John Ewart on Critical Abilities, Part 4

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John Ewart is Director of the Spurgeon Center for Pastoral Leadership and Preaching and Associate Vice President for Global Theological Initiatives. This is the fourth post in a series on Critical Abilities in Pastoral Leadership. 

Previously I have posted that the first two critical abilities a missional leader must possess are 1) the ability to understand the true mission and 2) to establish a biblical vision. With these in place, the tracks are laid; the train has been built and set into place.

Now how does the train stay on track and move forward? I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the question of how do new churches make decisions concerning what they are going to actually do. I was concerned with the “now what?” question. We have planted a church, now what do we do and how do we decide that in order to best move forward?

Over the years I have seen a plethora of churches that cannot make healthy decisions, do not realize they need to, and/or if they did, have unhealthy practices in which they make them. This inability has led to a lot of contextual chaos…bumper cars from a previous post, or a train wreck. They are either going in a million directions with no cohesive process or they are doing virtually nothing. If they continue, they often end up in reverse or totally off track.

So what can a leader do? The third critical ability of a missional leader is to build bridges of leadership. If there is no understanding of the true mission or a strong biblical vision, leaders will not be able to guide the church down the tracks in the proper direction or at the proper speed. But even with those first two abilities, it is absolutely critical to put in place the right leadership team with a proper understanding of bridge building.

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A bridge connects two sides of a gap of some kind. Some bridges are designed for one-way traffic; others are for two-way traffic. Some leadership relationships are one-way while others are two-way. Let me illustrate just a couple of them.

The first leadership bridge a missional leader must build and cross is the leadership relationship between leader (himself) and God. This is a one-way bridge. Not the relationship but the leadership. I never lead God. God must always lead me. It is amazing how often pastors and church leaders need to be reminded of this basic truth. This is where it begins and ends. How is your total submission to the leadership of God? Are you trying to lead Him? How is that working for you?

Another bridge to build and cross is the leadership relationship of leader to leaders. Some may argue that this is a one-way bridge. I do not. In fact I am confident this is part of the problem sometimes. I believe this is a two-way bridge. Missional leaders recognize they can still learn from and at times be led by other leaders.

I always worked closely with the other key church leaders, both vocational and volunteer, as a pastor. We worked together in synergy, moving down the tracks as one. We met and communicated with one another frequently and learned to trust and love one another. We were friends and co-laborers. We were on the same page.

I am convinced that if this type of understanding and harmony existed among the leaders of churches, then the health of the church would vastly improve.

Remember a third leadership bridge. The leadership relationship of God to leaders. I actually believe that I do not own the market on discerning God’s will. God speaks to others through His Word as well. This is a one-way bridge for them just like it is for me. A wise man will seek wise godly counsel from God-led people and not attempt to lead alone.

How are you relating to and leading those with whom you serve? Once these initial bridges are built, there are several others to cross. These include leaders to congregation, God to congregation and congregation to the world. Understanding these connections and the proper way they fit together is critical for missional motion down the tracks.

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J.D. Greear on How God Uses Two “Gardens” to Grow Our Children

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Every Thursday afternoon at Between the Times we highlight the writing of Southeastern alum, J.D. Greear, Pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durahm, North Carolina. Recently, J.D. discussed how it is we ought to train our children in the gospel. 

Here’s an excerpt from the post:

An inheritance is what you leave behind for future generations. So when a church thinks about what they are “leaving behind” for their city, they shouldn’t be thinking of ministry plans or church buildings, but kids. The children in our church are the first ones that God has given us to win for the gospel. They are the inheritance we are leaving for our city.

 

That means our primary responsibility for our children is to teach them the gospel—and to equip them to teach it to others. That is the most important task any parent has. And I don’t exaggerate in saying it’s the most important task of any church.

Click here to read the full post.

John Ewart on Critical Abilities, Part 3

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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 continues his series on Critical Abilities in pastoral leadership.

In my last post I shared that the first critical ability a missional leader must possess is the ability to understand the true mission. If we miss the mission of God, we miss it all. To bring Him glory is our ultimate goal, it is why we exist. This mission is unchanging and predetermined regardless of context. It is supra-cultural. I do not have to create it or wonder about it. It is there…always. This truth provides the framework, the train track, the station from which we depart and the destination we seek to reach.

So, how do I live and lead in such a way as to glorify Him always and fulfill this mission? This question drives the second critical ability that missional leaders must possess. Church leaders must possess the ability to establish a biblical vision. The vision is the specific plan for your specific people, in your specific place, at this specific time to carry out the ultimate mission.

This is the “who and the how” to the “why.” What will we believe and do in order to bring God glory? If you remember the train track motif I suggested last time, this is train building. What type of train do we need to build to run down these tracks at this time and in this place?

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With a degree and some experience in missions, I am always thinking in terms of context and culture. Though every train needs to stay on track toward its ultimate destination, not every train looks exactly alike or moves exactly in the same way. Not every church and ministry will be exactly the same either. Just because Dr. Bob across town is doing something does not necessarily mean that you are supposed to do it too. So please throw the cookie cutters away and seek the Lord within the context in which He has placed you.

There are plenty of models for vision out there. Probably a book a day! But remember, the critical ability is to establish a biblical vision. An effective strategy must be based on and driven by the Word of God.

Scripture reveals these “hows” to us in several ways and throughout its pages. A well-worn way to look at them is through Acts 2:42-47. Though this passage has been used and abused in many ways we do see the early believers intentionally moving forward in their biblical responsibilities. They were continuing the ministry that Jesus began on earth and God was blessing them.

I would also recommend looking deeper into the book at Acts 11 and 12 and see how the church at Antioch was fulfilling the mission. Here was a church that seemed to get it and what they were doing was bringing Him glory.

If teaching the lessons from these passages is too old-school for you find a biblical plan that speaks to you and your context. Use the book of Ephesians like my friend Chuck Lawless teaches, or another model, but find a biblical model to teach! An examination of biblical responsibilities can enable a congregation to evaluate their spiritual health and practice and to determine their vision for action. Leaders need to help their people understand they are on mission and there is a biblical vision for them to follow.

While I was pastoring full time, our vision began with a train made up of six cars from Acts 2. Our ministries, staff, budget, planning and agendas revolved around those six cars. We were all tied together in synergy by an overarching mission. No bumper cars in my world! Instead there was a powerful, Holy Spirit led, Bible driven ministry synergy. I have seen it, lived it, and led it. So can you.

Next time I am going to show you how it comes together. I am going to discuss how to coordinate leadership and ministries.

 

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