John Ewart on EQUIP equipping Pastors

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I have the privilege of partnering with local churches and local church leaders around the world through the Spurgeon Center and our EQUIP Network. EQUIP is a strategy to wed the seminary to local church ministries. There is nothing I consider more important than the opportunity to serve them. Jesus has given the mission of God to the church. That mission is to make disciples of all nations. The fulfillment of this mission includes equipping leaders and sending them out to engage in frontier missions, to strengthen churches, and to plant new churches.

The Apostle Paul writes of this challenge to Timothy, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:1-2).

Timothy was to be strengthened through the grace that is only available to those who are in Christ and the teaching he had received from Paul. He then instructs Timothy to take his teachings and entrust them to others. Though these teachings were shared openly in the presence of many and everyone would benefit from hearing them, Timothy also needed to find specific men to which to entrust them in order to make certain they would be preserved and shared to future generations in the proper way. These men had to meet two requirements. First, they had to be faithful. Second, they had to be able to teach others.

Church leaders today must continue this pattern. We certainly must share the teachings of Scripture openly and faithfully from our pulpits, in our small groups and in our daily conversations to all who will listen. But we should also seek out specific men to whom we can entrust this message.

To shepherd these men, we must model for them and teach to them what it means to remain faithful and to walk with God in His strengthening grace. To help them teach others we must equip them with the proper skills and provide them opportunity. This type of equipping requires time and intentionality.

As Pastor Nathan Akin challenges, “The question for pastors has to be, who are your II Timothy 2:2 men? We have a variety of ways to measure ‘success’ in the church today. Too often they revolve around our statistics. If the Apostle Paul were giving standards of success it seems certain that one of them would be how many men are you raising up as leaders who will in turn do the same?”

Dr. Tony Merida also asks, “Have you ever considered the fact that perhaps the greatest thing you might do with your life is to pour into a future leader?” He adds, “Every pastor should not just have a ‘to-do’ list but also a ‘to-be’ list of potential leaders to mentor.”

EQUIP partners with local churches to help those leaders who seek to develop this type of ministry as well as to walk alongside those who already engage in it.  We can show you examples of equipping ministries and processes and help you develop the intentionality you seek in equipping other faithful leaders. In addition, there are several ways those who are being trained can earn fully accredited academic credit while engaging in this shepherding ministry with you. Please contact us today at www.sebts.edu/equip so we can determine how we might best serve you.

In Case You Missed It

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1) If you really (like under a rock) missed it this week, David Platt was elected was the new President of the International Mission Board.

2) Check out the reaction to Platt’s election from Russ Moore, J. D. Greear, and Paige Patterson.

3) Speaking of David Platt, he has a post on Life on Mission over at the SEND Network.

4) Chuck Quarles, SEBTS Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology, writes about the devil’s lie over at B&H Academic.

5) Tony Merida, Associate Professor of Preaching at SEBTS and Pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC, writes about the essential secret of preaching.

Briefly Noted: On Susan Olasky, Religious Belief, and Adoption

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In a recent article for World Magazine Susan Olasky highlights an ongoing movement that opposes international and intercultural adoptions. One hopes that movement, which has the potential to restrict Christians from being adoptive parents, does not gain traction.

Olasky begins by noting that the tide seems to be turning against international adoption. In 2012 only 8,668 internationals found homes in the United States, as compared to 22,884 children being adopted into U. S. families in 2004. Setting aside possible economic causes for this drop, Olasky comments that there has been a surge in coverage of adoptions turned bad: for instance, the very public case of a mother trying to return her adopted son to his home country. These stories, however terrible they are, pale in comparison to the stories of multitudes of orphans who die each year in need.

One objection to international adoption raised by Kathryn Jones, in the left-leaning MotherJones, is that of cultural imperialism.  Jones does make some valid points. First, some adoptive parents might not be adequately prepared either emotionally or financially to deal with the difficulty of parenting children across cultures. However, from this fact we should not draw the conclusion that many or most adoptive parents are not adequately prepared.

Second, she rightly points out certain exceedingly bad international and intercultural adoptive situations involving Christians. However, unfortunately she proceeds from that fact to argue agsainst international adoptions by “fundamentalist Christians.” And she is especially aghast at an adoptive mother who “ . . . eschew[s] contraception and adhere[s] to rigid gender roles.” Really? Is Jones really worried that a child with no parents, and potentially without the promise of a meal, might be adopted by—gasp—a Christian couple who are complementarians? So Jones’ argument is a mixed bag, and we are left hoping that Christian families are not restricted from adopting children who remain in group homes, as outsiders in the homes of extended family, or wandering the streets in war torn countries. Despite real and potential abuses, the situation appears to be more complex and significant than Kathryn Jones allows.

Fortunately, there are an increasing number of more balanced critiques of the adoption process, including a recent essay and video clip entitled, “Is the Orphan My Neighbor?” by Russell Dr. Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and author of Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches (Crossway, 2009). Moore is himself an adoptive parent and, like Jones, is concerned about various abuses of the adoption process. He cites the story of a prospective adoptive mother measuring the craniums of possible children to determine if they were damaged goods. She was checking the children out, like melons in the produce aisle, in order to ensure she didn’t get damaged goods. This, however, defeats the purpose of adoption and defies the spirit in which Christian adoption should be conducted. Moore notes:

Orphans are unpredictable. Often we don’t know where they’ve come from, what kinds of genetic maladies and urges lie dormant somewhere in those genes. Moreover, in virtually every situation of fatherlessness, there is some kind of tragedy: a divorce, a suicide, a rape, a drug overdose, a disease, a drought, a civil war, and on and on. We’d rather not think about such things, and we’re afraid often of what kind of lasting mark they leave on their victims.

In other words, adoptive parents should assume that the children they adopt come with emotional and physical baggage. So it is important not to move toward adoption glibly or without due consideration and an adequate support network in a local church. Yet Moore comments:

Justice for the fatherless will sap far more from us than just the time it takes to advocate. These kids [orphans] need to be reared, to be taught, to be hugged and to be heard. Children who have been traumatized often need more than we ever expect to give. It is easier to ignore those cries. But love of any kind is risky.

The call for orphan care is clear in Scripture (Jms 1:27), but it must be implemented rightly, in a way that honors God and provides a loving and stable home for the children. Adoptions must proceed in a way that presents a testimony about the nature of our adoption into God’s family (Rom 8:12–25; Gal 4:5; Eph 1:5). Just as we were adopted by God the Father, and given the status of “children of the King,” so we can adopt needy children and given them a warm and loving home.

As a concluding note, I would be remiss if I did not mention Tony Merida’s book Orphanology and his chapel sermon from November, 2010, both of which present a theology of adoption along with compelling testimony and compassionate exhortation to take seriously Christ’s call to true religion—taking care of widows and orphans in their time of need (Jms 1:27).