May 24, 2013 by
Categories: Council of Elders
Last night marked a new chapter in the history of Sovereign Grace churches. 62 representatives constituting the Sovereign Grace Council of Elders gathered along with 36 observers to participate in this inaugural meeting in Orlando, Florida.
The Council of Elders is the highest governing body within the Sovereign Grace union of churches. Its mandate is to steward those central aspects of our union shared by all of the churches in every Region and our international churches as well. It exists to promote the health and wellbeing of the churches within Sovereign Grace. Its specific responsibilities include:
- The establishment of committees to help facilitate our gospel mission together,
- To protect our churches doctrinally by proposing and approving any and all changes to the SG Statement of Faith,
- To ensure the structural health of our union by proposing and approving any and all changes to the SG Book of Church Order,
- To confirm all members of the SG Court of Appeals,
- To elect the members of the Executive Committee,
- To confirm the Executive Director,
- To approve and establish all ordination standards and exams, and
- To approve the annual budget.
Most of the responsibilities listed above will be taken up by the Council of Elders at its fall meeting. But while the agenda for this first Council of Elders meeting is modest, it is nonetheless most significant in that it gives us the opportunity to be together as a Council, to begin learning how to work together as a Council, and to make a most significant decision: the Executive Director.
As we turn the page to this new chapter in our history together, it’s important to remember that our new polity is not our primary focus. Our focus is always upon God our Savior, his glorious gospel, and our mission to proclaim it.
Would you be so kind to join us in prayer? We are requesting that these days together be characterized by rich gospel fellowship, the renewing of old friendships, the making of new friendships, and the solidifying of our commitment to our common mission.
* For a fuller understanding of the Council of Elders and various aspects of our ratified polity, you can read our Book of Church Order here.
May 22, 2013 by
Categories: Pastors College
During the Pastors College year, students benefit from a wide variety of instructors, both seasoned pastors within Sovereign Grace Ministries as well as guest instructors from outside of Sovereign Grace.
This year, the Pastors College (PC) welcomed multiple outstanding guest instructors including Jerry Bridges on Grace and Sanctification, Dr. Stephen Wellum on Hermeneutics, Dr. Mike Bullmore on Theology & Practice of Spiritual Life, and Dr. Steve Nichols for Church History 3. In June, the PC welcomes Dr. John Woodbridge for Church History 2 and Dr. Iain Duguid for Old Testament 3 (The Prophets), and Dr. Michael Haykin will join the PC in July for Church History 1. We are most grateful for these outstanding instructors and the investment they make in the training of our future pastors and church planters.
This week the Pastors College is privileged to welcome Dr. Ray Van Neste for New Testament 4 (General Epistles).
Dr. Ray Van Neste serves as an assistant professor of New Testament, Greek, and pastoral ministry at Union University, where he also directs the R. C. Ryan Center for Biblical Studies. After his week teaching at the Pastors College last year he described the qualities he observed among the students, staff, and leadership:
...there was a unified eager, humble, servant spirit, loving one another and ready to revel in the beauty of God as we experience Him in His word. A humble graciousness permeated the place from students, to staff, to leadership. I am encouraged to see the work they are doing and excited to see the men who are being sent out whose love for Christ is translated into shepherd hearts for the people of God.
Along with Dr. Van Neste, we are excited about the Class of 2013 and look forward, Lord willing, to seeing God use them in the future to plant new churches and build up existing ones for the glory of Jesus Christ.
May 20, 2013 by
Categories: Board updates | General
The following is an update from the Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) Board on the civil lawsuit filed against SGM.
SGM's motion to dismiss the suit was heard by Judge Sharon V. Burrell in Maryland’s Montgomery County Circuit Court on Friday, May 17, 2013. The following summarizes the results of the hearing we received from our attorneys:
Judge Burrell dismissed 9 of the 11 plaintiffs on the grounds that their claims fell outside of the statute of limitations. She also dismissed the claims of all 11 plaintiffs as to the Virginia-based defendants (for lack of jurisdiction) and as to Covenant Life School, Inc. (for being the incorrect corporate entity associated with the timeframe of the claims). With respect to the claims of the two remaining plaintiffs against the remaining defendants (including SGM), Judge Burrell dismissed the Second Amended Complaint. She allowed plaintiffs’ counsel 10 days to file a third amended complaint to attempt to clarify with specificity any allegations by the two remaining plaintiffs against each remaining defendant. The court indicated that plaintiff’s counsel may not add new claims or new parties to the third amended complaint.
Please note that this ruling does not specifically address the substance of the plaintiffs’ allegations. This was a civil lawsuit requesting financial damages relating to an alleged cover up of abuse. It was not a criminal case trying the innocence or guilt of any of these individuals. Sadly, these allegations have damaged the reputations of the named defendants and leave us all in the difficult place of having no clear way to restore them. Let us reiterate that our review of the allegations has not produced any evidence of any cover-up or conspiracy by SGM. Likewise, defendant John Loftness, our former chairman, has publically denied having ever physically or sexually abused a child.
We are firmly committed to fully cooperating with authorities should any charges ever be brought against any individual associated with SGM. Furthermore, we are fully committed to compliance with all laws regarding reporting of known or suspected child abuse.
We, like everyone else, abhor sexual abuse of any kind, especially against children. It is evil and a sin against God and humanity. And we grieve for the very real pain and suffering that any victim of abuse has experienced. We believe children are a gift from God and commit to do all we can to love, care for, and protect them.
We are most grateful for your ongoing support and prayer through this challenging season. Please continue to pray for all those affected by this civil suit, for God’s will to be done, and for SGM to work through these challenging circumstances in a manner that honors him and that demonstrates that our hope and trust are in him.
The Sovereign Grace Ministries Board of Directors
When it comes to grasping the nature of pastoral ministry, Ephesians 4:12–13 is one of the most liberating and inspiring passages in all of Scripture. In a letter loaded with theology and practical instruction for what healthy churches believe and do, this passage is one that leaps off the page.
It’s liberating because it releases pastors from the ever-present temptation to be the center of all the ministry and mission that happens within the body. When the vision of “equipping the saints for the work of ministry” is caught and transferred, the burden of the church’s mission spreads to many shoulders.
It’s inspiring because Paul is describing a body of active participants, not mere spectators. The local church shouldn’t look like an NBA team with one Alpha Dog doing all the scoring and grabbing all the headlines, while his teammates watch. It should be like a great football team (as much as it pains me to say it, think of the recent Alabama teams), where every player—from kicker to quarterback—has a role that is essential to the team’s success. When every member of the body of Christ senses their unique gifts and role in building up the body, there is an outpouring of Spirit-filled excitement. And there is an exponential increase in the capacity of that local church for engaging in gospel mission.
The role of elders is to help God’s people comprehend their vital role, help them discern how they are gifted to contribute, and then see them deployed in grace-empowered ministry. As Paul says in Ephesians 4:13, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…”
That’s the vision behind our new Mission Briefs at Providence Community Church. They are quick testimonies that describe how people are living out different aspects of our mission: To be a community of disciples who Treasure, Declare, and Mature in the gospel of Jesus Christ for the glory of God. They are snapshots that show all the different ways God is making and maturing disciples through the ministry of normal Christians, people who were simply faithful to the gospel opportunities God placed before them.
Our first Mission Brief, seen in the video below, tells the story of Leon. He’s a young man from Shanghai, China. His father is a prison warden (you can imagine what this might mean), and neither of his parents are believers. Through God’s design, he ended up at a community college just down the street from our church. And that’s where the saints, equipped and deployed for ministry, come in. Leon was invited to live with one of our families. He began attending a weekly meal for international students at another home in our church. Through numerous members taking their place in gospel ministry and mission, Leon heard about Jesus for the first time. And through the grace of God, extended through his people, Leon was born again to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3–4)!
Matthew Wassink is a 2009 graduate of the Pastors College and served as an associate pastor at Sovereign Grace Church (Bloomington, MN) before moving to Kansas in 2011 to be the senior pastor of Providence Community Church. Matthew and his wife, Hannah, have two children.
May 16, 2013 by
Categories: Music | Worship
Recently I posted on Twitter:
The fact that Psalms doesn’t include a soundtrack or notation clues us in to what God values most in our worship songs.
I find it fascinating that God gave us a “songbook” with numerous musical references, but no actual music. It’s not that music is unimportant. Badly played or written music can make great theology sound obscure or unappealing. Great music can make shallow lyrics sound profound and incredibly moving. Which is why when we’re deciding what to sing congregationally, we want to give the greatest attention to the lyrics we’re singing.
In response to my tweet someone asked:
@bkauflin Is it not possible to worship without words?
Briefly, the answer is yes, especially when we think of worship in the “all of life” sense. We can worship God, or anything for that matter, without words. We do it all the time. The sight of a sunset over the ocean, a newborn baby, or a loved one can leave us speechless in wonder. But in my tweet I was specifically referencing the songs in our gatherings. While we can certainly worship God while listening to or playing instrumental music, here are a few reasons why it’s crucial to keep the connection between congregational worship and words strong.
Words are the primary way God has revealed himself to us and relates to us.
We use words because God is a speaking God. From the garden of Eden, words have been God’s primary means of interacting with us. At Mount Sinai, God met the Israelites with thunder and lightning, thick clouds, and an ear-splitting trumpet blast. Quite the worship experience. But the most signiﬁcant aspect of that encounter was God giving them the “Ten Words” (Deuteronomy 4:2–12). God has always wanted us to know more of him than can be conveyed through impressions, images, or sounds, as powerful as they may be.
David was a skilled musician of profound emotions. But when it came to worshiping God, it was his words, not his music, that God chose to preserve for us in Scripture (the point of my tweet).
When Israel returned from the Babylonian captivity, Ezra sought to reestablish temple worship. So he and the other priests stood on a platform and read “from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8). God’s Word provided the foundation for the repentance, gratefulness, praise, and celebration that followed.
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and scribes for basing their worship more on traditions of men than on God’s commands (Matthew 15:3–9). The early Christians devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42). Paul encouraged Timothy to devote himself to the public reading of Scripture and commanded him to “preach the word” (1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 4:2). We are to “let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly” as we sing” (Colossians 3:16).
God means for words, especially His Word, to be at the heart of our engaging with him.
Words are what we use to define God, ourselves, and our world.
Among other things, words tell us how God has acted in history and what God is actually like. Words inform us that we are sinners who deserve the wrath of God but that Jesus has come to suffer the wrath of God in our place, purchase our forgiveness, and reconcile us to God. Words also tell us that creation was once in harmony with God’s will but through our rebellion became subject to decay and futility. We are not evolving into something better but experiencing the damaging effects of the fall until the day when Jesus returns for his bride and makes all things right. Words also enable us to distinguish between experiences rooted in musical emotion or eternal truth.
Worship is more than words, but it’s not less than words.
Encounters with God are sometimes difficult to define. But wordless worship is not somehow better than worship with words. Worship without words can never communicate objective truth and God is the defining, objective reality in which we live and move. Experiences, whether audibly through music or visually through art, are in large part subjective. The ultimate goal of our worship is not to reach a state of feeling without thinking. And Revelation indicates we’ll be using words (without sin!) in the new heavens and earth.
Words enable us to worship God together.
Words enable us to think and say the same things together, rooting our unity in the gospel and not simply in a shared experience. A hundred people listening to a song being played can have a hundred different thoughts about what is happening. As my friend Jon Payne has said, “A picture is worth 1000 words. The problem is, the viewer gets to decide what those words are.” There will be some variation when we hear/proclaim words together, but there’s greater potential for unity in our understanding and expression. It’s one of the reasons God has us sing together and not simply hum or whistle.
Words complete the act of worship.
I can’t make this point better than C.S. Lewis, who wrote in Reflections on the Psalms, “But the most obvious fact about praise — whether of God or anything — strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise…I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.” My love for my wife leads me to say something. Again and again and again. I want her and others to know my feelings. So it is in our relationship with God. Worship works its way out into words.
So by all means, let us thank God for music and treasure those times we’re dumbstruck as we consider the unparalleled greatness, holiness, beauty, and mercy of God in Jesus Christ. But let’s also remember that God redeemed us to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).
* This post originally appeared on Bob Kauflin's website, Worship Matters.
Bob is the Director of Sovereign Grace Music. His responsibilities include equipping pastors and musicians in the theology and practice of congregational worship, and contributing to Sovereign Grace CDs. He is a pastor and one of the worship leaders at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, KY. He is the author of, Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness. Bob blogs at Worship Matters and hosts the bi-annual WorshipGod conference.
May 15, 2013 by
Categories: Music | Video
Grace and Peace (acoustic version, performed and written by Joel Sczebel) is a three verse meditation on the wonder that grace and peace have come to us through Jesus Christ. This song is based on Romans 1:7, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
A stuido version of Grace and Peace will be included on Grace Has Come: Songs from the Book of Romans scheduled to release June 27, 2013. Keep an eye on Sovereign Grace Music's website as the release date approaches, and watch the promo video below for a look at what's been happening during production.
May 14, 2013 by
Please be aware of the following press release.
Statement by Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM)
Regarding the Amended Complaint Filed May 14, 2013
With a heavy heart, we write to update you on the civil lawsuit filed against Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM).
The suit has been amended a second time. It claims that several members of Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax were the victims of egregious sexual abuse by a number of alleged perpetrators at various times and places. It further alleges that a number of pastors from those churches conspired to cover up the alleged abuse.
Named among these alleged perpetrators is pastor John Loftness, former Chairman of the SGM Board of Directors. John Loftness has denied the allegations and has offered a statement which is available at http://solidrockchurch.net/.
The charges in this amended complaint are serious, grievous, and difficult to read. The thought of such alleged abuse is extremely disturbing. Because of our resolve to see truth and justice prevail, we continue to work closely with legal counsel.
Our careful review of the allegations to date has not produced any evidence of any cover-up or conspiracy. If we discover otherwise, our Board will immediately report it to the authorities and see that it is prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Without minimizing the serious nature of these allegations nor the grievous harm individuals may have experienced, we understand that it is possible for people to be wrongly accused. We thank God for the judicial system where these allegations can be brought, a defense made, and a verdict rendered through a fair and just process.
Thank you for your patience as these legal proceedings take place. Please continue to pray for God’s will to be done and for SGM to work through these challenging circumstances in a manner that honors him and that demonstrates that our hope and trust are in him.
May 13, 2013 by
Do you feel weak? How do you view your weakness?
The Bible says that we are all weak (so you’re not alone)! Romans 3:10–12 talks about our weak state in this way, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Christianity is for weak people—Christ came to die on the cross for weak sinners like me and like you.
So, embrace your weakness, see that what you truly need is Christ! Take joy that you haven’t been left in your weakened state but you have been saved by the blood of Christ Jesus.
The most amazing thing about the gospel is that it brings peace, comfort, and encouragement to the weak. We are weak but he is strong, we are overwhelmed but he is sufficient, we are stressed but he is sovereign, we are weary but he gives us rest, we feel alone but he is near—he does all this through the gospel of Christ.
Allow your weakness to bring you to a greater appreciation for your savior and for his ever present help in time of need. May your heart sing “Hallelujah, all I have is Christ!”
Ray Ortlund writes:
…Romans 8:26 does not say, “The Spirit helps us in our weaknesses” but singular “weakness.” Our problem is not just weaknesses. More profoundly, our problem is weakness. Weakness is not just one more experience alongside our other experiences; weakness is the platform on which we have all our experiences. Weakness is a pervasive presence in all we are and do. It will not always be so. But for now, it is.
Every Sunday I am a weak man preaching to weak people. Admonition has its place. But what weak people need, more than admonition, is help. For weak people to live the Christian life in a way that is humane and sustainable, rather than defeating and shaming, we need good news more than good challenge.
Weak sinners, continually reassured by grace, will accomplish more for Christ than they would if continually confronted by demand. I am thankful that the Spirit meets us not in our strength but in our weakness, where alone His help enters in.
Kurt Weaver is a pastor at Crossway Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Kurt graduated from the Pastors College in 2006 and joined the staff that June. Since that time, Kurt has taken over Crossway's parent/youth ministry (doxa), evangelism and outreach, served as the Sunday meeting administrator, and headed up media development. Kurt and his wife, Barbara, have six children.
May 10, 2013 by
Categories: Conferences | Transfer
Four days left to register
Registration closes this Tuesday, May 14, so plan to register soon if you'd like to attend Transfer. We'll be gathering together in just a few weeks to worship our Savior and set aside time to celebrate and transfer the biblical values we treasure. We hope many of you will join us.
Why this conference?
That the next generation might set their hope in God… Psalm 78:4, 7 says: “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done… so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.” We want to transfer what matters. We want those after us to see how glorious a relationship with Jesus is. We want them to hope in God—not in our methodologies, our practices, our structures, or even our example, but in God himself.
Drawing on our history as a family of churches and the amazing truths we celebrate, the Transfer Conference will create a context for us to intentionally transfer the things we treasure to the next generation. If we assume these things, we will lose them, so we must be intentional to transfer them. In a focused way, Transfer will allow us to do this by devoting each session to a particular truth we collectively treasure: God’s glory, God’s gospel, God’s word, God’s presence, God’s people, God’s design, and God’s mission.
Visit www.TheTransfer.org for more information and to register.
May 9, 2013 by
Jesus has something to say to you if you are one of his followers—“Take heart.”
“Take Heart” = No matter what—don’t worry, be encouraged & filled with hope from the inside out.
Listen to your Savior say…
Take Heart, You are Never Alone in the Storms of Life.
To the disciples who thought they were all alone in the storm Jesus says,
“Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Mark 6:50
Take Heart, I Can Do What No One Else in the World Can Do for You.
To the woman with an incurable disease who found absolutely no help from anyone on earth Jesus says,
“Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. Matthew 9:22
Take Heart, I Have Met Your Greatest Need by Forgiving Every Single One of Your Sins.
To the man who had no clue that his greatest need wasn’t his nonfunctioning legs Jesus says,
“Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” Matthew 9:2
Take Heart, I am Calling You to Cast Your Cares on Me Because I Care for You.
To Bartimaeus weighed down with the burden of blindness Jesus had his disicples say,
“Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” Mark 10:49-51
Take Heart, I Will One Day Bring All Your Brokenness & Suffering to an End.
To all disicples of all time who are dealing with the suffering & heartache of being broken people living in a broken world he says,
“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
* This post originally appeared on Ian McConnell's website, Blue Collar Gospel.
Ian is the pastor for preaching and vision at Grace Bible Church in Northeast Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which he replanted in 2005 (watch a video of his story). Ian and his wife, Rachel, have three children.