John Ewart on EQUIP equipping Pastors

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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.

Scott Kellum: What is the New Testament Canon (Part 1)?

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[Editor's Note: This post first appeared on August 7, 2012. In this four-part series, L. Scott Kellum, Associate Professor of New Testament & Greek at Southeastern, addresses the complex but very important question of the New Testament canon: why is there a New Testament; why are certain documents but not others included in the New Testament; and what does all this mean for ministry in the church and engagement with the world? Check in next Monday for part 2.]

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before. “The NT Canon (the authoritative collection of books) was formed over a period of sorting and sifting overseen by the Holy Spirit that was essentially completed by AD 200. The early church councils settled the fuzzy edges of the Canon.” This was what I heard as a young Christian. I suspect you’ve heard something similar. Upon further study I am convinced that this is at least 100 years too late in its date and places far too much emphasis on the church councils. This week I will address many aspects of the NT Canon to defend my thesis. In this post, I want to briefly explore the origins of the idea of a New Testament. Why did the early Christians endorse the idea of new Scriptures? If someone came to you and said, “we have new scripture for you,” you would rightly refuse it. Why is it that they did not?

Before we do that, however, let’s first correctly understand the early church councils. No evidence exists that the early councils actually debated the Canon. They only listed their books. If we evangelicals embrace the list in the councils we make two mistakes. First, to grant the councils the final word is to give too much authority to these councils. This is something evangelicals have always hesitated to do. Second, they also endorsed the OT Apocrypha as Scripture. If we take them as authoritative, we must also adopt these extra books to the OT. Again, we are on good grounds not to do so. Instead, it is better to evaluate the councils than submit to them. I think it is clear they were endorsing the Testaments as they were handed down to them in Greek. Regarding the NT, the choice is correct. In the OT, they were simply listing the books of the Septuagint that included these extra books. The councils, then, are best understood as a witness to our present 27-book NT.

So then, why were the early believers willing to accept roughly contemporaneous documents as authoritative Scripture? This question comprises two concepts. First, there is the very idea of Canon, i.e., a closed set of authoritative writings that in itself is authoritative. Second, when the question comes to the NT, why add to the OT Canon, which, by definition, is closed?

Because few works survive from the 1st and 2d centuries when these decisions happened, answering these questions is not easy. But there are works that do survive and what they explicitly cite and infer will help answer these questions. Examining the Church Fathers from before AD 150 we see every book of the NT cited as an authority. 3 John is often said to be missing, however, a few sources do show echoes of 3 John. So we see that the books in the present NT Canon were recognized, but what about the whole set?

Many scholars suggest the idea of a canon came from Marcion (a Gnostic-like heretic, expelled from the church of Rome c. AD 144). Marcion did produce a canon that was an edited edition of Luke and Paul’s letters. It is said that the early church’s response was a longer canon. This hypothesis, however, is coming under more and more suspicion in the academy. It is more likely that the origins of a Canon concept are earlier than Marcion. Irenaeus, writing only a few decades after Marcion and Tertullian, about 60 years later, both chastised Marcion for destructive not creative activity. Furthermore, some documents previous to Marcion are responding to the existence of an authoritative set of books. If so, it is most likely that Marcion was editing orthodox documents rather than “orthodoxing” documents.

So why is it a closed collection? Christians inherited the Canon concept from the Jews. So that Christianity already had a Canon: the OT. The Jewish historian Josephus contrasts the OT with a myriad of Pagan scriptures and notes that Judaism has a “fixed number of books.” Certainly sounds like “Canon” doesn’t it? The Second-century Christians not only had a Canon (the OT), there existed a body of literature that they recognized as NT Canon.

Yet it was not just a second-century phenomenon. It is clear that the new Scripture was being recognized very early. Both 2 Peter 3:15-16 (Paul’s letters) and 1 Timothy 5:18 (the Gospel of Luke) affirm new works as Scripture (equal with the OT). What led to this phenomenon?

I believe that the answer is found in understanding that the OT was “the book of the Covenant.” Ancient Near East covenants usually were accompanied by documents stipulating the terms. Within the OT, portions of it were called “the book of the covenant” (see, Exod 24:7; Deut 29:20; 31:9, 26; 2 Kgs 23:2, 21; 2 Chr 34:30). The same description can be found in Second-temple Jewish literature (see 1 Maccabees 1:56–57 and Sirach 24:23) referring to the whole OT. Thus, both the OT itself and later Jews considered the OT to be “book(s) of the covenant.” So then, with the advent of the New Covenant, covenant documents naturally would be expected. It is the prophesied New Covenant that is the impetus for new Scriptures (covenant documents).

This explains a few things for us: 1) the rapid recognition of apostolic documents as Scripture, 2) the limitation to apostolic men as authors for they were the witnesses of the covenant, and 3) it also explains the name of the collection. We are used to “New Testament,” but the title in Greek “he kaine diatheke” is better translated, “the New Covenant.”

Thus, the idea of a NT Canon was not the result of the councils, or a reaction to a Roman heretic. Instead, the NT flows organically from the establishment of a new covenant, predicted by the OT prophets, and instituted in and through the Lord Jesus Christ himself. He is the very fount, not only of all Christian blessings, but also of the NT Canon.

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The following sources were employed in this post (and great for further reading!): Meredith Kline, The Structure of Biblical Authority, 2d ed. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1997 (reprint, 1987); C.E. Hill, The Johannine Corpus in the Early Church. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2004; C. E. Hill, Who Chose the Gospels? Probing the Great Gospel Conspiracy. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2010; A. J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum, & C. L. Quarles. The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament. Nashville: B & H, 2009.

John Ewart on the Discipline of Why

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I have been thinking and talking about a subject a lot lately. I am currently serving as an interim pastor for a church in Virginia and the leaders there and I have been praying through and talking about this issue constantly. The wonderful team of people I have the privilege of serving here at Southeastern talk about this principle all of the time as well. I have come to refer to it simply as the “Discipline of Why?” I have alluded to this principle in previous blogs but want to zero in on it for just a moment. If nothing else, this will help me put it into better words for the future. Thank you for allowing me to think out loud for a paragraph or two!

The Discipline of Why Principle goes something like this: “Why?” must always precede “Who?” which must always precede “What?” which must always precede ‘How?” This disciplined way of thinking and planning seems simple right? The problem is, after 34 years of ministry, I continue to constantly notice its absence. It makes me want to ask, well, why?

So many leaders it seems want to immediately plunge into the “How?” How can I fix this? How can we do that? How can we change? How can we grow? How can we reach people? Seemingly good questions with good intent. I mean, nuts and bolts type stuff, right? The problem is, however, without the more important questions being asked in preparation for this stage, they often become victims of reactionary thinking and doing. They hop from one “How?” to the next without much long term success or effectiveness.

We could begin by asking, “What?” What do we need to do? What do we need to do it? Questions like this. Again, seemingly a very reasonable path, but it is still lacking much depth and proactivity. Our “Whats?” and “Hows?” are often driven by what we see happening on the surface around us and do not require much true theological or even contextual assessment or searching. They are basic questions of tasks and resources, programming and projects. Catalogs, conferences and calendars can answer most of these questions.

“Who?” is a question of identity. It is a search of being and not just doing. Who are we? Who does God want us to be? Who is our community? Who does God want them to be? This line of inquiry takes us much deeper. These are questions of theology and relationship and discipleship and contextualization that should define the resulting needed tasks and resources. We need answers to these questions of identification in order to even begin to uncover in what actions we are supposed to engage and use how we are supposed to engage in them.

But the discipline of beginning with “Why?” is even greater. “Why?” is a question of purpose, of mission, of existence. Why did God create and save me? Why did He put me or us in this place at this time with these people? “Why?” changes everything else. The answers provide us with proper perspective and focus. Knowing “Why?” produces the opportunity for obedience and to bring God glory. Our motivation, our reason for everything comes from these answers.

I am a very task oriented person. Very. It is an innate default setting for me to hop to “How?” I am thankful for those God has placed in my life who have helped me to understand the incredible value of asking the right questions in the right order. I challenge you to become disciplined in the “Why?” You will see His mission more clearly, be able to remain focused upon that mission and be strengthened to follow the mission with more endurance.

The principle works, just ask me “Why?”