NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Empowering Kingdom Growth has become the defining emphasis on spiritual renewal within and throughout the Southern Baptist Convention, but it has not taken root and begun to grow in a theological or historical vacuum. It logically follows the denomination’s theological reformation and missiological reorganization of recent years.
Southern Baptists have clearly stated that we are a people of The Book. Over the last 25 years, we have demonstrated our commitment to having seminaries and agencies whose leaders gladly affirm the Bible as the inerrant and infallible guide for faith and practice. This theological anchor has been — and remains — a foundational element in the reanimation of Baptist life.
In 1995, Convention messengers launched the next level of the denomination’s revitalization when they adopted the Covenant for a New Century. The study committee looked at the structure of our convention with the goal of ensuring that every entity could operate as efficiently and effectively as possible. It is extremely rare to witness any organization restructure itself for missiological reasons. Our singular goal was to ensure that the majority of our resources were made available for the evangelization of the world.
This has been an unprecedented and historic reformation and restructuring. While many mainline denominations have become weakened by theological compromise, Southern Baptists have insisted on doctrinal integrity. While many of these declining mainline denominations have reorganized because they were facing declining financial support, Southern Baptists have restructured for the sake of the Gospel.
Yet we dare not rest on these accomplishments — they have indeed been essential, but they are not enough. While we must maintain theological integrity and the efficiency of our structure, it is now time for Southern Baptists at every level to seek anew and afresh the anointing of the Spirit of God upon every aspect of our ministry and work.
EKG & THE DENOMINATION
At a time when we are surrounded by cultural demise and decay, it is most appropriate — indeed, imperative — that we devote ourselves to the spiritual revitalization of our denomination. EKG gives testimony to the passion of denominational leaders to see the Spirit of God move mightily upon our convention. This spiritual emphasis assures you that denominational leaders and their staff — on national, state, and associational levels — are being challenged to ask themselves the probing question, “Am I a Kingdom person?”
Further, leaders are being urged to ask, “Does our agency, state convention, or association reflect Kingdom priorities?” You can be assured that we are striving for the highest level of cooperation among these convention leaders to ensure that all of our resources are used as effectively as possible to accomplish the mission goal of our constituent churches — to advance the Kingdom of God.
EKG & THE LOCAL CHURCH
The Southern Baptist Convention has always treasured and defended the autonomy of SBC churches. Your leaders understand that the entities, state conventions and local associations exist to assist the local church in the fulfillment of its global mission. We fully realize that the only way that we can have Kingdom impact is by all of us working together with a cooperative strategy.
Thus the primary goal of the EKG emphasis is to see our local churches revitalized — and the need is obvious. According to organizations that measure the health and vitality of local churches in America, the consensus is that about two-thirds of our churches are plateaued or are declining. A plateaued church is defined as one whose membership growth has not kept pace with the population growth of its community over a certain period of time. A declining church is one whose membership actually is declining. Unless the trend of the declining membership is arrested in a local church, that church will cease to exist. If our convention is going to be a vital force in fulfilling the Great Commission, it is essential that we have healthy, vibrant, Kingdom-focused churches.
EKG was birthed with the local church at heart. In 1992, the South Carolina Baptist Convention, under the leadership of Carlisle Driggers, initiated EKG in the South Carolina Convention with the goal of renewing and assisting South Carolina churches. The results in that state were so encouraging that the Lord laid it on the heart of Morris Chapman to recommend a similar emphasis for the Southern Baptist Convention. The Southern Baptist Convention approved this recommendation in 2002, and a task force was formed to spearhead the emphasis.
In August 2003, the Lord allowed me to become a part of this unique team. I am as excited about this assignment as any the Lord has given me. I truly believe that we as Southern Baptists are poised to see God work in a spectacular way in our generation. I believe it is possible that we may be part of the company of believers who has the privilege of declaring the Gospel to every tongue, tribe, and nation. We could see the fulfillment of the Great Commission!
EKG IS UNIQUE
EKG is unique in that it is not another Southern Baptist program or slogan. The Kingdom of God is far too important for us to trivialize by making it into a slogan. No one has a “pre-packaged-five-step-guaranteed-to-work” program to transform your church. In truth, only the Lord can build His church. Church growth is not an appropriate goal for the church. Our goal is to be obedient to the Great Commission and to position ourselves under the Lordship of Christ so that He will provide the spiritual empowering to produce Kingdom growth through our churches.
You may recall that when the Lord established the church He promised: “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). The apostle Paul, commenting on his own ministry and that of Apollos, declared: “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7).
The task of growing the church belongs uniquely to the Lord who is its head. Nevertheless, the Lord works through human instruments to accomplish His will; therefore, it is the responsibility of God’s people to yield themselves to the Lord so that His power can flow through them. Further, we are to organize ourselves to be an effective and efficient tool in the hands of the Lord.
Perhaps you have noticed that most of the articles that you have read concerning EKG have emphasized the role of prayer. It stands to reason that if EKG is about spiritual revitalization, then it must be bathed in prayer from start to finish. Since prayer is the foundation of EKG, the One in a Million prayer emphasis is strategic to all we do. In 2004, the emphasis will be on praying for our sister churches, that they would experience corporate revival, spiritual health and that they would grow up in all aspects unto Christ (Ephesians 4:15). We are asking each church to enlist prayer volunteers to pray for one specific church each week. For more information on this incredible opportunity see the corresponding article on “EKG: One in a Million, Churches Praying for Churches.”
PRACTICAL GUIDES FOR YOUR CHURCH
While EKG is not a program, your EGK committee, in cooperation with convention leadership, will be offering tools to assist the local church. It is our conviction that the EKG expert for each church is the pastor of that church. God has anointed him for that task and the church has called him to give vision and leadership. The pastor and staff, along with the gifted membership, are the “living stones” that the Lord will use to build His church.
I encourage each church to subscribe to SBC LIFE for its members. We have made bulk subscriptions as affordable as possible — $5 per person for the entire year. This magazine will provide up-to-date information on tools that are helpful to your church and it will provide inspirational stories that may provide ideas you would want to incorporate in your church’s strategy. For more information contact our office at 866-722-5433, or visit www.sbclife.net.
There are several books that can be a great help to pastors. Some of these were written by members of the EKG Task Force to help pastors and lay leaders come to grips with Kingdom principles as they relate to the local church.
I’ve written the newest of these resources, “EKG, The Heartbeat of God,” as the keystone book of the Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative, to show how a one-track mindset on the King and His Kingdom clarifies our calling in life, invigorates our every day, and deepens our relationship with God and with others.
Carlisle Driggers’ book, “A Journey of Faith & Hope,” will give you an insight into the story of EKG and its result in South Carolina churches. J. Robert White’s book, “Healthy Kingdom Churches,” is a practical book about church health. Gene Mims, vice president of the church resources division of LifeWay Christian Resources, has written an instructive guide for churches titled “The Kingdom Focused Church.”
James Merritt and Tom Elliff have written two books that can be used in small-group study. Merritt’s book, “Crown Him King,” includes a helpful devotional guide. Elliff’s book, “Unbreakable: The Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family,” includes study questions at the end of each chapter.
There are two books that have accompanying video materials and study guides. Dr. Adrian Roger’s material, Kingdom Authority, focuses on the empowering for Kingdom activity. My material on The Prayer of Jesus looks at the lifestyle of Jesus as He sought to embody the Father’s name, advance His Kingdom, and accomplish His will.
We have cooperated together for historic theological reformation and organizational restructuring. May the Lord find us now cooperating together, hand in hand, arm in arm, for spiritual revitalization — to His praise and glory!
Kenneth S. Hemphill is the SBC national EKG strategist.
EKG: One in a Million Churches Praying for Churches
Churches Praying for Churches is part of the “One in a Million” prayer project, an Empowering Kingdom Growth emphasis.
The goal of Churches Praying for Churches is to encourage prayer groups and individuals in Southern Baptist churches to work together praying for every church in the SBC by mid 2004, with a continuing effort thereafter.
Prayer assignments will be given to prayer groups and individuals in Southern Baptist churches via the Internet or telephone. Each volunteer will be asked to pray for a minimum of twelve churches over a period of twelve weeks.
All Southern Baptist churches are asked to place prayer requests for their church on special pages available through ChurchSearch at SBC.net These requests will then be accessible by the prayer volunteers assigned to pray for that particular church. Instructions on how to post specific prayer requests for each church will be available at www.EmpoweringKingdomGrowth.net.
To learn more about Churches Praying for Churches, go to www.EmpoweringKingdomGrowth.net and watch the short informational video.
Copyright 2003 Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee
SBC Life is published by the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, 901 Commerce Street, Nashville, Tenn., 37203