At the request of Pastor Steve Gaines, two large banners are suspended high above the platform in Bellevue’s worship center. His predecessor, Adrian Rogers, wisely observed that “A church comes to reflect the spirit of its leadership.” Each week when he stands behind the pulpit to preach, Pastor Gaines is flanked by Scriptures from both the Old and New Testaments that reflect the spirit of his heart.
Isaiah 56:7 is inscribed on one banner: “For my house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” It is a reminder that ministry and miracles are accomplished by God’s power alone, and that His power is accessed only through prayer. Bellevue’s pastor also wants the message to be clear that the doors of this church are open to everyone: whites, African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics, rich, poor, educated, uneducated, “haves,” and “have-nots.”
On the other banner is Acts 9:31: “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit it continued to increase.” Just as the Holy Spirit ignited the early Church, Pastor Gaines longs for God to send revival in our day. Continually he prays for unity in the Spirit and for God’s presence to fall upon all Christ-honoring churches.
Above the pulpit, even more prominently displayed, is another banner. On it is a name—the Name above all names: JESUS. It is His Gospel that is proclaimed here; His Word that changes lives; and His glory that is sought above all else. The matchless name of Jesus is lifted up in this place of worship because for more than a century Bellevue has been a “Jesus church.”
While these have long been the priorities of all Bible believing churches that seek to honor God and love people, Bro. Steve believes that these three principles should also be the defining characteristics of every individual. This is the story of how the Lord has consistently and faithfully taught Bellevue’s seventh pastor the value of these truths as a foundation for his own life.
Beginnings: Family Values and Hard Work
John Steven Gaines was born to Edgar and Dorothy Gaines on December 31, 1957, in Corinth, Mississippi. Both parents were raised on farms in Ripley, Tennessee, during the challenging years of the Great Depression. After serving in the U. S. Navy in World War II, Edgar worked for the Illinois Central Railroad, retiring in 1976 as a track supervisor. In 2000 he went to be with the Lord after a long illness.
Dorothy Kirby Gaines began earning her own living at age 16, and in her forties she started a profitable janitorial business in Dyersburg, Tennessee, to help pay her older son’s college tuition. “She prided herself in training the many teenage boys who worked for her,” said Steve, who was one of her recruits. “There are businessmen all over West Tennessee who will tell you they gained their strong work ethic from my mother.”
Mrs. Gaines’ entrepreneurial spirit and hard work did provide tuition funds for her older son Ed. After graduating from Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College), he went on to earn an MBA from Duke University. In 2003 Mrs. Gaines suffered a debilitating stroke, and went home to be with Jesus November 15, 2010.
Ed and Steve Gaines spent most of their boyhood years in Dyersburg, a small town built on good values, good neighbors, and fun times. The Gaines family joined First Baptist Church and became active members. “Under the preaching of our pastor, Dr. Robert Orr, I heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ and accepted Him as my Lord and Savior when I was seven years old,” said Steve. “Although I was saved then, I did not begin to really grow and mature as a Christian on a consistent basis until eleven years later when I went to college.”
During his senior year at Dyersburg High School, Steve was selected as first team defensive end in the Big Ten Conference and as All-District in track. The Dyersburg Trojans enjoyed winning seasons during his high school years, capturing the Big Ten Conference his junior and senior year, and the West Tennessee Regional championship his senior year.
Steve entered the University of Tennessee at Martin on a full football scholarship in the fall of 1975 and played under new head coach George McIntyre. By the third game of his freshman season, he shared a starting defensive end position with a senior team mate. But God was orchestrating a turning point in the young athlete’s life that would overshadow any accomplishment on the playing field. Steve began attending weekly meetings of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes where he got to know more mature believers who helped discipled him. “The spiritual growth I experienced at UTM sparked a desire in my heart to witness to others about Christ,” he said.