April 30, 2012 by
As I noted in a post a few weeks ago, we have seated a sub-committee of pastors to begin the process of developing a comprehensive polity for Sovereign Grace Ministries and our member churches. This word, “polity,” has been kicked around a lot in our circles recently, sometimes without definition.
“Polity” is simply the stated rules of how an organization governs itself. For our ministry, we want our polity to grow out of a robust doctrine of the church but also to be useful and practical, creating mutual understandings of how we work together in those areas where Scripture is silent or lacking in detail.
The Board appointed seven men to the committee; you can find their names in the document linked below that was sent to all our pastors last week. You’ll also find in this document a description of the process the committee will engage and some parameters for their proposal, including some initial questions for them to address. One interesting part of the process is the Committee’s invitation to all Sovereign Grace pastors to present position papers to the Committee for their consideration before they write their proposal for the Board.
Please pray for the men on the committee and for their work. We in Sovereign Grace have enormous agreement on so much, but this is one area of our life together that must be defined. Please pray that what results from their work will further our unity as a family of churches as together we endeavor to plant and build churches together by the grace of God.
Download the Letter to SGM Pastors Concerning Polity
April 26, 2012 by
The Gospel Coalition is hosting a National Women's Conference in Orlando, Florida from June 22–24. The conference, with its theme "Here Is Our God," will seek to help attendees fix their eyes on Christ with the goal of seeing him more clearly and serving him more effectively. Main sessions will focus on Scripture passages in which God reveals himself to his people, and workshops will discuss women living out their faith.
In addition to main sessions and workshops from many renowned speakers, Carolyn Mahaney will be speaking from John 21:15–22 at a workshop entitled "The Snare of Compare." The conference website describes her topic:
We'll consider the risen Lord's dramatic confrontation with Peter, in which Peter is called to face a future he would not choose but cannot change. Peter's first instinct is to compare—to look to those around him rather than to his Lord. How do we respond to challenges we don't want but can't change? The human temptation is to measure our lot against that of others. How can we turn this temptation to compare ourselves with others into a heart of gospel ministry to others? Jesus' challenging words to Peter can point the way.
For more information about main sessions, other workshops, and registration, visit The Gospel Coalition's website.
April 24, 2012 by
Together for the Gospel, which is led by Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, C.J. Mahaney, and Al Mohler, upholds a list of affirmations and denials that span multiple theological topics.
The affirmations and denials are now available in animated video format. Below are two of the videos, and all of them are available on T4G's website.
Article I: On The Bible
Article XII: On Justification by Faith Alone
April 20, 2012 by
The extended deadline for Next early bird registration is this Sunday, April 22, so if you're interested in coming, take advantage of this final chance to get the lowest registration cost possible. We hope many of you will join us as we explore the topic of the church and its role in the believer's life.
Some of you may be wondering why you should attend a conference about the church, especially if you've grown up in the church and are familiar with it. C.J. Mahaney recently addressed these questions in a video:
April 19, 2012 by
From the Board:
At our recent retreat, the Sovereign Grace Ministries Board decided to relocate the Pastors College and our Gaithersburg office to Louisville, Kentucky. The move will take place in 2012. Given the significance of the decision, we wanted to communicate with you directly about how we reached this decision and share some of its implications.
Around 2008, our country’s economic downturn began to place a strain on SGM’s ability to do ministry in several key areas. Supporters (including Sovereign Grace churches) were broadly affected by the recession, and giving declined for several years as a result. In response, the Leadership Team made extensive cuts to staffing and other costs, while still trying to preserve the ability to fund church planters, train pastors, and serve our international partners. But there was a limit to how far cutting could go before church planting and other activity central to our mission had to be scaled back.
One program that faced particular challenges was the Pastors College. Even though the Leadership Team has been proactive about keeping costs as low as possible, the extremely high cost of living for the DC area set the base cost fairly high. This had several effects on our mission:
- Small churches could only afford to train a pastor every several years, limiting their ability to expand or pursue church planting
- Although Jeff Purswell wanted to explore a two-year curriculum, doing so would be prohibitively expensive because the main cost of attending (housing) would more than double (10 months to 22)
- Prospective church-planters from outside SGM, many already carrying debt from seminary, faced an enormous hurdle to attend the Pastors College without a sponsoring church
More can be said about this, but we hope that is sufficient background to illustrate why, for several years now, the Leadership Team has been considering relocation for the Pastors College and the rest of SGM. In short, our mission is to serve Sovereign Grace churches, and being located in the DC area was placing limitations on our ability to do so. The economic downturn raised the profile of that issue, and the idea of relocating is only further validated by the needs we now see to expand on—not lessen—church care, training pastors, and pursuing mission.
We don't want to give the impression that a move was a done deal even before the events of July 2011—it wasn't. However, this conversation long preceded these events and, for the reasons given above, it has been an increasingly strong likelihood for several years. Over the past few months, our staff has explored various locations for a potential move, including visits, demographic studies, many conversations, and much prayer. They shared this information with the new Board when it was established, thus confronting us with this question: if we were starting SGM tomorrow, what would be the main factors for determining location and where would those factors lead us?
Here are the main factors that led us, after much discussion, to approve this relocation generally, and to choose Louisville in particular:
- The cost of living index is much lower there, such that we anticipate up to 40% reduction in the cost for a student to attend the Pastors College
- The proximity to Southern Seminary allows us to upgrade our academic offerings, including opportunities for collaboration and potential transfer credit toward a Masters degree
- The lower cost of living also allows us to further reduce administrative overhead (although ours is already lower than the standard for non-profits), especially in the areas of office space (including the Pastors College) and staff compensation
- The more central location will make it easier for pastors to audit classes or attend preaching practica (Louisville is within a day’s drive for two-thirds of the U.S. population)
- Basing Sovereign Grace Music out of Louisville places Bob Kauflin’s team much closer to Nashville, where they can both learn from and help influence other spheres of Christian music development
There are three questions that we anticipate you’ll have immediately.
First, don’t we want the Pastors College to be near a Sovereign Grace church?
The answer is yes. However, another recent development will remedy this. The Leadership Team has wanted to plant a church in Louisville near the seminary for several years, and after speaking at a college event there in February 2011 C.J. began to consider leading the plant himself. He made this desire known to us when we were seated as a Board, and we approved the plant this month. Although this was by no means determinative for the Pastors College, this does mean that students will have the opportunity to participate in a church plant led by C.J. This will both facilitate CJ.’s ongoing influence in the college, as well as provide students a smaller church experience that will more resemble their ultimate ministry context.
Second, won’t it be difficult to replicate the benefits of having Covenant Life Church as a host church?
We do not want to give the impression that this decision was a no-brainer—it certainly was not. SGM’s setup with CLC has provided numerous benefits over the past 15 years. From host families and adopting care groups to event volunteers and its members’ hospitality, CLC has made a tremendous investment in the Pastors College since its inception. So, of course, this cannot all be replicated. And we want to thank the pastoral team of CLC and its members for these many years of faithful service and the fruit they have borne—the Pastors College would not be where it is without them. However, we believe that in the long run the Pastors College program will be enhanced, and all SGM churches will be better served, by this relocation and the benefits it offers.
Third, how will this affect the Pastors College calendar?
Although this relocation will require a transition period, we want to minimize any disruption to Sovereign Grace churches’ training needs. Therefore, we plan to host a new Pastors College class beginning in January 2013. The year will be slightly abbreviated, running January-August, with some parts of the curriculum delivered through other venues (e.g., small group settings). The following year’s class will commence in September, 2013, putting us back on a normal schedule.
As noted above, we are excited about opportunities this will afford us to collaborate with Southern Seminary, which will only enhance our program and facilitate further training for our students and pastors. The Leadership Team will communicate more details in coming weeks.
Please join us in praying for all those participating in this relocation. Despite the many adjustments this will entail, we are trusting God and hopeful that this move will position us for greater service to our churches as together we proclaim the gospel and plant churches for the glory of God.
Grateful for your partnership in the gospel,
John Loftness, Chairman
on behalf of the Board
April 18, 2012 by
Categories: Audio messages | Conferences
Together for the Gospel 2012 ran from April 10–12, and this year's messages focused on the theme "The Underestimated Gospel." The general-session audio and video are available, so you can watch, listen to, or download the following messages:
- C.J. Mahaney, "When A Pastor Loses Heart" (audio, video)
- Al Mohler, "The Power of the Articulated Gospel" (audio, video)
- Mark Dever, "False Conversions: The Suicide of the Church" (audio, video)
- Thabiti Anyabwile, "Will Your Gospel Transform a Terrorist?" (audio, video)
- Kevin DeYoung, "Spirit-Powered, Gospel-Driven, Faith-Fueled Effort" (audio, video)
- David Platt, "Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions" (audio, video)
- Ligon Duncan, "The Underestimated God" (audio, video)
- Matt Chandler, "The Fulfillment of the Gospel" (audio, video)
- John Piper, "Glory, Majesty, Dominion, and Authority Keep Us Safe for Everlasting Joy" (audio, video)
April 17, 2012 by
Ambassadors of Reconciliation recently finished the report that documents their findings after a nine-month study of Sovereign Grace Ministries. Their report, as well as a response from C.J. Mahaney and our Board of Directors, is below.
Download the Group Reconciliation Report
April 14, 2012 by
The Sovereign Grace Ministries Board of Directors met this past week in Louisville, Kentucky. Many, many thanks to all of you who have prayed, both for us personally and for collective wisdom in addressing the tasks before us. We wanted you to get an update on decisions we’ve made and what you can expect to hear from us in the near future.
We met with Ted Kober of Ambassadors of Reconciliation and discussed his final report after eight months of study of our ministry practices. We appreciate the thorough and careful work of this independent ministry committed to gospel-informed reconciliation. We should have the report up on our web site in the next few days.
We spent extensive time thinking through a process for developing governance principles and practices for SGM and our partner churches. We are in the process of appointing a committee to serve the Board by proposing a future governance structure and partnership agreements. We have not yet finalized each appointee to the committee. Names and a description of the process should come to you from the committee in the next few weeks.
We also nominated, discussed, and approved officers for the Board. John Loftness will serve as Chairman and Paul Buckley as Vice-Chairman. Tommy Hill, though he is not a Board member, will continue his service as Secretary and Treasurer.
This Board’s role will be different than the role adopted by the interim Board over the past year. Our responsibilities are to appoint, evaluate, and advise members of the leadership team. The Board is also responsible for the evaluation and approval of an annual budget, review of bylaws and practices related to legal obligations, and oversight of the ministry to insure fidelity to our doctrinal and partnership agreements. We are not responsible for day-to-day leadership and management of the ministry. Typically we will meet three times per year. Any work done outside of these meetings will usually be done by subcommittees of the Board. How the Board is selected and its role and terms of service will be reviewed by our polity committee and stated in the polity we adopt when the committee finishes its work and the Board, in partnership with our pastors, produces a final document.
The leadership team will provide leadership to the ministry, propose future plans and a budget for Board review, and implement these plans. For the immediate future, C.J. Mahaney will serve as President, Dave Harvey will lead church planting and church care, Jeff Purswell will serve as Dean of the Pastors College, and Tommy Hill as Director of Finance and Administration.
Numbers of you have inquired about conflict between the Covenant Life Church pastors and the SGM Board and President. Since this past July, C.J. and the interim Board have sought to engage the CLC pastors to better understand their actions and public statements and to explore our differences. Earlier this year, Ted Kober proposed a meeting between three members of the Board and three CLC pastors led by a neutral third party facilitator. The CLC pastors expressed a willingness to meet but said that they wanted to wait until after the AOR report was made public. Since the report will soon be released, we expect a meeting in the near future.
All of these things reflect forward progress for our family of churches, and so we left Louisville encouraged. As we consider the work of God through 90 partner churches, our Pastors College, our church planting efforts, our music and song writing, and many other collective ministry efforts, we see overwhelming evidence of God at work to bring his gospel message to the world and demonstrate the effects of his gospel in our many, varied church communities. We’ve also been heartened by the many expressions of appreciation we have heard from leaders outside of our ministry for the works of grace in our midst. We are working as we wait for the Lord to fulfill his promises to us. And we are grateful for all of you who have partnered with us in this great gospel mission.
On behalf of the Board,
After the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, many of you gave generously to Sovereign Grace Ministries’ Disaster Relief Fund. We are eager to bring the hope of Christ wherever we have opportunity—and thanks to your giving, that includes Haiti.
Initial Use of Funds
As we communicated earlier, we used $90,000 of the money donated to the Disaster Relief Fund to meet needs of ministries in Haiti immediately after the disaster:
- $10,000 went to a group of churches in southern Haiti that operates three orphanages. They used the funds you donated to purchase food and relief supplies for their communities.
- $15,000 was given to support churches and orphanages in northern Haiti. The man who leads this ministry used your donations to supply a generator for a hospital, provide food for those in need, repair an orphanage, and secure a two-year lease for a church whose building was destroyed.
- $35,000 was given to two pastors we work with in the Dominican Republic who were already ministering in Haiti before the earthquake. After the disaster, they were able to use your donations to purchase medical supplies, food, and supplies for orphanages, as well as to rebuild a damaged home and provide housing for relief workers.
- $30,000 went to support the immediate needs of a few trusted Christian relief organizations who served Christian communities in Haiti that were affected by the earthquake.
While we are excited to share now about how we are using the remainder of the funds, we are also aware that it has taken two years to disburse them. While we wish we could have distributed the funds earlier, we were advised to proceed slowly and carefully because of the significant turmoil there after the earthquake. We believe this decision ultimately allowed the funds to be used more effectively in the support of churches in Haiti, and we appreciate your patience as we sought the best way to steward these funds effectively.
Future Rebuilding in Haiti
Part of the remaining funds for Haiti went to a ministry called Evangelistic Child and Family Resources. For several years Sovereign Grace Ministries has been developing a relationship with Pastor Daniel, who has been involved in this ministry for about six years. Their facilities were severely damaged in the earthquake and their church, school, and girls’ orphanage are all in need of repair. Because of the Haiti Disaster Relief Fund, we were able to give $110,000 to enable them to repair the damage to their church and school and build a new roof for the girls’ orphanage.
Over the past several years, Sovereign Grace Ministries has also had the joy of developing a relationship with Miguel Nuñez, a pastor who leads a large church in the Dominican Republic. Our ministry is honored to partner with him in gospel work and also to join with him in serving Haiti. We gave him $70,000 to support his ongoing work there. Your donations will help him accomplish planned projects including medical missions and allow him to provide care that would otherwise have been unavailable to the people of Haiti.
As of December 2011, $205,000 was left in the Haiti Disaster Relief Fund. Now that we have given a combined total of $180,000 to support the efforts of Pastor Daniel and Miguel Nuñez, $25,000 remains in the fund. This money will be used to cover other projects, facilitate Sovereign Grace’s monitoring of the relief efforts, and allow for contingencies. At the inception of the fund, we also established a 5% earnings rate for any relief funds not spent. When the Fund did not achieve that rate, the Board committed additional reserves to Haiti disaster relief to reach the 5% level, allowing the remaining funds to continue to grow.
Every dollar donated to the Haiti Disaster Relief Fund is being set aside to help churches and ministries in Haiti who were affected by the earthquake, and every dollar is being accounted for to make sure this happens. If you have any questions about the Disaster Relief Fund, please email Tommy Hill, our finance director, at email@example.com.
April 11, 2012 by
From Age to Age, Sovereign Grace Music's newest album, is now officially released! This collection of 14 songs includes old hymns set to new music as well as entirely new songs that are inspired by hymns of the past and seek to reflect our appreciation for the traditional hymn format. Yet all the songs have the same goal: to proclaim God's greatness in the gospel.
The album is available in MP3 format on iTunes ($9.99), Bandcamp ($9), and Amazon ($7.99). Hard copy CDs are available on the Sovereign Grace Store ($12). You can now also stream all the songs for free on Bandcamp.
One song from the album, "Glorious Christ," focuses especially on honoring Jesus Christ for his character. The version on the album features vocalist Dale Bischof, but the Sovereign Grace Music team also recorded an acoustic version in the studio that you can listen to in the video below.