SCOTT DEPOT, W.Va. (BP)–Southern Baptist messengers and guests gathered in Phoenix June 15-18 for their annual convention and related meetings. As they did so, they moved into year two of the Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative.
In a denomination that has rarely missed an opportunity to promote new ways of growing churches, it is possible that skeptics among us might conclude that “EKG” is yet another program developed in Nashville designed to help the SBC start more churches, baptize more people and raise more mission dollars.
Such a conclusion would be wrong. It misses the point of EKG completely.
EKG is not another Southern Baptist program. It doesn’t organize a particular area of work, explain how to pursue that piece of work or teach you how to count it, cultivate it or promote it. Programs are great for doing that sort of thing and are vital ingredients in all healthy churches. For example, every healthy church needs an organized program of Bible studies. Most churches use the Sunday School program. Some use another structure for their small-group life. By whatever name you may call it, it is still a program. Programs are necessary but EKG is not a program.
EKG is best understood as a national initiative that seeks to call individuals, churches, associations, state conventions, the SBC and all our related entities to evaluate how well we are serving the purposes of God.
Built on the foundation of the biblical Kingdom of God, the EKG movement, if successful, will cause each of us to ask some very simple but important questions.
Am I a Kingdom person? If not, how can I be? If so, how shall I live? How can I measure if I am indeed a healthy, Kingdom Christian? What traits will be present in me and the Baptist body of which I am a part when I am truly “seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness?”
The biblical Kingdom of God concept from which EKG springs includes God’s rule over His creation, His Kingship over Israel, His rule over the hearts of all true believers and, in the view of many, over a literal future earthly domain. It is a concept that is present in one form or another throughout the Bible.
Jesus referred to the Kingdom of God so often that it is clear it was central to His ministry. Approximately midway through the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew quotes Jesus as saying, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33, KJV). This passage is often cited as proof that a Christian’s primary allegiance is first to God as Lord, that our primary hunger should be to live righteously and that life will never fit together well until we do so.
Matthew 6:33 will become a standard by which Southern Baptists will measure themselves if EKG takes hold of our hearts. We will examine our attitudes, actions, priorities, relationships and use of resources to see if they are all surrendered to the redemptive purposes of God.
For example, I might ask myself a question like, “Am I building relationships with unsaved people whom God wants to bring into His Kingdom through Jesus Christ? Or am I leaving no time in my life to build such relationships with others? Does my character truly reflect the likeness of Christ or do I blend in with the pagan culture of the world?”
As a churchman I might ask of the congregation of which I am a member, “Do our plans reveal that we are giving priority time and budget funds to reaching unsaved people in our ministry setting, in the surrounding region, across this country and around the world. Is our main concern financial survival or communicating the Gospel? Do we intentionally give ourselves to our community or save our energy for calendared church functions?”
As a messenger to my association, the state convention or the SBC, I might ask questions such as, “Does our budget reflect that we are focused on actions that lead to the expansion of God’s rule over the hearts and lives of unsaved people? Are we measuring our effectiveness in terms of God’s Kingdom priorities?”
Success in the Kingdom of God is measured by the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe. Only one evaluation should be acceptable to anyone who chooses to follow Jesus. That evaluation is to hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into thy reward.”
Kingdom people succeed as they depend upon spiritual power. Spiritual power comes as we prayerfully empty our hearts of self-centered agendas, confess our deep need for God’s indwelling, hunger for His righteousness, and long to bring glory to our Savior.
From my perspective, EKG is nothing more or less than a call to spiritual renewal among the people called Southern Baptists. I pray that I will heed the call. I pray that all who read this will do the same.
I hunger for Baptists to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Two wonderful outcomes are assured us if we do so. One, God will expand His Kingdom through our obedience. Two, we will consistently experience Kingdom life at its best as we watch God do what only God can do!
John Adams is editor of the West Virginia Southern Baptist newsjournal.