COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP)–Randall Jones, president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, believes the Southern Baptist Convention is poised for some of its greatest gains ever, and Empowering Kingdom Growth may prove to be a key catalyst.
“For this to occur, however, every pastor and church must awaken to the urgency of our mission and purpose for existence: reaching the lost for Christ,” said Jones, pastor of Langston Baptist Church, Conway, S.C.
Jones was one of several pastors interviewed by The Baptist Courier following the adoption of the Empowering Kingdom Growth emphasis during the SBC annual meeting in June. Pioneered by the South Carolina Baptist Convention during the past nine years, the EKG initiative calls for Southern Baptists to have an “all-out concentration” on the kingdom of God.
“Evangelism must become more than a motto. It must become a way of life,” Jones said, observing that “programs never accomplish tasks; people do.”
“Our city, our neighbors and our world will respond when we get busy reaching out to them in Jesus’ name. When we realize that the lost are more important than buildings, budgets and ballgames, then EKG will become the platform for launching us into the exciting world of kingdom building.”
Patrick Latta, pastor of Northside Baptist Church, Orangeburg, also voiced excited about the SBC’s adoption of the EKG emphasis.
“As a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, I desire to be a part of something that is greater than myself,” Latta said, adding that as a pastor his desire is “for the people of God to be involved in a work of eternal significance.”
EKG will enable churches to have a kingdom priority and believers to become kingdom people, Latta said. As Southern Baptists “seek first the kingdom of God,” the Spirit of God will create within them a greater emphasis on evangelism and missions, he said.
Timothy Lee, pastor of Reedy River Baptist Church, Greenville, asserted, “EKG may well be the most significant effort by Southern Baptists in my lifetime.”
There is little question that EKG will work for the entire Southern Baptist Convention as it has for South Carolina, Lee said. Allowing that there may be some pockets where EKG does not work, he noted, “If that is true, it will be in those areas where Southern Baptists just want to do church as usual and not become kingdom-minded people.”
Lee urged Baptist leaders to allow EKG to pervade everything Southern Baptists do. “We must be reminded that we are kingdom people through every resource produced by SBC entities,” he explained. “Our Sunday School literature, discipleship materials and special studies must focus on who we are in Jesus Christ.”
Goose Creek pastor Harry Scarborough agreed with Lee that Southern Baptist leadership must continuously use its resources to saturate local church leaders with information about EKG, information similar to that was provided by the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
“In the monthly packets, there was always something about it,” Scarborough observed. “I finally ordered the information because of this and, though I did not incorporate the plan, it challenged and encouraged me to do my part for kingdom growth.”
Scarborough urged local church leaders to “catch the vision of EKG, bathe it in prayer and keep getting the word out.”
James Kirkland, pastor of First Baptist Church, Mullins, suggested “visioning” conferences across the states to help pastors and key leaders grasp “the breadth and depth” of EKG. Individual pastors, he said, will have to catch the vision and begin networking together with other pastors to get the kingdom concept out into the Baptist associations.
“Cooperation and encouragement at the local level will have to be the key for maximum benefits,” Kirkland said. “I’d suggest encouraging pastors to form EKG prayer groups among themselves so they can find God’s direction within this emphasis for their churches and associations.
“EKG must be God-driven, prayer-based and implemented by a sense of obedience within the church. Then we will see more than we could hope or imagine,” Kirkland said.
Jimmy Smith, pastor of Brandon Baptist Church, Greenville, commented, “Our Southern Baptist churches must seriously recapture the biblical understanding that we can not divorce spiritual growth from evangelism.
“Seeking the kingdom of God cannot be done without seeking the King,” he said. “When the King is our priority, sharing his love will be foremost in our hearts.”
As the pastor of a small, rural congregation, Hoyle Vinson Jr. of Steep Bottom Baptist Church, Estill, knows just how essential it is to have the greatest help and support possible from the state and national convention.
“I can say that our South Carolina Baptist Convention has the best possible support for the churches,” he affirmed. “If EKG is done only half as well as it has been done in South Carolina, it will be successful,” he predicted.
“Our denominational leadership must think on the small scale of how to encourage even the smallest churches to be excited about the possibilities with Christ,” Vinson added. “They must prove that they will go to the farthest extent possible to enable the church to accomplish its task.”
When that happens, Vinson said Southern Baptists on a local level will see the hearts of those in denominational leadership and that their hearts for God will be contagious.
“What greater resource could there be than the heart of local Southern Baptists when they are inspired to reach the world, no matter what the cost!” he said.