How did Empowering Kingdom Growth (EKG) come to be voted on by the messengers at the 2002 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis? That is a question being asked by Southern Baptists from around the nation and it deserves a clear, precise response. The more we understand the history of a development, the easier it is to accept it and help it proceed.
In the final weeks of 1999, two Southern Baptist leaders began conversing with each other about their particular roles. One was Dr. John Sullivan, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention and president for that year of the Association of State Convention Executive Directors. The other was Dr. Jimmy Draper, president of LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville and chairman for that year of the Great Commission Council, a group of thirteen presidents from the various entities of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Dr. Sullivan and Dr. Draper raised the question to each other about how Southern Baptists might strengthen our work in a vital way for the 21st century and what part the state executive directors and the Great Commission Council members might play in such an effort. Their discussion led to a meeting in Nashville in February 2000 of the Great Commission Council and several state executives selected by Dr. Sullivan. The dialogue during the meeting was candid, relevant, and quite promising. At the conclusion of the meeting, it was felt by everyone that the discussion needed to continue and that it would be most helpful if all of the state executive directors could be present.
The next meeting took place in July, also in Nashville. The discussion was lively, frank, and encouraging. As a result, a task force of eight persons, four from the SBC and four from the states, was appointed to explore ways to improve cooperation between state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention.
The Task Force was composed of:
Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board;
Robert Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board;
Morris H. Chapman, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee;
William Crews, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary;
Wendell Jones, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Iowa;
J. Robert White, executive director of the Baptist Convention of the State of Georgia;
Anthony Jordan, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma;
and B. Carlisle Driggers, executive director of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
Dr. Chapman was asked to be the chairman of the Task Force and Bob White, vice chairman.
Over the next months, the Task Force met in Atlanta, Dallas, and Nashville. Interviews took place with several Southern Baptists from around the country. The Task Force read insightful articles and books, reviewed Scripture, and prayed. The conclusion that was reached in a most compelling way was that more than anything else, Southern Baptists truly need to discover from God a specific, undeniable, spiritual vision for our future. The best hope we have for cooperation is not another program or denominational strategy, but a spiritual focus that will touch and challenge all we do together through our churches, institutions, associations, and state conventions.
Over time, the Task Force studied the concept of Empowering Kingdom Growth as first developed in the South Carolina Baptist Convention during the 1990s. The Task Force concluded that for Southern Baptists to concentrate on the Kingdom of God, which Jesus prayed to come on earth even as it is in heaven, would be exactly what is needed for our people. That recommendation was brought in February 2002 to the state executive directors and the Great Commission Council members and was approved unanimously. It was then brought to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention for approval, and the recommendation was received unanimously in June for EKG to become our spiritual direction for years to come. Finally, the recommendation was approved by unanimous vote at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting last year.
Several state conventions recently adopted in their own context EKG as a focus for their work and others are giving attention to it as well.
The eight-member Task Force has been expanded to twelve members and is continuing to guide, support, and monitor the progress of EKG over the nation and across the world. How hopeful this is for Southern Baptists and, we pray, for the Kingdom of God!