CORDOVA, Tenn. (BP)–Steve Gaines, pastor of First Baptist Church in Gardendale, Ala., for the past 14 years, will be the new pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in suburban Memphis, Tenn., as Bellevue members July 10 overwhelmingly voted to call him.
Gaines, 47, takes over for Adrian Rogers, the church’s pastor of 32 years who retired earlier this year.
“We’ll give you everything we have,” Gaines said after the church voted to call him. “I don’t know all the answers. I don’t even know if I know all the questions. But I know the Lord, and I know He has done all things well. And He will do a wonderful work through all of us.”
Bellevue’s pastor search committee began its work eight months ago, shortly after Rogers announced his retirement. Chairman Chuck Taylor said the 10-member committee received more than 170 recommendations, with each being carefully considered and researched by committee members.
The committee voted unanimously on June 12 to recommend Gaines to the church as Bellevue’s next pastor.
“We knew that [God] would lead us to His man, and He has done that today,” Taylor told the church.
At the end of each of two morning worship services, the church went into a business session to act on the search committee’s recommendation. Each committee member spoke briefly about why he or she believed Gaines is God’s man for Bellevue.
Harry Smith, Bellevue’s chairman of deacons and vice chairman of the search committee, then asked those in favor of the recommendation to stand, and the entire church rose.
Gaines and his family came back into the sanctuary, where Smith asked him, “Will you come and be our new pastor?”
“Yes, I will,” Gaines replied.
Rogers, Bellevue’s pastor emeritus, was on hand for the occasion and spoke to the church and to Gaines after the vote.
“I am so happy. I am so thrilled,” Rogers said. “I’ve been sitting out there weeping and laughing, praising our great God.”
Gaines will be Rogers’ first pastor since he was 19 years old.
“We gladly receive you as our pastor and first lady. We will listen to you, we will love you, we will support you and pray for you,” Rogers said. “We will do anything that we can do to make your ministry all that God wants it to be.”
Gaines told Bellevue he and his family never intended to leave the Birmingham-area Gardendale church, that his plan was to stay there for the rest of his life.
“There may not be, in that regard, a human reason why we’re here, but I believe there’s a heavenly reason why we’re here,” Gaines said. “Today’s not about Steve Gaines and it’s not even about Bellevue Baptist Church. Today is about the Kingdom of God and the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In his sermon, Gaines preached from Acts 9:31 about the marks of a healthy church.
While some may suggest that the idea of preaching behind a pulpit is passé, and that churches shouldn’t take stands on moral issues of the day like abortion, homosexuality and gambling, Gaines said he disagrees. He also doesn’t support the trend of churches that embrace technology and water down their message.
“You can have all of the new techniques, all of the state of the art media and technology,” Gaines said. “You can have all the latest programs and the bells and whistles and still not have a healthy church in the eyes of God.”
A healthy church is characterized by peace, edification, reverence, spirituality and growth, Gaines said.
“We need to stop talking about church growth,” Gaines said. “We need to talk about church health. A healthy church will grow.”
Since Gaines began his ministry at Gardendale in 1991, the church’s average morning worship attendance has increased from 1,600 to 3,300. The church has baptized 3,251 people during that time, leading the Alabama Baptist State Convention in baptisms seven times over the past 10 years.
Gaines previously served as pastor of West Jackson Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn., and as pastor of Lake Shore Baptist Church in Lake Dallas, Texas.
Gaines and his wife, Donna, each graduated from Union University in Jackson, Tenn. Gaines completed his master of divinity and his doctor of philosophy degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
Donna also earned a master of education degree from Texas Women’s University in Denton, Texas.
The couple has four children — Grant, 22, who just graduated from Union University and will begin studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., this fall; Lindsey, 18, who will be a freshman at Union this fall; Allison, 15, who will be a junior in high school; and Bethany, 12, who will be a seventh-grader.
Gaines served as president of this year’s Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference and last year preached the convention sermon at the SBC annual meeting in Indianapolis. He was a member of the Baptist Faith and Message Study Committee in 1999-2000 and is a former trustee of LifeWay Christian Resources.
Gaines said in a news conference following the morning worship services that he withdrew his name from the search process twice, simply because of his desire to stay in Gardendale.
“We were so firmly planted where we were,” he said.
But, the committee kept pursuing, and he ultimately discerned God’s leadership in coming to Bellevue.
A close friend of Rogers, Gaines said he doesn’t foresee any problems with following Rogers at Bellevue.
“I won’t in any way feel like I have to emulate or imitate him,” Gaines said.
Rogers himself was fully supportive of Gaines as a candidate.
“I’m not here just because of his influence, although we knew he would prefer us to come,” Gaines said of Rogers. “As best we can tell, it’s not simply because Dr. Rogers wanted us to be here but because the Lord wanted us to be here.”