A vision for what Jesus taught and called for — "an all-out concentration on the Kingdom of God" — was endorsed by the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee during its Feb. 18-19 meeting in Nashville, Tenn.
Executive Committee members approved an "Empowering Kingdom Growth" (EKG) initiative as envisioned by an eight-member Cooperation Task Force of state convention and SBC entity leaders.
Task force member Carlisle Driggers, who has pioneered an Empowering Kingdom Growth vision during his nine years as executive director-treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, reviewed an eighteen-page report by the task force with Executive Committee members during their Feb. 18 session. The next day, committee members endorsed EKG as an SBC-wide initiative to be introduced during the June 11-12 annual meeting in St. Louis.
The task force, defining what is meant by "the Kingdom of God," noted: "Simply interpreted, the Kingdom means that God in Christ has control of our lives, and that everyone, everywhere has the need to know and experience Jesus as Savior and Lord. Our people would be so enriched if we could incorporate a keen understanding of the Kingdom of God into our hearts and then teach it, sing it, preach it, work at it, write about it, and pray constantly for it to happen. As God is sovereign and King in Heaven, so He is over all of His creation on earth."
The Cooperation Task Force said it is "recommending that if Southern Baptists are more serious about Jesus than anything else, then the time is upon us to project a new, fresh vision for the years ahead."
The task force noted, "After much consideration and prayer, the Task Force has come to believe that Southern Baptists are closer to being captured by the essence of a Kingdom perspective than perhaps most of us realize. Just look at the thousands of mission volunteers, both long- and short-term, coming out of the churches these days, and how so many of those persons want to go to the tough places to minister and evangelize in Jesus' name. And just recall how Bruce Wilkinson's little book on the prayer of Jabez has spoken to the hearts of millions of people, many of them Southern Baptists for sure.
"We do not need a new program or a slick marketing proposal," the task force stated. "What we need to do is to get in line with the Lord Jesus as He walked the walk and talked the talk about Kingdom concerns."
Driggers and James Merritt, current SBC president and one of the four new task force members, will "provide major leadership in launching Empowering Kingdom Growth for all Southern Baptists," the task force report stated.
Efforts to acquaint Southern Baptists with Empowering Kingdom Growth thinking will include presentations at the board meetings of the state Baptist conventions across the country this spring, according to the task force report.
"In the providence of God, [an EKG initiative] could prove to be an unprecedented turning point in American history as for the first time a significant group of evangelical believers puts hindrances aside and becomes available to God with the determination that His Kingdom may come on earth as it is in Heaven," the task force stated.
The task force, in addressing the question, "What is it Jesus wants to accomplish on this earth?" further addressed its vision for Empowering Kingdom Growth by citing a "response which comes directly from the life of our Lord. Nothing mattered more to Him than the Kingdom of God. That was the central theme of all He taught and preached. His first public statement was 'The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel' (Mark 1:15). He felt an obligation for people everywhere to know about the Kingdom of God (Luke 4:43), and He taught His followers to pray that the Kingdom of God would come on earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:9-13). Not only was His first message about the Kingdom of God, but after the resurrection, that same theme was front and center as Jesus spoke to His apostles (Acts 1:3)."
In addition to Driggers, the task force, which was formed in 1999, included as members Morris H. Chapman, president of the Executive Committee; Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board; Robert E. Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board; William O. "Bill" Crews, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Mill Valley, Calif.; Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention; Anthony Jordan, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma; and O. Wyndell Jones, retired executive director of the Baptist Convention of Iowa.
In addition to Merritt, the new task force members are John Avant, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Ga.; John Hays, pastor of Jersey Baptist Church, Pataskala, Ohio; and Don Beall, director of missions for the Puget Sound Baptist Association, Federal Way, Wash.