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Chapman urges Southern Baptists to re-dig wells that refreshed previous generations

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Referencing Genesis 26:18 and Isaac’s endeavor to dig again the wells dug in the desert in the days of his father, Abraham, Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman challenged Southern Baptists to return to their heritage and rediscover what refreshed the generations before them.

“Southern Baptists are on a quest to find a refreshing, revolutionary experience with Jesus Christ,” Chapman said in his address to the Executive Committee Feb. 17. “The vision, the pursuit has been named Empowering Kingdom Growth, and the task force has begun to call upon all Southern Baptists ‘to renew their passion for the Lord Jesus and the reign of his Kingdom in their hearts, families and churches.'”

Ingrained in Southern Baptists’ spiritual DNA is a natural inclination to embrace and emphasize the Kingdom of God in theology, ecclesiology, history and experience, he said.

Chapman quoted W.B. Johnson, the first president of the Southern Baptist Convention, who, in his “Address to the Public” on the founding of the SBC, said, “Our objects … are the extension of the messiah’s kingdom, and the glory of our God.”

Instead of reinventing the Southern Baptist Convention, its churches or its people to make them receptive to Empowering Kingdom Growth, leaders need to be reminded of their heritage and allow God to maximize the purpose and potential he created in his people, Chapman said.

Identifying reasons why Southern Baptists are unusually suited for Empowering Kingdom Growth, Chapman said, “Our forefathers drank from the deep, pure well named ‘sound theology.'”

“Our settled conviction about the truth of the Scriptures leads us to a settled conviction about the preeminence of the Kingdom of God,” Chapman continued. “Our forefathers were driven to Kingdom principles and Kingdom pursuits because they are clearly mandated in the Bible.”

A second reason why Southern Baptist are suited for EKG is that within their heritage there is the deep, life-sustaining well named “cooperation,” Chapman said.

“Our founding fathers dug this well of cooperation. They had an opportunity to continue the old model of Baptist work that favored independence over interdependence,” he said. “But they knew that independence sacrificed efficiency and effectiveness on the altar of suspicious anxiety over the centralization of power.”

The result of such cooperation has been unparalleled advance around the globe as Southern Baptists harnessed into one great sacred effort their service to the King, Chapman said.

Within Southern Baptists’ heritage is also the deep well named “personal commitment,” as Southern Baptists are known for believing the individual must respond to God personally, Chapman noted.

In explaining why personal commitment is important to Empowering Kingdom Growth, Chapman quoted James Sullivan, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and former president of LifeWay Christian Resources.

“Baptists believe that no one who does not personally know and follow Jesus Christ can practice the bold challenges which Jesus set forth,” Sullivan said.

“Southern Baptists have a long heritage, a deep well, of declaring the necessity of a personal relationship with Jesus,” Chapman said. “When you talk to them about renewing their passion for Jesus, they will recall a time when they first prayed to receive Christ. They will remember other times of refreshing, times of prayer, times of revival, mountaintop experiences, and the movement of the Spirit in their churches. Sunday after Sunday in the pulpits of our churches, our pastors are calling people not only to believe in God, but also to walk with him. It is our heritage. It is our hope.”

God poured out his power on Southern Baptists’ forefathers, but that fire has not fallen in a long while, Chapman said, following with the questions, “Does [Jesus] see that we are too satisfied with our positions, too satisfied with our piety? Are we thirsty enough to pray, ‘O God, work a work in my heart greater than I have ever experienced’?”

Chapman recalled the apostle Paul’s desire to be rid of his thorn in the flesh and then facing the reality that it may be there for the rest of his life, proclaiming, “For when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

“When we are filled with pride, we shall go only as far as our strength can take us. When we are filled with envy or greed or prestige, or the power of position, we shall go only as far as our strength can take us,” Chapman said. “When we are filled with jealousy, or hate, or bitterness, we shall go only as far as our strength can take us. When we are filled with ambition, or with self, we shall go only as far as our strength can take us. Only when we are filled with God’s Spirit does he take our weakness and make us strong.”

Empowering Kingdom Growth is not in and of itself a revival or a spiritual awakening, Chapman said. It in no way implies Southern Baptists will empower themselves or others because only God can empower. Therefore, Empowering Kingdom Growth is not a program but a process, he said. It’s a banner, a theme, a vision that Southern Baptists would come together to bring glory to God.

“I am persuaded we are living in our finest hour, a time of challenge, a time for courage and vision and deepened commitment,” Chapman said in closing. “A time to re-dig the ancient wells of our fathers! We need to ask the Lord for the grace and grit to re-dig the wells our fathers have dug before us and refresh us by thy Spirit until thy Kingdom comes.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: EXTENDING THE MESSIAH’S KINGDOM and THE WELL OF COOPERATION.

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  • Erin Curry