John Ewart on Decision, Discipline, Dependence, and Deliverance

I had the privilege of speaking to our alumni at the North Carolina Baptist State Convention meeting this week. It was a joy to see old friends and make new ones. Hats off to our alumni office and our staff for pulling together a great time together. In my talk, I turned to an Old Testament story found in 2 Samuel 23 to illustrate a few key characteristics of a leader in God’s service. I love this little passage and wanted to pass it along to you.

This chapter tells of King David’s mighty men. They were unusually strong and courageous soldiers. In verse 9, we discover Eleazar, son of Dodo. It is from his life we glean principles to strengthen us to become better leaders for the kingdom.

First, we learn the Principle of Decision. Eleazar did not simply wake up one morning and decide, “I believe I will be one of the king’s three mighty men today.” Decisions were made long before by him and by God in order to prepare him for this service. He had been created in a certain way, equipped and prepared physically, mentally and spiritually by God in order to be used by the king. He made decisions to prepare for this role as a general of generals.

If we want to be used by God we must decide now to serve our King and to prepare ourselves that we might be ready when the call to service comes. Preparation for battle must occur before the battle actually arises. We must be spiritual, physically and mentally prepared before the opportunity comes our way or we might fail or miss the chance to be used. Nate Saint, the missionary martyr, said his life changed when he came to grips with the fact that, “obedience is not a momentary option…it is a die cast decision made beforehand.”

Leadership development involves training for what opportunities and challenges the future may hold. Instead of reactively recruiting people for ministry, why would we not proactively be equipping people for ministry yet to come?

The second principle we learn in verse 9 is the Principle of Discipline. Eleazar stood with his king even when everyone else ran away. The idea of the Hebrew army withdrawing refers to them going up or ascending. As the enemy poured over one side of the valley the Israelites retreated up the other, leaving their king and Eleazar down in the middle!

People retreat for two reasons: misdirected fear and misdirected faith. We forget who God is and who we are and the difference between the two. We fear the wrong things and we believe and trust in the wrong things, or people.

Leaders must learn to stand with their King even when it is not popular, the enemy is attacking, and they are all alone. This is not easy. Leaders stand because they are disciplined. They are disciplined because the right decisions have been made beforehand. We need effective leaders showing others how this is done.

Principle number three is the Principle of Dependence found in verse 10. Eleazar did not wait until he was overwhelmed by the enemy. Instead, he went on the attack with the only weapon he had. He was absolutely dependent on his sword to be strong and to work properly. He swung that sword so long his hand cramped to the hilt. The word means to be joined, to be one. He was one with his sword.

That battle wasn’t the first time the general had ever used his weapon. He was likely a master swordsman. He was one of the three mighty men! He probably had trained many a man in swordsmanship. You see decisions had been made, preparation and experience had taken place to lead him to this discipline and dependence.

Have we became master swordsmen? Have we practiced and prepared, spent time training, so that when the moment came, we could stand with our King? Read Ephesians 6:17 and Hebrews 4:12 and ask yourself if you need a little sword drill today.

Our last principle is the Principle of Deliverance in verse 10. I cannot think of a greater testimony than to acknowledge that all the victory, all the honor and glory belong to and are caused by, the Lord. God delivered Eleazar that day. There is no way he should have survived. God saved him and brought glory to Himself. A godly leader has no problem proclaiming that God did it. In fact, isn’t that the entire goal?

I find the last part of the verse almost humorous if it were not so sad. After the battle was all over and all the hard work was done, here comes the Hebrew army crawling back over the hill to strip the dead. I know a lot of churches and leaders like that. They want to enjoy all the benefits but not all the effort. They settle for spiritual leftovers.

How about you? Are you settling? Or are you serving your King, standing your ground, drawing your sword, and celebrating His victory? Learn and live out the principles of Decision, Discipline, Dependence, and Deliverance. Teach them to someone else.

 

John Ewart on EQUIP equipping Pastors

I have the privilege of partnering with local churches and local church leaders around the world through the Spurgeon Center and our EQUIP Network. EQUIP is a strategy to wed the seminary to local church ministries. There is nothing I consider more important than the opportunity to serve them. Jesus has given the mission of God to the church. That mission is to make disciples of all nations. The fulfillment of this mission includes equipping leaders and sending them out to engage in frontier missions, to strengthen churches, and to plant new churches.

The Apostle Paul writes of this challenge to Timothy, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:1-2).

Timothy was to be strengthened through the grace that is only available to those who are in Christ and the teaching he had received from Paul. He then instructs Timothy to take his teachings and entrust them to others. Though these teachings were shared openly in the presence of many and everyone would benefit from hearing them, Timothy also needed to find specific men to which to entrust them in order to make certain they would be preserved and shared to future generations in the proper way. These men had to meet two requirements. First, they had to be faithful. Second, they had to be able to teach others.

Church leaders today must continue this pattern. We certainly must share the teachings of Scripture openly and faithfully from our pulpits, in our small groups and in our daily conversations to all who will listen. But we should also seek out specific men to whom we can entrust this message.

To shepherd these men, we must model for them and teach to them what it means to remain faithful and to walk with God in His strengthening grace. To help them teach others we must equip them with the proper skills and provide them opportunity. This type of equipping requires time and intentionality.

As Pastor Nathan Akin challenges, “The question for pastors has to be, who are your II Timothy 2:2 men? We have a variety of ways to measure ‘success’ in the church today. Too often they revolve around our statistics. If the Apostle Paul were giving standards of success it seems certain that one of them would be how many men are you raising up as leaders who will in turn do the same?”

Dr. Tony Merida also asks, “Have you ever considered the fact that perhaps the greatest thing you might do with your life is to pour into a future leader?” He adds, “Every pastor should not just have a ‘to-do’ list but also a ‘to-be’ list of potential leaders to mentor.”

EQUIP partners with local churches to help those leaders who seek to develop this type of ministry as well as to walk alongside those who already engage in it.  We can show you examples of equipping ministries and processes and help you develop the intentionality you seek in equipping other faithful leaders. In addition, there are several ways those who are being trained can earn fully accredited academic credit while engaging in this shepherding ministry with you. Please contact us today at www.sebts.edu/equip so we can determine how we might best serve you.

Recommendation: Alister McGrath’s Glossary of Theological Terms

One of the fun things about teaching church history is introducing my students to all kinds of technical theological terms that they should never (ever!!!) use in a sermon, but nevertheless probably need to know. I require students in all of my classes to purchase a copy of the Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms and bring it with them to class. They are not allowed to ask me to define a term in class unless they have first consulted the Pocket Dictionary to see if it is included therein.

I recently discovered that Alister McGrath has a glossary of theological terms on his Wiley-Blackwell author’s page. For those of you who haven’t heard of McGrath, he is arguably one of the two or three best-known evangelical theologians in the English-speaking world. He has written dozens of book on systematic theology, historical theology, spirituality, the Reformation, C. S. Lewis, and the relationship between theology and science. He is a sharp cookie. If you want to learn more about McGrath’s thoughts on some of these topics, check out my colleague Jamie Dew’s book Science and Theology: An Assessment of Alister McGrath’s Critical Realist Perspective and SEBTS alum Larry McDonald’s book The Merging of Theology and Spirituality: An Examination of the Life and Work of Alister E. McGrath.

Even if you don’t want to learn more about McGrath’s thought, avail yourself of his super-helpful glossary of theological terms. Your friends will be impressed when you tell them that Hesychasm is “A tradition, especially associated with the eastern church, which places considerable emphasis upon the idea of “inner quietness” (Greek: hesychia) as a means of achieving a vision of God. It is particularly associated with writers such as Simeon the New Theologian and Gregory Palamas.” Don’t you feel more theologically astute already?