In Case You Missed It

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1) From The Gospel Coalition, Mark A. Howard gives a insightful account of the seductions and costs tempting today’s youth. Great resource for those in youth ministry.

2) From across the pond, the blog Think Theology provides excellent theological critiques of life and culture. This recent testimony from Elspeth Barnett illuminates the connection between studying theology and losing or keeping our faith.

3) SEBTS Dean of Graduate Studies, Chuck Lawless offers seven reasons pastors should practice fasting.

4) SEBTS Vice President for Institutional Advancement, Art Rainer lists five good reasons ministry leaders should pay attention to their budgets.

5) Danny Akin reflects on the life of Adrian Rogers and lessons learned from him.

John Ewart on Partnership in the Gospel

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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.

Stephen Eccher on Church Planting Contexts and the Needs of the People

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Editor’s Note: Stephen Eccher is Assistant Professor of Church History and Reformation Studies at Southeastern. Recently, he had the privilege of serving with Southeastern students on several mission trips to different locales and cultures. So we asked him to write up his observations about church planting in these contexts. 

Over the past eleven months I’ve been honored to lead four SEBTS mission trips to various locales around the globe. Three of the four trips immersed me in the world of church planting. After trips to Seattle (Washington), Edinburgh (Scotland), and Baltimore (Maryland) one thing remains clear to me, sin has left us with a very broken world. Accordingly, the people in desperate need of the gospel also have very unique temporal needs as a consequence of sin. The following are some thoughts on church planting contexts and the importance of knowing the particular spiritual and physical needs of the people.

If church plants are going to reach their respective communities, then knowing the struggles of the people is paramount. Here, planters must keep several things in mind about the people they serve. First, getting to know these struggles requires intentionality and patience. The planter in Seattle had grown up in the Pacific Northwest, but spent the past decade in the South. He shared what a shock it was to return; things had changed and made him a cultural outsider. A Google search can offer stats and a perception of culture, but building relationships as a platform for successful gospel presentations in that culture requires more. Here, an investment of time is critical. This is where I heard multiple church planters talk about the value of planting one’s life and family in the community. People don’t just share their struggles with others, especially in places like Seattle and Edinburgh. A planter parachuting into a community during business hours and then returning to the suburbs is not an effective strategy. The investment and commitment must be greater. The sacrifice of things like a house with a picket fence and award winning schools for the planter’s family are often required in this. However, without that full investment of life in the community, how else will valuable relationships with lost people be made?

Second, people’s struggles are often deep-seated and messy. Sin creates extremely broken systems, relationships, and lives. Planting a church requires pastors to wade into the filth to take the saving gospel of Jesus to those in need. It exposes planters to sin in a way that no seminary class can. At times this will affect even the planter’s family. One pastor in Baltimore shared how the dangers of the city had touched his family’s life. He decided that if planting in an urban context was going to cost him one of his children, then he was done. However, that pastor quickly remembered how fortunate he was that God had not embraced that same mindset. The cost of staying to his family might be great, but the cost of leaving even greater in Kingdom terms. As Dr. Akin regularly reminds prospective students at SEBTS, being in the will of God is not always the safest place, but it is the best place to be.

Third, human brokenness is so systemic that long-term fixes will take time and will not be easy. Yes, the power of the gospel leaves no one beyond the reach of God’s saving grace. Still, sin has temporal consequences that may take years to address. While working in the poor sections of Edinburgh we witnessed firsthand the devastation of addiction, poverty, and mental illness. Given the context, the church in Edinburgh moves new converts immediately into the homes of mature believers. What a sacrifice, but also a biblical picture of discipleship. The needs of people are great and often remain long after conversion, but biblical discipleship requires such an investment.

Fourth, a certain location may necessitate a ministry that is uncomfortable to the planter. In Baltimore the pervasive nature of HIV demanded a tangible response from one church. Spending hours on end with those afflicted by the disease was not on the church plant’s radar. However, they did not get to choose the problems that their church faced. The context of ministry trumped their preference in ministry.

Seattle, Edinburgh, and Baltimore are vastly different places. Sin in each of these places may look different, leaving people and ministries in need of a tailor-made approach. But that is also where the beauty and simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ is so amazing. Regardless of the context and despite the depths of the sin, the free offer of reconciliation with God through Jesus remains available to all. God is simply looking for planters and pastors who will go and tell.