The Church Needs More Deborahs

Here’s an excerpt of the latest J. D. Greear installment, a call for more Deborahs in the church:

At the risk of stating the obvious, let me be clear: the whole book of Ephesians is for women. And so is the entire Bible. If women want to know God’s will for their lives, if they want to be shown what God desires for them, they had better not limit themselves to Ephesians 5 and Proverbs 31. Every chapter of every book of the entire Bible is for women. And they need to know it all.

Read the full post here.

John Ewart on Critical Abilities, Part 6

I have been posting a series of discussions concerning critical abilities for the missional leader. If you understand the true mission, establish a biblical vision based on that mission, and then build bridges of leadership that guide your entire congregation to get on board with that vision, get ready. The enemy will not be pleased and he will certainly do everything he can to tempt some of the people with whom you serve to not be pleased either.

In my last post I introduced the fourth critical ability, managing change and conflict well as an important tool for missional leaders. Though this might seem like a reactive ability, it requires a very proactive approach. Let me attempt to help you think through this a bit.

Causes of conflict can involve several issues such as unmet needs, misunderstood intentions, unrealistic expectations, a sense of devaluation, basic personality differences, fear, and sin among many others. It is very important to attempt to understand the real root issues of the conflict at hand and not simply react or overreact to its symptoms. Some causes of conflict may go far back in history and others are very personal and deeply felt. Overreaction to every minor criticism and difference of opinion can suck the life out of your ministry but a failure to ignore significant conflict and take it seriously will eventually escalate the problem even further.

Research the cause of conflict. Listen to all sides. Seek to determine the truth. What do they really want? Why? Is this conflict affecting the congregation’s ability to fulfill the vision and mission God has for it? Is there clear sin involved? To what extent is this conflict affecting your ability to lead? Remember individuals respond differently to conflict and so do congregations. Some do not handle it well at all. Apply scriptural principles and pray to help you discern objectively the significance of the conflict being addressed.

Inevitably confession and repentance will be necessary in real conflict. True repentance requires replacement. It is not enough to stop a behavior. One must fill the void left by the negative actions or attitudes with positive ones or they will eventually fall back into the hole left behind. This is the cycle of addictive behavior. One is convicted, seeks forgiveness but then falls back into the habit after a time because they did not replace their addiction with a positive discipline. This principle can be seen in Ephesians 5:18, “And do not get drunk with wine… but be filled with the Spirit.” Replacement!

Conflict resolution requires replacement as well. Old behaviors and thoughts or decision-making processes have to be replaced with new ones. If they are not, it is very likely the conflict will simply be repeated in the future when the same set of circumstances arises again. Though compromise is a short term solution in which both parties give in to get along to end the immediate conflict, it does not prevent the conflict from being repeated later. A long-term solution requires addressing the real root issues and putting into place the appropriate replacements based upon mission and vision. An effective, missional leader will have new behaviors, processes and actions ready because he has mastered the first three critical abilities. Though the change produced by these abilities might lead to the conflict, they will also be a source of the resolution of the conflict.

Resolution may require individual forgiveness as well as corporate opportunities and teaching on forgiveness and reconciliation. Some churches may need to “draw a line in the sand” and mark a place in history at which they have chosen to move forward by “forgetting what lies behind.” Working together through key bridges of leadership will aid in developing these processes and moments for a congregation. Conflict is never a good time for a leader to be alone.

Isaiah wrote in 62:10 “Pass through, pass through the gates! Prepare the way for the people. Build up, build up the highway! Remove the stones. Raise a banner for the nations.” As church leaders we will often find ourselves in the stone removal business. Identify walls in your ministry. Determine which stones to remove first and work, based on a mission and vision, and with a team of other leaders ready to “pass through, pass through the gates to prepare a way for the people” with you.

 

John Ewart on Critical Abilities, Part 3

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?

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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.

 

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