Editor’s Note: Every Thursday morning at Between the Times we highlight the work of Southeastern’s Spurgeon Center for Pastoral Leadership and Preaching. Directed by John H. Ewart, who also serves as Associate Vice President for Global Theological Initiatives at Southeastern, the Spurgeon Center exists to equip and encourage pastors to lead healthy, disciple-making churches for the glory of God around the world. In the effort to accomplish this mission, through the board of advisors and others the center will be offering assistance, resources and training to our students, as well as to pastors and churches, to further equip them to serve well in the crucible of real life ministry. This week Dr. Ewart continues his series on Critical Abilities in pastoral leadership.
In my last post I shared that the first critical ability a missional leader must possess is the ability to understand the true mission. If we miss the mission of God, we miss it all. To bring Him glory is our ultimate goal, it is why we exist. This mission is unchanging and predetermined regardless of context. It is supra-cultural. I do not have to create it or wonder about it. It is there…always. This truth provides the framework, the train track, the station from which we depart and the destination we seek to reach.
So, how do I live and lead in such a way as to glorify Him always and fulfill this mission? This question drives the second critical ability that missional leaders must possess. Church leaders must possess the ability to establish a biblical vision. The vision is the specific plan for your specific people, in your specific place, at this specific time to carry out the ultimate mission.
This is the “who and the how” to the “why.” What will we believe and do in order to bring God glory? If you remember the train track motif I suggested last time, this is train building. What type of train do we need to build to run down these tracks at this time and in this place?
With a degree and some experience in missions, I am always thinking in terms of context and culture. Though every train needs to stay on track toward its ultimate destination, not every train looks exactly alike or moves exactly in the same way. Not every church and ministry will be exactly the same either. Just because Dr. Bob across town is doing something does not necessarily mean that you are supposed to do it too. So please throw the cookie cutters away and seek the Lord within the context in which He has placed you.
There are plenty of models for vision out there. Probably a book a day! But remember, the critical ability is to establish a biblical vision. An effective strategy must be based on and driven by the Word of God.
Scripture reveals these “hows” to us in several ways and throughout its pages. A well-worn way to look at them is through Acts 2:42-47. Though this passage has been used and abused in many ways we do see the early believers intentionally moving forward in their biblical responsibilities. They were continuing the ministry that Jesus began on earth and God was blessing them.
I would also recommend looking deeper into the book at Acts 11 and 12 and see how the church at Antioch was fulfilling the mission. Here was a church that seemed to get it and what they were doing was bringing Him glory.
If teaching the lessons from these passages is too old-school for you find a biblical plan that speaks to you and your context. Use the book of Ephesians like my friend Chuck Lawless teaches, or another model, but find a biblical model to teach! An examination of biblical responsibilities can enable a congregation to evaluate their spiritual health and practice and to determine their vision for action. Leaders need to help their people understand they are on mission and there is a biblical vision for them to follow.
While I was pastoring full time, our vision began with a train made up of six cars from Acts 2. Our ministries, staff, budget, planning and agendas revolved around those six cars. We were all tied together in synergy by an overarching mission. No bumper cars in my world! Instead there was a powerful, Holy Spirit led, Bible driven ministry synergy. I have seen it, lived it, and led it. So can you.
Next time I am going to show you how it comes together. I am going to discuss how to coordinate leadership and ministries.