COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP)–In God’s good timing, Southern Baptists in 2002 made a decision to focus our attention and resources on the call of Jesus to His Kingdom on earth even as it is in heaven. In making that decision, we recognized that we need to stand up and be obedient to our Lord as He summons us to “Seek first His Kingdom” (Matthew 6:33) more than anything else.
The Empowering Kingdom Growth (EKG) Task Force of the Southern Baptist Convention is convinced that if Southern Baptist leaders all over the nation could plan and conduct their work in keeping with the Kingdom emphasis of Jesus in the four Gospels, our people in the churches would take on new purpose and dedication. How will there ever be a spiritual awakening until believers become obedient to Christ? And how will that obedience ever come about unless those believers devote themselves to what Jesus wants, namely for them to live as Kingdom citizens?
It appears that at no time in recorded Christian history has there been a significant group of the followers of Jesus who understood His call to the Kingdom and then stayed with it until marvelous results began to happen. With all the size and resources of the SBC, the EKG Task Force is asking, “Why cannot the Southern Baptist Convention and all related entities be the first body of believers to put our hearts and souls into a true Kingdom focus?” We believe that is possible and that the Lord is ready to bless such obedience. After all, that is His will as outlined in the New Testament!
Our Baptist leaders are in position to help all of us focus on the Kingdom of God. Just think how the Spirit of Christ would become free to move upon us if we truly started asking penetrating, Kingdom-focused questions and kept on asking those questions until the world is turned upside down for Jesus’ sake?
Among the possible questions:
— The seminaries, Bible schools, colleges and universities asking, “Are we merely graduating students or are we truly producing Kingdom-focused leaders?”
— The state conventions asking, “Are we just adding to our history or are our efforts and plans truly designed to expand the Kingdom of God?”
— The North American Mission Board asking, “Are we more interested in putting together a new SBC entity or leading Southern Baptists to truly focus on the Kingdom of God across the nation and the continent?”
— LifeWay Christian Resources asking, “Are we simply selling materials as an end in itself or is our intention to truly help bring in the Kingdom of God on earth with all that we produce and sell?”
— The churches asking, “Are we perpetuating our own traditions, hopes and dreams, or are we making sure that all we are doing has a Kingdom focus to it?”
— The SBC Executive Committee asking, “Are we about bureaucracy for bureaucracy’s sake or is our business truly Kingdom business?”
— The International Mission Board asking, “Are we seeking to grow our organization or are we truly working to enable Southern Baptists to grasp a Kingdom awareness for the world?”
— The children’s homes asking, “Are we in the business of childcare alone or do we approach our work from a commitment to the Kingdom of God?”
— The Baptist associations asking, “Is our purpose to enhance our own organizational structure or to truly lead our churches to live out a focus on the Kingdom of God far beyond our area?”
— The state Baptist papers asking, “Is our intent mainly to report or make news (especially controversial) or to support Southern Baptists in becoming enthusiastic and involved in all kinds of exciting Kingdom endeavors?”
— The retirement homes asking, “Are we providing care for the elderly or is our purpose for what we do being derived from a Kingdom awareness?”
— The SBC and state Baptist foundations asking, “Is our bottom line money or are we truly securing the funds to support and strengthen Kingdom growth everywhere?”
— Woman’s Missionary Union asking, “Is our motive to keep our traditions alive or to measure our plans by Kingdom purposes?”
— The Baptist hospitals asking, “Are we so concerned about healthcare that we do not see our mission as a vital part of the Kingdom of God?”
— The Annuity Board asking, “Is our desire alone to generate the best benefit plans we can for Baptists or to ensure that all our efforts have a Kingdom focus to them?”
— The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission asking, “Do we concern ourselves with certain issues of our own choosing, or do we see our work as contributing to the larger picture of the Kingdom of God for the nation and world?”
One of the most beloved writers of devotional literature is Selwyn Hughes of England. In his most recent book, “The Lord’s Prayer,” he observes:
“The kingdom of God was the motif running through everything Jesus taught. However, I pick up many Christian books and magazines today and find that, with one or two exceptions, the kingdom of God is not mentioned. Yet Jesus made it the central note of His preaching and also His praying.
“It is time now to ask ourselves: What exactly does Jesus mean when He uses the word ‘kingdom’? The word for kingdom (basileia in the Greek) means ‘rule’ or ‘reign.’ The kingdom of God, then, is the rule or reign of God, His sovereignty, for which we are to pray. Jesus spoke of the kingdom as being in the present as well as in the future. In Luke 17:21 he said, ‘the kingdom of God is within you.’ Wherever there is a heart that is surrendered to the claims and demands of Jesus Christ, there the kingdom exists” (p.52).
The question before Southern Baptists right now is, will we be captured by the Kingdom of God?
B. Carlisle Driggers is executive director-treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.