ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–When the Louisiana Baptist Convention launched its Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative in 2006 with 65 pilot churches, the hope was for churches to experience the benefits of a strategic church health process.
Now in its fourth year, 249 churches or 18 percent of LBC congregations have completed at least one phase of the EKG-LA initiative.
The EKG-LA strategy was birthed in the heart of David Hankins, the convention’s executive director. When EKG was introduced to the Southern Baptist Convention, Hankins was senior vice president of the SBC Executive Committee. He saw then that the missing ingredient was a strategic methodology churches and associations could use to implement Kingdom concepts.
“When EKG was introduced to the SBC, the Lord burdened my heart about EKG. I saw it as an opportunity for churches to discover the heart of God for reaching this world with the Gospel,” Hankins said. “The EKG-LA process is a practical, implementable method for churches to experience a Great Commission Resurgence where men and women are engaged in what God is doing in their personal ‘Jerusalem,’ our state, this nation and the world.
“It is a balanced approach involving a person’s walk with God, a church’s missions strategy and the power of cooperative giving.”
The Louisiana Baptist Convention staff researched the 2006-09 trends associated with EKG churches. Some of the data uses 2006 as a baseline for when the churches launched EKG. Additional data measures churches that have not yet engaged in EKG. Several relevant and significant statistics emerge to demonstrate the value of the EKG initiative.
For example, EKG churches tend to baptize twice as many as the not-yet EKG churches. The 249 EKG churches averaged 13.54 baptisms per church in 2009. By comparison, the 1,149 not-yet EKG churches averaged 6.14 persons baptized.
Giving through the local church tends to average 13 percent higher for EKG churches compared to churches that haven’t committed to the EKG-LA process. EKG churches on average tended to invest a larger portion of their resources for cooperative mission work.
In 2009, EKG churches gave on average 41 percent more to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions than the same churches did in 2006. The not-yet EKG churches increased their average giving to the offering by 12 percent.
Any increase is good, especially in light of a downturned economy, but the statistics demonstrate that EKG churches were especially attuned to the lostness of the world and generously responded to the 2009 Lottie Moon offering.
Another statistic of interest was the support of the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund. In 2009, the EKG churches gave an average of 33.45 percent more to the World Hunger Fund than they did in 2006. During the same period, the not-yet EKG churches decreased their giving to the fund by an average of 15.25 percent.
“I am thrilled to see that we are now able to quantify the results of the EKG process. We have had plenty of anecdotal evidence that the process produced new life, resulting in increased baptisms and missions involvement including giving,” Ken Hemphill, national strategist for EKG, said.
“The statistical evidence accumulated by the Louisiana convention confirms that the decision by the SBC to challenge churches to focus on the Kingdom of God was both timely and correct. We are indebted to Dr. Hankins and his staff who have remained steadfast to the EKG vision during the challenges of weather and recession. They have provided a model for other states and associations to follow.”
When Mike Canady, LBC missions and ministry team leader, examined the statistical differences, he said, “EKG gives the framework and direction for the future, allowing any church, large or small, to reach beyond its immediate context and make a difference in the world.”
The EKG-LA initiative has three phases:
The first phase is a seven-Sunday, six-week, church-wide study of Hemphill’s “Empowering Kingdom Growth: The Heartbeat of God.” This phase is designed to help individual church members discover how important they are in God’s Kingdom. Through the study, people learn invaluable truths about God’s heart for His Kingdom.
Phase two uses the Acts 1:8 initiative launched by the North American Mission Board. In this phase, the church experiences a guided study with practical plans to strategically and simultaneously reach its community, its state, the nation and the world with the Gospel of Christ.
At the conclusion of this experience, the church hosts a missions fair to engage people in a process for fulfilling Acts 1:8 strategies.
Phase three incorporates a seven-Sunday, six-week, church-wide study of Hemphill’s “Making Change.” This phase is designed to assist individual church members with a biblical worldview of finances.
“Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all nations. His last word was that we would be His witnesses at home and to the remote parts of the world,” Bill Robertson, LBC pastoral leadership team leader, said. “EKG seeks to equip, educate and enable the local church to develop strategic initiatives to be disciple-makers, praying congregations and witnesses everywhere.”
While the original 65 EKG-LA churches were individually solicited to join the process, state leaders learned that a more effective methodology includes working in partnership with directors of missions. When the director of missions in a geographic area buys into the EKG-LA strategy, more churches in the area tend to participate.
Associational leadership is of enormous help in assisting churches in establishing effective missional strategies in a local area. The associational model also allows churches to pool their resources and buying power to purchase study materials at a significant discount.
Additional data revealed that EKG churches experienced growth in other areas of missional importance. From 2006-09, EKG churches increased their giving to the Cooperative Program by an average of 2.15 percent. They also increased giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions by 14.7 percent.
Statistical data extracted from actual receipts from the churches to the Louisiana convention showed that churches involved in the EKG process gave on average 43.8 percent more to the Georgia Barnette Offering for State Missions than the not-yet EKG churches.
“Very few pastors and churches can fly solo and reach all the demographics in an area. That’s why our cooperating churches need vision, commitment and engagement. All three come together as a cooperative strategy in EKG to focus on a local church’s evangelism, church planting and reaching a lost world for Christ,” Canady said.
“As churches move forward in this new decade to engage the world with the Gospel and fulfill the Great Commission, Empowering Kingdom Growth stands out as a premiere strategy for impacting lostness in the local church field and the most remote village,” Canady said.
“Driven by a passion to see people saved and lives changed, churches are expanding their vision and commitment to missions to include worldwide ministries that touch unreached people groups around the globe as well as across the street.”
John L. Yeats is director of communications for the Louisiana Baptist Convention.