January 25, 2012 by C.J. Mahaney
What follows is the letter I wrote in response to today's announcement from the Sovereign Grace Ministries Board.
The only appropriate place to begin this letter is by expressing my gratefulness. My heart is filled with gratitude to God for all who are involved in Sovereign Grace Ministries, who have trusted God and patiently endured a difficult season in our history. First, I want to thank the interim board. These men were handed a most unexpected and unappealing assignment, and for the past six months they have served and sacrificed on behalf of all of us in Sovereign Grace. I simply cannot thank these men enough. Many thanks are also due to the wives and children of the board members for supporting them during this challenging time. And I want to thank the panelists who accepted a most unenviable assignment requiring countless hours of complex and concentrated work. Finally, I want to thank each of the pastors and each of the members of Sovereign Grace churches for your patience and trust in God during this process. I know it has been a difficult and confusing time for many of you. And I am sorry for the challenge it has presented to our pastors—the men I respect the most—and the members of our churches—precious ones for whom Christ died and for whom we have the great privilege to serve. I deeply regret where my mistakes, leadership deficiencies, and sins contributed to the relational conflicts detailed in these reports. And I am truly grateful for your support throughout this trying time. So with all my heart I want to say thank you.
Over the last six months I’ve spent many hours reflecting upon Sovereign Grace, our history together, and our purpose and mission. I’ve also taken time to think and pray about my calling and how I might best serve Sovereign Grace in this new season before us. I have sought counsel from friends and leaders within SGM and in the broader evangelical church. There is much work for SGM to do in the years ahead, and I want to do all I can to make this work fruitful. The opportunities for church planting in this country and throughout the world are numerous. The requests we receive for help exceed our resources. And one can’t help but be excited about the immediate future given the present Pastors College class and the church planting ventures we have planned for the next few years.
In light of all of this, here is how I think I can best serve you in the days ahead: as I step back into the role as president, I will do so only temporarily. I think it would be wise for SGM to have a new president who has gifts better suited to serve Sovereign Grace in this next season. I love SGM and I want the best for SGM. Lord willing, I look forward to serving SGM more effectively in a different role. So my return will be temporary and with a few important intentions. Let me briefly explain what they are. First, I want to give immediate attention to helping the interim board transfer governance to their successors. In 2010 we began considering how to expand the SGM board and better define their role in evaluating and overseeing the president. Now that the interim board has served its purpose, it is time for us to complete the transition to a more permanent expanded board. I look forward to seeing this process through and benefitting from the leadership that an expanded board will provide for Sovereign Grace. Despite the many evidences of grace in our midst, I’m aware of a number of present weaknesses in SGM and some past failings; as our president, I take full responsibility for these and I am grateful that with a new board in place we can together continue to address these issues. Second, once the new board is formed I want to assist them however I can in identifying and installing my successor as president, although that decision will be for the board to make. There are a few other matters I want to address in my remaining time as president, all of which is subject to the priorities that the board establishes for me. But I hope these primary goals can be accomplished within the next few months.
After supporting the board through these important transitions, I hope to return to what I believe is my primary calling from God – pastoral ministry and the pulpit. This plays a significant role in why my return as president is temporary. Let me explain. I think preaching and pastoral ministry are where grace is most evident in my life and where my leadership is most effectively expressed. Others seem to agree. And I think I have neglected this call to preach for a number of years as I have endeavored to serve as president. Over the past five years many faithful friends have brought this concern to my attention and impressed upon me the importance of preaching as a primary means of my serving and leading. However moved I was by their concerns and encouragement, the many responsibilities of the presidential role would quickly preoccupy me again and the effect of their counsel would subside. Over the past six months I have seen more clearly than ever the wisdom of their counsel. So I think the most effective way I can serve Sovereign Grace is by planting a church and leading a local congregation through faithful expository preaching and teaching, as well as serving Sovereign Grace in other tasks and roles the board might recommend for me. I also hope to continue to serve the broader church where strategic opportunity and invitation present themselves, as I have with my good friends in Together for the Gospel. I simply can’t wait to get started. And I can proceed into this future confidently when our new board and president are in place. So that is what I am returning to do and why my return as president will be temporary. I would be most grateful for your support in prayer in this season of transition.
For the past 30 years God has been merciful to Sovereign Grace Ministries. This is the theological explanation for any fruitfulness in SGM. And He has not ceased to be merciful to us during this challenging season. His mercy has been evident in countless ways. I wish there was space to rehearse them for you. In God’s gracious providence I believe much good and growth will come from this season that will serve us as we move forward, as well as serve a future generation we won’t live to see. God is sovereign, good and wise, and His good purpose for His church and for our small contribution to the advance of the gospel cannot ultimately be frustrated. And now I look forward to a new season where we give ourselves to proclaiming the gospel, planting and supporting churches, and caring for pastors in the 22 countries where we presently serve, as well as the different parts of the world God may call us to serve in the days ahead. So let me conclude where I began, by expressing my gratefulness to you. Thank you for making this mission possible by the way you serve in your local church and support SGM. Thank you. It is an unspeakable honor and joy to serve the Savior with you and be numbered among you.
With my gratefulness for each of you,
Many of you have kindly inquired about my leave of absence and how I will be spending my time during this season. Before I give you an update, I want to take this moment to thank each of you who have expressed your encouragement and your support in prayer.
Some of you have asked where I will be attending church during my leave. That’s a good question, as it’s not uncommon for pastors to take a leave in a church that is away from their home congregations, and this seems wise. During my leave of absence I will be attending Capitol Hill Baptist Church where Mark Dever is the senior pastor. After seeking counsel about this decision, I’ve concluded that this is the best place for Carolyn and me to receive care and counsel, to examine my life and leadership, and to consider my future during this season of reflection. I want to learn all I can during this season, and I pray that this time will benefit not only me but Sovereign Grace as well.
Mark and I have a rich history of friendship. I met Mark thirteen years ago and since then we have become very close friends. Mark has been not only a unique friend but also a mentor to me. I want to continue to take advantage of our friendship and his mentoring as much as possible during this time, benefiting from Mark’s unique pastoral wisdom and his gift of leadership. I am deeply grateful for his kindness and this opportunity. Actually, other than my wife Carolyn and those with whom I have served closely in Sovereign Grace Ministries, no one has had more influence on my life in the last ten years than Mark.
This leave of absence from my role as president of SGM will allow me the time necessary to process the valuable feedback I have received (and continue to receive), and to devote time to consider how I can best serve Sovereign Grace Ministries in the future. I’m seeking and benefiting from the advice of the SGM board and a number of leaders in the broader church—men I admire and who have become my friends over the years. I am approaching this task without making any assumptions or presuming upon any particular outcome. By God’s grace and the kindness of these men I am not lacking wise counsel as I seek to discern the will of God about how I might most effectively serve when this leave of absence concludes.
So for those who have kindly asked, I hope this information is helpful. I deeply appreciate the encouragement and support of so many at this time. I simply do not know how to adequately express this, but I trust you feel my deep gratefulness for your support. And I would appreciate your prayers, given the importance of the decisions before me and their impact on Sovereign Grace Ministries, the pastors I respect the most and the people of our churches for whom I have the deepest affection.
Finally, many of you know that this spring Dave Harvey, Jeff Purswell, and I were invited to speak at a pastors conference in the Dominican Republic. We are currently in Santo Domingo and the conference (Por Su Causa 2011) begins tomorrow morning. Please pray for us and for this very strategic conference. Earlier, during this same trip Jeff and I, along with Al Pino, visited the pastors that Sovereign Grace Ministries are honored to serve in Cuba. I was deeply humbled by the men and women I met, all of whom display remarkable joy and trust in God. I believe we will be sharing more about this trip on the Plant & Build blog later. In the meantime, please pray for our friends in Cuba and the Dominican Republic and for our friend Al Pino, who represents Sovereign Grace in our work with these remarkable saints. Please pray that Christ would be glorified in their midst and the gospel would go forth in these countries.
July 6, 2011 by C.J. Mahaney
From from Dave Harvey: Please see "A note about online confessions" for an explanation of why I removed the original content of this blog post.
The Fall 2010 issue of Leadership Journal is now out. It highlights the topic of ambition and fittingly includes an interview with my friend Dave Harvey, titled “The Glory Drive” (pages 20-24).
“Without ambition, nothing happens,” Dave says. “Churches don’t get planted, the lost aren't reached, the church has no impact. And beyond the church, business don’t start, social problems go unaddressed and exploration doesn’t happen. Without ambition people become lazy. If you undermine ambition, you rob people of their desire and will to do something great with their lives” (21).
If you see the magazine, check out the interview. And if you don’t own Dave’s book Rescuing Ambition, here's my recommendation--go buy a copy right away.