EDITORS’ NOTE: The following story is part of a monthly Baptist Press series to explore and describe how individuals, churches, associations and conventions exhibit a passion for Christ and His Kingdom.
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (BP)–Prior to 2004, Macedonia Baptist Church’s heart beat almost solely for its members.
“We were a bunch of older folks who pretty much attended church for ourselves,” said Gerald Williams, a member of the Fayetteville, N.C., congregation. “We were self-centered in a lot of our church work.”
But three years ago, that all changed when the church underwent an EKG analysis.
Not a medical procedure, EKG stands for “Empowering Kingdom Growth: The Heartbeat of God,” a 40-day Bible study by Ken Hemphill, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Empowering Kingdom Growth strategist.
“EKG changed our total church outlook. It really got our minds on the future and helped us see that we’re all in a Kingdom process instead of a church process,” Williams said. “We have a totally different outlook at what work is going on not only in our community, but in North Carolina, the U.S. and the world.
“It’s got us mission-minded,” he said. “That’s the biggest concept we’ve learned.”
Today, the heartbeat of Macedonia Baptist, which averages 71 in Sunday School, shows such vital signs as:
— the near-completion of a 12,000-square-foot family life center, which before EKG was planned as a 1,200-square-foot addition.
— a youth group that has grown from one to as many as 28 in attendance, many of whom are active in evangelistic endeavors, including personal witnessing at school.
— an upcoming third-annual, multi-church youth conference, following two others that had a cumulative attendance of 5,000, with about 100 mostly young people professing salvation in Christ.
— the addition of two part-time staffers, one each for children and teens.
— dozens of members who now seek and complete ministry opportunities outside the church walls.
— the transformation of the original church building, circa late 1800s, from a revered museum into a separate church ministering to international residents.
— a once-vacant parsonage that has been refurbished to house international missionaries on stateside assignment.
— the quadrupling of Cooperative Program giving, the tripling of local association giving and record-breaking amounts given to SBC missions offerings while also increasing the annual church budget.
— more than 5,280 labor hours given in the Gulf Coast region for disaster relief, leading all Baptist churches in Macedonia’s region of North Carolina.
— a community Family Day that included Gospel tract distribution, a worship service, amusements for children, other activities for all age groups as well as cookout fare.
— plans for a ministry tent at the county fair in which Macedonia members will offer carnival workers a place to relax, have refreshments and see the Gospel in action as well as hear it.
“I’m totally humbled by all this,” said Sam Gore, Macedonia Baptist’s pastor.
“We may not be growing numerically as much as we’d like, but the Kingdom impact is great. We’re doing things that churches of 300 and 400 members do.”
“EKG changed our hearts. It changed our outlook. EKG is the difference between a church that has spiritual Kingdom vision and one that has myopia,” Gore continued.
“The study has given us that Kingdom vision. We no longer see things as we once did, through our perception. Now we see from God’s perspective.”
Gore led the church in a spiritual gifts survey and then compared the findings to the community’s needs based on a demographical study he had completed.
Challenging the church based on the data, Gore said: “Which way do you want to go? Do you want to do what we’ve always done or do you want to reach this community for Christ?”
The church responded by increasing the size of their planned expansion tenfold. The new family life center encompasses a gymnasium, a large fellowship hall complete with a stage for theatrical and other ministry productions and a state-of-the-art kitchen.
“The people voted to do whatever it takes, and that’s when God moved in,” Gore said.
Macedonia’s members have donated dozens of labor hours. One local contractor, not a member of the church, oversaw all the wiring that members installed, assuring it was up to local codes, thus saving about $50,000.
One member donated all the necessary insulation for the building.
Williams — who owns a plumbing business and has plumbed the entire facility — said, “The Lord blessed me with a whole lot, a good business, a good income. There’s no way I can repay Him. So I believe I need to do everything I can to help Him and His work. I can give back to the Lord.”
Gore said this kind of attitude now pervades the church, and EKG is responsible.
Referring to the popular “Experiencing God” discipleship study by Henry Blackaby, Gore said, “Blackaby says to ‘find where God is at work and get in on it.’ EKG identifies for you what God is doing. That has made the difference in our church.”
One significant difference EKG has made is the church’s growing youth group and its multifaceted ministries. Sherry Vernon, Macedonia’s youth director, said EKG is a primary motivation for her: “EKG showed me my responsibility to obey the Lord to be a Kingdom-minded Christian. So many members think it’s the pastor’s job. But EKG deepened my heart for missions and added depth to our youth ministry team,” which now numbers six.
“EKG also helped other church members get involved in the Kingdom process — to understand it and make it a deeper passion,” Vernon said. “That study touched our hearts in such a way that we all thought we could be a part of it.”
Vernon said God has turned her heart specifically toward young people. She cited statistics she said originated on the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s website, which noted that only 4 percent of teens in the state profess to be Christians, and that the number of teens who say they don’t care if there’s a heaven or hell is increasing.
Overwrought with emotion, Vernon said, “I wake up and I pray, ‘What can I do? What else can I do?’ Some of the kids around here are going to hell. I can’t do enough.”
As for Macedonia’s teens are concerned, Vernon is doing something. She’s training them to reach their unchurhed and unsaved peers at school. “We’re teaching these kids now so that when they’re adults, their pastors won’t be begging them to serve.”
Jordan Smith, 13, invited two of his sixth-grade friends to attend the local youth conference. When they asked, “Who is God?” Smith pulled out a Gospel tract and led them both to Christ right there at the cafeteria table.
Smith told Baptist Press he carries the tracts because, “Pastor Sam said that we should always have one handy, so I always carry a few around in my back pocket.”
“We’re not called not to come to church and sit,” Vernon added. “We’re called to get out there and serve. And that’s what these kids want to do — they want to make a difference in their communities.”
Gore gives God all the credit for ministry success at the church and in the community, saying, “If we had undertaken a program we could’ve done in our own strength without God’s miracles, then it would not have been worth doing.”
Norm Miller is a freelance writer in Richmond, Va. For info on Empowering Kingdom Growth resources, log on to www.empoweringkingdomgrowth.com.