NASHVILLE (BP)–Steve Nelson is exchanging cross-country and around-the-world travels to hunger and relief centers for the rigors of the campaign trail.
Nelson, who has served Southern Baptists for seven-plus years as director of hunger concerns for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, announced he is running for a seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives Feb. 15.
Nelson tendered his resignation from the ERLC Jan. 25, saying after much prayer and seeking the counsel of others he felt it was time for him “to make a leap of faith into the world of politics.” Nelson came to the ERLC, then the Christian Life Commission, in 1996, after serving as pastor of First Baptist Church in Lafayette, Tenn.
“It is critical that Bible-believing Christians engage the culture by taking their faith-based values into the public square and become involved in impacting public policy,” said Richard Land, ERLC president, in affirming Nelson’s decision to enter politics.
Land went on to express his belief that Nelson’s work at the ERLC has allowed the “lives of thousands upon thousands of individuals to be eternally changed because he cared.”
“God has used Steve Nelson in a powerful way in educating Southern Baptists about the tremendous work being done through the gifts given to the World Hunger Fund,” Land said.
Nelson’s sensitivity to the plight of the poor and the hungry positioned him to be a superb spokesman for this cause, Land added, noting that awareness of SBC hunger efforts reached new heights during Nelson’s tenure.
“His compassion for the poor and needy, his concern for those who slip through society’s cracks, and his commitment to bring Southern Baptists face to face with scriptural commands for Christians to care for those in need have been hallmarks of Nelson’s service at the ERLC,” Land continued.
While Nelson is quick to give God all the credit, he is nonetheless pleased that during his tenure gifts to the World Hunger Fund totaled $55 million. Every dollar given, Nelson noted in an interview with Baptist Press, goes to hunger relief with the overhead costs covered by regular offering channels such as the Cooperative Program and the annual Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings.
“I was blessed by God in allowing me to visit places as far-flung as war-torn Bosnia, anti-Milosevic protests in Belgrade, earthquake relief efforts in Colombia and Navaho communities in Oklahoma,” said Nelson, noting the ERLC position allowed him opportunities for “tremendous personal growth.”
“My prayer for Southern Baptists is that we will keep ministry to people in need in the forefront of our ministries. Such efforts open countless doors for evangelism and are very dear to God’s heart,” Nelson said.
Land said Nelson’s departure does not mean a lessening of emphasis on the world hunger issue. “The ERLC will continue to focus on this most critical issue,” he said. “Scripture is clear that we have an obligation to care for the needy and oppressed.
“We will see revival when, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we step outside the walls of the church to minister salt in the right doses to make people thirsty for more,” Nelson explained. “My prayer is that I will glorify our Lord by being that kind of salt in the public square.
“As I have challenged churches and individuals to be ‘salt’ and ‘light,’ I have sensed a growing unction to practice more of what I preach,” said Nelson, promising he will not abandon the passion he has for the ethical and moral issues the ERLC addresses.
Nelson announced his bid for public office in a gathering in Hendersonville, Tenn., Feb. 15.
“We are a people in desperate need for a return to the values our nation was founded upon,” Nelson said in announcing his race for the statehouse seat serving Tennessee’s District 45, just north of Nashville. He said family and life issues would be at the core of his candidacy.
“People of faith and strong moral conscience must vote their values,” Nelson said.
Glenn Weekley, pastor of First Baptist Church of Hendersonville, said he was “thrilled” when he heard that Nelson was seeking public office because “a lot of times we don’t vote for the right person because the right people won’t run.”
“We are seeing things we thought were so sacred and solid in our country now being attacked in part because we have voted with something other than our convictions and values,” said Weekley, noting Nelson’s strength of character will be a distinctive in the race.
Tennesseans can trust Nelson to do “what he believes is fundamentally the best thing for the people in this district and in the state,” said Bryant Millsaps, a former Tennessee secretary of state who stood at Nelson’s side at the candidate’s announcement party. Millsaps said the effort was all about “electing godly people with a godly agenda who have a heart and compassion for people in this country for public offices all the way from the court house to the White House.” Millsaps is president of the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: HITTING THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL and CAMPAIGN UNDERWAY.