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 last issue we provided Dr. Chapman's response. In this issue we hear from Chuck Kelly, Carlisle Driggers, and Fermín Whittaker.
Courier: What will be the effect on the SBC if the EKG principles are realized?
Kelley: No denomination in history has ever survived the kind of growth Southern Baptists experienced in the '40s and '50s. EKG can help us focus afresh on the biblical mandate of evangelism and missions and experience the mightiest movement of God in the history of our nation.
Driggers: There's a yearning across the SBC in our churches and associations to focus on what we do best, and that has been shown through Southern Baptists' love for evangelism and missions. EKG will be successful if we can capitalize on what we want most: to be Kingdom people. EKG focuses us to be obedient to what Jesus' desire is for His people in any generation.
Whittaker: The impact on the SBC will be a renewal of a passion to reach the lost and make disciples. I believe it will help to prepare the ground for revival in our churches and lives.
Courier: What will be required both individually of Southern Baptists and at the convention leadership level to accomplish the EKG goals?
Kelley: What EKG requires for individuals and the denomination is simple: Keep the main thing the main thing and let nothing distract us from telling a lost world about Jesus, and incorporating those who respond into a healthy, growing family.
Driggers: All pastors, presidents of seminaries, board presidents, and state convention executives have to focus only on building the Kingdom of God. We have to start singing off the same page if we're going to consistently do what Jesus wants and if we're going to really see the wonderful results. EKG is a call to get serious about what Jesus means when He prays for the Kingdom of God to come on earth. EKG is a call for people to hear the message of Jesus and then commit themselves to "walk the walk" and "talk the talk." It means being obedient to the message of Jesus and living out the Christian faith daily.
Whittaker: It will take a shift in our commitments. We will need to be more intentional in our ministries and message. It will need to be one of the highest priorities in our lives if we are to accomplish these goals.
Courier: What do you plan to do personally to help achieve the desired results?
Kelley: What I will do personally is continue what I set in motion six years ago when I became president of New Orleans Seminary. We will focus everything we do as a seminary on the single task of training a new generation of God-called men and women to grow healthy churches — churches that are reaching the lost for Christ, discipling the saved to grow in their faith, and doing ministry in the community in the name of Jesus Christ.
Driggers: As a co-chair the EKG task force, I will do as much as I can to help launch EKG. That involves meeting with the task force, helping communicate the EKG concept to other state convention leaders, and calling on them to publicize that message. We must interpret EKG for the laity, helping them to understand that it's not a program, it's a spiritual focus. There's not a plan book — only the New Testament. Church leaders must use their own creativity and ideas to see where their church members can best serve as Kingdom people.
Whittaker: Our convention will benefit from the re-focusing on His Kingdom, and away from our own. My commitment is to pray, share and support this process, and expect to see great results in the years to come.