SEVIERVILLE, TN (BP) – Following the recent election of a new U.S. president, Southern Baptist Convention leader Steve Gaines challenged American Christians to once again ask, "What can I do for my country?"
In his Nov. 13 message to Tennessee Baptists, Gaines shared a well-known quote from John F. Kennedy's inaugural address in January of 1961: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country?" An estimated 1,600 Tennessee Baptists from across the state gathered Nov. 13 at the Sevierville Convention Center for a worship service on the opening night of their annual gathering. Gaines, SBC president and pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church, cited 10 things that Christians can do:
1. Pray for your country
Gaines observed there are some people in the U.S. who say they should not pray for the country's success. "There is nothing wrong and everything right for Christians who live in the United States of America to pray for God to bless our country," Gaines said. He urged Christians to pray for the president, president-elect and others in leadership whether or not one agrees with their views.
2. Prioritize your family
No country will be stronger than the families who live in that country, said Gaines, emphasizing the importance of strong, godly families.
3. Work for a living
Gaines noted that God did not create men and women to be lazy. "Unless you are physically or mentally challenged, you are supposed to work," he said. Gaines said the church or government does not owe anything to people who are able but choose not to work due to laziness.
4. Be involved in the local church
"The United States needs more Bible-believing, Jesus-exalting churches," Gaines said. He added that Christians are the "conscience and heart" of the country.
5. Love your fellow man
"Christians are commanded to love everyone, not just other Christians," he said. He said Christians "are to love even those who are engaged in open sin; we just don't love the sin." Additionally, Christians are commanded to love people of all skin color and ethnicity. "All lives matter to God. Jesus died for all people," he said.
6. Minister to "the least of these"
Find a need and meet it and find a hurt and heal it, Gaines urged. "We must care for those who are in need."
7. Take care of your finances
Gaines challenged the crowd to tithe, avoid debt, and save for future needs. How Christians use the money entrusted to them by God says a lot, he said. "Your checkbook tells where your heart really is. … God gives you that money to be a steward. You don't own anything," he said. "Until you learn how to deal with money, God can't bless you or your church."
8. Share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with lost people
"One of the best things you can do is to win lost souls for Jesus Christ," he said.
9. Make disciples
"Once you've won someone to Jesus you don't throw them in a corner. You take care of them, love them, and disciple them," Gaines said.
10. Know you are saved, be filled with the Holy Spirit, and live a holy life
Gaines noted there are people who made a decision for Christ 30 years ago yet today never go to church or pray. "Where there is no fruit, there is no root," he said. He challenged Christians to make sure they know they are saved and then be filled with the Holy Spirit and live holy lives.
America is in trouble, Gaines said in closing. The answer, he said, "is right here in this room," referring to Christians and local churches. "We have to wake up and focus on God. We have to be salt and light," he said. "We have to love our country enough to stand up for our Lord Jesus Christ." Gaines closed the service by leading those in attendance in the pledge of allegiance to the American flag and the "Star Spangled Banner."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector (www.baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.