A Much-Needed Lesson in Courageous, Humble Leadership

June 16, 2016

I am at the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in St. Louis, which ended yesterday. 7500 messengers from the churches gathered to make decisions, hear reports, and be challenged together about our great, common cause. It was a great meeting as we heard from great leaders. We were led by Ronnie Floyd, our President the last two years, who was born to lead in moments like this. He did a masterful, spiritual job in his role.

Ronnie led us to take one whole night and spend an unprecedented 2 1/2 hours praying for revival and spiritual awakening in our nation. It was a powerful and needed time of intercession and, in my opinion, the critical focus for the hour.

But, I want to highlight one stunning thing that happened for those who were not there.

The election of the President of the Convention is an important step. This man can give great vision and direction. This year, three men were nominated. One of the nominees, David Crosby, was not as broadly known, and then there were two, very prominent leaders: JD Greear, who is the pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh Durham, NC, and Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Church in Memphis, Tenn. All of these men are great men of God from great, great churches.

JD, however, represents the younger leaders of the SBC, and Steve represents the older leaders of the SBC, and all of us knew this. Everyone wondered if this was the year to “pass the baton” of presidential leadership to the next generation, which is beautifully happening in many ways in the SBC.

The first vote, no one received the necessary 50%. The next vote, Steve received 49.9% and JD roughly 47%. But in a very unusual event, there were 100+ ballots that were mis-marked and could not be counted. (The parliamentarian, Barry McCarty, told me that he had never seen this happen in his lifetime). According to the bylaws, you must get 50% plus 1 vote of all the ballots cast to win. Gaines lacked 3 votes winning. They announced this on Tuesday night and that they would have another election the next morning.


The room was packed the next day and the time for the election came. Ronnie Floyd, our current president, invited JD and Steve both on stage. JD came to the microphone and said that, after much prayer the night before, the Lord had told him he should withdraw for the sake of unity and he made the motion to elect Steve by acclamation. Steve had also decided to withdraw, but after they talked and prayed the night before, JD felt he was the one to take this step.

It was a stunning, breathtaking move that brought INCREDIBLE UNITY in the entire convention. Both of these men exhibited beautiful, gracious humility. And, when it was announced EVERYONE (young and old) stood in humble unity and a long, standing ovation.


These men were not only resolving the dilemma, but being used of God to teach us. In fact, I wonder if God did not orchestrate the entire process for this very purpose. Here are a few of the spiritual takeaways to me, and to all of us:

  • Humility is always the best step and a stunning, unworldly illustration of Christ. 

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6)

  • Great humility, as a leader, brings great unity among those who follow 

(Psalms 133, John 13)

  • God always honors those who humble themselves.

“Before honor comes humility” (Proverbs 15:33). In my opinion, JD will become the obvious choice in the future for us after Steve has served two years, but time will tell.

  • God uses humility to teach everyone who observes it’s presence.

(Over 7,500 leaders, representing thousands of churches, learned a never-to-be-forgotten and much-needed lesson! A lesson that must be followed in our lives and churches. Think of the unity that would result from such courageous, godly humility).

  •  Humility is not a sign of weakness, but a mark of great strength and spiritual confidence.

Humble men exhibit a confidence in God’s sovereignty and principles and a recognition that it is the Lord who lifts up any of us to increased leadership.

I’m so proud of these men, and of the convention as a whole. God is stirring among us and we are being led by men who will follow Him.

Humbled by this example,


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