FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Steve Gaines has served as pastor in four churches over his 27 years of ministry, and as the number of people has increased with each church the Lord has placed him in, so has his desire to effectively shepherd the flock with which he has been entrusted. Gaines, who holds a M.Div. and Ph.D. from Southwestern, serves as pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, Tenn., a church that draws more than 6,000 people to its weekly services.
Regardless of the size of the church, Gaines says every pastor should place priority on a close walk with the Lord through prayer, which then influences one’s preaching, leadership and pastoral care.
“I believe that any one pastor can only effectively “shepherd” approximately 150-200 people. Therefore, at Bellevue I focus on personally shepherding our staff and deacons. Even with this group, I must at times rely on other staff members to help. We also depend on our Life Groups (i.e. Sunday School classes) to provide extensive pastoral care to our members.”
Gaines believes seminary students should squeeze as much as they can out of their seminary experience. They should make the most of every opportunity.
“Do what you have to do to support yourself and your family, but make sure that after your personal walk with God, your education is your priority.”
Gaines says the research skills he developed in seminary have immensely impacted his approach to Bible study and sermon preparation. He laments that many pastors in pulpits today simply preach other people’s sermons out of laziness or lack of ability. He offers the same practical advice to young pastors he received as a student at Southwestern: “I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Herschel Hobbs and Dr. W.A. Criswell when I was a student at Southwestern. They both gave me the same advice: ‘Keep your mornings for spending time with God in prayer and for sermon preparation.’ I have done that through the years, and it has paid rich dividends both to me and to my church members.”