Have you ever thought it would be better to have lived during the time of Jesus? To have walked with him? To have seen him heal many people or feed the 5,000? As our hearts may long to have walked with Jesus many years ago, J. D. Greear reminds us that Jesus has a different, better plan for us. In his newest book, Jesus, Continued: Why the Spirit Inside You is Better than Jesus Beside You, Greear argues from the Scripture that it is better to have the Holy Spirit in us rather than Jesus beside us. He challenges his readers to know the Holy Spirit personally and to participate in mission in this world.
In Part One, Greear exposes the lie that it would be better to have Jesus beside us now. Really. Yes, the Christian faith unquestionably relies on the person and work of Jesus. Yet, Jesus himself told us that it is better for the Holy Spirit to come. Greear reminds us, “Jesus claimed that having the Holy Spirit in [his disciples] would be better than having him beside them” (25). Tracing this instruction from Jesus, Greear emphasizes our responsibility as believers to walk in the Spirit. To walk in the Spirit is to know the Word because we cannot know the Holy Spirit apart from the Word. The Spirit speaks through the Word, and we know the Spirit by the Word. He rightly claims, “While pursuing one without the other leads to spiritual ruin, pursuing one in the other leads to power and life” (29). In the remainder of Part One, Greear shows how God’s Word and the Spirit work together. To do so, he explores such themes as mystery in the Holy Spirit and clarity in the Word, the power of the Holy Spirit in carrying out the mission of God, and the promise of greater works in the power of the Spirit. Yet, he also calls to our mind a sobering truth: God doesn’t need us. He can accomplish his purposes without us. Yet, in his grace, he chooses to use us to be fishers of men. This grace serves as our motivation to proclaim the gospel to all peoples.
In Part Two, Greear explores what it means to experience the Holy Spirit, providing six defining characteristics. First, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit begins with the Gospel. As one grows deeper into the truth of the gospel, a glorious result is receiving further direction and understanding from the Holy Spirit in living for the glory of God. Second, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit continues in the Word of God. The Scripture is our most reliable guide for knowing the will of God, and we are guided by the Spirit to rightly understand his Word. Third, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit continues in our giftings. Greear argues that you cannot fully walk in the Spirit unless you are familiar with and are using the gifts he has given you. The Spirit has empowered us in specific ways for his mission. Fourth, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit continues in the church. This comes primarily through preaching and words of wisdom and knowledge. Fifth, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit continues in our spirit. God works in our affections, convictions, desires, and minds to move us to obedience and to actively participate in his mission. Sixth, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit continues in our circumstances. Our experiences can lead us into all kinds of conclusions, but we must use the other means of knowing the Spirit to rightly understand our experiences.
In Part Three, Greear offers direction in pursuing the Holy Spirit. At times, we may feel as if God is silent. This doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong. Greear encourages us to look to the Scripture and remember that silence is a way in which God works in our lives. We must remember to walk in faith! This is key to pursuing revival from God. Revival is not found in some innovative technique. Rather, it is grounded in the proclamation of the gospel, prayer, repentance, and yearning for the Spirit. Greear calls for us to pray. We have been given the Holy Spirit. Now, we need to ask him to move mightily among us. This only happens through “persistent, faith-filled prayer” (206). In concluding the book, he offers another reflection on the gospel. He points to the overwhelming theme in the Scripture: the Spirit is given to us for purposes of the gospel. As such, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to accomplish his mission through us!
Overall, Jesus, Continued promises to be a fruitful tool in the life of the church. The pages are filled with Scripture, and his instruction is much like his sermons and other books—challenging, humorous, encouraging, corrective, and motivating. As a pastor-theologian, Greear does not simply offer a “twelve-steps” solution to experiencing the Holy Spirit. It is theologically driven and biblically grounded. In a time when the Christians need great wisdom and instruction from the Lord due to the changing circumstances in America and across the world, this book will serve the church well in understanding and knowing the Holy Spirit.
About the Author:
J.D. Greear serves as pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. He has a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and he is the author of Breaking the Islam Code: Understanding the Soul Questions of Every Muslim (Harvest House 2010), Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (B&H 2011), and Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (B&H 2013).
Well, the ordinary cat is out of the bag.
In January 2015, my new book, Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down, will be released. I hope to encourage ordinary people like you to do the ordinary things with gospel intentionality for the good of a broken world.
In Acts 17, we see a picture of obedient followers of Jesus who were described by city officials as those who “turned the world upside down.”
To turn the world upside down, you don’t have to be a megachurch pastor, or have an impressive platform. You simply need to live on mission – in word and deed – within the ordinary rhythm of life. We need millions of ordinary, genuine followers of Jesus to live with gospel intentionality daily, not 20 more conference speakers.
This kind of life might not seem spectacular or sensational in the eyes of some, but from a Kingdom perspective, it truly is extraordinary.
The book will be available nationwide on January 1st, 2015. You can pre-order a copy today through one of the retailers below (or check with your favorite retailer):
Everyone is not called to live in a mud-hut in India. Some are. We should celebrate and support those that are. But what about the rest of us? What should we do? I hope that this book will help see the significance of the ordinary, mundane, and trivial. God really does use ordinary people like us.]]>
In August, Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old, was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white policeman, in Ferguson, Missouri. Tonight, we learned that the grand jury decided not to indict Wilson on any charges related to the event.
In the months since the shooting, the world has watched closely to see how America faces its racial issues. We may wish we lived in a post-white/post-black world, but recent events affirm that we do not.
While we may never know all the details of what went down in Ferguson, we do know that black Christians and white Christians interpret these types of situations very differently. According to a recent CNN poll, “Fifty-four percent of nonwhites––including blacks, Latinos and Asians––say Wilson should be charged with murder, while just 23 percent of whites agree.”
So inside the church and outside the church, it appears that black people (and other minorities) and white people see events like the tragedy in Ferguson from totally different perspectives.
As a pastor of an intentionally multiethnic, multiclass church, I believe Jesus’ church can bring healing to the deep wounds in our country by being a testimony of how the cross and blood of Jesus can bring about reconciliation and justice.
What if black and white Christians, as well as other minorities, were members of multiethnic churches instead of segregated ones? Nearly 90 percent of churches in America are homogenous, meaning one ethnic group makes up more than 80 percent of the church. Sometimes geographic demographics cause this, but often it is a choice we make to remain segregated as Christians. For example, churches are 10 times more segregated than the neighborhoods they are in and 20 times more segregated than the schools that are near them.
If we worshiped side-by-side in the body of Christ, could we address racism, oppression, and injustice together? We could move towards being one (John 17:21, 23).
If we worshiped side-by-side in the body of Christ, could we address racism, oppression, and injustice together?
In the first century, the churches the apostle Paul planted had their own version of ethnic strife. In Christ, former enemies became co-worshipers in the same multiethnic local churches.
What if black and white Christians shared life with each other in a local church community and heard each other’s stories and walked in each other’s shoes?
“For Christ Himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in His own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in Himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of His death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death” (Eph. 2:14–16, NLT).
This reconciliation is not just for first-century Jews and Gentiles. It is for all humanity. The reason the church is segregated is that we don’t believe deeply enough in the power of the cross. It seems to me that Christians seem to not really believe that the cross of Christ has anything to do with racism and injustice.
But the gospel-reality is that “Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of His death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death” (Eph. 2:16, NLT)
Put. To. Death.
Be an Ambassador
Do you wake in the morning with a sense of urgency every day? I hope you do. As the firestorm in Ferguson reveals, the stakes are high. Listen to Romans 5:10–11, ESV,
“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
Outside of association and allegiance to Jesus, humanity is an enemy of God. This is why ambassadors of Jesus wake knowing deeply that our time, talents, and treasure are to be leveraged so that God’s enemies can be reconciled to him through Jesus. Reconciliation means that through Jesus, enemies of God become friends of God. It also means that in Christ we are unified into one body, a new man (Eph. 2:15).
When you signed up to follow Jesus, he gave you the ministry of reconciliation. Your life is a bridge over which people walk from death to life.
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us” (2 Cor. 5:18–21, ESV).
God has entrusted you and me, his church, with the message of reconciliation. Are you giving that message away? God pleads with people to become his friends through our lives.
Are we only sharing that message with people who look like us or have the same socioeconomic status we do?
There is a hurting world that needs to know Jesus became what God hates most––sin––so that they could become what he loves most––his children. When we sit in segregated churches we loudly proclaim that we love some of his children more than we love others.
For all eternity, followers of Jesus will enjoy Jesus and each other. But we will not share the message of reconciliation. There will be no need to. But there is a need today! That’s why Jesus left us here as his ambassadors to announce that the kingdom of God has come and that salvation belongs to our God.
So are we just going to scream “Racism” and “Injustice” from behind our segregated church walls, or are we going to start building multiethnic communities that embody what God’s desire is for the world to be.
I’m thankful for the courageous local churches in Ferguson who are calling for peace and reconciliation.
Church, this is a pivotal time in history. Will we rise to the occasion?
“General William Tecumseh Sherman got it wrong. Peace is hell. In war people think about the country. In peace all they think about is themselves,” said war veteran and wartime president of the United States, Harry S. Truman. From 1979-2000 the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) fought a battle for the heart and soul of the world’s largest protestant denomination, which is commonly referred to as the conservative resurgence (or fundamentalist takeover from the liberal side of the conflict).
The battle for the Bible extended well beyond the borders of the SBC, but the fiercest battles raged within the denomination. I fear Truman’s observation is proving correct in the SBC. The denominational struggle in the SBC produced unity among a broad and diverse group of SBC theological conservatives. The conservative resurgence SBC leaders put biblical gospel fidelity and the future of the SBC ahead of personal preferences and differences. But over a decade after the symbolic final victory of the resurgence at the 2000 SBC annual meeting, the harmony among SBC conservatives seems to have lessened. At least from my vantage point, we conservatives seem far more willing to fight and nitpick each other.
In 1979, the SBC annual meeting took place in Houston, Texas and Adrian Rogers, a theological conservative biblical inerrantist, and the greatest SBC preacher of this era, was elected president of the world’s largest protestant denomination. I was an eleven-year-old child at the time whose biggest concern was playing Dixie Youth baseball for Blue-Gray Civitan Club in Montgomery, AL. I was oblivious to the seismic shift that was taking place in Houston as Southern Baptists returned to their conservative biblical roots. Ten years later, by God’s grace, I became a Christian and identified myself with the people called Southern Baptists.
Adrian Rogers’ election in 1979 marked the symbolic beginning of the conservative resurgence in the SBC (1979-2000). Rogers election was followed by an unbroken succession of conservative presidents who have unapologetically championed the inerrancy of the Bible. The SBC president has the power to appoint those who serve on committees, who nominate the trustees of Southern Baptist entities, who are then voted on by the elected messengers of the SBC. Thus, in two decades, the denomination was transformed and returned to its biblical roots. Paige Patterson, one of the heroic architects of the conservative resurgence, explains that the victory was made possible by the grassroots polity of the SBC, eloquent pulpiteers who led the cause, unity around the reliability of the Bible, fervent prayer, and abandonment to the task (Paige Patterson).
Soon after becoming a Christian in 1989, I began sense a call to preach the gospel. My sense of the call was confirmed when I was licensed to preach at Green Valley Baptist Church in Hoover, AL in April 1994 and then ordained to preach at Morningview Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL in October 1997. I provide this biographical information because I am what I call a conservative resurgence tweener. I have one foot in the conservative resurgence generation and one foot in the post-resurgence generation.
I went to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to pursue a M.Div. in 1994. I arrived shortly after the trustees fired theologically moderate president Russell Dilday. The first SBC annual meeting I attended was in Atlanta in 1995. I heard R. Albert Mohler deliver the convention sermon, “What Mean These Stones?” (Joshua 4). Mohler articulated a clear, uncompromising theological vision for Southern Baptists with which I thoroughly resonated. It was then I decided if I pursued doctoral work I would attend The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary under Mohler’s leadership. I completed a Ph.D. from Southern Seminary in December 2011. In 2000, I was appointed by SBC president Paige Patterson to serve on the credential’s committee for the annual meeting in Orlando, which revised the Baptist Faith and Message. Appropriately, the Baptist Faith and Message revision committee was chaired by Adrian Rogers and marked the symbolic closure of the resurgence movement.
Those of us in the SBC tweener resurgence category tend to have good friends and ministry associates in the older conservative resurgence generation and in the younger post-resurgence generation of Southern Baptists. I claim no unique wisdom on SBC life, but perhaps providence has afforded those in my group at least the benefit of a unique perspective. The older generation conservatives identify with the words of great SBC preacher RG Lee who was reported to have said, “I was Baptist born. I was Baptist bred. And when I die, I will be a Baptist dead.” The younger millennial generation (born between early 1980’s and 2000) of Southern Baptists are generally theologically conservative, but along with their generational peers, they are inherently suspicious of formal institutions (Pew Research). It is the difference between a generation who paid their bills by check via the US mail and a generation who has never written a check.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is not trapped in any particular generation. In every generational culture there are things that are in line with the gospel and things that are out of line with the gospel. Christians ought to have a healthy respect for the past but also an eagerness about the newness of the present and future. I recently saw a Christian leader who posted a tweet about good old days in 1964 when The Beverly Hillbillies was the top rated TV show and then asserted that we need revival. I wonder if it ever occurred to him that for African-Americans, 1964 was not the American good old days, and that we needed revival then to face down the wicked codified institutional racism—a racism all too evident in our SBC churches of the 1960’s.
Every generation has unique strengths and unique challenges. No one should expect a newer generation to sound, look, and approach issues exactly like the older generation. Rather, the hope should be that the newer generation would be faithful to and rooted in the same bedrock truth. Older Southern Baptist resurgence conservatives who look with skepticism at zealous but slightly different younger Southern Baptist conservatives are despising the fruit of their own labors. There is an amazing energy to preach the gospel, plant churches, and reach the nations with the gospel among the post-resurgence generation, and it is matched with robust conservative theological commitments.
With the condition of our seminaries before the resurgence and the current precipitous cultural decline into moral anarchy, this present army of young gospel warriors is a miraculous blessing of God on the sacrifices of the resurgence generation. Not only are our seminaries strong and vibrant, but now with NAMB led by Kevin Ezell, ERLC led by Russell Moore, and IMB led by David Platt, these entities are all energizing and exciting younger post-resurgence conservatives. The differences in style and theology that separate older resurgence conservatives and the younger post-resurgence conservatives are no greater than the differences that existed among conservatives who unified to fight for the heart and soul of the SBC and are all within the pale of historic Baptist orthodoxy. No father should have the unreasonable expectation that his son will be an exact duplicate of himself; however, every father should be overjoyed if his son embodies his core values and convictions.
Young, post-resurgence Southern Baptists who look at older Southern Baptist conservatives with little respect are spending an inheritance bequeathed to them and acting as though they earned it for themselves. Post-resurgence conservatives tend to take for granted the SBC they presently enjoy. It is tragic ecclesial narcissism when someone benefits from the post-resurgence conservative SBC reality and is nourished by our entities and institutions with no sense of indebtedness and loyalty. I would urge younger conservatives in the SBC to take a few moments and read, “‘Once There Was a Camelot’: Women Doctoral Graduates of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1982-1992, Talk about the Seminary, the Fundamentalist Takeover, and Their Lives Since SBTS,” which documents in the words of students who attended just what the culture at Southern Seminary was like prior to the conservative resurgence in the SBC.
If it were not for the sacrifices made by the conservative resurgence generation, the post-resurgence younger conservatives would not be walking the halls of our seminaries and discussing diverse conservative understandings of salvation, ecclesiology, and culture. If the battle for the Bible had not been won in our denomination by the resurgence generation, we would not hear discussions of neo-Calvinism and the SBC traditionalist statement among the post-resurgence students in the halls of our SBC seminaries; we would overhear discussions of the importance of Deutero-Isaiah in teaching us about our Mother-God and how hopeful she is about future. That fact ought to shape how we think about differences we have with other SBC conservatives, genuine and important differences, but ones that do not compromise our shared gospel mission.
Chronological snobbery is prideful self-righteousness whether it comes with skinny jeans and an ESV or with a suit and a Scofield Reference Bible. Post-resurgence conservatives should not live every day as if there was no yesterday. Resurgence conservatives should not live as if yesterday is all that matters today. The gospel liberates us from gaining our identity by denigrating others and liberates us to “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom 12:10). The way forward is for all of us to remember that this in not a time of peace. As I have heard Russell D. Moore say, “The Great Commission is not a public relations campaign but a call to spiritual war.” Let’s not think of ourselves as we face spiritual battle. Let’s think of the kingdom of Christ and the outpost of the kingdom—the church of Jesus Christ.
The Most Misinterpreted OT Passages: 2 Chronicles 7:14
“We need revival!”
I have grown up in the SBC, so one sermon that I have heard loud and clear for three decades is the need for revival in our nation. Pastors at conferences and in churches have analyzed the decay of our culture and then they have given the solution: “What we need is revival – another Great Awakening!” Many of these sermons have inspired me a great deal. I certainly do want a Great Awakening in our nation – and in all nations!
Does 2 Chronicles 7:14 map out a plan for revival in America?
One of the key passages pointed to for this revival call is 2 Chronicles 7:14 where the Lord says, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” There it is, a word from God that if America will repent then God will bring revival to our land, it is said.
2 Chronicles 7:14 is not about revival from the moral decline of America
This is an incorrect interpretation of this verse. Let’s walk through the passage in its proper context.
The context of 2 Chronicles 7:14 shows that this verse is about Israel
One big rule for interpretation is “context is king.” We must look at the context of the verse to see what it actually means. You’ll notice in my citation of 2 Chronicles 7:14 above that it starts with a lower case “i” rather than an upper case because it’s not an isolated verse but rather part of a larger sentence that starts in verse 13. And these two verses (2 Chron 7:13-14) are part of the even larger section of chapters 6 and 7. What is that larger context? Solomon has just completed the building of the Temple in Jerusalem and prays a grand prayer of dedication in chapter 6. Then in chapter 7 Yahweh appears to Solomon at night and begins to speak to him, referencing Solomon’s prayer that acknowledged the Temple is a place for repentance, forgiveness and restoration.
Solomon’s prayer indicates that when Israel sins against God and God judges Israel as a result with drought, or famine, or exile, then Israel will pray toward the temple in repentance and receive restoration. We know that Solomon’s prayer in 2 Chronicles 6 and Yahweh’s words to Solomon here in 2 Chronicles 7 are connected because Yahweh uses the same language of the heavens being shut up (2 Chron 6:26; 2 Chron 7:13). Here in 2 Chronicles 7, God reemphasizes Solomon’s prayer that foretold Israel will sin and be judged, but that forgiveness is available if they will repent (2 Chronicles 7:12-16) and all of this is linked to atonement (7:12).
Who is Israel? It’s not America
So, 2 Chronicles is not a promise to the United States of America; it’s a promise to God’s people – Israel. Now, that raises a question for New Testament believers who interpret this passage: “Who is Israel?” Theologically, there are about 3 key positions that people take in answering this question: 1) National Israel: the promises to Israel in the OT will be fulfilled in the future with national Israel. 2) The Church: the promises to Israel are fulfilled spiritually in the church. 3) Christ: the promises to Israel are fulfilled in Christ who is the True Israel and those who are united to Him by faith also receive the promises. I don’t want to get into all the particulars of these theological positions, but suffice to say that none of these options includes the United States of America.
Let’s rejoice in the promise of restoration through repentance
As a NT Christian interpreting this passage, 2 Chron. 7:14 seems more akin to 1 John 1:9 than as a promise for a new Great Awakening. Instead of being a promise about national revival in America, this is a promise to the church that when she is in sin and repents, through Christ’s atonement God will restore the church (see the letters to the Seven Churches in Revelation).
For some people this reality may be upsetting and troubling. For those who equate Christianity with American patriotism, this will no doubt create animosity. But, for redeemed Christians in the New Covenant community, this truth should bring comfort that despite our sin we have a merciful God who forgives and restores.
Do I want revival in America? Absolutely! Do I pray for revival in my city? Yes! But, I want revival in all nations through the Great Commission. I just don’t think 2 Chronicles 7 gets you there. And, more than that, my primary identity isn’t as an American – as much as I love my nation. My primary identity is in Christ and His Church. We would do well to ask ourselves the question, “If God chose to bring revival to Iran, India, and Pakistan rather than the United States of America, would we rejoice or get frustrated?” Wherever God chooses to restore and revive among our brothers and sisters globally let us rejoice!
Stay tuned for the next installment!]]>
Real love and compassion doesn’t stop with sentimentality but sees the holistic needs of a person. This will take a ministry, Moore reminded us, that does not relate to LGBT people as freaks to either be raged against or dismissed, but as people to be loved (that includes trying to understand why they believe the way they do) and ministered to.
Finally, all of this must be done in community. One of themes that rose to the top was the necessity of being a real Christian community in the church as we minister to the LGBT community. There are several reasons this is so important. First, the question of reparative therapy for LGBT came up often, and over and again the answer seemed clear. It is not compassionate if we merely teach Jesus will take away all of these temptations from you. He might, but the promise of the Gospel is not that you will be temptation free, but rather that in the midst of temptation you will be given the Spirit to fight and flee. However, in order to fight and flee by the power of the Spirit we are given another grace gift – the Christian community to spur us on to love and good deeds. Moore pointed out in a press breakfast that some of our Christian testimonies that only teach complete victory can be very discouraging to others because for some this will be a struggle for the rest of their lives until they see the King face-to-face. Jackie Hill Perry reminded us we do not fight sin in isolation. In addition, many from the LGBT community that consider Christ fear that if they turn to Him they will lose all sense of community that they have. We must share with them what Jesus shared with His disciples after the Rich Young Ruler turned away in Mark 10:29-30, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” And it must be true. We must be those brothers and sisters. I am so thankful for the tone of this conference (modeled so well by Moore and seen powerfully in the testimony of Rosaria Butterfield) and the call for compassion, conviction, and community.
Stay tuned in for part 3 (see part 1), and if you missed all of the conference, check out all of sessions from the ERLC National Conference here.]]>
Stay tuned in for parts 2 and 3, and if you missed all of the conference, check out all of sessions from the ERLC National Conference here.]]>
The best education is education in the best things, wrote Charles Spurgeon. Fortunately, we are not left to our own devices to determine the definition of best things. Though some might argue or seek to raise themselves up as prophetic “Websters,” God Himself provides the dictionary and illustration for us of best things in His Word. They bring Him glory and further His mission.
No, the challenge might be found more in the education part. How do we best equip ourselves and train others in the best things? As an educator in the local church and the academy, this is a question that occupies a great deal of my day. For many years I have had the privilege of leading and serving with people in both arenas who have developed effective and creative educational methodology. Though we are still learning, I do believe right now more than ever before, we are getting closer to, doing better at, and growing in our understanding of…best. For us to take these last steps we had to overcome an unnecessary barrier and reject a false dichotomy that some have raised between the seminary and the local church.
At Southeastern Seminary we truly believe that theological education is best when done in partnership with the local church and not somehow in competition with it. Leadership and ministry skills development should be an intentional part of every local church ministry. They are necessary niches of discipleship.
We have therefore created an intentional bridge between the local church and seminary called the C.H. Spurgeon Center for Pastoral Leadership and Preaching. It exists to equip and encourage pastors to lead healthy, disciple-making churches for the glory of God around the world. We offer 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. We recognize our responsibility to equip Great Commission-minded local church pastors who preach the Word and lead biblically.
There are vital questions that demand a response such as: What is the role of a pastor? What does a pastor need to know? What does a pastor need to do? We believe the best way to educate leaders with biblical solutions to these questions is in conjunction with local churches and networks of churches. The center supports this network of cooperative relationship by providing:
The field-based training arm of the center, the EQUIP Network, allows church leaders and interns to earn significant academic credit to be earned while serving on the field through mentoring relationships with pastors and by further training through distance learning. EQUIP also provides a network of mutually edifying relationships in which participants from the various churches and ministries communicate, encourage, teach, and challenge one another. This sense of community is at the heart of the EQUIP Network.
When I played football and lacrosse, I had to work out all week together with the rest of the team in order to get ready for the game on the weekend. They call that “practice” for a reason. I would never have learned all I needed to know in the locker room or through the play and rule books. We all need to get out on the field and work it out together. Some learn best by doing. The Spurgeon Center with its EQUIP Network allows you to continue your education in the best things out on the field in the practice of ministry. Check us out today by clicking here!
Dr. John Ewart
Associate Vice President for Global Theological Initiatives
Director, C.H. Spurgeon Center for Pastoral Leadership and Preaching]]>
When I first became a pastor, I thought the question I would be asked the most was, “Pastor, how should I think through this issue?”
I was wrong. I did have people asking me, quite often, about how to apply the gospel to current cultural questions. But more often than this was a deeper, more personal inquiry: “Pastor, I’m struggling with this. What should I do?”
Cultural Issues Come to Church
I still remember the shock I felt when a faithful, older member of my congregation confided in me his lifelong struggle with same-sex attraction. This was a man who, by all accounts, had his life together. He was doing well in his career, he was a beloved father, and (by all appearances) happily married. But inside, he wrestled with these desires. As a pastor, what gospel hope could I give him that would equip him in the daily struggle? One one side, if his secret got out, he’d be condemned for even facing this temptation. On the other side, there was a ready and waiting chorus pushing him to accept a sexual ethic the Bible forbids.
Pastors must be ready to answer these questions, the deep questions, the people in their congregations will have. Perhaps no question is more vexing or real than the question of homosexuality. In my experience talking to pastors and church leaders, I find two responses.
Some wish this issue would just go away so they can “preach the gospel.”
Some want to treat this issue as a lower-tier issue like baptism or views on the end times.
Called to This Culture
These responses are lacking. Pastors and church leaders can’t pretend this issue will go away. We are not called to live in the culture we want but in the culture to which we are called. Pastors need to be courageous and compassionate, ready to answer and shepherd their people toward Christ-likeness. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Not Called to Compromise
The other response we are seeing, at least among a few evangelicals, is an attempt to reconcile the modern sexual ethic with the demands of the gospel. Some of this is fueled by a genuine desire to see unity in the church and break down barriers in order to see people experience grace. Yet, some are attempting to accommodate the church to the ambient culture. Church leaders need to be ready to answer these arguments and courageously speak to and lead their people to swim against the tide.
This is why the ERLC is hosting a conference on October 27-29th at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. The theme is: The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage. Our desire is to equip pastors and church leaders in addressing this issue in a gospel-centered, compassionate and clear way. We hope you will join us.]]>