Southern Baptist Convention President James Merritt called on Southern Baptists to be a Kingdom convention during his Feb. 18 address to the SBC Executive Committee in Nashville, Tenn.
"It's time we come to realize there is more to spirituality than the Southern Baptist Convention," Merritt said. "There is more to God's will for your life than the local church. There is this entity called the Kingdom of God."
Merritt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church, Snellville, is nearing the conclusion of his second, one-year term as president of the nation's largest evangelical denomination.
Preaching from Matthew 6:33, Merritt delivered a passionate plea for Southern Baptists to "seek first the Kingdom of God. Everything else comes in second, and it comes in a far second."
Merritt said the passage in Matthew presents a challenge for Southern Baptists.
First, he said, Southern Baptists need to see the reality of the Kingdom.
"We ought to walk by faith and not by sight," Merritt said. "We live in a world we can't see."
Walking by faith, he said, means not being able to see things the way you "see with eyes in your head.
"The real things are the things you see with the eyes of your heart," Merritt countered. "You can only see that Kingdom with a heart centered on the Lord Jesus Christ.
"The number one job of your church and my church and every New Testament church is to be a witness to the Kingdom," Merritt said, citing Matthew 24:14.
Secondly, Merritt said Southern Baptists should seek the rule of the Kingdom.
"The word 'kingdom' means rule, authority," he said. "Your heart is a throne and somebody is going to sit on that throne. Somebody is going to rule your life. Jesus cannot be the King of your life until you abdicate the throne of your heart. You cannot pray, 'Your Kingdom come,' until you pray, 'My kingdom go.'
"I tell you unashamedly tonight, your church is to be on Kingdom business," Merritt said. "This convention is to be on Kingdom business. Every para-church organization in the world is to be on Kingdom business. We are on business for our King."
Merritt's third point called Southern Baptists to show the righteousness of the Kingdom of God.
"When you are seeking the control of the King over you, you will be seeking the character of the King within you," he said.
Southern Baptists are never going to make a difference in the world until "the world sees a difference in us," Merritt said.
"Everything you do in your life, everything you do in your church corporately, everything we do as a convention is under the scrutiny of the King," he said.
Finally, Merritt said Southern Baptists must share about the Ruler of the Kingdom.
"Jesus said we ought to proclaim the gospel to every nation," he noted. "We are to extend the Kingdom. If Jesus is worth knowing, Jesus is worth loving. If Jesus is worth loving, Jesus is worth serving. If Jesus is worth serving, Jesus is worth sharing."
Reflecting on the founding fathers of the nation, Merritt said the "number one responsibility of this nation and in this nation is to expand and advance the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"We're going to come to a day when the Bible says Jesus will be King and Lord over all, when every knee will bow," Merritt said. "Muhammed will bow. Osama bin Laden will bow. Adolf Hitler will bow. Madalyn Murray O'Hair will bow. Jewish rabbis will bow. The pope will bow. Every president of this convention will bow and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
"You say, 'James, that sounds like utopia,'" Merritt said. "Oh, it will be better than that. It will be heaven."