Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines Says Election Rhetoric Can Inhibit Evangelism

Pastor Steve Gaines
Pastor Steve Gaines

Conviction and kindness are the prescription of Southern Baptist leaders for the final eight weeks of the U.S. presidential campaign.

With early voting by mail having begun in North Carolina and in-person early voting slated to begin in three states next week, Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines, Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. and Cedarville University President Thomas White are among those to weigh in with ethical and spiritual advice for voters.

Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church, told Baptist Press “biblical convictions” should guide Christians “in all areas of life, even the way they vote for a president.”

“The most pressing issues in our nation are moral not financial,” Gaines said in written comments. “Christians should analyze the candidates’ positions regarding moral issues and vote accordingly. In my opinion, the three key moral issues in America today are: a) the sanctity of human life, b) the sacredness of marriage and c) the significance of racial respect/reconciliation.”

Gaines’ specific counsel to voters included:

— “Christians should have a strong, biblical conviction to vote for pro-life candidates.”

— “Christians should vote for candidates that uphold” marriage as “exclusively monogamous and heterosexual.”

— “Christians should vote for candidates that promote racial respect and reconciliation.”

Gaines said he is troubled by “hateful comments” he has heard “regarding political candidates and how people should vote.”

“Many voices, even among Southern Baptists, have been less than wise, and sometimes downright ill-mannered,” Gaines said. “Christians must at times be prophetic. But we never have a license to be pejorative or denigrating.

“If any Christian, especially a Christian leader, castigates and attacks a political candidate, that Christian has crossed a line and has sinned. The litmus test should be, ‘Would that person be open to me sharing the Gospel with him/her after I make this comment?’ If the answer is no, then keep silent, even if it sounds ‘prophetic,'” Gaines said.

Some purveyors of “harsh statements toward candidates” attempt to justify their comments as in the tradition of John the Baptist, who rebuked King Herod for marrying his brother’s wife, Gaines said, citing Mark 6. Yet Scripture suggests John did not behave rudely because Herod “respected him, protected him and enjoyed listening to him” — even while recognizing the clear rebuke of his message.

In the end, hope should characterize believers’ actions this political season, Gaines said.

“The White House cannot send revival, nor can it stop revival,” he said. “Stop looking around and start looking up. The Lord is the source of your help and strength.”

Gaines added, “We should be good citizens and participate in the presidential election. We should also realize that we are part of a greater Kingdom than America — the Kingdom of God. Today is a great day in America to share the Gospel with lost people and win them to Jesus. Today is a great time for God to rend the heavens and come down in revival in His churches.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
David Roach