NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The naming of Ken Hemphill as national strategist for the Southern Baptist Convention’s “Empowering Kingdom Growth” emphasis drew praise from leaders of various Baptist entities April 8.
EKG, as noted by Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, 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.”
Hemphill, who has served as Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s president the past nine years, will work as EKG national strategist under the auspices of the Executive Committee and LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, beginning this summer.
The SBC leaders’ full statements as issued to Baptist Press follow:
— Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee.
“At the time of the signing of the EKG Covenant at the 2002 convention I remarked, ‘We [the Cooperation Task Force] believe God laid upon our hearts to cast a vision — Empowering Kingdom Growth. Much of the work along the way is to pray that God does something beyond our ability to plan or manufacture.’
“From the very earliest conception of the EKG vision, God has led in remarkable ways. In God’s providence, another giant step in the progress of Empowering Kingdom Growth is unfolding. I am extremely thrilled and energized that Dr. Hemphill has agreed to serve the Southern Baptist Convention as national strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth. In that role, he will be acting as special Liaison with the EKG Task Force, working with the task force members in coordinating, implementing and promoting EKG emphases and introducing Kingdom resources available at LifeWay Christian Resources in our churches, in conferences and in conventions. One of the goals of the task force is for each and every Southern Baptist to ask the question, ‘Am I a Kingdom Person?’
“It was becoming increasingly apparent to the EKG Task Force and its co-chairmen, Carlisle Driggers, executive director of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, and James Merritt, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Snellville, Ga., and immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, that it needs the assistance of a fulltime strategist and coordinator to serve as an extension of the task force.
“One of the toughest challenges the task force and Dr. Hemphill face is the constant effort required to drive home the fact that EKG is to be a visionary process, not a highly structured program. In a convention that has become so program-oriented, this is no easy assignment. Task force members meet on a regular basis to pray and plan how best to retain the spirit of the vision and protect it from becoming a program. Rather than producing and promoting materials in a programming environment, EKG leaders are committed to first listening to the people and attempting to provide literature based on real-time need, not in anticipation of a need that may not materialize. The EKG process of getting before the Lord in prayer, walking daily in His Spirit, and telling others about the saving power of our Lord Jesus Christ does not negate the reality that a fulltime strategist is needed to guide the Convention daily as God reveals Himself to the task force and Dr. Hemphill.
“The EKG Task Force is excited to see God at work as He prepares Southern Baptists to concentrate with a laser-like focus upon building His Kingdom and honoring His name. The coming of Dr. Hemphill, an outstanding and proven Christian leader, is another confirmation that God wants to reign in the hearts and lives of Southern Baptists. We are grateful that he has accepted our invitation to work along side the EKG Task Force and we are praying that God will transform the Empowering Kingdom Growth vision into a mighty movement of God.
“In calling Dr. Hemphill to this task, God has raised up a man for a special assignment whose reputation is impeccable, whose integrity and honesty are hallmarks of his life, whose devotional life is a disciplined exercise in his daily life, and whose spirituality is authentic. He’s a gifted and Spirit-led leader who will work untiringly and unselfishly with EKG Task Force members to build ever-increasing momentum in preparation for God to soften our hearts and bring a genuine revival. To see God leading Ken Hemphill to this new position is a clear sign to us that Empowering Kingdom Growth is nothing less than God working His will in His timing. I’m grateful that LifeWay and the Executive Committee are working together in this cooperative effort. We hope it will help ignite the fires of a spiritual awakening in our nation. Dr. Draper and I believe God will honor and bless this spirit of cooperation for His glory.
“Two months ago, we could not have imagined such a thing. We thank the Lord for Dr. Hemphill’s readiness to follow God’s leading to a new, cutting-edge challenge. We believe Dr. Hemphill’s coming is more evidence that God wants to do something extraordinary in the hearts of His people. Certainly Southern Baptists in Nashville are looking forward to welcoming Ken and Paula Hemphill to our city and we will be praying God’s continued blessings upon them.
“Of course, we join with all Southern Baptists in praying for the students, faculty, administration, and trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary during these days of transition.”
— James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“The position of national strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth has been created in an agreement between the SBC Executive Committee and LifeWay Christian Resources. Dr. Ken Hemphill, president of SWBTS, has agreed to take this position effective at the end of this academic year.
“This assignment follows in a grand history of leadership from SWBTS in the SBC. In 1919, Dr. L.R. Scarborough, then president of SWBTS, took a year’s leave of absence to head up the $75 million campaign. He moved to Nashville for the last six months of that year and had an office at the Sunday School Board facilities here. Southern Baptists followed with unprecedented cooperation. The theme was adopted at every level of Southern Baptist life. Editors from our states promoted the campaign and called for participation. Never before had there been such a harmonious and cooperating spirit among Southern Baptists.
“Scarborough’s own vision was a Kingdom vision. He envisioned 5,000 people surrendering to ministry and two and one half million converts! He felt the end result of the campaign would be an ‘aroused denomination.’ Southern Baptists made bigger plans, dreamed bigger dreams and attempted greater things in subsequent years as a result of his leadership. A new kind of denomination emerged from this $75 million campaign.
“Once again Southwestern has provided leadership for the vision for the 21st century for Southern Baptists. The adopted theme of our convention is ‘Empowering Kingdom Growth.’ The need for skilled and inspiring leadership for this vision is compelling. Dr. Ken Hemphill has accepted the challenge to be the national strategist for this movement. He has proven leadership in our convention, is a prolific writer and communicator and has a clear understanding of both the meaning and the challenge of Empowering Kingdom Growth. As the national strategist he will lead us in the planning, promoting and coordinating of the EKG emphasis among Southern Baptists.
“Ken Hemphill is the ideal person to lead this emphasis. He is unequaled in his passion and in his communication skills. He has proven his abilities in leading Southern Baptists both as a pastor, leader of the church growth movement working with both [the North American Mission Board] and LifeWay and as president of SWBTS. I am excited that LifeWay will have the opportunity to work with Dr. Hemphill in this significant role.”
— Carlisle Driggers, executive director-treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention and co-chairman of the SBC’s Empowering Kingdom Growth Task Force.
“The Empowering Kingdom Growth Task Force of the Southern Baptist Convention is very pleased and excited about the decision of Dr. Ken Hemphill, president at Southwestern Seminary, to become our national strategist. Empowering Kingdom Growth has begun to make an impact across the Southern Baptist Convention. We are hearing a number of reports about plans that are being developed in state conventions, associations, churches and institutions about the SBC spiritual emphasis. The EKG Task Force has come to realize that we are in urgent need for someone to help strategize and lead out in the implementation of Empowering Kingdom Growth for all we’re doing together as Southern Baptists. Ken Hemphill brings a wealth of talent and conviction to the position. He is an excellent communicator on the Kingdom of God through his writings and his sermons. The task force is positive God has brought Ken Hemphill to us to help us move forward with Empowering Kingdom Growth across the nation and over much of the world.”
— R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.
“Over our denominational history, only a handful of men have served as president of one of our Southern Baptist seminaries. Dr. Kenneth Hemphill has served Southwestern Seminary through a great transition, and there is a great affection between this president and his institution. Ken Hemphill is a wonderful Christian leader, a scholar and a man of great passion. These skills will be tremendously important as Dr. Hemphill takes on this new task as national strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth. Ken and Paula will be greatly missed by the Council of Seminary Presidents, as we have come to know and to love both of them. One of Ken Hemphill’s greatest strengths is his pastoral leadership. This new position will allow all Southern Baptists to know his heart. We are praying for the Hemphills, for Southwestern Seminary and for the Empowering Kingdom Growth emphasis in these critical days.”
— Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C.
“The resignation of Dr. Hemphill is both good and bad news. It is bad news for the other five seminary presidents who have come to cherish him as a very precious friend and colleague. We will miss him at our regular meetings where he never failed to provide spiritual insight and a great deal of happiness. But it is good news for the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole since he will now be providing leadership along with Dr. Chapman for our important new effort, Empowering Kingdom Growth. Now he provides leadership not only for the seminaries but for the entire convention. We look forward to working with Ken and Paula Hemphill in this new phase of their God-blessed ministry.”
— Robert E. Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board.
“I am very pleased at Ken Hemphill’s appointment as national strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth. I followed Ken as pastor of First Baptist, Norfolk, and saw firsthand that he understands and values the local church and the role it plays at the point of Kingdom growth. It was also my privilege to pray with Ken as he sought God’s will about serving Southwestern Seminary, and have watched with thankfulness as he led that vital institution to equip thousands for Kingdom service. Now God is focusing those strengths with Ken’s passion and skills for writing, speaking and visioneering to meet new and vital needs of Southern Baptists at this significant time. He can be assured that I and all of us at the North American Mission Board will support him in every way we can including regular and fervent prayer support.”