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Advance God’s Kingdom with actions, not simply words, Jack Graham says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The pro-life movement was gaining momentum. The members of First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., were listening to their pastor at the time, Jack Graham, speak about the terrible social ill of abortion. Then something happened to Graham himself.

“It just seemed that as I was speaking the Lord convicted me and said, ‘Alright Jack, what are you going to do about it? What are you going to do to get involved in this issue rather than just preaching?” said Graham, who served as the church’s pastor from 1981-89.

So Graham put his words into action by helping start a pro-life crisis pregnancy center. He helped start another one when he became pastor of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church where he presently serves.

Now the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Graham told members of the Executive Committee Feb. 17 that Christians must do more than simply speak about the Kingdom of God — they must demonstrate it.

The Southern Baptist Convention is in the first year of its Empowering Kingdom Growth (EKG) initiative, which asks all Southern Baptist to pray about and take their place in advancing the Kingdom of God.

One way that is done, Graham said, is through pro-life crisis pregnancy centers.

“What we are attempting to do is of course to save babies but [also] to change lives,” he said. “It’s meeting people at a crisis, at a point of need.”

Likewise, Christians should primarily be focused on changing lives, while at the same time attempting to change laws, Graham said.

“I believe in changing laws, but our primary focus is not changing laws,” he said. “It’s changing lives — changing lives through Jesus Christ. … We must, by our acts of love and kindness and grace and mercy, demonstrate the Kingdom of God.”

Pastors rarely preach on the Kingdom of God, Graham said, because it is a doctrine not easily defined.

“It’s difficult to describe,” he said. “I believe that is because the Kingdom primarily is not described or defined, but the Kingdom is to be demonstrated by people who know and love the King and who seek and serve the King (by) expressing the Kingdom of God … wherever we go.”

The parable of the “Good Samaritan” in Luke 10 is an example of expressing the Kingdom of God, Graham said, adding that the Samaritan showed mercy by taking care of a man who had been beaten by robbers. The Samaritan’s actions came after a priest and a Levite quietly passed by.

“He expressed mercy,” Graham said. “… He was living by the philosophy, ‘What’s mine is yours and I’ll give it.'”

The final verses of the parable describe Jesus’ definition of “neighbor,” Graham said. Jesus asked a teacher of the law which of the men — the priest, Levite or Samaritan — proved to be a neighbor. The teacher of the law said it was the one who showed mercy, and Jesus told him to “go, and do likewise.”

“What was Jesus saying?” Graham asked. “He was saying that any person in need is my neighbor. … That is why it is essential that we get out of our comfortable pews … and get into the communities in which we live, and break through the barriers that exist and find people at the point of their need and minister the love of Jesus. That is the work of the Kingdom.”

President Bush’s call for America to “unleash armies of compassion” falls on the church, Graham said.

“That … is the responsibility of the church and of the people of the Kingdom — to somehow move our churches from being audiences to becoming armies for the Kingdom of God, expressing compassion and love and grace and mercy.”

Graham said the Kingdom of God “is not a matter of talk, [but] a matter of action. It is matter of investing our lives in what is really going to last — to lay up treasures, not on earth, but in heaven.”

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  • Michael Foust