No one doubts the value of good vision. Those who want to be pilots have to pass a strict vision test to qualify. Athletes understand the value of vision. Peripheral vision is critical to most sports. If your view of that which is happening around you is limited, your ability to play well is severely hampered. If your vision is blurred, you have trouble seeing the ball or puck quickly enough. Modern technology has enabled us to cure many of our vision problems. In the past, we had to rely on glasses or contacts, but today we have numerous surgical procedures that can restore vision.
Americans spend billions of dollars each year to restore their physical vision, what effort are you willing to make to restore the Kingdom Vision of your church?
The Effects of My-opia
We often quote Proverbs 29:18 as we talk about the need for vision in the church. We are most familiar with the quotation as it is stated in the King James translation: Where there is no vision, the people perish. Some modern translations render the phrase: Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained. The end result with either translation is the same. The lack of clear vision will greatly impact the effectiveness of the people of God.
I believe that the greatest vision problem we face today is that of "My-opia." My-opia is the dread disease that causes us to see everything through the lenses of our own desire. The first question that the individual with "spiritual my-opia" asks is, "How does this fulfill My desires?" The person with "spiritual my-opia" focuses on what pleases him and meets his own needs as a first priority.
We can easily see how this illness impacts the church. My-opia is the root problem behind the worship wars that have caused such pain in many of our churches. Everyone makes a case for the style of worship that meets his or her own needs. Few seem to be asking the question, "What style of music would help our church to advance the Kingdom of God in our own unique context?"
My-opia will cause our Sunday school to become introverted which leads to stagnation and decline. If my-opia remains unchecked in the small group structure of our church, the Sunday school will never fulfill its potential as a Kingdom Advance Task Force. We will continue to refer to "my class," "my room," and "my supplies." We will recoil when someone suggests that we need to create a new unit to better enable us to reach young couples. My-opia causes us to focus on our own comfort rather than the spiritual needs of others.
My-opia can affect our personal giving. If we view our money as our own possession, we tend to recoil when someone suggests we should tithe, or "heaven forbid," give over and above the tithe. My-opia can blur the vision of a church budget committee. A committee with my-opia will look first at the "needs" of the local church without any thought about how the budget can best reflect the heart of God for the redemption of the nations. We will often fight to keep our pet project in the budget even if it means we must cut the proportion that goes to mission causes around the world. When we take a hard look at our own church budget, we will often discover that we have given greater regard to our "wants" than to the "needs" of the lost world.
Missiologists estimate that about 1.7 billion people in the world have no access or limited access to the gospel. It is estimated that evangelicals in North America gave 2.9 billion dollars to reach these persons who are starving for the gospel. We gave about $1.70 per lost person to evangelize those who have the least. What is your first concern when you begin the budgeting process? Do we think "my desire" or "God's desire?"
The Cure — A Heart Transplant
I know you may be thinking that I have mixed my metaphors. A heart transplant couldn't heal one's vision. I beg to differ. Immediately after Jesus taught His disciple how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13), He instructs them to lay up an indestructible treasure in heaven. Listen to His words: For where our treasure is, there will your heart be also. The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light (6:21-22). Jesus indicated that our "spiritual my-opia" is essentially a heart problem.
You have probably noticed that the symbol of the EKG emphasis is a red line indicating a healthy heartbeat. Many have seen this as an electrocardiogram reading concerning the health of our denomination and its churches. It can also be seen as the heartbeat of God, and it raises the question, "Do we sense the heartbeat of God?" When you think about your church or your Sunday school class, do you think first about God's desire for that church or class? When you make out your own weekly schedule, do you think first about God's heartbeat? When you decide about your giving, is it done with the heartbeat of God? Does your church budget reflect God's heartbeat?
As we study the theme of the Kingdom of God throughout the Bible, three themes are constantly repeated. God is looking for a people that will Embody His Name, Embrace His Mission to the Nations, and Obey His Word. God's name stands for His character. Thus we could say that God desires a people that will live in such a manner that they reflect His character. Jesus told His disciples that Kingdom people would be the salt of the earth. God's mission throughout the Scripture is consistent — He desires that every tribe, every tongue, and every nation come to worship Him as King. We cannot embrace the Great Commission until we become serious about "all the world." Radical obedience is the foundation for the people who would be Kingdom people.
Does it surprise you that when Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, that He completely changed the focus of prayer? We tend to pray "me" and "mine" prayers, whereas Jesus taught them to pray "our" and "Thine" prayers. The prayer is the cure to "spiritual my-opia." Notice, too, that in this prayer the first three commitments of Kingdom children relate to His Name, His Kingdom, and His Will.
EKG is Not About Us
EKG is not another slogan or program that is about us. The concept of the Kingdom of God is of such importance to our Lord that none of us would ever want to co-opt it and use it as a slogan. EKG is about Him. Our Father is the King of all peoples and all nations. He created all persons, and therefore, He is their rightful King. Many people groups may never know this liberating truth if we don't tell them the wonderful good news of the Kingdom of God. For us to be effective in doing so we must seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
I believe that we are living in days of unprecedented opportunity. God has richly blessed Southern Baptist churches and people. The question is, "Will we like Israel consume the blessings, or will we convey the blessings?" It is amazing how much we can accomplish together if no one cares who gets the credit. Our desire in EKG is that all the credit and glory goes to the Father. We must, for the Kingdom's sake, attempt great things for God.
EKG is a Process Not a Program
The EKG committee has been consistent and insistent that EKG should not be viewed as another program or campaign. EKG is a process of spiritual renewal, and therefore it will be expressed uniquely in different churches, associations, and states. We are not asking anyone to adopt a plan or program, we are asking everyone to discover the Heartbeat of God and get in tune with Him. Morris Chapman has consistently challenged all of our entity heads to lead their organization to be Kingdom-focused. Will you do the same in the context of your ministry?
Many have asked if we would provide materials that would help you to grow in your Kingdom focus. We are planning to do just that. I want to continue to encourage you to find the resources to make the SBC LIFE available to the members of your church. We will continue to use this periodical to provide encouraging stories of Kingdom-focused ministries at every level. You can receive a bulk subscription for $5 per person, per year (for twenty or more copies). In other words, if you would like to receive thirty copies each month, it would cost your church only $150 a year.
We will also be introducing a new Web site to keep you informed about materials that might be helpful to your church. Some materials are already available and others are in the pipeline. We will be providing a comprehensive list on that site. The committee gave me the task of writing the study that will undergird the entire EKG process. This six-week study entitled Empowering Kingdom Growth: The Heartbeat of God will be available this summer from LifeWay Christian Resources and Broadman and Holman Publishers. On the Web site we will be providing numerous helps for the local church such as sermon outlines, worship aids, and advertising materials at no cost. You may download these materials and make them your own.
These are truly exciting days in Southern Baptist life. Will you pray that you and your church will sense the Heartbeat of God?