SBC Life Articles

EKG and the SBC: Putting First Things First

Southern Baptists, never short on vision or the ability to put the hopes of our hearts into inspiring words, are taking a huge step to move the Kingdom of God forward, and the goals — at the least, the measurable results — are not even laid out in advance.

At the 2002 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in St. Louis, messengers embraced an initiative [don't call it a program; it is not] called Empowering Kingdom Growth. EKG is immediately recognizable to South Carolina Baptists, who a decade ago rallied behind the state's version of a strategy to help build the Kingdom of God here in South Carolina by strengthening the churches and the ministries they perform. And Southern Baptist leaders began to see that what has been good for South Carolina can be good for Southern Baptists everywhere.

At the St. Louis meeting, top leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention put their signatures on a covenant calling for an "all-out concentration on the Kingdom of God," in response to what they have perceived as a deep yearning among the members of the convention's 40,000 churches for spiritual renewal resulting in living that is centered in Christ.

The national phase of Empowering Kingdom Growth, which comes as South Carolina Baptists are preparing to begin the second stage of its own EKG initiative, will take shape in coming days, but leaders are quick to point out that the fruits of this concentration on the Kingdom of God are in God's hands, not ours. And that is as it should be.

Like the EKG that South Carolina has modeled for a national audience, the SBC version is deceptively simple. Each Southern Baptist is challenged to ask a revealing question: Am I a Kingdom person? The proof of a "yes" answer lies in a willingness to "seek first the King and His Kingdom," according to Morris Chapman, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee. And in this case, Chapman went on to explain, the Kingdom refers to "the rule and reign of God in our hearts."

The need for EKG is an admission that too many Southern Baptists have not put building the Kingdom of God at the top of our to-do list. The new initiative will require the commitment of energy and resources to the job at hand, accompanied by a heightened level of cooperation and servanthood. In short, it will challenge each of us – no, it will demand that each of us experiences what the covenant document terms a "new passion for Jesus."

For some time now, Southern Baptist leaders have kept an eye on South Carolina, where EKG has spurred the growth of new churches, increased baptisms, and prompted large numbers of volunteers for mission projects — some sponsored by the state convention, others carried out by individual churches.

Clearly, it is hoped that Empowering Kingdom Growth applied nationally will boost the evangelistic efforts of Southern Baptists in our continuing attempts to make disciples for Christ all over the world. But equally as important are the spiritual rewards that will come to any individual believer who desires daily to be, first and foremost, a "Kingdom person."

It is impossible — and it is not even necessary — for any of us to have a clear picture now of exactly what may happen if Southern Baptists – members of the largest Protestant denomination – give undivided attention to seeking first the Kingdom of God in our personal lives as well as in our collective denominational life. The sole responsibility of Southern Baptists as individuals — and this must be the single objective of the Southern Baptist Convention as well — is to be obedient to the command of our Lord to seek first the Kingdom of God. If that desire of our hearts is turned into reality, an anthem of praise will rise up from Southern Baptists that the world cannot fail to hear: "The Lord has done great things for us, whereof we are glad."



Empowering Kingdom Growth

Five Southern Baptist leaders — representing the Convention's mission boards, entities, institutions and state conventions – signed the covenant agreement to launch an Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative throughout the Southern Baptist Convention during the SBC's June 11-12 annual meeting in St. Louis.

The Baptist Courier recently interviewed the five signees: Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee; Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a member of the SBC Great Commission Council; Carlisle Driggers, executive director-treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention and co-chair of the EKG Task Force; Fermín Whittaker of California, president of the Southern Baptist Association of Executive Directors; and James Merritt, former SBC president, pastor of First Baptist Church, Snellville, Ga., and co-chair of the EKG Task Force.

In the next several issues we will provide their responses, beginning with Dr. Chapman.

Courier: What will be the effect on the SBC if the EKG principles are realized?

Chapman: If Southern Baptists get the Kingdom of God upon their hearts, we could see nothing less than a national, even worldwide, spiritual awakening. Our urgent prayer must become, "Lord, send a revival, and let it begin in me." But if God is going to speak to the world through Southern Baptists, our motives must be pure and our hearts must be empowered by God's Holy Spirit. We must claim the promise of Acts 3:19, Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (NIV).

I pray we will discover, whether anew or for the first time, the joy of living in the constant presence of Jesus and walking by faith a life totally abandoned to the will of our Heavenly Father.

Courier: What will be required both individually of Southern Baptists and at the convention leadership level to accomplish the EKG goals?

Chapman: We know the answer for living a victorious and fulfilling life on this earth: an honest and genuine admission of the sins that have crept into your life, a refusal to yield to your own selfish wants and desires and a total trust in and abandonment to our Lord Jesus. The question is, "What does God want for us?" The life of the Christian is not a matter of what we think about how to live on this earth. It is a matter of embracing what God thinks about how we are to live by His grace, for His glory, and our good. If we are living for His glory, what is best for us is in His hands.

When we acknowledge the grace of God at work within us and walk by faith, our lives will become a powerful testimony to those whom we know and meet, even casually. Why? They will see Christ in you, the hope of glory! (Colossians 1:27). We need to ask ourselves, "How long has it been since anyone's life was transformed by the power of Jesus' blood at Calvary as a result of seeing Jesus in me?"

One of the enormously exciting aspects of EKG is that the requirement of experiencing God through Empowering Kingdom Growth is precisely the same for every Christian. It matters not whether that person is a denominational leader, a pastor or the person sitting in the pew. EKG is about spiritual health and spiritual growth. EKG is about a movement of God, focusing upon a Person, not a program. EKG is about seeking first the King and His Kingdom. EKG is about having a passion for Jesus.

Courier: What do you plan to do personally to help achieve the desired results?

Chapman: We are to serve the Lord out of the overflow of our own daily walk with Jesus. I want to have a closer walk with Jesus. In recent months, as the EKG Task Force discussed Empowering Kingdom Growth, I have found that my passion for living a genuine, Christ-centered life has been growing. I have determined to increase the time I spend alone with God in prayer. I am consciously making a stronger effort to read and study the Bible devotionally and to hide His Word in my heart.

Daily, perhaps like many others, I am faced with responsibilities and interests that tend to leave my life crowded and cluttered with things to do. I want to find more time to be still in His presence and worship Him and glorify His name. Whatever may be in my life that is not honoring to Him, I want to confess it and ask God's forgiveness. God wants my life, and every believer's life, to be marked by holy living, sacrificial service, and global witness. If I am unwilling to abandon my will to the will of the Father, how can I expect others to do the same? EKG is not about spiritual superiority. It is about spiritual humility and servitude.

Living the Christian life is a daily awareness of the presence and power of Jesus Christ. Our Heavenly Father wants us to grow daily in our understanding of who Christ is and Whose we are. Not one among us can truly be a spiritual leader until we daily live a life that manifests a deep and profound love for our Lord Jesus Christ.

    About the Author

  • Don Kirkland