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!