John Ewart on Partnership in the Gospel

As I write this, I am sitting in India waiting to meet with potential partners who are passionate about discipleship and leadership development. I have the privilege of doing this quite often as part of Southeastern’s Global Theological Initiative (GTI). We are engaging in strategic partnerships all around the world to train trainers. We have a similar partnership missiology for the North American church which we implement through the Spurgeon Center. The EQUIP Network is the field based arm of the center and has partnered with hundreds of churches across America. The church and the seminary working together in a way that brings Him glory and makes disciples. It is a worthy endeavor.

Partnership. It’s a good word. Intentionally serving alongside one another, sharing in a synergistic cooperation that makes the two stronger together than they were apart. A two-way relationship that pulls together purpose and process to produce something greater than the partners could ever do separately. Both partners bless and are blessed. They share mutual benefits. Together they accomplish more.

I have been reflecting lately on the various partnerships I have had and currently have in my life and how formative and vital they have been. My greatest earthly partner, my wife Tresa, makes ministry a joy. Then there are other family members, friends, staff, colleagues, teachers and mentors…the list goes on and on. The idea that we are not alone, that we struggle and succeed together is comforting and motivating. The fact that we are partners in the gospel tells me I have the responsibility to bless others and the privilege of being blessed by others.

What partnerships exist in your life? Who are your partners? With whom are you intentionally seeking to serve alongside in synergistic cooperation? Who are you blessing and who is blessing you?

I challenge you to reflect upon your past and present partnerships. Celebrate those that assist you in being a greater Kingdom servant. Take time to acknowledge and appreciate these healthy, godly partners. Intentionally seek out partnerships that draw you closer to Him and drive you farther out into His mission.

Acknowledge, learn lessons, and move on from those that have not been so healthy. We can be thankful for learning that comes from bad influence and failure but we have no business abiding in it. Establish healthy partnerships.

I began thinking about this last Saturday morning. I had the privilege of helping lead our annual EQUIP breakfast. Dr. Danny Akin and Pastor Alistair Begg shared about equipping leaders in the context of the local church. We shared about church and academy coming together. I thought how wonderful it was that pastors and professors could partner together to help that happen. We will continue to seek the best ways to facilitate that.

It is now time for my meeting here in India. It is with the leadership from a great local church and another denominational entity. I pray we find a way to work together to equip people to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission, I pray we can be partners.

John Ewart on the Pastoral Leadership Equation

Amazingly to me, part of my life revolves around conferencing. I always feel very humbled when asked to participate and never quite adequate for the task assigned, but I want to try to do my best and help if I can. This past week I had the privilege of helping lead two conferences for some really quality people. One was for a national group to which I belong that trains church consultants from all around the world. The other was a state convention event for the SBC of Virginia. Both dealt with church health, church revitalization and church leadership. They once again gave me the opportunity to consult with pastors and leaders and to hear about what was happening in their churches. As always, some of their stories were quite encouraging and some were not.

It is interesting in consultation work how often certain patterns emerge. Sometimes they are patterns of healthy practice but unfortunately, more often, they are patterns of problems and sin. It is very common for me to hear of unhealthy leadership patterns for example. Leaders who seem to lack wisdom or suffer from pride or fear are too common!

There is a statement I have taught those who served with me in local churches and seminaries over the years. It is not intended to be an all-inclusive “secret to ministry” or anything of the sort but I do believe it contains truth worth hearing and practicing. It goes something like this: “If a man could possess biblically based common sense while retaining objectivity and keeping his own ego out of the picture, he could serve well in God’s Kingdom. The problem is…one of the key parts of the equation is almost always missing.”

I refer to biblically based common sense as a superpower in ministry. To have knowledge and wisdom and be able to actually put them into practice well in ministry seems all too rare. Maybe we do not train well or we lack good examples or just need more experience. It is difficult to conduct a seminary class on wisdom and common sense. We need pastoral mentors to help the next generation of leaders grow in their ability to use the knowledge they gain in the classroom in solid ministry practice. This is one reason why I love our EQUIP Network. It intentionally places the more experienced with the less experienced.

Retaining objectivity simply means to be able to see the big picture without being trapped in some myopic vision. To see the pieces of mission and vision connect in ministry and to understand that actions here can affect actions there. I have seen so many leaders operate in silos where they become obtuse as to how their decisions, or lack of decisions, are hindering the overall progress of the church or ministry. Then we get . . . bumper cars!

Humility is the most common part of the equation missing in most of my encounters with leaders. Pride kills servant leadership. Pride is a form of fear where one is trying to protect and preserve oneself because he or she does not believe God can or will. It is a form of idolatry. It is a disease in leadership. Leaders who cannot work in such a way as to not worry about who gets the credit for something accomplished will never rise above the lowest levels of leadership. The ability to keep one’s ego out of the picture and to allow others to shine without jealousy or envy is a gift. In the end we want King Jesus to be the One truly glorified anyway!

Conferencing is an amazing part of my life. This coming weekend we host the 9 Marks conference on campus and on Saturday morning the EQUIP Network of our Spurgeon Center is hosting a special breakfast with Alistair Begg and Danny Akin. I look forward to hearing more about and observing good, biblical leadership!

John Ewart on Critical Abilities, Part 7

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.