DEL CITY, Okla. (BP)–“God is looking for people who will just give themselves to be a Kingdom Family…. He is looking for people who will say, ‘Yes, that’s important to me.’ If you don’t embrace this, it isn’t going to happen in your church.”
That was the challenge issued by Tom Elliff, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Del City, Okla., and chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Council on Family Life, to 218 participants at the first “Kingdom Families: Come Home to The Heart of God Conference” at the Oklahoma City-area church Aug. 11-12.
The conference, the first of four such regional meetings this year, was the latest step in the Southern Baptist Convention’s Empowering Kingdom Families emphasis, launched June 16 with the introduction of the “Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family” in a rally prior to the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix. Additional conferences will be held Sept. 4-5 at Applewood Baptist Church in Wheatridge, Colo.; Oct. 2-3 at Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla.; and Nov. 6-7 at Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, Calif.
Mostly pastors and staff and their wives made up the first “class” for the conferences, although laypeople also attended. Thirty-two churches from 10 states — Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Colorado, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Carolina — were represented.
“We’re not kidding about this,” Elliff said as the conference drew to a close. “This is not a bottle rocket, it’s a Kingdom Families movement.”
The seven pillars, fine-tuned over the past three years by the Council on Family Life, actually have been used by Elliff since 1974.
“By using these principles, only three marriages I have performed since 1974 have resulted in divorce, and two of those couples lied to me during counseling,” Elliff recounted.
The seven pillars include honoring God’s authority, respecting human life, exercising moral purity, serving my church, using time wisely, practicing biblical stewardship and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The pillars are based on Proverbs 9:1, “Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars” (KJV).
The large turnout was a pleasant surprise to LifeWay Christian Resources officials who helped organize and carry out the event.
“Actually, we said if we had 150 people the first time around, we would have done well,” said Jay Johnston, director of LifeWay’s church ministry leadership area, which is taking the lead in the Kingdom Families emphasis.
But large numbers was not the goal, he noted.
“We have prayed, Tom and I together in his home and at different places across the country, for the Lord to truly place this on the hearts of people who are ready to do something with what they are learning here,” Johnston said. “We want them to make a difference, and now is the time to do that.”
Eye-opening statistics bear that out. For example, according to the SBC Council on Family Life, an average of 3,571 marriages in America end in divorce every day; America’s divorce rate has doubled since 1960; half of the children in America’s public schools live in single-parent homes; 35 percent of U.S. children live apart from their biological father; and in the past 40 years, pregnancies out of wedlock have increased 600 percent.
While the emphasis on premarital counseling is the heart of the conference, the principles can be applied to any type of family, Johnston said.
“Of course, it starts with counseling couples wanting to get married,” he said. “But it bleeds over to helping couples who are already married and translates well to those who are single and even to children.
“These seven biblical principles will help carry anyone a long way in life.”
LifeWay is in the process of printing a workbook on the Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family, which will be available Oct. 1.
“This workbook will be ideal for small group discipleship groups or home Bible studies,” Johnston said. “We are challenging folks to first equip fellow believers with these principles, and then present them next to a group, half of which are believers and half non-believers. We believe it will be an excellent outreach tool as well.”
Conference participants left the meeting with a bag containing several resources, including a copy of Elliff’s book, “Unbreakable,” in which the seven pillars are outlined. Other resources included a CD containing ministry helps for pastors and copies of several LifeWay publications which address family issues, including Living with Teenagers, HomeLife, Facts & Trends and ParentLife magazines.
Other resources are available at www.sbc.net. LifeWay’s family ministry specialist, Bernie Cornell, has compiled a list of resources to support the Kingdom Families emphasis. New titles will be included for families and ministry leaders as they become available.
Further emphasizing the urgency of pastors and staff taking the lead in the Kingdom Families movement, Elliff urged participants to not be daunted by the apparent scale of the undertaking.
“Don’t be so overcome with what you cannot do that you do not do what you can do,” he emphasized. “The very fact that you came to this conference says volumes about how important you believe this is.
“Someone told me recently that he thought God could bring revival to this country through this family emphasis,” Elliff concluded. “That would be my fondest hope and my deepest prayer.
“We just walked through the first century in the history of this nation when we did not experience a great awakening. And without it, we are history.”
Bob Nigh is managing editor of the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger newsjournal. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: FAMILY GATHERING and GLEANING INSIGHTS.