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FIRST-PERSON: Kingdom growth to the ends of the earth

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–The vision of Empowering Kingdom Growth has begun to capture the attention and commitment of Southern Baptists. Whatever we do in our personal lives and church-related ministries, the reign of Jesus Christ and His Lordship should be apparent.

Certainly we should see our world from a Kingdom perspective and give priority to God being glorified in our homes, our churches, our community and nation. But Jesus also spoke of the Kingdom in terms of quantitative and geographic growth. The Kingdom parables acknowledge a small beginning, whether as leaven or a mustard seed, that would permeate the whole and result in growth of phenomenal proportions.

Jesus had already prepared His followers for the Great Commission mandate to disciple the nations — literally, all the peoples of the world — when He sent them out to proclaim “the gospel of the kingdom.” The Gospel, or the Good News of God’s redemptive love and desire to draw all men into a relationship, was to be an empowered message that eventually would extend the reign of Christ to people of every tribe, tongue and nation.

Such Kingdom growth was envisioned as far back as Abraham, whom God called to leave his home and family so that through his seed all the families of nations would be blessed. God’s desire for Kingdom growth was communicated through Isaiah (49:6) when He said, “It is too small a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel, I will also make you a light to the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” The psalmist frequently spoke of God being exalted among the nations.

Our own task of Empowering Kingdom Growth was unmistakable when Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24:14 that the Gospel of the Kingdom would be preached in the whole world as a witness to every nation before the end would come. He anticipated the day when every knee would bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

So, if we are to be Kingdom people or Kingdom churches, it means we will be involved in making Jesus Christ known among the nations. Our passion will be to see God glorified, not just in our own lives and what we do, but also among all peoples, even to the ends of the earth. A Kingdom perspective is not self-centered but outward-focused.

It is the indwelling power of God’s Spirit that empowers Kingdom growth, but when we join God on mission and cooperate with Him in reaching the lost, we personally become a part of Empowering Kingdom Growth.

EKG grew out of a task force of SBC leaders and state executives seeking a common vision for cooperation. It was determined that the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, state conventions, local associations and other convention entities did not exist for themselves but to serve the churches and Southern Baptists. The only justification for our existence is to enable, serve and facilitate churches building the Kingdom of God through evangelism, discipleship and missions.

We will see Kingdom growth as associations lead these cooperative efforts to grow the Kingdom locally, as state conventions provide channels for unifying churches to bring the reign of Jesus Christ in their respective states, and as the North American Mission Board facilitates churches, associations and state conventions sharing the Gospel and planting churches throughout the United States and Canada.

This parallels the Acts 1:8 model of being witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, but the responsibility is not limited to where we live or our own culture, and neither is it sequential. Simultaneously we have a responsibility of Kingdom growth to the ends of the earth through cooperatively sending and supporting missionaries, praying and being personally involved.

It is not the responsibility of the International Mission Board to do missions overseas on behalf of Southern Baptists. The Great Commission was given to every church, every believer and every denominational entity. The IMB, as other denominational entities, exists to assist churches and facilitate Kingdom growth around the world.
Jerry Rankin is president of the SBC International Mission Board.

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  • Jerry Rankin