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EKG turns growing pains into vision for Kingdom growth

LEXINGTON, Ky. (BP)–The logistical and financial stress of packing up the family and moving are enough to cause any pulse to race. In the fall of 2004, with his congregation contemplating its impending move, Bill Henard prescribed some preventive medicine to quiet any troubled hearts — a collective EKG for the church family.

Henard, pastor of Porter Memorial Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., was not suggesting everyone submit to a typical medical electrocardiogram. Rather, he invited them for a spiritual checkup.

“EKG” in this case stands for “A 40-Day Experience: Empowering Kingdom Growth: The Heartbeat of God.” The multimedia resource published by LifeWay Christian Resources was developed by Kenneth Hemphill, the Southern Baptist Convention’s national strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth. The study is a companion to his book of the same name published by Broadman & Holman, LifeWay’s trade book publishing division.

Not only did EKG engage the Kentucky congregation in a focused study, but attendance jumped 10 percent and has remained steady in the months since.

“It’s a study that our church needed. It was a godsend for us,” Henard said. “We needed something to help us unify toward Kingdom growth.”

It brought a renewed focus to the church, what the pastor describes as an astounding motivation among church members to be a dynamic example of Kingdom growth.

Instead of continuing on its stewardship program of acquiring property in stages, the church unanimously voted to buy it all at once.

“We had already purchased 23 acres and had an option to buy the remaining 46,” Henard said. “We were about to lose that option.

“The vote was unanimous. In a capital stewardship campaign, borrowing $4.6 million is huge. You can feel the growing excitement about the relocation now, and it is part of the EKG message of having a Kingdom vision.”

Henard said the church family sees the move as a chance to give the next generation something upon which to build even greater things for the Kingdom.

In the meantime, the current church building has the fortunate problem of having run out of Sunday School space, Henard said.

Tim Turner, associate pastor of adult ministries and education, said 28 of the church’s 37 youth and adult Sunday School classes undertook the seven-week study. Nearly 850 of the approximately 1,300 who regularly attend Sunday School participated.

“Last year was a tough year for us for some reason,” Turner said. “I feel like we were being spiritually attacked. We were in the process of buying new property. I believe the devil was trying to do whatever he could do to get us off track as far as focusing on what our mission is as a church.”

Youth classes, senior classes and everyone in between participated in the EKG study, Turner said.

“We’ve never done a 40-day study, and we’ve never done anything like this on Sunday morning,” Turner said.

The impact of establishing a daily quiet time, coupled with a Sunday School lesson and Henard preaching a message on the same theme each week, was dramatic, Turner said.

“I don’t think the common Christian thinks of himself as a Kingdom person. So many people come to church and worship and possibly are in a Bible study. But to really evaluate your Christian life and ask yourself, ‘What have I done in the last month or the last year to make me think I am a Kingdom person?’ I think was extremely important,” said Turner, who enlisted a prayer team to pray for each teacher for each week’s study.

The results of so many people taking the same daily walk with Jesus Christ was tangible in how Turner saw the congregation come together with a common vision. The study inspired a strong hunger among participants to seek more of what God wanted them to do, he said. “It refocused us. It brought us back into a focus we had not had for a while.”

One member came to Turner after completing the study and joked, “I’m having EKG withdrawals. What do I do next?”

To follow up the EKG emphasis, the church ordered more than 600 “Every Day With Jesus Bibles” for members to read through the Bible in one year, which were eagerly purchased.

“The EKG format was different in that you had something to do every day,” said Linda Booth, known as a prayer warrior in the church. Booth was responsible for coordinating the distribution of prayer concerns during the study.

While doing a study every day is challenging, she said the devotional appealed to all age groups because it wasn’t too time-consuming and often carried a simple message.

The impact, however, was profound, Booth said.

“Everybody was thinking along the same lines and could see what God had already been talking to us about,” she said.

“All of us have a tendency to have a very self-centered lifestyle. My life is so fragmented. It’s very easy to focus on that. But God used the study to shift the focus to what’s going on in the community and what He wants you to do,” Booth said. “Our purpose is to reach the lost in Lexington.”

Seeing that purpose in such a clear focus is what gave the church the will to go forward with such a bold building plan, she said. It has inspired members to give more of their time and to be more willing to give financially.

“We need to be about His business instead of our own,” Booth said. “That study really encourages you to see why He is blessing us. He’s not just blessing us so we can be blessed. It opened our eyes to where God is at work.”

Hemphill preached at the church as the study concluded, inviting anyone who wanted to commit to being a Kingdom person to come forward.

“The front was flooded with people,” Henard said. “I don’t think we would have had that level of response without the study. It was also the largest offering we’ve ever had since I’ve been here. There has been such a sweet spirit within the church since we did the study.”

    About the Author

  • Andrea Higgins