Dr. Hankins’ message to members of the Executive Board about a new direction.
Editor’s note: Dr. Hankins’ message
to members of the Executive Board was so clear, concise and visionary
that we felt the need to share it with everyone in the LBC.
We are developing a strategy for our LBC churches called Empowering
Kingdom Growth – Louisiana. You will be hearing more about it in coming
days: how it works and how you can be involved.
Today, I want to think with you about the theological underpinnings of
an emphasis on the kingdom of God. It is not merely a strategy or the
latest denominational slogan. We are praying it will be the catalyst
for us to evaluate our spiritual health as a convention of Baptist
Christians, churches, and organizations.
For several years, our leaders have been sounding the alarm that all is
not well. They have noted disturbing data such as the large percentage
of our churches that are plateaued or declining, the static rate of
baptisms in the United States, and the discouraging similarity in
lifestyle between the members of our congregations and the secular
population at large. We need a new direction. We need renewal and
How can this be achieved? Perhaps our difficulty in finding solutions
to our malady is we have been treating the symptoms but not the
disease. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God said of the religious
leaders in that day, “They dress the wound of my people as though it
were not serious” (Jeremiah 8:11).
Have we hoped superficial salves would heal the wounds of our people –
more opportunities, more events, more literature, more
creativity? I must tell you, it is not working! I do not desire
to gainsay any good thing (and there are many) that is being
accomplished for Jesus through our denomination (and how successful we
appear when compared to many other church groups!). However, by
every measurement criterion we know, we are losing ground – in the
conduct of our churches, in the conversion of our culture, in the
character of our people, in the commitment to our mission around the
The Louisiana Baptist Convention vision statement says we want to
ignite a passion for Jesus among our people. We want God to turn our
hearts, heal our wounds, form in us spiritual character, and fill us
with spiritual power. I believe the key to such a movement is to
discover anew the kingdom of God.
The announcement of the coming of the kingdom of God was the paramount
message of Jesus in His public ministry. Under the title “Empowering
Kingdom Growth-Louisiana,” we are praying God will draw Louisiana
Baptists to a spiritual journey seeking the King and His kingdom.
When Jesus came preaching the kingdom of God, he unveiled its character
by means of parables. The most informative and provocative passage on
the subject of the kingdom of God is Matthew 13 which records the
series of illustrations from the mouth of our Lord intended to teach
His followers the certainty, the success, the majesty, and the
importance of the kingdom of God.
The two longer parables are interpreted outside the hearing of the
uninitiated populace. The variegated soils and the troublesome tares
point, in turn, to careless hearers who reject the king’s offer of
salvation, and the certain, severe judgment that awaits them. In
the end, like a fisherman emptying his dragnet, Jesus says the Eternal
Judge will reject those who refuse to heed his call.
Additionally, the disciples are taught not to underestimate the
potential and the power of the kingdom of God simply because its
appearance is small like a mustard seed or its presence is
imperceptible like leaven hidden in a batch of dough. The kingdom
of God will not be stopped. It will not be defeated. No
criticisms, no crosses, no crusading armies or menacing mullahs can
halt its movement across space and time. In eternity past, Satan led a
rebellion against the kingdom of God and eventually brought the
rebellion to earth by inciting man to sin against God. The entire human
race was hopelessly entangled and implicated in the rebellion. Through
Christ, God is redeeming His creatures and re-establishing His reign on
earth in general and in the hearts of men in particular.
This kingdom, obscure at its inception like the birth of its King, will
loom large on the landscape of world cultures and will cast its shadow
to the ends of the earth. Its influence and presence will permeate all
things. God will triumph! This is the Lord’s revelation: “every tribe
and language, and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). The
expansion of the kingdom of God is relentless until such a time as the
Lord Jesus has restored all things which have been corrupted by Satan’s
rebellion and man’s fall. As the Apostle Paul declares, “Then the end
will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he
has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.”(I Cor. 15:24).
Until then, how shall we understand this glorious, hidden, marvelous,
elusive, unstoppable kingdom of God? Can we discern the king’s call or
will we also find ourselves dull of hearing, puzzled by the parables,
unable to unravel the riddle of the kingdom? In Matthew 13:44-46,
Jesus depicts the pattern for discovering the kingdom of
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man
found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had
and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he
went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
In the parables of the “Treasure Hidden in a Field” and “The Pearl of
Great Price”, we learn both the inestimable value of the kingdom and
the absolute abandonment necessary to acquire it.
I. We will discover the Kingdom of God when our hearts are captivated by the incomparable Christ
Jesus tells us the kingdom is like a man who found a treasure in a
field. His hearers were not surprised by the possibility of valuables
being dug up in a field because the ground was often the first century
bank-vault. How was it that the man happened upon the treasure?
Had the owner forgotten his treasure was there? Had he died without
directing his heirs to the place? Was he a whimsical benefactor? This
is of no consequence to the story.
The point is, a man going about his ordinary business of plowing land
not his own, accidentally unearths a buried treasure, and immediately
recognizes it as THE most significant possession of life. Even
though it is totally unexpected, unanticipated, and unsought, he knows
it is everything he had never dreamed of and more than he knew existed.
The experience is overwhelming. It is life changing. In the words of
C.S. Lewis, he was “surprised by joy.” He will never be the same.
On the other hand, the man who found the pearl was looking. He was a
buyer of pearls, that most precious of ancient jewels. The Talmud
said, “Pearls are beyond price.” The Egyptians actually worshiped
the pearl, and the Romans copied that practice. When women wanted
to show their wealth, they put pearls in their hair. The
historian Pliny the younger said that the wife of the Roman emperor
Caligula, Lollia Paulina, once went to a dinner party with pearls on
her hair, ears, neck, and fingers and calculated them at an amount that
would be worth approximately $36 million today. (From John MacArthur’s
Parables of the Kingdom). The merchant in Jesus’ parable had spent a
lifetime evaluating, scrutinizing, searching for that one unique
jewel. And there it was! Finally, he had found it! No longer
would he settle for less.
These parables tell us this is what it is like when the kingdom of God
is discovered. Our hearts are captivated by the incomparable
Christ. Jesus comes to us and we know we will never be the same.
We will no longer settle for less!
It is interesting to note how Christ comes to individuals in different
circumstances. Sometimes men seem to be unaware of their need.
Suddenly, they stumble into the encounter that revolutionizes them.
When he was young, Charles Hadden Spurgeon attended church only because
he thought it was the right thing to do. When he was fifteen
years old, he decided he should go to church on New Year’s Day.
There was a bad blizzard that day, and he could not make it to the
church he usually attended. Instead, he went to a small Methodist
church nearby. The preacher who was supposed to speak that day
never made it because of the weather. One of the church officers
went forward and conducted the service before the congregation of about
fifteen people. According to Spurgeon, the man was very
stupid. He kept reading the same text throughout the service
because he had nothing else to say: “Look unto me and be ye saved
all the ends of the earth.” Then something about young Spurgeon
caught the preacher’s eye. He said, “Young man, you look very
miserable. You will always be miserable in life and miserable in
death, unless you obey my text.” Then he shouted, “Young man,
look to Jesus!” Spurgeon said he looked, and the darkness rolled
away; he saw the Son. He hadn’t been searching for anything, but
he stumbled upon a fortune. (From John MacArthur’s Parables of the
Others agonize in their effort to understand. They question- they
doubt- they challenge everything before they come to Christ. C.
S. Lewis spent years resisting the truthfulness of Christianity.
Atheism seemed the only logical viewpoint to him. He couldn’t
imagine that he would ever find “God.” Then, he was changed.
Listen as he relates his conversion experience: “You must picture me
alone in that room …night after night, feeling…the steady unrelenting
approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet…In the Trinity
Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and
prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in
all England …Who can duly adore that Love which will open the high
gates to a prodigal who is brought kicking, struggling, resentful, and
darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words,
compelle intrare, compel them to come in…plumb the depth of the Divine
mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His
compulsion is our liberation.”
Few people have ever affected as many souls as Charles Hadden Spurgeon
and C.S. Lewis. What an amazing impact Jesus had on them. Whether
through arduous soul-searching or apparent serendipity, when Jesus is
revealed to the human heart, the result is always the same: He is
recognized as the one, incomparable Lord–the answer to the deepest
longing of the heart. The source of peace and joy and hope has been
found at last. Encountering Jesus is the portal to the kingdom of
God. We discover the kingdom when we discover the king.
You need to know, the only reason we are presenting this initiative
called “Empowering Kingdom Growth” is because we believe there is a
yearning among Baptists for that which is genuinely “of God,” for
something greater than our own best efforts, greater than ourselves.
How we desperately desire for our lives to have spiritual power and
eternal significance. We want to rise above the ordinary and the
temporal. We respond instinctively to appeals to a more intimate and
immediate relationship with God. We want to come to the end of our days
with the knowledge we have been walking with God!
This is why EKG-Louisiana begins with an appeal for spiritual renewal
in individuals and churches. While we trust that quantifiable
results like baptisms, church starts, and stewardship will still be
evident among us, we hope to measure the fruit of Empowering Kingdom
Growth by the multiplication of kingdom-minded Christians and
churches. Just as a medical ekg measures the health of the human
heart, we hope the EKG initiative can help measure the health of our
Let’s take time for a spiritual check-up. Let’s take our souls
and our churches to see the Great Physician and ask Him to heal us from
dullness of hearing and sight.
How deaf must be the deafness of the ear
Which has never heard the story;
How blind the eye
that has not looked on Christ for light;
How pressed the soul that has no hope of glory;
How hideous the fate of a man
Who knoweth only night!
O, God, may we not miss the treasure of the King in our hearts.
II. We will discover the Kingdom of God when our lives are consumed by the invincible cause
Note the response of the men in the parables. The one who
discovered the treasure sold everything he had and bought the
field. The merchant who found the perfect pearl sold everything
and bought the pearl. There was no hint of caution. There was no
hedging of bets. There was no diversification of portfolios. Everything
they were, everything they had was invested in this singular discovery.
That is what happens when you discover the kingdom. You pledge
your all to the king. All other allegiances disappear. All
other attractions fade. All other ambitions become insipid and
uninspiring. Even though the Son of Man does not have a place to
lay his head, you joyfully join Him in His kingdom’s cause.
Do you remember the response of those who encountered Jesus?
-Sinful Simon was renamed The Rock. He left everything and followed Jesus.
-Mary of Bethany met Jesus and gave up her expensive perfume to anoint her new Master.
-Zaccheus met the Savior and was no longer short on morals. He gave away his ill-gotten gain.
-Prideful Saul was overwhelmed by Christ and discovered that all the
symbols of his self-righteousness and self worth seemed to him as so
much trash. He joyfully gave his all to the King. He said, “But
whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing
greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost
all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” (Phil.
The aim of Empowering Kingdom Growth-Louisiana is to serve as a
catalyst for the creation of a kingdom perspective among us. We will
ask ourselves: Is relationship with Christ my first priority? Do I have
an understanding of the comprehensive nature of the kingdom of
God? Am I willing to set aside lesser goals such as personal
aggrandizement, economic prosperity, cultural or national stability, or
other parochial or temporal aims? Do I subjugate my own desires
in order that the whole body of Christ may be served?
This is the spirit of the citizen of the kingdom of God. As one
writer has said, “For a man to know the privileges of the reign of God
in his life, he must put God’s kingdom unquestionably and
unconditionally first, before money, and possessions, before rights and
privileges, before family and friends, before personal attitudes and
hidden desires. It must be the serious commitment of the whole
life, for ‘no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit
for the kingdom of God.’” (From I Believe in the Church, by David
Do you want to discover God’s kingdom? Find Jesus! Follow Jesus!!
Printed by permission. Content may not be altered or reprinted without the expressed, written consent of David E. Hankins.