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EKG trans-cultural, Baltic missionaries told

HELSINKI, Finland (BP)–Missionaries overseas — just like Christians here in the United States — can get caught up in trying to build God’s Kingdom on their own and miss the power of joining God in what He is doing, Ken Hemphill told a group of Southern Baptist workers in the Baltic region of Europe.

A group of about 45 missionaries and their children gathered for a weeklong summer retreat at a lakeside conference center four hours north of Helsinki, Finland, to hear Ken Hemphill teach about biblical principles for building churches focused on “Empowering Kingdom Growth.”

Hemphill, the Southern Baptist Convention’s national strategist for the Empowering Kingdom Growth emphasis, said “spiritual myopia” is the main reason churches are plateaued or declining in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.

“I call it the ‘Love Boat Syndrome,'” Hemphill said. “Think of the church as a ship. We think the ship is a love boat designed to keep us happy until we reach the other shore. So as long as nobody moves a deck chair or turns the music up too loud or interrupts our buffet dining, we’re pretty happy. But the truth is that the ship was designed as a hospital ship. It is sailing in the region where the Titanic is going down. There are survivors all around, but we’re too busy cruising to pay any attention to them.”

The structure and the strategy of the church must change to reflect its real mission, Hemphill told the missionaries, but first the mindset and attitude of the church must change. The Empowering Kingdom Growth strategy moves a congregation from apathy to activity by finding a “spiritual ignition point” that will transform a congregation’s thinking process and allow it to make the changes in structure, strategy and style necessary to accomplish its mission.

Hemphill said many Christians go to church like Lucy, the child in C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” who steps into the magical wardrobe, gets fed and then steps back out of the wardrobe.

“Most Kingdom activity, however, takes place in the market, in your neighborhoods, the ball field and the highways and bi-ways,” said Shea Massengale, a missionary in Poland who attended the retreat. “The week with Dr. Hemphill was challenging, convicting and encouraging. I am much more aware now than I was in the past [that] church doesn’t just happen on Sunday or Wednesday, but it’s every day, 24/7. God builds His church through us every time He gives us opportunities to share His love.”

Hemphill reminded the missionaries that Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18) and that “No one can lay a foundation other than the one already laid, which is Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 3:11).

“Jesus says He is responsible for building His church, and sometimes I think we as Christians tend to try to do all ‘we’ can do in our own power to make this happen,” noted Massengale, who works in sports development in Krakow. “Ken challenged us to see if there was anything we were doing in our ministries that did not require God’s Spirit, because most of the time we will do what we are comfortable doing.”

The EKG principles will empower Kingdom growth in Europe just like they will in the United States because God’s design for the church transcends culture, Hemphill said.

“These missionaries are, in my opinion, true heroes,” Hemphill said. “It was a blessing to be around them because of their willingness to serve in very difficult places without a whole lot of recognition.

“EKG is trans-cultural because it is a Bible study that deals more with the character of the church than any one model of church,” Hemphill added. “Many of the things written here in the United States related to church growth tend to be based on American culture, on the American church mindset, on the various models of church here.

“I think one reason the EKG material has caught on globally is that the Bible is relevant in any culture and any setting,” he said. “We have focused in on God’s heartbeat for the nations and God’s design for the church. That communicates cross-culturally because it’s God’s Word and it’s true in every setting and in every situation.”
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. Visit empoweringkingdomgrowth.net for more information.

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  • Mark Kelly