I had the privilege of directing the Doctor of Ministry program at Southeastern for several years and have always loved the students. The program is in far better hands now but I still get to interact some with them. One of the reasons I enjoy these students so much, is the fact that probably close to 90 percent of D.Min. students at Southeastern are pastors or missionaries in real ministry contexts. My own experience draws me to them.
A student I recently had the privilege of supervising is an incredible guy. He is an Ethiopian pastor who leads a church in the Raleigh area. It is a church that reaches out to the Ethiopian peoples of the region in language and culture. God is richly blessing his ministry and their covenant community. He is a sharp student and a great leader. I am probably learned far more from him than he ever did from me.
He wrote his project about a holistic approach to evangelism that is contextually and culturally relevant for his ministry. In the Ethiopian context, the word for salvation means to be completely saved. Holistically saved. Just as the Greek word for salvation, sozo, can mean saved spiritually or physically depending upon the context, so it is in their language. For the Ethiopian believer, therefore, to be saved means to be saved spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally and even relationally. They do not think about trying to separate or compartmentalize the various spheres of life and existence like we often do in the American context. Somehow I feel they might be closer to the biblical context than we are at times.
He wrote specifically about the balance between personal proclamation evangelism where one is focused on sharing the Gospel in hopes of spiritual conversion and social ministry based evangelism ministries. The discussion of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment so to speak. It would be difficult for him to divide the need to share the Gospel with someone from loveing that person by taking care of their needs. To love God and your neighbor would be part of the Great Commission in his mind in the fullest sense of meaning.
There is no doubt if one must choose, he recognizes the primacy of the salvation of the soul for eternity as compared to the temporal needs of people. Do not worry, he is theologically and soteriologically sound. He would just wonder why do we have to choose to do one or the other if we can do both?
I want to prompt you to think about your balance in these areas. I have known some who can quote every theologian but are, quite frankly, pretty lousy at loving people. I have known others who cannot stand for truth because they are overwhelmed by their relationally driven emotions. I know some who are so uncaring they do not share the Gospel. I know others who share the Gospel but really do not seem to care for the people. Who are you? How is your balance?
I like talking with my student. I like talking about this balance. I am thankful to God to be able to think about and praise Him for totally saving me. All of me. I pray my balanced sanctification and obedience to Him will bring Him the glory He deserves.
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.