Whole. Complete. All parts present. I have been dwelling on the concept of wholeness lately. I had a conversation with a pastor the other day and we ran down a rabbit trail of discussion and concerns about holistic ministry and fulfilling the whole Great Commission. It made us both pause and reflect on how effectively we were accomplishing those tasks. We also talked about what we saw around us in churches and ministries and how well they seemed to be doing.
I know this is an old discussion. The idea that there is more to the Great Commission than simply evangelism. But it is a conversation it seems we must have over and over again because we do not seem to be learning and applying its lessons well. As an associate professor of missions and pastoral leadership and a guy who has consulted hundreds of churches and several missions agencies, this hits close to home. We speak of our ultimate goal to bring God glory and we define one of the means through which we can bring Him that glory as being Great Commission fulfillment. But then I begin to wonder if indeed the way we talk about fulfilling and actually act to fulfill the Great Commission is complete enough to bring Him the glory He seeks and deserves? I am sure He is pleased with our efforts. He is a very patient and loving God who through His graciousness seems to bless His people with a mile for every inch they move forward. But how could we be doing better?
I want to share the whole gospel with the whole world to help fulfill the whole Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:46-49; John 20:21-23; Acts 1:8). That means I need to teach the whole teachings of Christ and live out the Great Commandments (Matt. 22:37-40; Mark 12:29-31) and for the church to be and live as presented in what others have called the Great Commitment (Acts 2:42-47). I have been at this for several years at this point and I am not sure why we cannot seem to get a handle on it. I tend to either find churches who love to pour qualitatively into their covenant members and want to go deeper and deeper but do not share their faith well or see much conversion growth, or I see churches who have outreach opportunity after outreach opportunity, see folks saved and baptized, and watch poorly discipled people walk out the back door about as quickly as they come in the front. Do not misunderstand me, I know of incredible exceptions, where there is balance and health and blessing. But it has always seemed odd or sad to me that they are the exceptions and not the norm. We need a new normal.
Wholeness requires balance. It requires intentionality. It demands focus. Are you going? Are you baptizing? Are you teaching everything He commanded? Are we truly depending on His power and authority over all things and His presence with us always in order to succeed? Do we love Him with every ounce of our soul and being so that we can truly love our neighbors in a way that brings Him glory? Are we being the church or simply acting out a part on the weekends? Tough questions, but questions we preach about, teach about and talk about often. So, how whole are you? What is out of balance and focus that can be submitted to Him and brought back to a level of intentionality that will truly bring Him glory?
John Ewart serves as the Associate Vice President for Global Theological Initiatives and the Director for Center for Pastoral Leadership and Preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
A native of Oklahoma, Dr. Ewart has lived and worked, in various capacities, all over the world. He served for over 20 years in local churches in Texas, the Philippines, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Kentucky as an associate and senior pastor. John also served with the International Mission Board in the Philippines.