I have to admit that when I first heard the news that JD Greear would be nominated for next SBC president by Jimmy Scroggins, my first reaction was, “well…it could be worse!” Afterall, Greear’s sermons are usually solid, he’s “reformed” (for whatever that’s worth these days), and he does have an approachable personality–and anybody would be better than Ronnie Floyd, right? Greear is currently the lead pastor of The Summit Church, a multi-site megachurch out of Raleigh-Durham, NC.
First the good. As stated, Greear holds to a more solid, Calvinist position on salvation. He authored a book titled Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How To Know You Are Saved, in which he states he struggled for many years with the assurance of salvation and repeated the “Sinner’s Prayer” many times during his life. He now rejects the concept of “asking Jesus into your heart,” and holds to a biblical doctrine of salvation.
He has also spent a considerable amount of time defending the historical truth of Scripture. He spends a good bit of time engaging in apologetics and is mission-focused. He has a genuine heart for reaching the lost by taking the Gospel to little-reached or unreached communities.
Now the bad. First and foremost, JD Greear is the one that nominated current SBC president, Ronnie Floyd, for a second term in 2015. This is troubling, as Ronnie Floyd presented (created?) many problems in the Convention before his re-election, even among all of the warnings from discerning Christians. Ronnie Floyd, a blooming Arminian, has done something that few evangelical leaders in the past could have ever dreamed of doing. He has successfully united much of the visible, professing church with the apostate church (i.e. Rome, NAR, etc.) through his “Pray for a Great Awakening” quest. In his crusade for unity, he has merged himself with false teachers such as Mike Bickle, and dismissed his theological differences with him as “matters of secondary importance.” There has been no apology from Greear on re-nominating him.
Greear is also a part of the New Calvinist Acts 29 network, currently under Matt Chandler’s leadership. Acts 29 is a network of (supposedly) independent churches whose primary purpose is to plant more churches. Their website states that they are characterized by “Theological Clarity, Cultural Engagement, and Missional Innovation.” Sounds okay, right?
Acts 29 was founded by the befallen pastor, Mark Driscoll. The network is comprised of churches that promote charismania, have a low tolerance threshold for discernment, and a general taste for popularity. Most of the members of the network are regular traveling speakers, with personalities that attract attenders (read: tithers) to their events. Their focus on “cultural engagement” takes priority over their other “characteristics.” Ear-tickling personalities like, Joseph Prince and Rick Warren, are the norm. Generally, if you can preach an almost-solid sermon, that isn’t too far off base, and you have a personality that can attract multitudes of people, you’re in. In reality, the characteristics of the Acts 29 Network are “Theological Pragmatism, Cultural Conformity, and Missional Unity,” and they have no problem promoting whoever they need to promote to rake in the numbers.
Greear has been highly influenced by people such as Tim Keller, who promotes Roman Catholic mysticism and favors evolution over creationism, and John Piper, who unrepetantly partners with unsound teachers like Rick Warren, Mark Driscoll, and Hillsong pastrix, Christine Caine. These personalities are the face of New Calvinism, and Greear is right in the midst of it.
Further, Greear’s Summit Church is a multi-site church, currently with nine campuses around the Raleigh Durham area. A multi-site campus of this size already inhibits a pastor’s ability to shephered his flock and encourages anonymity among the congregation. Greear preaches through video sermons from one campus to another. Taking on the responsibility of leading the Southern Baptist Convention could only serve to make discipling his own congregation(s) more difficult.
And finally, the ugly. Greear will be partnering with at least two well-known false teachers on March 25, 2016, at a conference in Orlando, called Exponential East. The conference’s focus is on church planting, and the emphasis is numbers–a bigger head count. Among the speakers at the event will be Mark Batterson, known for his “circle-maker” heresy, and Brian Houston, lead pastor and CEO of Hillsong Church, who is known for affirming homosexuals in their congregations. Houston’s church also appoints female pastors and very clearly promotes a Word of Faith theology. Al Mohler has stated that Hillsong “is a prosperity movement for millennials…that minimizes the actual content of the Gospel.”
Unsurprisingly, Greear also invited pastor of Elevation Church, Steven Furtick, to address his congregation. Of Furtick he says,
I’m also excited because Furtick represents a different “tribe” than some of the speakers we’ve had in the past. It’s important for us to learn from multiple groups if we’re going to build & plant healthy & effective churches. If you only learn from those within your “tribe,” you will wither and die.
Furtick’s has built one of the premier cult of personality congregations in the world today. The Word of Faith pastor is popular among other false teachers, such as T.D. Jakes, and Brian Houston. Is this what he really wants to expose his sheep to? Is following Steven Furtick really going to help build healthy and effective churches?
It’s very troubling that, considering the one degree of separation rule, Greear would share a stage with these men. Partnering with false teachers is strictly forbidden in Scripture (Eph 5:11). Perhaps, however, Greear sees nothing wrong with these men. Sadly, most SBC leaders do not. These overly charismatic teachers seem to be the driving force behind the influence in the SBC now.
Further, Greear has stated that it’s sinful to forbid speaking in tongues.
You’re never going to hear me either publicly or privately tell somebody that they should not be speaking in tongues in their private prayer times, that’s not going to be forbidden at our church.
He noted that the Southern Baptist Convention has, at times, restricted the use of tongues in prayer, and said, “they are wrong and they are in sin for doing that.” Considering that most Southern Baptists have historically believed that the apostolic gifts have ceased, essentially, the likely president would consider all cessationists to be living in sin. Suppose a father at his church discourages babbling in his household among his family, does he enact church discipline on him? Could Southern Baptists support a president that believed this way? It’s interesting to note that in 2015 the International Mission Board (IMB) removed the restrictions on speaking in tongues for missionaries shortly after Greear nominated Ronnie Floyd for his second term.
So, while it may be true that on the surface Greear is a step in the right direction, at least in comparison to Ronnie Floyd, for the Southern Baptist Convention, it will be interesting to see the real direction he takes the denomination in the likely event that he is elected.
[Contributed by Pulpit & Pen]
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