John Ewart on Critical Abilities, Part 7

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In the final post of this series I want to present one more critical ability necessary for missional leaders. Let me remind you of those I have shared about in previous posts so far:

  1. Understand the true mission.
  2. Establish a biblical vision.
  3. Build bridges of leadership.
  4. Manage change and conflict well.

These initial abilities will build on one another or at least lead to the need for one another. This final ability, however, must undergird every step. The fifth critical ability is to pray with a missional heart. I cannot overstate the significance of the need for this skill and practice!

If you want the train to move down the tracks, it needs a powerful engine. That power will not come from within us. It must come from the Holy Spirit. Prayer is one significant way to engage in that power relationship.

The church must acknowledge God’s sovereignty. Matthew 16:18 says, “…and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.” First Corinthians 3:6-7 adds, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”

Effective leaders acknowledge that “apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). They recognize their inability outside of Christ. They are not trying to move the load by themselves and by their own strength. They know they must understand His mission, establish a vision based on His Word to fulfill it, build a team of leaders to join them in that vision and then be equipped to lead in the change and through the conflict that may arise.

It bothers me greatly as I visit with pastors to see how many suffer from the sin of omni-competence. They seem to believe they are supposed to have the answer for every question and be able to accomplish any task. Who told them to do that? We were never intended to be able to do everything on our own. In fact, we were never designed to be able to do anything on our own. Everything belongs to Him. It is His church, His growth, His harvest. My life is even His. He bought me with a great price. Let us be careful that we do not confuse ownership and stewardship!

Stop reading and take a deep breath. I mean it. Breathe in breathe out. You couldn’t create that. Even that breath is a gift of grace from Him. Everything is. Prayer helps us to acknowledge Him and His sovereign rule over everything including the church.

Ironically though, Scripture also shows that the church must accept her service. James 4:2 states, “…you do not have because you do not ask.” Matthew 18:19-20 reminds us, “Again I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” God has chosen for us to play a role in His mission.

I often ask pastors for what are they praying. Are we asking for the lost souls of our communities? Are we sincerely pleading with God to revitalize the church and send her down the tracks? You know I have never met the leader who believes they are praying too much. Perhaps if we focused more in the prayer closet we would see more happening in our ministry field.

Effective missional leaders will not only develop their personal prayer lives, they will develop the prayer experiences of the entire congregation as well. Prayer will be a major part of body life and spill over into outreach efforts as well. This emphasis demands intentionality. Be the church that really prays. Activate a prayer strategy. Jesus is quoted in Matthew 9:37-38, “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers in to His harvest.’” How will we pray? For what will pray? When?

Prayer must saturate our personal lives, our small group ministries and our corporate worship experiences. This is a DNA issue for a church to experience revival and growth. Historically, no great spiritual awakening has ever occurred without God’s people first being in concerted prayer. Step one, pray. Step one million, pray. At every step in between, pray. Privately and publically, with your leaders and by yourself, pray.

 

CGCS: Stories Trump Statistics (Greg Mathias)

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Every Wednesday morning at BtT we highlight the work of the Drummond Center for Great Commission Studies at Southeastern. Recently, Greg Mathias, Associate Director of the CGCS, wrote a blogpost about how the stories of unreached people and missionaries trump statistics about the same. He points to a story about work among the Uighur people of China.

Here’s an excerpt of the post:

Motivation to participate in the Great Commission and reach people needs to go beyond terms and statistics. Every man, woman, and child has a story. Take time this week to learn somebody’s story. Engage people in conversation. If you are interested in unreached, unengaged, and under-engaged peoples around the world, go beyond the statistics and start learning their stories, too.

Read the full post and the story about the Uighurs here.

Daniel Heimbach gives us a Manual for Defending Marriage against Radical Deconstruction

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Why Not Same SexSEBTS Senior Professor of Christian Ethics Daniel Heimbach has recently published a unique book in the vast literature about same-sex marriage. Why Not Same-Sex Marriage: A Manual for Defending Marriage against Radical Deconstruction. Is a thorough and comprehensive treatment of the subject from an evangelical Christian viewpoint, but it is not written for an evangelical audience. Instead, it is written to persuade those who are “on the fence.”

The rapid rise of the same-sex marriage movement has left many Christians with the sense that there is something wrong with the arguments for homosexuality, but without the time or ability to research and articulate defenses for the arguments. Contributing to this, the broad and varied stream of arguments used to support normalization of homosexuality and same-sex marriage are being broadcast as an incessant barrage in an attempt to sweep away all opposition to same-sex marriage.

This book is offers a reasonable argument in the midst of many hostile and emotional appeals for redefining the basic social institution of marriage. Heimbach writes,

Truth is the first casualty in political contests where one or both sides rely chiefly on emotion, on making good impressions, and on grabbing favorable attention at all costs. When this occurs, contests degenerate into emotional rhetoric severed from objective reality. Opponents are blackened beyond recognition, and champions become larger than life. This book enters a fray in which both sides are passionate, but it does so clinging to objective reality while resisting mischaracterization and distortion. (xiii)

In support of this goal, Heimbach presents 101 arguments, with a paragraph length statement for each argument, for the redefinition of marriage. Heimbach then offers a page-long response to the argument posed in firm, but charitable terms. Next comes a single-sentence statement of the main objection to the argument. Finally, each section includes a representative bibliography of popular and academic sources that weigh-in on both sides of the argument.

Though many conservative and evangelical blogs have helped to explain some of the arguments and counter-arguments surrounding same-sex marriage, many of those responses answer only a few of the varied attacks against traditional marriage or, sometimes, they lack the charity and careful research to make them compelling and convincing to a hostile audience.

Heimbach’s book, Why Not Same-Sex Marriage, fills the void admirably. The main substance of the volume is a collection of gracious answers to 101 false arguments for redefining civil marriage. Each of the arguments has been categorized by its type and the book arranged to reflect that. Heimbach uses categories like “Arguments Regarding the Nature of Marriage,” “Arguments Regarding Society and Social Order,” “Arguments Regarding Constitutional Law,” and “Arguments Regarding God and Theology.” The book is designed to be a reference manual for engaging in cultural dialogue.

In the back of the book, Heimbach includes two testimonies of former homosexuals who renounced their same-sex sin as they sought to live holy lives patterned after biblical norms; they were not “cured” so much as they were redeemed from their sin. He also includes two scholarly essays that provide an academically robust treatment on some of the movements that seek to redefine marriage. Finally, the book closes with a list of resources and agencies that provide assistance and information to those with questions about homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

This book, as any argument on this topic, is easy to caricature. Opponents will tend to dismiss alternate viewpoints and malign the motivations of those who stand by the traditional understanding of gender complementarity in marriage. However, anyone who picks up this book and reads a few arguments will find that the reasoning is sound, the assumptions are stated, and both viewpoints are represented fairly. Heimbach has done his readers a favor by grabbing a “third rail” in the ongoing cultural discussion and attempting to fairly answer the arguments of those who would want marriage redefined. Why Not Same-Sex Marriage is a substantive and significant contribution to the ongoing cultural debate.