SBC Life Articles

New National EKG Strategist

Kenneth S. Hemphill announced his retirement as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary April 8 to take a new position as national strategist for the Southern Baptist Convention's Empowering Kingdom Growth movement.

Hemphill's new work, after nine years as president of Southwestern, will be a joint venture with the SBC Executive Committee and LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tenn., to begin this summer.

Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, and LifeWay President James T. Draper Jr. — both Southwestern graduates — expressed a mix of sadness that their alma mater was losing its leader and enthusiasm that Hemphill is joining their staffs to undergird the SBC-wide Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative.

"I am extremely thrilled and energized that Dr. Hemphill has agreed to serve the Southern Baptist Convention as national strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth," Chapman said, underscoring SBC leaders' prayers for "ever-increasing momentum in preparation for God to soften our hearts and bring a genuine revival."

In the call of Hemphill to facilitate EKG nationally, Chapman said, "God has raised up a man for a special assignment whose reputation is impeccable, whose integrity and honesty are hallmarks of his life, whose devotional life is a disciplined exercise in his daily life, and whose spirituality is authentic. He is a gifted and Spirit-led leader who will work untiringly and unselfishly with EKG Task Force members."

"Empowering Kingdom Growth is the envisioned future for Southern Baptists," Draper said. "We're praying that it becomes a great movement of God, and I'm excited that Dr. Ken Hemphill has agreed to be the national strategist for EKG.

"He's a wonderful communicator, and this is where his passion is. In fact, he's working on a book for LifeWay called His Kingdom, Our Passion. We know he has the ability to do things convention-wide in a very effective way. That's why we're excited about this joint effort between the SBC Executive Committee and LifeWay to provide a national strategist for EKG.

"I praise the Lord for Dr. Hemphill's readiness to follow God's leading to a new, cutting-edge challenge," Draper continued. "The task force is praying that Empowering Kingdom Growth will become the greatest movement of His Spirit we have experienced in our lifetime. We believe Dr. Hemphill's coming is more evidence that God wants to do something extraordinary in the hearts of His people."

Chapman said it "was becoming increasingly apparent to the EKG Task Force and its co-chairmen, Carlisle Driggers, executive director-treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, and James Merritt, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Snellville, Ga., and immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, that it needs the assistance of a fulltime strategist and coordinator to serve as an extension of the task force."

"One of the toughest challenges the task force and Dr. Hemphill face," Chapman said, "is the constant effort required to drive home the fact that EKG is to be a visionary process, not a highly structured program. In a convention that has become so program-oriented, this is no easy assignment."

Carlisle Driggers said, "The Empowering Kingdom Growth Task Force of the Southern Baptist Convention is very pleased and excited about the decision of Dr. Ken Hemphill, president at Southwestern Seminary, to become our national strategist. Empowering Kingdom Growth has begun to make an impact across the Southern Baptist Convention.

"We are hearing a number of reports about plans that are being developed in state conventions, associations, churches, and institutions about the SBC spiritual emphasis. The EKG Task Force has come to realize that we are in urgent need for someone to help strategize and lead out in the implementation of Empowering Kingdom Growth for all we're doing together as Southern Baptists. Ken Hemphill brings a wealth of talent and conviction to the position. He is an excellent communicator on the Kingdom of God through his writings and his sermons. The task force is positive God has brought Ken Hemphill to us to help us move forward with Empowering Kingdom Growth across the nation and over much of the world."

Hemphill said the passion to lead EKG developed over several years as he and his wife prayed that God would "show us how our gifts and calling can best serve to exalt His name, advance His Kingdom, and accomplish His will." That threefold theme follows closely with a book Hemphill wrote during the same time titled The Prayer of Jesus.

"I am privileged and humbled to be invited to give national leadership to Empowering Kingdom Growth. I believe that this emphasis is from God and could radically change our denomination and our world."

Chapman said Hemphill, in his role as special liaison with the EKG Task Force, will be involved in "coordinating, implementing, and promoting EKG emphases and introducing Kingdom resources available at LifeWay Christian Resources in our churches, in conferences, and in conventions. One of the goals of the task force is for each and every Southern Baptist to ask the question, 'Am I a Kingdom Person?'"

Hemphill went to Southwestern from the Home Mission Board – now the North American Mission Board — where he served as director of the Southern Baptist Center for Church Growth, another position funded in part by LifeWay, from 1992-94. Prior to that he served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Norfolk, Va., from 1981-92 during which time the church experienced tremendous growth. Hemphill has written more than 10 books, including The Prayer of Jesus and The Names of God. Six of his books focus on church growth.

During his tenure at Southwestern, the seminary raised approximately $50 million toward the Touch the World … Impact Eternity capital campaign. Southwestern's endowment increased by more than 60 percent.

Hemphill led the seminary to start an Islamic studies program, one of only three in the nation. The school started one of the first Christian school administration programs. Southwestern built the first two phases of the new Ralph M. Smith Leadership Development Complex, a $22-million continuing education building. Southwestern also bolstered its library holdings by acquiring the Breed Collection, giving Southwestern one of the finest Baptist history collections in the world.

    About the Author

  • SBC Staff