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FIRST-PERSON: Seeking first the King

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EDITORS’ NOTE: Baptist Press today begins a series of monthly columns focusing on the Empowering Kingdom Growth emphasis within the Southern Baptist Convention, written by Carlisle Driggers and Morris H. Chapman on alternative months. Driggers, co-chair of the SBC’s EKG Task Force, is the executive director of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Chapman is the president of the SBC Executive Committee. The EKG columns will appear in Baptist Press on the second Friday of each month through March.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP)–The concept of Empowering Kingdom Growth (EKG) is a fresh new spiritual vision for the Southern Baptist Convention. It is not a pre-planned program. It is not a quick-fix proposal for plateauing, declining or dying churches. It is not a denominational fad. There is no master plan or slick-looking workbook. There is no one-size-fits all script.

Rather, EKG for the SBC is a clear focus based squarely on the mind and heart of Jesus. The plan book is the Bible, and the call is for every Southern Baptist to read thoughtfully and prayerfully the statements of our Lord pertaining to the Kingdom of God on earth and in heaven, and then follow accordingly.

When the messengers from our churches gathered in St Louis this past June, they voted unanimously on a recommendation from the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee to launch Empowering Kingdom Growth for all of Southern Baptist life for the years to come.

A great deal of work and prayer had been devoted to preparing the recommendation. Several state convention executive directors and Southern Baptist Convention leaders began to talk about it in February 2000. A task force was appointed to investigate how Southern Baptists could cooperate in greater ways for the cause of Christ. That task force met as often as possible, prayed, read, talked with Southern Baptists from across the country and reached several conclusions:

1. There is a yearning among a majority of Southern Baptists to move forward with new zeal and obedience to the call of Jesus to be about his business for mankind. This yearning is coming from all age groups and from all sections of the country.

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2. Southern Baptists have a definite opportunity for significant advancement because of our size, our vast resources and our historical commitment to evangelism and missions which has been based squarely on the Great Commission of Jesus. However, that window of opportunity is a narrow one and has a brief lifespan unless we put in place a specific attempt to adopt the mind and heart of the Lord Jesus as our own. In other words, time is short but the desire for reaching and serving others is a heart hope of our people.

3. The resources of Southern Baptists, with the Cooperative Program as a main stackpole, are too numerous and too excellent to take for granted or to abandon. God has given those resources to us and we only need to build on them for the future. To walk away from our proven programs, our missionary enterprise, our training networks, etc., would be to ignore the best of our past and the genuine promise of the years ahead.

4. Our finest chance for rising above separation and dissatisfaction in our ranks is to seek the face of God for a spiritual movement which is so compelling that it claims our attention and our allegiance. That spiritual movement must not come from our own ingenuity but straight from the Lord himself as outlined in Scripture, particularly in the New Testament. We do not need another strategic plan devised by ourselves. Rather, we need to understand and follow the Lord’s desire for his world.

5. Southern Baptists should cease devoting so much time, energy and attention to what we do wrong, that is, focusing on our weaknesses, and instead concentrate more on those strengths God has given us.

6. There is a need among Southern Baptists to ascertain the degree of results Jesus expects from his followers. His goals should be our goals. We need to be clear and specific about the results we are seeking to attain and then stay on focus until the ways of Jesus capture our attention. We ought not to plan for small results but vast ones in keeping with the vision of Jesus. Our people always support a large, challenging mission plan rather than a small, mediocre one.

7. Southern Baptists love Jesus and they love the Bible. They love missions and they love to see persons lost in sin come to forgiveness and restoration through the blood of Christ on Calvary’s cross. The proven way for Southern Baptists to rally together for a higher purpose than our own is to be obedient to the Jesus we adore and serve. And what does he want and expect from his people? He says it emphatically in Matthew 6:33 — “Seek you first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.”

As a result of their work, the Cooperation Task Force recommended that Southern Baptists adopt Empowering Kingdom Growth as a spiritual direction for all of our ministries. Simply put, the vision statement is for all of us to “Seek first the King and His Kingdom.”

If Southern Baptists do become captured by the full significance of God’s Kingdom on earth, it appears that for the first time in Christian history, a significant company of believers will truly hear the heart of Jesus and understand his mind. The question is, How have the people called Christians missed the intent of the Lord for so long? The Gospels reveal that the business of Jesus is the Kingdom of God on earth and in heaven, and he calls his redeemed children to live as kingdom people. His business is our business. The task force is trusting our people to realize that “Empowering Kingdom Growth is an initiative designed to call individual Southern Baptists to renew their passion for the Lord Jesus and the reign of His Kingdom in their hearts, families, and churches from which God can forge a spiritual movement marked by holy living, sacrificial service, and global witness.”

We all need to be kingdom people and give the Lord time to bless our best efforts. We need to preach sermons and compose music on the Kingdom of God. We need for our biblical scholars to write books on the Kingdom of God, and we need mission agendas that concentrate on the Kingdom of God. In short, we need a burst of creativity on numerous ways we can emphasize the desire of Jesus for true kingdom growth to spread over the United States and across the globe, and stay with it until Jesus comes again.

We need to understand that when someone comes to Jesus for salvation, the joy bells of heaven ring, and that is when the Kingdom of God comes on earth. If Southern Baptists, with all we have to offer to the Lord, could grasp what it means to be kingdom people, this nation and the world would never be the same.
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