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EKG goes churchwide: Study of God’s ‘heartbeat’ debuts

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–For the Great Commission to be fulfilled, churches need a renewed focus on missions and Christians need an increased understanding of their roles in God’s Kingdom, Ken Hemphill said during the Sept. 26 kickoff of a new Empowering Kingdom Growth resource: “A 40 Day Experience: EKG, The Heartbeat of God.”

Over 200 congregations began the study this fall and a winter campaign to enlist churches already is under way. The first printing of 10,500 books has been sold and a second printing of 5,100 has been ordered, although the materials have been available only since August.

“There have been two kingdoms in conflict,” Hemphill said. “There’s the kingdom of this world, which is transitory, which is passing away, and yet has a great allure for us. And there is the Kingdom of heaven, which is eternal and permanent but not often seen and sometimes neglected.”

Hemphill, the national strategist for the Southern Baptist Convention’s EKG emphasis, spoke at Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn., as the church launched the study, which provides churches with a number of EKG-focused aids via DVD.

Pastor Philip Jett called Empowering Kingdom Growth “the heartbeat of the Bible” and said 40 of Englewood’s Sunday School classes will participate in EKG over the next 40 days.

“We’re going to have a prayerwalk next Sunday, hoping that we can have our entire campus claimed by Kingdom work,” Jett said. “That means we’re looking at how we’re going to expand our campus, and how it would fit into the work of the Kingdom.”

Jett said even though Englewood is already involved in missions locally and around the world, his desire is that EKG would bolster the church’s commitment to missions.

“We hope that we will strengthen our vision for missions in our Jerusalem and really get stronger in our Jerusalem so that we can touch the entire world,” he said.

Hemphill preached in Englewood’s three Sunday morning services, then spoke at a luncheon for the church’s Sunday School teachers. In developing the EKG resource, he said he sought to help local churches reach toward revitalization by refocusing on the Kingdom of God.

Too many times people understand what they were saved from, and they know what they are saved to, but they don’t fully realize what they’re supposed to do in the meantime, Hemphill said.

That’s why it’s important for Southern Baptists to comprehend what it means to be an agent of God’s Kingdom — living in this world as God’s representative and pointing unbelievers to God’s coming Kingdom.

With many Southern Baptist churches plateaued or in decline, and many baptizing fewer than five people each year, Hemphill said, “I believe we’re at a crisis moment in the evangelical movement in North America.”

God has blessed America spiritually, he said, quite possibly so that the United States would be a blessing to the nations through missions efforts worldwide.

“Yet the truth of the matter is we’d rather consume blessings than convey blessings,” he said.

The world is ripe for evangelization, with 4 billion people who are lost. But if Baptist churches are to be successful in reaching an unbelieving world, they must change the way they’ve approached the work of God’s Kingdom.

“We cannot be satisfied with incremental growth,” Hemphill said. “The Kingdom of God is about exponential growth.”

Hemphill said God is looking for three things in a church: people who will embody His name, embrace His mission to the nations and obey His Word.

Jackie Bobbitt, who teaches a women’s Sunday School class at Englewood, said she is looking forward to the next 40 days with EKG.

“I trust that we will get the whole idea of what it is to operate in a Kingdom,” Bobbitt said. “It certainly has been a new challenge for me as I have begun to look at Dr. Hemphill’s book [also titled EKG, The Heartbeat of God], and have begun to follow the Scripture and what the Scripture has said.”

Although Bobbitt said many people would consider her to be a “seasoned Christian,” she said this is her first real encounter with the truth of what it means to live for God’s coming Kingdom.

“I’m captivated by it, actually,” she said. “I trust that my excitement will grow and that God will increase my territory so that I can project that kind of enthusiasm to the class and see them grow. I’m just looking forward to seeing what God’s going to do with our group.”

Jett said Englewood used the “40 Days of Purpose” study a couple of years ago and he thinks EKG is a “phenomenal follow-up” to it.

He noted that although the concepts in EKG flow from God’s eternal truths, “It is something that’s been put on paper that we should do all the time. I think Dr. Hemphill has done a tremendous job of putting it in writing.”

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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