For many years, Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis has been one of the most prominent Southern Baptist churches in the nation, due to the godly testimony of the late Adrian Rogers.
In 2005, just months before Pastor Rogers died of cancer, Steve Gaines became the new pastor. I remember thinking: How hard for someone to follow in the footsteps of a spiritual giant like Adrian Rogers! However, the transition was smooth. The first few months of Gaines’ time in Memphis was rather uneventful. The church adjusted, and corporately mourned the passing of their former pastor.
Last year, things changed. A group within the church became unhappy with some of the changes that Gaines was implementing. Some questioned his leadership. Others wondered about his character. In a church with 30,000 in attendance, it is difficult to measure the amount of support and opposition. Who knows how many people actually came to oppose Gaines? By last fall, there was a significant group (whose vocal volume might be greater than its numerical power) demanding Gaines to step down.
SavingBellevue.com was created to keep church members informed of the problems in the church and the issues surrounding Gaines’ leadership. The website accuses Gaines of mishandling church money, ramroddding his own agenda through passive committees, and even “trespassing” on private property.
Late last year, a true scandal erupted. Gaines discovered one of the men on ministerial staff had a history of molestation and did nothing about it for several months. He later admitted that his lack of agressiveness in this situation was a mistake.
The resistance to Gaines continues, largely through SavingBellevue.com. The website is the prime place to find the dirt on Gaines, and sadly, more than a half-million hits have been registered, since the site began.
I am not in Memphis. I do not go to Bellevue. I do not know Steve Gaines. I will admit that Gaines’ treatment of the molestation situation was unwise at best, and that the molestation scandal could very well damage the church’s testimony.
But ironically, more damage is being done by the effort to “preserve” Bellevue by ousting Gaines. The people running this website are airing their dirty laundry for the whole world to see. Bellevue is suffering, Gaines is suffering, and ultimately, Memphis is suffering, because the reputation of a great church has now been stained and will probably suffer reproach for several years. The church’s credibility in the community is eroding. There are people all over the country and the world who are logging on to SavingBellevue.com and reading the gossip.
I am sure that those who have set up this site have good intentions. But is putting up a church and pastor to public shame the way forward?
The Bellevue situation saddens me. God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, which means that in some mysterious way, He is working this situation to the ultimate good of His children at Bellevue. I rest in the assurance of His providential will. But I believe that ultimately, it isn’t Gaines’ leadership that is causing the bulk of the trouble at Bellevue. It is “SavingBellevue.com” that is destroying Bellevue.
(See another post on this subject here.)
written by Trevin Wax. © 2007 Kingdom People Blog