But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. ~ Matthew 6:33
The Coming of the Kingdom of God
He (Jesus) welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God … (Luke 9:11, NIV). The crowds would not leave Jesus alone. They hungered for His ministry of word and touch. Even when He retreated to private places they sought Him out. He had something they wanted. How did Jesus respond? He welcomed them. What did He have that attracted them? He told them about the Kingdom of God. And, it changed them, and it changed the world. The Kingdom of God was coming!
The Kingdom of God is the reign of God in the universe. It existed before the beginning of time, it is in operation today, and it will have a final consummation and perfection. It has application to both individuals (God's rule in the individual heart) and to the whole of society (God's rule at all levels).
In eternity past, Satan led a rebellion against the Kingdom of God and eventually brought the rebellion to earth by inciting man to sin against God. The entire human race was hopelessly implicated and entangled in the rebellion. Through Christ, God is redeeming His creatures and re-establishing His reign on earth in general and in the hearts of men in particular. Although the outcome is not in question (God will triumph!), in the present age, the people of God must wage spiritual warfare as soldiers of the cross under the command of the Lord Jesus Christ until the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God … (I Cor. 15:24). In eschatological terms, the Kingdom will finally come when Christ returns.
The nature of the Kingdom of God is spiritual. The transformation of rebels to loyal subjects is a result of the regenerating work of God's Spirit. The work of re-establishing the Kingdom of God on earth has been assigned to the church. As the church follows the commission of her Lord (Matt. 28:19-20), the Kingdom of God grows as individuals — then families — then communities — then nations — forsake their rebellion and surrender to Christ as Lord. These converted people, in turn, become part of the church and add their strength to the struggle for the souls estranged from God. Each time a rebel turns from rebellion and, led by the Holy Spirit, pledges allegiance to Christ and His church, the Kingdom of God advances, bringing transformation to individuals as well as to society.
The directive to the citizen of the Kingdom of God is "seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness." The pursuit of the Kingdom should be the organizing principle of every follower of Christ. Furthermore, laboring against the backdrop of the coming end of the age, Christians are to act with a sense of urgency because they hear the ticking of the eschatological clock.
The Call of the Kingdom of God
We sense a yearning among Southern Baptists for something greater than ourselves. How desperate we are for our lives to have spiritual power and eternal significance. We want to rise above the ordinary and the temporal. We respond instinctively to appeals for a more intimate and immediate relationship with God, to opportunities for "experiencing God," and authentic revival. We want to come to the end of our days with the knowledge we have made a difference for God. To what can we attribute this?
It is a hunger for Jesus. We have been with Jesus before and know He is the answer to the longing in our hearts. We are Kingdom people and will not be satisfied until we are drawn again to Kingdom principles and Kingdom pursuits. It is time for Southern Baptists to hear the welcoming voice of our Lord as He teaches us about life in the Kingdom of God.
We must acknowledge that the great blessings experienced by our denomination are the result of God's grace toward us and that they require of us a dedication and commitment commensurate with great blessings. And, we must not be delayed by distractions or neglect. The window of opportunity to make an impact for Kingdom advance may not be open long.
Therefore, Southern Baptist leaders are asking all our people to join us in a new spiritual emphasis on the Kingdom of God. Our theme is Empowering Kingdom Growth. Our vision is to seek first the King and His Kingdom.
More fully stated, Empowering Kingdom Growth (EKG) 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.
Rather than being an additional denominational program, Empowering Kingdom Growth is an appeal to spiritual renewal in individuals and churches. While we trust that quantifiable results like baptisms, church starts, and stewardship will still be evident among Southern Baptists, we hope the impact of Empowering Kingdom Growth will be an outbreak of Kingdom consciousness among our members and churches. Just as a medical EKG measures the health of the human heart, we hope the EKG initiative can help us measure the health of our spiritual hearts.