Pastor: Replicate Thyself

Every Thursday morning we highlight the work of the Spurgeon Center. A key component of the Center’s mission works through the EQUIP initiative, which seeks to link up SEBTS students with local churches for the purpose of field-based theological education. Steven Wade, Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology, directs the EQUIP center. In this post, he writes about the need for pastors to replicate themselves in order to fulfill the Great Commission. 

I grew up in a church known for its inordinate numbers of “preacher boys”—men surrendering to the call of God to be pastors—as well as other men and women committing theirs lives to full-time ministry. It seemed that God called more men and women to the ministry in our church than any other church I knew of. Why was this? Was there something special about this church? Was there something unique about our pastor? As I have pondered these questions throughout my ministry I have come to understand that my home church and her shepherd (or more correctly her under-shepherd) had some characteristics that resulted in more men and women realizing God’s call and surrendering their lives to full-time ministry. While this list is by no means comprehensive, I believe it can be a starting point for a local church to see more and more believers give themselves to vocational ministry.

  • Take the Great Commission seriously

It may seem a bit elementary to start with the Great Commission but it has unfortunately been proven too often that churches have the ability to lose focus and exist for purposes other than what God intended. If God is to raise up leaders for His church from a local congregation, that congregation must be centered on fulfilling the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ! Believers are commanded to be disciple-making disciples and without accomplishing this mission, it is unlikely that very many will surrender to full-time ministry.

  • Expect that God is calling people in your congregation to devote themselves to full-time ministry

One thing I recognized in the preaching and discipleship of my pastor (and mentor) was a constant expectation that God was calling men and women to ministry. It was often part of his plea during invitations to respond to a sermon as well as part of his everyday conversations with people in the church. I believe one of the reasons churches do not see more people respond to a call to fulltime ministry is that churches do not really expect God to call people from their congregations.

  • Commit time each week to replicating yourself no matter what your ministry position in the church

One of the greatest memories as well as the greatest influences in my teenage life was the time that my pastor committed to spending with those called to ministry. He taught us how to read the Bible, how to preach, how to give invitations, how to share the gospel, how to lead a worship service, etc. The time that I spent with him teaching me how to be a shepherd was invaluable! It seems that pastors often admonish and encourage people in their congregations to replicate themselves. We tell people “work yourself out of a job” or “always be training someone to do the ministry you are doing.” However, too often pastors do not take the time to replicate themselves in this way. Both churches and pastors must see the importance of the pastor taking time to replicate himself in order for the church to grow and the ministry to be multiplied.

  • Articulate clear expectations and pathways to every ministry including the pastorate

At our church we have made a commitment to articulate clear steps that we expect people to take to move from “guest to elder.” We often ask of our congregation, “Where are you on the discipleship road?” and “What are the next steps for you to move further down that road?” It is helpful to give people clear expectations of growth and then show them precise practical steps to take to make the next step in their discipleship. When this is done with precision and care, the Holy Spirit has practical tools to use to help people know how to grow and respond to his calling, whatever it might be!

  • Develop a vision of multiple churches and ministries that are started, supported and influenced by your church

One of the hindrances to churches nurturing the development of pastors is the unfortunate mindset, “Well, we have a pastor. Why would we want another?” This mindset takes many forms and reveals a church with a small vision to accomplish the Great Commission. A church with a vision for the expansion of the Kingdom of God will recognize the need for more and more leaders in God’s church. Just as disciples must replicate themselves, churches must replicate themselves. I praise God for the move toward church planting in our convention and the need it has revealed for us to raise up new leaders. A church that has a kingdom vision will see a need for leaders in their own church as the ministry grows and expands, but will also see a need for people surrendered to fulltime ministry to be sent as missionaries overseas, as pastors in new church plants, and commissioned to other churches in need of ministers.

What other characteristics do you see as necessary for churches and pastors to develop in order to see more and more men and women called to fulltime ministry in the local church?

Christ Is Sovereign Over All

The title for this post is drawn from a famous statement by the Dutch statesman and theologian Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920). The full statement reads: “There is not a square inch in a whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’” Where did Kuyper get this idea? I suspect, at least in part, from the Great Commission text of Matthew 28:18-20 where Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” What Jesus has authority over belongs to Him. What belongs to Him He rightly claims as “Mine!” All of creation is Christ’s. As we advance the gospel across North America and to the nations we reclaim souls and territory that belong to King Jesus. This world belongs to the Son of God, not Satan.

C.S. Lewis certainly understood this to be the nature of our assignment. He said, “There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.” Lewis was right. We are indeed locked in a cosmic conflict for the souls of human persons. Eternal destinies hang in the balance. We are also locked in a cultural conflict that will determine in many ways how we think and work, how we live and die.

I am in complete agreement with Francis Schaeffer, whose letters and papers are archived in our library at SEBTS. This wonderful Christian thinker, whose writings have had a profound influence on my life, put it like this: “Christianity provides a unified answer for the whole of life.” Did you catch the key word? The “whole” of life. In other words, our Christian faith is to translate into a Christian life, a way of thinking, acting, playing and living. No area is off limits. No discipline is out of bounds. Our surrender to Christ’s Lordship will impact the totality of our lives. It will shape and determine what we call our “worldview.”

Southeastern Seminary houses “The Center for Faith and Culture.” It is named after my former teacher and colleague L. Rush Bush, who served as the Dean of SEBTS for right at 20 years. The Center reflects well the heart and perspective of its founding director who believed all of life should be permeated by a Christian worldview. Bush said, “A worldview is that basic set of assumptions that gives meaning to ones thoughts. A worldview is that set of assumptions that someone has about the way things are, about what things are, about why things are.” Complementing this excellent statement, I often say a worldview is a comprehensive and all-encompassing view of life by which we think, understand, judge and act. It guides and determines our approach to life and how we will live.

Because the seminary I serve is committed to cultivating a comprehensive Christian worldview, we allow these ideas– axioms if you like–to inform how we teach in the classroom. It is also why we hold conferences that address issues like creation, abortion, sexual identity, adoption, marriage and family, government, economics, politics, law, philosophy, ethics, the environment, poverty and more. Faith and culture meet at the intersection of real life, and SEBTS is committed to being in the center of all of it!

Schaeffer says, “Christianity is the greatest intellectual system the mind of man has ever touched.” I believe that. And Kuyper adds, “When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at any price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.” We at Southeastern believe this too, and we indeed accept the call to battle, laying our convictions bare for friend and foe alike!

This post originally appeared on Sep. 22, 2014. 

CGCS: Greg Mathias on Diwali

Wednesday mornings are Great Commission mornings at Between the Times. Really, everyday is a Great Commission day, but on Wednesdays we point you to the work of the Center for Great Commission Studies. This week, Greg Mathias informs us about the Hindu festival of lights, which begins on October 23. Read it and pray for those walking in darkness as they celebrate light.

Here’s an excerpt:

Here are a few things to know about Diwali:

Lights and firecrackers are everywhere during this time. Homes, businesses, and streets are transformed with lights, candles, and other decorations. The lights serve as a sign of respect to the heavens. Beyond the lights, there is a lot of noise during this celebration due to firecrackers. Setting off firecrackers demonstrates the joy of the people.

Diwali represents the triumph of good over evil. The Diwali celebration is a happy one for Hindus. The physical lights are a spiritual reminder to Hindus of the hope of being lifted out of spiritual darkness.

Read the full post here.