But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. ~ Matthew 6:33 (NKJV)
Technology has improved considerably the mechanisms of navigation. Yet, these advances in instrumentation have not changed the basic practices of navigation that guided ancient explorers and modern trailblazers alike. Then and now, successful piloting has resulted largely from setting a true reference to start the journey and measuring progress along the way. Even with satellite navigation, a grid reference must be synchronized with known points on the earth in order to ensure that plotting information is trustworthy.
The Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative seeks to be a catalyst to encourage and inspire Southern Baptists to be intentional in aligning their lives and ministries with the one true reference of Jesus Christ. It is a focus on the King and His Kingdom.
It is not a prescription, but it is a movement that seeks to inform thoughts and deeds.
It is not a program, but it is an initiative to positively shape relationships and ministries. Empowering Kingdom Growth describes a lifestyle approach that gives spiritual priority to work, family, friendships, and even recreation.
In recent years, many Christians have adopted the popular rallying call of "What would Jesus do?" as a sort of accountability check. Empowering Kingdom Growth is an effort to go beyond the bounds of accountability to create in believers a passion for the Lord Jesus and the reign of His Kingdom in their hearts, families, and churches from which God can forge a spiritual revival.
Importantly, while Empowering Kingdom Growth seeks to inspire and encourage without the strictures and structures of a program, resources will be made available to nurture this initiative in and among Southern Baptists.
Kingdom Families is the first of a number of emphases, i.e., platforms, pillars, envisioned for Empowering Kingdom Growth. The Southern Baptist Council on Family Life, led by Dr. Tom Elliff, has recommended that all elements and entities of the SBC focus on the needs of families in America. Over the next year, various elements of this focus on the family will be introduced to Southern Baptists, with much of the weight being carried by LifeWay Christian Resources, which already has many materials and products available for building families.
One critical focus of the family emphasis will be to help divorce-proof marriages in Southern Baptist churches. Dr. Elliff has proven already in his own church that much can be accomplished to restore the sacredness of marriage. In 1974, he set a high standard for premarital counseling, and among the weddings he's conducted since, he knows of only two divorces. We can reclaim our families by reclaiming the marriage covenant...a covenant with God.
Thanks to his own commitment to preserving the traditional Judeo-Christian family values taught in God's Word, Mac Brunson, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas and president of the Pastors' Conference, has volunteered to dedicate Monday night, June 16, next year in Phoenix to a Kingdom Family Rally. The rally will underscore the need to build a stronger spiritual foundation for the American family. After the rally, ten to thirty smaller conferences throughout the country will present resources to aid pastors in strengthening the families in their congregations.
Other emphases will be added as God reveals His will. As we look at other areas where God might have us focus our energies, we continue to discover a number of successful ministry efforts that might offer insights and resources to nurture a Kingdom focus in the life of the believer. One thing is clear to us. Christians can seek the King and His Kingdom in all areas of their lives with tangible impact.
Finally, it is important to note that many Southern Baptists have at least in part shown the type of passion for Kingdom living that Empowering Kingdom Growth hopes to foster:
• In 2001, a record 34,000 Southern Baptist volunteers served in short-term international missions projects with the International Mission Board.
• Another 300,000 Southern Baptists (more than at any other time in our history) served in mission projects in the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands through the North American Mission Board.
• Southern Baptists baptized nearly 800,000 persons worldwide last year (about one person every forty seconds).
Empowering Kingdom Growth is not going to be defined by goals and statistics. Yet, we know that fruit will result from our labors — that these things shall be added to us — if we first seek God and His righteousness.
Becoming a Kingdom-focused person is as simple as asking "Am I a Kingdom person? If not, how can I be? If so, how shall I live?"
I encourage you to make the King and His Kingdom the passion of your life today. People everywhere are unaware that Jesus is the only hope for eternal life. How shall they know except our hearts burn passionately with an indescribable love for him who died for us. If in the course of Empowering Kingdom Growth, Jesus does not become more "real to me," creating a deeper yearning to know Him better and love Him more, I am convinced we will miss what God has prepared for us in this generation. Future generations of Southern Baptists may look back at this time as a lost opportunity, a wrong turn in the road that led an entire denomination off course spiritually. Who's to know? To pass up such a moment in history may mean that never again will we come so close to seeing God rain a wonder-working revival down upon us, our nation and, for that matter, the world.
The question, "Am I a Kingdom person?" is a question for the ages. For the Kingdom's sake and the salvation of millions, there may be another question we cannot, for Jesus' sake, fail to answer. That question is, "Can I afford not to take a good, long, hard look within and determine that once and for all, Jesus is going to mean all the world to me for the rest of my life?" Our future, our families, our churches, our denomination, and our nation will be impacted for good or evil dependent upon how we answer this question one after another. Not to answer it at all will surely lead us to a failure so monumental, our children and our children's children may never be able to recover spiritually. It's a sad, sad thought, but a thought from which can arise a mighty witness for our Lord never before seen by the unsaved world.
Is not each of us compelled by God's Spirit to answer these questions one person at a time? We know in our hearts that if these questions are answered honestly in obedience to God's Word, the result will be a spiritual revolution now that will send spiritual shockwaves through future generations. Such a powerful work of God's Spirit upon the earth will generate untold millions of stouthearted Christians should the Lord continue to delay His return.
Spurgeon on Kingdom Expansion
We ought to regard the Christian Church, not as a luxurious hostelry where Christian gentlemen may each one dwell at his ease in his own inn, but as a barracks in which soldiers are gathered together to be drilled and trained for war. We should regard the Christian Church, not as an association for mutual admiration and comfort, but as an army with banners, marching to the fray, to achieve victories for Christ, to storm the strongholds of the foe, and to add province after province to the Redeemer's kingdom. We may view converted persons gathered into church-membership as so much wheat in the granary. God be thanked that it is there, and that so far the harvest has rewarded the sower; but far more soul-inspiring is the view when we regard those believers as each one likely to be made a living centre for the extension of the kingdom of Jesus, for then we see them sowing the fertile valleys of our land, and promising ere long to bring forth some thirty, some forty, some fifty, and some a hundredfold. The capacities of life are enormous, one becomes a thousand in a marvellously brief space. Within a short time, a few grains of wheat would suffice to seed the whole world, and a few true saints might suffice for the conversion of all nations. Only take that which comes of one ear, store it well, sow it all, again store it next year, and then sow it all again, and the multiplication almost exceeds the power of computation. Oh, that every Christian were thus year by year the Lord's seed corn! If all the wheat in the world had perished except a single grain, it would not take many years to replenish all the earth, and sow her fields and plains; but in a far shorter time, in the power of the Holy Spirit, one Paul or one Peter would have evangelized all lands. View yourselves as grains of wheat predestinated to seed the world. That man lives grandly who is as earnest as if the very existence of Christianity depended upon himself, and is determined that to all men within his reach shall be made known the unsearchable riches of Christ.
Charles H. Spurgeon, from the sermon The Soul Winner, January 20, 1894
Morris H. Chapman is president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.