Next-Gen Leader: New Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear

By Leigh Harper, October 17, 2018

In June, J.D. Greear became the 62nd pastor of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the country. At age 45, he is the youngest SBC president in nearly 40 years and the first from Generation X. The husband and father of four also serves as pastor of The Summit Church, a regional, multisite church near Raleigh, North Carolina. The church has a congregation of more than 10,000 people with a strong reputation for rolling up their sleeves to serve the community. Prior to joining the staff at The Summit as college pastor and eventually head pastor, Greear was a missionary overseas with the International Mission Board, an arm of the SBC.

In your words, what is the purpose of the SBC?

The SBC is, at its core, a sending organization that exists to help churches reach the neighbors and the nations.

What is your first goal or action step as president of the SBC?

My first goal is galvanizing Southern Baptists in fulfilling the Great Commission. I have asked our primary sending agencies—the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board—to work with me in coming up with a plan that makes it easy for every SBC church, of whatever size, to get involved in planting domestically and internationally. We are also putting forward a ‘Who is your one?’ campaign to challenge every Southern Baptist to have at least one person they are intentionally sharing Christ with. We are challenging state conventions and local associations to come up with ways to assist churches. Secondarily, I am starting conversations and exploring options on how to see greater diversity in SBC leadership.

Another pressing need of the hour in the SBC is to get our house in order when it comes to the issue of abuse. Our entire society is talking about the #MeToo movement, and that movement is just as relevant in the church as it is elsewhere. I recognized that we have a unique opportunity to equip the pastors and churches of the SBC to take significant steps forward so our churches are havens of safety for the oppressed. The abuse task force I put together is the first step on this road, but we will need many others.

What is the single most important responsibility of your role as president?

My role, I believe, is first to model commitment to the Great Commission; second, to work with our agencies to better facilitate the churches’ mission; and third, to call Southern Baptists to greater commitment to the Great Commission by raising up and sending members and sacrificial giving to cooperative Southern Baptist missions.

What impact do you think a younger leader such as yourself will have on the SBC?

If I’m going to represent the ‘young’ generation in the SBC, my hope is that it motivates the upcoming generation to engage in the mission and vision of the SBC. I owe an incredible debt to the older generation, as we all do. They taught me to cherish my Bible and to share my faith with the confidence that God is still saving people today. We in the younger generation need to pick up that mantle and continue the legacy they’ve given us, honoring their leadership while being flexible to fit our strategy to an ever-changing society.

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