COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP)–Five Southern Baptist leaders — representing the convention’s mission boards, entities, institutions and state conventions — signed a covenant agreement to launch an Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative throughout the Southern Baptist Convention during the SBC’s June 11-12 annual meeting in St. Louis.
The Baptist Courier recently interviewed the five signees: Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee; Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a member of the SBC Great Commission Council; Carlisle Driggers, executive director-treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention and co-chair of the EKG Task Force; and Fermin Whittaker of California, president of the Southern Baptist Association of Executive Directors. At the time of the interviews, James Merritt, former SBC president and co-chair of the EKG Task Force, was on a youth trip with First Baptist Church, Snellville, Ga., where he is pastor and was unavailable for comment.
Here are the covenant signees’ responses to questions regarding the intended impact and requirements of EKG and their personal commitments to making God’s kingdom a priority.
Courier: What will be the effect on the SBC if the EKG principles are realized?
Chapman: If Southern Baptists get the kingdom of God upon their hearts, we could see nothing less than a national, even worldwide, spiritual awakening. Our urgent prayer must become, “Lord, send a revival, and let it begin in me.” But if God is going to speak to the world through Southern Baptists, our motives must be pure and our hearts must be empowered by God’s Holy Spirit. We must claim the promise of Acts 3:19, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (NIV).
I pray we will discover, whether anew or for the first time, the joy of living in the constant presence of Jesus and walking by faith a life totally abandoned to the will of our Heavenly Father.
Kelley: No denomination in history has ever survived the kind of growth Southern Baptists experienced in the ’40s and ’50s. EKG can help us focus afresh on the biblical mandate of evangelism and missions and experience the mightiest movement of God in the history of our nation.
Driggers: There’s a yearning across the SBC in our churches and associations to focus on what we do best, and that has been shown through Southern Baptists’ love for evangelism and missions. EKG will be successful if we can capitalize on what we want most: to be kingdom people. EKG focuses us to be obedient to what Jesus’ desire is for his people in any generation.
Whittaker: The impact on the SBC will be a renewal of a passion to reach the lost and make disciples. I believe it will help to prepare the ground for revival in our churches and lives.
Courier: What will be required both individually of Southern Baptists and at the convention leadership level to accomplish the EKG goals?
Chapman: We know the answer for living a victorious and fulfilling life on this earth: an honest and genuine admission of the sins that have crept into your life, a refusal to yield to your own selfish wants and desires and a total trust in and abandonment to our Lord Jesus. The question is, “What does God want for us?” The life of the Christian is not a matter of what we think about how to live on this earth. It is a matter of embracing what God thinks about how we are to live by his grace, for his glory, and our good. If we are living for his glory, what is best for us is in his hands.
When we acknowledge the grace of God at work within us and walk by faith, our lives will become a powerful testimony to those whom we know and meet, even casually. Why? They will see “Christ in you, the hope of glory!” (Colossians 1:27). We need to ask ourselves, “How long has it been since anyone’s life was transformed by the power of Jesus’ blood at Calvary as a result of seeing Jesus in me?”
One of the enormously exciting aspects of EKG is that the requirement of experiencing God through Empowering Kingdom Growth is precisely the same for every Christian. It matters not whether that person is a denominational leader, a pastor or the person sitting in the pew. EKG is about spiritual health and spiritual growth. EKG is about a movement of God, focusing upon a person, not a program. EKG is about seeking first the King and his kingdom. EKG is about having a passion for Jesus.
Kelley: What EKG requires for individuals and the denomination is simple: Keep the main thing the main thing and let nothing distract us from telling a lost world about Jesus, and incorporating those who respond into a healthy, growing family.
Driggers: All pastors, presidents of seminaries, board presidents and state convention executives have to focus only on building the kingdom of God. We have to start singing off the same page if we’re going to consistently do what Jesus wants and if we’re going to really see the wonderful results. EKG is a call to get serious about what Jesus means when he prays for the kingdom of God to come on earth. EKG is a call for people to hear the message of Jesus and then commit themselves to “walk the walk” and “talk the talk.” It means being obedient to the message of Jesus and living out the Christian faith daily.
Whittaker: It will take a shift in our commitments. We will need to be more intentional in our ministries and message. It will need to be one of the highest priorities in our lives if we are to accomplish these goals.
Courier: What do you plan to do personally to help achieve the desired results?
Chapman: We are to serve the Lord out of the overflow of our own daily walk with Jesus. I want to have a closer walk with Jesus. In recent months, as the EKG Task Force discussed Empowering Kingdom Growth, I have found that my passion for living a genuine, Christ-centered life has been growing. I have determined to increase the time I spend alone with God in prayer. I am conscientiously making a stronger effort to read and study the Bible devotionally and to “hide his Word in my heart.”
Daily, perhaps like many others, I am faced with responsibilities and interests that tend to leave my life crowded and cluttered with things to do. I want to find more time to be still in his presence and worship him and glorify his name. Whatever may be in my life that is not honoring to him, I want to confess it and ask God’s forgiveness. God wants my life, and every believer’s life, to be marked by holy living, sacrificial service and global witness. If I am unwilling to abandon my will to the will of the Father, how can I expect others to do the same? EKG is not about spiritual superiority. It is about spiritual humility and servitude.
Living the Christian life is a daily awareness of the presence and power of Jesus Christ. Our Heavenly Father wants us to grow daily in our understanding of who Christ is and whose we are. Not one among us can truly be a spiritual leader until we daily live a life that manifests a deep and profound love for our Lord Jesus Christ.
Kelley: What I will do personally is continue what I set in motion six years ago when I became president of New Orleans Seminary. We will focus everything we do as a seminary on the single task of training a new generation of God-called men and women to grow healthy churches — churches that are reaching the lost for Christ, discipling the saved to grow in their faith and doing ministry in the community in the name of Jesus Christ.
Driggers: As a co-chair the EKG task force, I will do as much as I can to help launch EKG. That involves meeting with the task force, helping communicate the EKG concept to other state convention leaders, and calling on them to publicize that message. We must interpret EKG for the laity, helping them to understand that it’s not a program, it’s a spiritual focus. There’s not a plan book — only the New Testament. Church leaders must use their own creativity and ideas to see where their church members can best serve as kingdom people.
Whittaker: Our convention will benefit from the re-focusing on his kingdom, and away from our own. My commitment is to pray, share and support this process and expect to see great results in the years to come.
(BP) photo and logo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Titles: EKG and COVENANT COMMITMENT.