John Steven Gaines (born December 31, 1957, in Corinth, Mississippi) is pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in suburban Memphis, Tennessee and was pastor of Gardendale First Baptist Church from 1991 to 2005.
Gaines is the son of Edgar and Dorothy Gaines and grew up in Dyersburg, Tennessee where his father was employed as a track supervisor for the Illinois Central Railroad. He and his brother both worked for their mother's janitorial service.
Gaines excelled in football and track at Dyersburg High School and attended the University of Tennessee at Martin on an athletic scholarship, earning playing time as defensive end during his freshman season. Called to the ministry, he gave up his scholarship to transfer to Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. There he met Donna Dobbs, a "Miss Union University" pageant winner and began his professional ministry as a youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Milan, Tennessee. He married Donna on June 14, 1980 and the couple has four children.
Gaines graduated from Union in 1979 and enrolled at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas and served as an associate pastor and youth minister at Lake Shore Baptist Church in Lake Dallas. During the final year of his master's program he won the "H. C. Brown, Jr Preaching Award" and the "W. Fred Swank Evangelism Award". He received his Master's of Divinity on May 11, 1984.
Gaines remained at Southwestern as a doctoral student. He completed a dissertation entitled "An Analysis of the Correlation between Representative Baptist Hour Sermons by Herschel H. Hobbs and Selected Articles of The Baptist Faith and Message," and received his Ph.D. on May 10, 1991. Lake Shore Baptist asked him to serve as interim pastor and, after six months, offered him the pulpit on a permanent basis.
In 1988 Gaines returned to Tennessee as pastor of West Jackson Baptist Church. While there he participated in
After three years he accepted the call to lead Gardendale First Baptist Church, which experienced significant growth under his leadership. In 2004, Gaines was elected president of the Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference, and was the keynote speaker at the SBC annual meeting in Nashville. More than 10,000 attended the church's special Easter Services at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex in 2005.
In July of that year, Memphis' Bellevue Baptist Church asked him to succeed their long-time pastor Adrian Rogers and he accepted. During his first year there, one of the ministers on staff confessed to him that he had committed sexual abuse to a family member 17 years prior. Gaines revealed the confession six months later after learning that the minister's family was divided on whether the issue was closed. Gaines was criticized for not reporting the confession immediately. The minister was later fired. Despite calls for him to step down, Gaines remained pastor.
In 2007 Gaines initiated a church-wide volunteer ministry to the larger Memphis community called "Bellevue Loves Memphis". The program includes a free mobile dental clinic, a college ministry, and coordinated volunteer workdays on projects for schools, churches, homes, parks, hospitals and other facilities. The program was lauded by proclamation in the Tennessee House of Representatives.
In 2016 Gaines was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
- Hartman, Anna Marie and Brooke Sanders (no date) "Controversy simmers at Bellevue; Gaines tells congregation he will stay" WMC-TV
- "Steve Gaines (pastor)" (March 2, 2010) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. - accessed March 5, 2010