The Spurgeon Center: Critical Abilities (John Ewart)

Editor’s Note: Every Thursday morning at Between the Times we highlight the work of Southeastern’s Spurgeon Center for Pastoral Leadership and Preaching. Directed by John H. Ewart, who also serves as Associate Vice President for Global Theological Initiatives at Southeastern, the Spurgeon Center exists to equip and encourage pastors to lead healthy, disciple-making churches for the glory of God around the world. In the effort to accomplish this mission, through the board of advisors and others the center will be offering assistance, resources and training to our students, as well as to pastors and churches, to further equip them to serve well in the crucible of real life ministry. This week Dr. Ewart introduces the work of the Spurgeon Center with a series on Critical Abilities in pastoral leadership.

Years ago, while serving in the Philippines with the then Foreign Mission Board, my supervisor and I were scheduled to attend a church planting strategy meeting on a nearby island. We drove to the coast, but due to delays missed the last automobile ferry for the day. A man overheard our problem and led us to a smaller ferry designed to carry people only. The craft had no ramp for vehicles, only a gangplank for people to walk on board. We explained we would need our car on the island to drive to our meeting. The captain just smiled and said, “No problem, we can put your car onboard.”

The gangplank was removed and the crew proceeded to lay two large boards between the edge of the dock and the edge of the boat. When the boards were in place the captain smiled and calmly said, “Drive on.” My supervisor, who had been driving and to whom the car was assigned, quickly handed me the keys and less calmly said, “Drive on.” Seeing we had no other option, I sat down behind the wheel of our mission board’s vehicle, released the clutch slowly and drove toward the end of the dock.

When I reached the edge, I realized I had a major problem. The dock was higher than the boat and the boards slanted downward. I could not see the boards! I had no idea which way to move. Recognizing the look of panic on my face, the captain hopped out on the boards and began to direct me with hand signals. I was totally dependent upon him. I focused intensely upon his every direction. He motioned me to the right, and to the left, and at one point frantically motioned for me to stop. Needless to say, I stopped!

I will never forget that moment, feeling the boards bending, listening to them creak, going up and down with the waves. One wrong move and I would plunge into the ocean. Finally I was able to creep forward, clutch and all, moving up and down with the tide, and inched my way toward the boat.

I learned much about life that day. It is full of deep water and unseen challenges. Each day holds uncertainty and the unknown. We cannot see what the next minute contains. We must move forward yet we cannot see the “boards” ahead of us. We need a guide. We need someone who can see the “boards” to direct us. We need the one who put the “boards” into place and knows them perfectly to show us the way. We must focus intensely upon his every direction. We must intentionally adjust our movement, or stop our movement, according to his command.

Graciously, God has created and set into place certain “boards” upon which His people are to intentionally move forward. These “boards” are the biblical principles and practices for our lives and His church. We must intentionally adjust our movement, or stop our movement, according to these principles. We must trust the One who has put them into place to guide us. When properly followed and fulfilled, His “boards” will lead us to accomplish His Mission.

Over the next few weeks I am going to write a series of posts discussing what I believe to be specific, critical abilities leaders in the church must possess to not only acknowledge but to stay “on the boards.”

Leadership and ministry skills development should be an intentional part of every local church ministry. They are necessary aspects of discipleship. That is why we have created an intentional bridge between the local church and seminary called the C. H. Spurgeon Center for Pastoral Leadership and Preaching. It exists to equip and encourage pastors to lead healthy, disciple-making churches for the glory of God around the world. Check it out on our website. And check back next Thursday for the next installment in the Critical Abilities series.

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