John Ewart on the Discipline of Why

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?”

Marriage and Weddings: An EQUIP Workshop (John Ewart)

The Charles Haddon Spurgeon Center for Pastoral Leadership and Preaching exists to equip and encourage pastors to lead healthy, disciple-making churches for the glory of God around the world. As the director of the center I have the privilege of building an intentional bridge between the seminary and the local church. One span of that bridge includes offering special equipping events on our campus and at sites around the country and world intentionally designed to help those who are currently serving or seek to serve as local church pastors.

I served as a full time pastor for many years in a variety of contexts. I found that no matter what the context, there were certain opportunities and challenges that were consistently present. In the Spurgeon Center we want to develop equipping opportunities and resources to help church leaders face those more ubiquitous ministry responsibilities. One way we are going to do that is through a specific type of event called an EQUIP Workshop.

I am excited to announce the Spurgeon Center’s first EQUIP Workshop is going to be held in Appleby Chapel on our campus on Wednesday, October 29 from 10am to 12 noon. The topic for this first workshop is marriage and weddings. How do we define marriage biblically? How does a pastor prepare for and plan weddings? How are weddings actually conducted?

The free workshop will feature a panel discussion with faculty members from both our pastoral ministry and biblical counseling areas as well as a local church pastor who teaches sermon delivery at the seminary. We will be discussing what marriage is and why, how to prepare and conduct good premarital pastoral care, key issues to be aware of and prepared for in relation to marriage and weddings as well as some of the more practical issues for which every pastor and church should be prepared. In other words, we will hit everything from biblical foundations to church policies and planning the event.

The second part of the workshop will include walking through the actual choreography of a wedding rehearsal and ceremony. We will show you where to stand and where to stand everyone else. We will help you make it through the important day itself by recreating a mock wedding ceremony and walking everyone through it. Everyone who attends will receive a packet of resource materials prepared by the workshop leaders to take with them. Reserve your place in Appleby Chapel on October 29 by clicking here. You do not want to miss this!

The entire workshop is going to be videotaped and will become a part of a bundled package we are developing covering the topic of marriage. It will also include a chapel event we are planning after the first of the year that will feature a more specific discussion concerning the biblical and practical issues surrounding marriage, divorce and remarriage. This helpful equipping module will be placed on the Spurgeon Center resource webpage for pastors as well as students to download and use as a training tool. It could even become a featured assignment for pastoral ministry and supervised field ministry experiences.

Future workshops will deal with the real ministry issues pastors face concerning death and funerals, the Lord’s Supper, baptism, and church budgets and finances. It is my prayer that every seminary student will take advantage of this practical training to prepare themselves for real tasks they will face on the field and that current pastors would participate and benefit from these resources and events.

Building bridges through the Spurgeon Center between the academy and the church is a two way path and a great opportunity. We hope to better serve the church through the center and the participation by churches helps us to better glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve them and fulfill the Great Commission.

John Ewart: Where Light Overcame Darkness

Last week I posted while in India where I was meeting with a potential partner for Southeastern. They are seeking to begin a seminary and conference center and have asked for our consultation. It was exciting to hear their plans and passion to equip church leaders. As the Director of our Spurgeon Center for Pastoral Leadership and Preaching, I was blessed to recognize how much we are using the same vocabulary. Through our Global Theological Initiative we are seeking partners like this all around the world and North America. God continues to raise up faithful international church leaders. We can learn much from one another.

While there I also observed a huge Hindu festival in the city in which I was staying celebrating one of their millions of gods. The festival featured beautiful flowers and brightly colored lights. The city was brilliant with color each night. The irony was not lost on me. Thousands of, or even more, people celebrating the darkness with light.

I even found myself in a conversation at one point with a man who had been Hindu his entire life. We spoke of the gospel and of Christ. He was very interested in the discussion, but he seemed not ready for any further steps at that point. He told me how superior Hinduism is to Christianity because they have my God “outnumbered millions to one.”

In contrast, I also had the great privilege of observing a village church dedicate their new building. This village is composed of an unreached gypsy people group. As we drove through the simple homes toward the waiting celebration, I saw idol after idol. Each home had a small wall around it with a gate. “Guarding” the gate on each side were small tiles with images of Hindu gods. They had the Christians outnumbered “millions to one”––darkness.

India sunriseThen I could hear the sweet singing of children, praising Jesus as we arrived at the building. Church members surrounded us with a joy and excitement that words cannot describe. It is always amazing to me how language barriers slip quickly away when two people know the Holy Spirit. These new friends escorted us in, and the building was dedicated with prayer and worship. The singing and service continued long after we left. That building will be more than a meeting place. It will be a center of ministry and Great Commission fulfillment in that place––light.

I look forward one day to standing in a throne room with people from “every tribe and every nation” celebrating the one true God. I hope to see other members of that village there. A village where light overcame the darkness. A place where the One far outnumbers the millions.As we continue equipping leaders and preparing students to serve the local church and fulfill the Great Commission, I pray we will have the faith, the endurance, the joy and the sense of dependency those gypsy believers displayed. I pray we will continue to have the passion to train other leaders like my new friends have. I pray we will have a desperate love for the church like I witnessed there. A love driven from the One out to the millions.

 

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