptists will decide between Greear and Hemphill at June 12-13 annual meeting in Dallas

DALLAS—Two East Coast men will vie for Southern Baptist Convention president when the largest non-Catholic denomination brings its annual meeting to Dallas, June 12-13. J.D. Greear, a North Carolina pastor who withdrew from the same race two years ago when balloting positioned him within a few votes of Steve Gaines, was the first candidate announced on Jan. 29.

Kenneth Hemphill, director of the Center for Church Planting and Revitalization at North Greenville University, is the second candidate to emerge today (Feb. 1). Greear and Hemphill likely will be evaluated on the basis of priorities in the areas of missions, evangelism and discipleship, as well as their broader concern for a church's commitment to the Cooperative Program, a joint missions-funding mechanism that most Southern Baptist churches use to reach beyond their communities to North America and the world.

Greear pastors Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC., which is characterized by its "gospel focus and sending culture," according to the church's website. The church has grown from a plateaued congregation of 300 to nearly 10,000 people during his 16-year tenure.

Greear has challenged the church to plant 1,000 new churches by 2050, having already sent more than 650 people to live on 40 church planting teams in North Carolina and the United States and another 208 in other countries. 

Previously, Greear served as a missionary in Southeast Asia with the International Mission Board. 

A graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Greear received an M.Div. and Ph.D.

He has authored eight books, including Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches That Send, Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary, Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved, and Jesus, Continued … Why the Spirit Inside You Is Better Than Jesus Beside You.

He and his wife, Veronica, live in Raleigh with their four children.

After teaching at Wingate College in North Carolina, Hemphill pastored First Baptist Church of Galax, Va. Later, as pastor of First Baptist Church of Norfolk, Hemphill led the congregation from a membership of less than 1,000 to almost 7,000 in 11 years.

Hemphill directed the Southern Baptist Center for Church Growth in Atlanta, a joint venture of the Home Mission Board and the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, and later served as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. 

He served the SBC as National Strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth and founded Auxano Press. He also participated in partnership missions to Brazil, Kenya, the former Soviet Union and England. 

Hemphill earned the M.Div. and D.Min. degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in New Testament at Cambridge University.

He has authored 40 books, including The Antioch Effect, The Bonsai Theory of Church Growth, and Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Discovering Your True Self Through Spiritual Gifts.

He and his wife, Paula, have three grown daughters and 10 grandchildren.

Reports on giving to Southern Baptist causes by the church where each candidate holds membership were released by Baptist Press in reference to Greear at the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, and regarding Hemphill who is a member of First Baptist Church of Hendersonville, N.C., where Steve Scoggins is pastor

In 2017, Summit Church gave 2.4 percent of its undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program, the same percentage it gave in 2016, according to ACP data confirmed by the church. Five years ago, Summit Church voted to increase its giving through CP to 2.4 percent of undesignated receipts over five years, but the congregation achieved that goal two years early, the church reported.

In 2016, Summit Church began channeling all funds it regarded as CP gifts through the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina rather than forwarding some directly to the SBC Executive Committee for distribution according to the CP allocation formula, as it had done previously.

A Summit spokesperson said its Great Commission Giving totaled $3.8 million (19 percent of undesignated receipts) in 2017. Great Commission Giving is a category of giving established by SBC action in 2011 that encompasses giving through CP, Southern Baptists' unified program of funding state- and SBC-level ministries, as well as direct gifts to SBC entities, associational giving and giving to state convention ministries.

A spokesperson for First Baptist Church of Hendersonville told BP it has given 10 percent of undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program annually since at least the mid-1990s and is among the top CP-giving churches in North Carolina.

First Baptist's percentage of CP giving as indicated by ACP data is slightly higher than 10 percent for some years and lower for others, but such differences generally can be explained by the use of different fiscal years, the timing of payments to the state convention and other factors.

The church said its Great Commission Giving exceeded 15 percent of undesignated receipts in 2017. Great Commission Giving is a category of giving established by SBC action in 2011 that encompasses giving through CP, Southern Baptists' unified program of funding state- and SBC-level ministries, as well as direct gifts to SBC entities, associational giving and giving to state convention ministries.