NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–“Eternal Impact: The Passion of Kingdom-Centered Communities,” the latest component of the Empowering Kingdom Growth study series, conveys first-century church principles for the success of modern congregations.
Ken Hemphill, the Southern Baptist Convention’s national EKG strategist, said Eternal Impact, though it is the third book written for the series, is intended as the second resource following “EKG: The Heartbeat of God” and before “Making Change: A Transformational Guide to Christian Money Management.”
“Our philosophy, simply stated, is that nothing changes someone’s heart and mind except the Word of God applied by the Spirit of God,” Hemphill told Baptist Press. “Everything I’ve tried to develop in this office has been biblical study aimed at laity. If we’re going to see this transformation take place, it’s going to happen in the pew, it’s going to happen in the Sunday school class and the small group.”
Hemphill has been traveling the country helping churches, associations and state conventions implement strategies to see an expansion of the Kingdom of God. The goal of the first resource, The Heartbeat of God, is to achieve what Hemphill calls a spiritual ignition point.
“Until you have a transformation of the heart and the culture of a church, any attempt to make a change will generally hit pretty severe resistance and can oftentimes be detrimental — even cause church splits,” he said.
The spiritual ignition point, Hemphill noted, has occurred when a church member says, “What are we going to have to do, Pastor, to become a Kingdom-centered church? What changes will it require?” They begin to ask the right questions, Hemphill said.
LifeWay Christian Resources reported that through the end of 2007, more than 87,000 member books for The Heartbeat of God 40-day study had been sold.
“Eternal Impact, which just came out, is essentially a study of the church in the New Testament with a major emphasis on the Book of Acts and going on to pick up materials from some of the early Pauline letters that described the church, its function, its leadership structure, the role of the pastor, the role of deacons and how a church makes Kingdom-focused decisions,” Hemphill said.
A study guide and DVD to accompany Eternal Impact will be available by the SBC annual meeting in June, he said, and rather than purchasing a teaching kit, church leaders will be able to download the additional material at no cost online.
Making Change, the third component, is not simply about tithing, Hemphill said.
“It’s much broader than that because if we don’t deal with other financial issues, we’re not going to solve our stewardship issues in our churches. What I mean by that is we’ve got spending issues,” he said. “The average family in America spends $1.20 for every $1 they earn. We’ve seen what’s happened in subprime lending where people are borrowing money they can’t afford to repay, and what it has done to our economy.
“The Making Change study is a book that deals with virtually everything the Bible teaches about money — how to earn it, how to spend it, how to get out of debt, how to stay out of debt, how to give,” Hemphill said. “We look at all the Old Testament offerings, and we look at how the New Testament applies those Old Testament principles and goes beyond those, actually, as Paul talks about hilarious giving and he talks about supernaturally-empowered grace giving.”
Hemphill explained that he wrote Making Change before Eternal Impact in response to state executives who wanted a guide for revitalizing an understanding of stewardship.
Also at the request of state convention leaders, youth and children’s editions of Making Change are forthcoming. The youth edition, written by Phil McMichael, minister of student discipleship at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, should be available in June. The children’s version, complete with vivid illustrations, is being written now and should be in stores this fall, Hemphill said.
“Our goal is eventually to start with the children as soon as they can read because we feel like if we don’t teach children and youth these stewardship issues at an early age, they develop bad patterns,” he said, adding that state stewardship leaders have said they see a tremendous need for going back to the children’s and youth levels in order to lay good foundations.
“We’re saying to pastors, do these EKG studies in any setting you feel is most appropriate for your church,” Hemphill said. “A lot of pastors will take the deacons or a group of leaders in the church through studies first so they build an understanding of the material.”
Ultimately, the more people in a church who are on the same page, using the same language and talking about the same issues, the greater impact the EKG emphasis will have, Hemphill said. Some churches choose to implement the studies in Sunday school, while others choose another small group setting. Many times pastors preach a sermon series to shape a consensus about the church’s quest to see people develop relationships with God.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press. For more information about Empowering Kingdom Growth, visit www.empoweringkingdomgrowth.com.