By Michael A. Cox
Ken Hemphill is a candidate for the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2018, the fact of which most who will read this are already aware. This highest of offices in the SBC will be decided on Tuesday June 12 in Dallas by a vote scheduled for about 1:50 P.M. Here are twelve significant strengths many have observed in Ken’s life and ministry which advise that he would be an outstanding president.
He is a man of integrity.
Honesty, transparency, truthfulness, and faithfulness seem to be in short supply in America, even in the church of the Lord Jesus, and, sadly, even within our own Southern Baptist denomination. Paul admonished Timothy to entrust his apostolic teachings “to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:1 NASB). Ken is a man who is above reproach, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach… (1 Tim. 3:2). He is a man of his word; and his word is plain and dependable. His “yes” means “yes” and his “no” means “no” (James 5:12). Yet, nobody is claiming that Ken Hemphill is sinless, or even faultless. But what we are saying is that the trajectory of his life has been characterized by honesty, transparency, truthfulness, and faithfulness. He is a man of integrity.
He is a man of authentic Christian character.
Few would argue that authentic Christian character is more aptly sketched than in Paul’s words found in Gal. 5:22-23. Yielding ourselves moment by moment to the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit is the only way any of us can consistently walk in the Spirit; and walking in the Spirit is the only way we can routinely, as a habit of life, manifest the fruit of the Spirit, which fruit is exemplified as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This fruit is evident in Ken’s life and has been for many years. He is a man who strives to walk in the power of the Spirit, undergirding all that he says and does with prayer, especially prayer for wisdom and knowledge (2 Chron. 1:10). Ken is a man who reveres the holiness of God and deeply yearns for it to be actual in him. He is a man of authentic Christian character.
He has impeccable academic credentials.
Ken is a North Carolina preacher’s son who went to Wake Forest University to get an education and play linebacker. He graduated from Wake Forest with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religion. He went on to earn both his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Further, he earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree in New Testament from Cambridge University, where he studied under C.F.D. Moule. He has impeccable academic credentials.
He is a seasoned theologian who is both biblical and Southern Baptist to the core.
Ken believes that the Bible, comprised of sixty-six canonical books, is the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God. He believes it from “Genesis to maps”! His theology has had time to gel and it is doctrinally sound in every aspect. He knows what he believes and why he believes it, and he enthusiastically embraces The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message without dancing around any wording. He is a mature theologian who is both biblical and Southern Baptist to the core.
He is an insightful church growth strategist and author.
Ken has spent many years studying and writing about spiritual and numerical advancement. He has written around forty-five books, many of which explore the nuances of church and kingdom growth, that have been read by thousands, and he continues to write and publish today through Auxano Press https://auxanopress.com/collections/books. One of his newest (2018) books is entitled Unlimited: God’s Love, Atonement, and Mission, which is already proving to be a blessing to many. He is an insightful church growth strategist and author.
He is an experienced and much beloved pastor and educator.
Ken served as pastor of Wolf Creek Baptist Church in Wolf Creek, Kentucky, while in seminary. He later began his teaching career at Wingate College in Wingate, North Carolina. He then became the Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Galax, Virginia, and then on to the pastorate at the First Baptist Church of Norfolk, Virginia, where the church experienced phenomenal growth during his tenure. He has served as a guest lecturer in the United States and Scotland, including the School of Evangelism in Scotland; The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Beeson Divinity School of Samford University; Oklahoma Baptist University; New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; and, of course, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he served as President from 1994-2003; and presently at North Greenville University, a comprehensive university in Tigerville, South Carolina, which is affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention. He is an experienced and much beloved pastor and educator.
He understands that the need of the Southern Baptist Convention is deeper than structural changes.
Ken believes that the key issue within the Southern Baptist Convention is “the restoration of passion for the King and His kingdom in the hearts of individuals and churches that would, in turn, lead to increased evangelistic activity and a deeper level of personal stewardship.”  Ken cautions that “the legitimate concern being expressed about declining baptisms will not be resolved by structural changes, but by personal spiritual awakening that results in a mission passion like that of Isaiah, who cried out, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” (Isa. 6:8). He also warns that, “We cannot be satisfied to redistribute old resources. What we desperately need is ‘new and abundant resources.’ We need a stewardship revival!” He substantiates this claim of the need for a stewardship revival by asserting, “In the average American church, 25 percent of the people give 85 percent of the resources. Even more troubling is the finding that those who give regularly give only 2.5 percent of their income.” He further laments the fact that Cooperative Program missions giving by churches “has dropped steadily until it now averages only 6.2 percent,” and that was in 2010. Sadly, the trend has continued and is likely below 6 percent today. Hemphill lamented in this 2010 Viewpoint, “This reduction in percentage giving by the local church has, in turn, caused state conventions to cut back services or to retain a larger percentage of the CP monies that are given by the churches in their states…The issue is not to redistribute the small amount of water that makes its way to the SBC entities; the answer is to increase the volume at every level.” He understands that the need of the Southern Baptist Convention is deeper than structural changes.
He values the work of state conventions.
In another 2010 Viewpoint article, Ken shared his concerns that one of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force reports “seemed to suggest that accountability was lacking for monies received from NAMB for agreed-upon ministry initiatives.” He also expressed concern “that the lack of NAMB financial agreements would greatly penalize those states that face the greatest need and greatest opportunity when it comes to planting churches.” He wrote of his alarm, stating, “The potential impact upon state convention work was recently in the news when a potential presidential candidate indicated the state convention should keep no more than 25 percent of CP monies collected for state-wide ministries,” calling this an “arbitrary” and “unrealistic number.” Thankfully, such has not happened yet, and Ken can be counted on to stand against such nonsense. He values the work of state conventions.
He esteems the work of Baptist associations.
Ken has long been both a supporter and a participant in the work of the Baptist associations. He knows that, other than the local church, there is no greater asset to on-site cooperative ministry than the Baptist associations. They need to remain intact and experience revitalization from both directions: from the local churches and their ministerial staff as well as from the state and national conventions. He esteems the work of Baptist associations.
He believes in the inestimable worth of the Cooperative Program.
Ken has worked and written diligently for decades to promote and protect giving through the Cooperative Program. He has opposed, and will continue to oppose, any giving strategy that “has the potential to degenerate into a ‘make-your-own-budget’ mentality.” In another 2010 Viewpoint regarding the “make-your-own-budget” mentality, he wrote, “The end result of such a strategy would be to erode the essential partnership between state and national convention and create the possibility that a state would actually find it necessary to keep a larger percentage of Cooperative Program monies in-state to make up for those monies designated through a ‘Great Commission Giving’ category that bypasses the state convention.” He has grave concerns about any giving strategy which might “become a ready means for designating the churches’ mission giving,” fearing that any such plan “will spell the end of the Cooperative Program as we know it and will make it virtually impossible to design and fund a national mission strategy.” He has never wavered from this posture, and never will. He has even been so bold as to suggest that a good starting point to be considered by each church for its Cooperative Program giving be 10 percent and has called for “a more sacrificial level of giving at every level,” meaning the individual and the local church. He believes in the inestimable worth of the Cooperative Program.
He is an experienced denominational ambassador with a plan for the future.
We all know that Ken has been in denominational ministry for many years, leading by example and not heavy-handedly. He served as Director of the Southern Baptist Center for Church Growth in Atlanta, Georgia, a joint venture of the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) and the Sunday School Board (now LifeWay) of the Southern Baptist Convention. From there, he became President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Then, as the Empowering Kingdom Growth National Strategist for the Executive Committee, he traveled extensively promoting the kingdom of Christ. No opportunity was too small or too large. From coast to coast and from border to border he preached, taught, and witnessed for the cause of Christ, maintaining his morality, integrity, and stellar Christian character all the while as an ambassador for the Lord Jesus first and for Southern Baptists second. He is a statesman par excellence, and he has a “vision” for the future revitalization of the Southern Baptist Convention, the details of which can be found at his website, http://kenhemphill2018.com/.
He is available to implement his vision of revitalization.
This is the twelfth and final strength I am listing, although I could list many more. Twelve seems “biblical” enough for everyone to get the picture. Not to diminish the absolute importance of the previous eleven, but, lacking this one, our Convention’s need of revitalization may not get the necessary traction without a gifted encourager ready, willing, and able to engage in the demanding itinerant ministry requisite to invigorating and unifying it. This is a volunteer position. Just to spell it out – there is no pay! But to Ken, the office of president of the Southern Baptist Convention is far more than an honorary, “face of the Convention” position. It is a calling; a summons to build on the prayer emphasis of President Steve Gaines and a directive to commit the next two years to being available to instruct, teach, preach, advise, and encourage across our denomination with a view toward individual, church, association, state convention, and Southern Baptist Convention spiritual revitalization which results in renewed commitment to biblical doctrine, biblical morality, biblical evangelism, biblical stewardship, biblical worship, biblical discipleship, and much more. Wonderful, hard-working men of God have served as president, but their full-time ministry necessarily limits their availability in many cases. While Ken is a popular preacher and professor, currently serving as Interim Pastor at Second Baptist Church in Springfield, Missouri, and as Director of the Center for Church Planting and Revitalization at North Greenville University, he is not tied to any single pulpit, has a flexible university schedule, and is race-horse ready to go to work. He is available to implement his vision of revitalization.
Assessing these strengths should lead one to conclude that Ken Hemphill is uniquely seasoned, gifted, qualified, and senses God’s call to be the next President of the Southern Baptist Convention “for such a time as this.”
 Kenneth S. Hemphill, “GCRTF Viewpoint: Our Need Is Deeper Than Structural Changes,” http://www.bpnews.net/32756/gcrtf-viewpoint-kenneth-s-hemphill-our-need-is-deeper-than-structural-changes, accessed 4 May 2018.
 Kenneth S. Hemphill, “GCRTF Viewpoint: Valuing the Work of State Conventions,” http://www.bpnews.net/32765/gcrtf-viewpoint-kenneth-s-hemphill-valuing-the-work-of-state-conventions, accessed 4 May 2018.
 Kenneth S. Hemphill, “GCRTF Viewpoint: The Solution Is More Sacrificial Giving,” http://www.bpnews.net/32784/gcrtf-viewpoint-ken-hemphill-the-solution-is-more-sacrificial-giving, accessed 4 May 2018.
Michael A. Cox is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Pryor, Oklahoma.