Prayer emphasis: 'One in Christ'
NASHVILLE (BP) -- From his unique vantage point -- as a Korean pastor of a multiethnic church for more than two decades in Boston, the historic "cradle of the American Revolution" -- Paul Kim sees an America that has clearly gone adrift.
"This isn't the America the Pilgrims founded in 1620 near Boston where I live," Kim said, citing the growing movement to legalize same-sex marriage and the drift from the nation's Christian origins. "This isn't the country our forefathers dreamed of. There's no question that our country has changed. Sin has so influenced our country. We need salvation from God."
Born in Korea, Kim came to the United States 50 years ago, became a U.S. citizen and eventually became a reserve chaplain for the U.S. Army. The veteran Boston pastor founded Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass., in 1991 and currently serves as its pastor emeritus. The church was originally Berkland Baptist Church-Boston, named after the church Kim had started in Northern California a decade earlier.
Kim is among a diverse collection of Southern Baptist leaders urging churches -- in response to the country's great spiritual needs -- to unite through prayer the week following the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Baltimore.
The One in Christ prayer emphasis emanated from an ethnic leaders' prayer meeting hosted by the North American Mission Board last November. The seven-day prayer emphasis is intended to take place between June 15 (Father's Day) and June 21. Participants can sign up to have daily Scripture readings and prayer encouragements sent to their phones. The Scripture readings and prayer encouragements will take readers through the six chapters of Ephesians and Revelation 2 (Jesus' letter to the church at Ephesus).
Participants can take part in the prayer emphasis during any seven-day period that fits their schedules. But organizers of the emphasis expect the Father's Day launch to help communicate its unifying theme since all believers have "one Father and therefore one family in Christ."
Initiative organizers believe the book of Ephesians -- with its emphasis on unity -- has particular relevance to the struggles faced by churches in the 21st century. They expect the Scripture readings and prayer encouragements to lead Southern Baptists from diverse backgrounds to unite under the lordship of Jesus.
"The church is suffering from disunity," Keith Marshall Williams, pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia and current vice president of the National African American Fellowship of the SBC, said. "I think that's because we have an identity crisis. We don't know who we are. We have our cup under the wrong fountain -- prestige, popularity, preeminence and position -- rather than the Prince of Peace."
Ephesians reminds Southern Baptists to focus on what unites them -- Jesus -- as opposed to what divides them, Darryl Craft, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Miss., said.
"When Paul addresses the church in Ephesus, one of the concerns he had was that they understand their oneness in the Lord," Craft said. "Paul sees that they're identifying themselves more by their differences than what they share in Christ."
Ephesians also addresses unity and roles in the family -- another important issue today, Craft said. To be a witness to a hurting world with broken families everywhere, Southern Baptists in particular, and the church as a whole, must present a unified family to the world.
"The broken homes are creating havoc today on the church," he said. "In consequence the church is in desperate need of discovering the biblical perspectives on relationships. When Paul writes to the church in Ephesus, he is giving us a biblical model of the Gospel in the family. In other words, the family is to be a picture of the Gospel to the culture."
Kim believes the issue of unity is critical not just to those inside of the church but especially to those outside of the church -- those who do not yet know Jesus as Lord.
"If we don't live in unity as a church, we can't have a testimony to the world," Kim said. "We can't tell the world, 'You repent.' We have no right and no power to do that if we're not united to show the world that people of all different ethnic and social backgrounds are one because of Jesus Christ."
Elías Bracamonte, executive director of the SBC National Hispanic Fellowship and pastor of Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida in Topeka, Kan., encourages churches to get involved in the prayer emphasis because seeking God is a critical part to any endeavor -- but particularly to unity in the church.
"Prayer is the only way we can communicate with the Lord," Bracamonte said. "The Lord started His ministry with prayer -- and He ended it with prayer on the cross. Prayer brings unity. More than anything we need to be united in one purpose, so we can come together and win those who need to hear about the Lord."
To find out more about the prayer emphasis and to register, visit OneFather.org.
Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. This article first appeared in SBC LIFE (www.SBCLIFE.net), the SBC Executive Committee's journal.