June 28, 2012 by
Categories: Board updates
The Sovereign Grace Ministries governing Board met this past June 11–14 in Annapolis, Maryland. One priority of the week was to give some direction to our Leadership Team (C.J. Mahaney, Dave Harvey, Jeff Purswell, and Tommy Hill) on how to function during this transitional season of polity development.
Before we could get to this, we had to address a statement that C.J. made in a January blog post in which he said that he intended to resume his duties as President only temporarily while this Board sought to identify his replacement. As we considered this matter in light of C.J.’s stated intention, we concluded that introducing a succession plan or considering a new leader at this time is premature and would only introduce instability to our ministry. Since our future polity is still in formation, we do not know how it will define the office of a senior leader, nor do we know how he will be chosen. What we do know is that in our estimation and at this time in our history, C.J. is best suited to continue to lead our ministry through a process of defining and implementing a new governance. Therefore, we have asked him to remain as President at least until we establish our new polity. We are grateful that he has agreed to do so. After our governance is defined and fully implemented, the Board should take up the question of who can best fill the senior leadership role. We agreed that if this current Board is in place at that time, we would like to have C.J. on our list of candidates to consider.
We think it would be helpful to summarize for you how the Sovereign Grace leadership structure has changed from one year ago. While we are in a transitional phase as we develop our polity, the landscape already has changed significantly. We are positioning C.J. to lead, but the context of his office is quite different.
First, our ministry is now led by an uncompensated board of directors, each of them the senior pastor of a local church and not an employee of SGM (two also serve as regional representatives, but on a part time basis). The Leadership Team no longer has to provide the functions of a governing board as it once did. In the past, the Leadership Team was solely responsible to bring evaluation, make plans, announce plans, and implement those plans as well as to fulfill many fiduciary responsibilities regarding the financial, ethical, and legal integrity of the ministry. Today each Team member leads in his respective area of ministry with the oversight, advice, consent, evaluation, and backing of the Board. Overall governance of the ministry is no longer the Leadership Team’s immediate concern.
Second, we are strengthening Tommy Hill’s role as Administrator by making him a full member of the Leadership Team. Last fall, C.J. acknowledged limitations in his ability to administrate and manage certain aspects of the ministry. We suggested, and he readily agreed, that giving Tommy broader authority to make decisions having to do with the day-to-day management of Sovereign Grace will improve our operations and relieve C.J. of responsibilities for which he is not well suited.
Third, we have confirmed that the Leadership Team will operate as a plurality, analogous to the way a pastoral team functions, with the senior leader overseeing group decision-making and then affording broad authority and responsibility to each team member as he implements those decisions for his respective ministry. This should free C.J. in particular from having to address matters that fall outside his direct job description.
What is that job description? We identified for him three broad areas of responsibility and two primary projects. First, he is to lead the Leadership Team in helping to define each team member’s priorities, in setting strategic goals, in coordinating the evaluation of each team member and the ministry as a whole, and in developing a budget—all this with the Board’s advice and consent. Second, he is to serve as the spokesman for SGM to our local churches. Third, he is to serve as a spokesman to the wider body of Christ and the general public. Regarding projects, we’ve asked him to give his primary attention to his leadership role on our Polity Committee and his leadership role for our conference and music ministries.
As we take these steps, it is important for you to know of the Board’s strong endorsement of C.J. to continue in this role of President. C.J. was the object of an enormous amount of gossip and slander during this past year, and that has damaged his reputation, undermined his ability to lead, and created an atmosphere of suspicion in some quarters of our family of churches. We spent much time with C.J. discussing his role in SGM and his thoughts about the future. After reflecting on the events of the past year and C.J.’s history with us, we think it is important that you know of our gratitude and great respect for the man who founded and has led our family of churches for many years. He has significant leadership gifts, has a history of considerable fruitfulness over 35 years of ministry, and has been rigorously examined over the past year (both through individual examination of accusations brought against him and through a comprehensive evaluation of our entire ministry). This comprehensive process has clearly confirmed C.J.’s fitness to lead and his exceptional character as he has graciously endured major trials. Through all of this he has been found to be a man and a minister of fundamental integrity. We know of no one who is better suited for the office of President at this transitional time in our history—especially in light of the significant changes that are coming to our ministry (changes that C.J. initiated) through the establishment of a comprehensive governance structure.
We’ll provide you with our response to the recommendations made by AoR and the panel reports in an upcoming blog post.
I cannot conclude this update without thanking those of you who prayed for us while we met. Your prayers were heard, and we are grateful for the progress we made as a Board in seeking to serve the Leadership Team and our churches. And I’d ask that you continue to pray for Sovereign Grace Ministries—that we walk in love for one another, that we establish policies and procedures that will help us walk in unity, and that we not only reflect the effects of the gospel on our lives individually and as churches but that the gospel message rings out in ever-expanding ways from the local churches who call Sovereign Grace home.
On behalf of the Sovereign Grace Ministries Board
June 27, 2012 by
Categories: Haiti | International
Rob Tombrella reports on a recent short-term missions trip that Grace Church (Frisco, TX) participated in and the lessons God taught him and his team through uncertain circumstances.
When the morning greeted us through echoing rooster crows and the increasingly familiar smell of burning trash we had no idea what was in store for us. This was not because we didn’t have a plan for the day. After all, we had been in communication with Jesus in Haiti for months talking through how we can serve their church, orphans, and children in the area. But we were soon to learn something about Haiti that long-term missionaries know all too well about the country they love—nothing goes quite as planned.
We arrived at Victory Bible Church early Tuesday morning with a plan to conduct children’s activities while I visited their pastoral staff meeting. Afterwards we were going to join the pastors in visiting various members of the church who lived in the nearby village who requested a visit from a pastor on Sunday.
On our way to the church that morning we passed what seemed to be around fifty people causing a stir. When we arrived at the church property we were informed that some residents of the neighboring village had just started a demonstration because their electricity had been shut off—a historic issue that was recently overcome only after the President of Haiti visited the village himself. We were encouraged to continue what we had planned and that the demonstration should be over soon.
As we carried on, the crowd down the road multiplied. After a couple of hours we learned that they blocked the road. Over walls that seemed much smaller now we could see smoke rising and hear gunshots. We watched alongside hundreds of school kids as the rioters drew closer to the church property. For the first time since arriving in Haiti, I didn’t feel safe. Curiously, the few police present drove away—in the opposite direction.
Suddenly, we were told to jump in the back of the truck—that the safest option was to drive away from the coming conflict while we were still in front of it. We crammed into the truck as poised and confident as possible. As our truck drove past the protection of the gate the noise of children was replaced by mob riot—but not just by the group down the road. We discovered we were not in front of the riot—but in the middle of it as men surrounded our truck with rocks determined to not let us through. I could hear my wife praying and my heart beating. The truck shook as a couple rocks slammed against the sides and stopped moving as our drivers attempted communication through the shouting.
It’s safe to say I’ve not been a prayer meeting like that in my life. A chorus of loud, bold prayer rose past the diesel fumes as our group ducked down both for safety. I watched God hold back men in throwing position from injuring us or the vehicle. After the leader was told who we were with they let us go—and we drove away.
That afternoon was spent battling anxiety and fear as our leaders determined our next move. Questions loomed. How long would this go on? Were we safe? Could we have been seriously injured or kidnapped? How serious is this? Where will we sleep tonight? With nothing but time, we were asked if we wanted to do a spontaneous Kid’s Club in the local village we had stopped for lunch. Feeling exhausted from the morning activities and the recent crisis we were reluctant, but decided to push through the anxiety of an unknown future and trust the Lord.
As we gathered up the kids to play games, sing songs, and share the gospel it seemed like the events of the morning began to lose its grip as smiling and laughing children welcomed us into their hearts—and into their world. We ended up doing the first Kid’s event of several that week in the most unlikely of places—at the most unplanned times. It was as if God had this planned from the very beginning of the day—and the riot steered us straight into it. God was letting us see his work in Haiti, despite the challenges and darkness. At the end of the week members of our team reflected that this event was the most meaningful—both in the way that he touched the children—and the way he turned a day from fear and anxiety to a day of peace and joy.
George Mueller said “Work with all your might; but trust not in the least in your work.” The same could be said of our planning—particularly when it involves the time-consuming and messy work of making disciples whether they live across the street or across an ocean. We must plan with all our might. But our trust must never rest on our plans—but in the One who promises to build his church in spite of our broken resources, shattered confidence, and failed plans. Nothing can interrupt that.
"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).
Rob serves as a pastor at Grace Church in Frisco, Texas. He grew up in the Galveston area before meeting his wife Michelle at Sam Houston State University. Rob earned his undergraduate degree at Sam Houston before attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where he graduated in 2003 with a Masters of Divinity. He has served in a number of pastoral roles before joining Grace Church and graduated from Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastors College in 2008. Rob and Michelle have three sons: Samuel, Joel and Asher.
The video below gives you a window into the sights and sounds from this past weekend's Resolved 2012 Conference where C.J. Mahaney gave messages from Mark 15:33-39 (The Death of Jesus Christ) and Philippians 2:12-16 (The Church and Disappointment); and where Bob Kauflin led worship with Enfield.
Thank you for praying for these men, those serving, and those attending. From all accounts, God graciously used this conference to encourage greater faithfulness to Jesus Christ, to proclaim the gospel to unbelievers, to affirm the Bible's authority over the life of every person, and to point people back to their local churches for growth and accountability.
All the resources from Resolved 2012 can be found here.
June 25, 2012 by
Categories: Church planting
One way we as Sovereign Grace Ministries seek to advance our vision for church planting is through various conferences we participate in. Since April 2011, we have had several opportunities for church planting recruitment at several different events.
We hosted church planting booths at The Gospel Coalition National Conference (April 2011), the Desiring God National Conference 2011, the Plant New England Conference (October 2011), a church planting conference in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Together for the Gospel 2012. These events allowed us to meet men who are interested in church planting and share information about how church planting works in Sovereign Grace Ministries.
- During all of these events combined, we had conversations with approximately 1000 men who visited our church planting booths.
- Over 100 men signed up to receive more information about church planting with Sovereign Grace Ministries.
- We handed out 750 pieces of literature on church planting at the Desiring God National Conference.
- At Together for the Gospel, we conducted 20 on-site church planter assessments.
In addition to the church planting booths, we held church planting information meetings at the Sovereign Grace Pastors Conference (November 2011), Together for the Gospel 2012, and Next 2012. In all, about 325 people attended these three meetings.
In addition to recruitment for church planting at conferences, we also have information about church planting on our website. If you’re interested in learning more, visit our church planting page where you’ll find information about our process, a list of recent and upcoming church plants, and resources for church planters.
We thank God for these opportunities He's given us to encourage and equip men for the joyous task of advancing the gospel through planting churches on the foundation of Jesus Christ. Please join us in praying that much fruit will be borne through these efforts for the glory of our Savior.
June 22, 2012 by
Bob Kauflin gives us a brief update on his participation with the band Enfield at this weekend's Resolved 2012 Conference.
I’ve had the joy of knowing the members of Enfield for a number of years. While I’ve always deeply respected their musicianship, getting to know them has produced an even deeper appreciation for their friendship. They are servants who wholeheartedly use their musical gifts, and more importantly their lives, to exalt the glory of Jesus Christ. We’ve had Enfield members play on the last three Sovereign Grace Music projects, and they’ve brought both creativity and excellence to our music. At Resolved I’ll have the joy and privilege of leading Saturday afternoon from the piano at a men’s breakout, T4G style. For the second session on Sunday morning, I’ll be leading with Enfield, minus John Martin, of course.
Please join us in praying for Bob, those serving, and those attending this conference.
For more information about the purpose behind Resolved, the speakers, the schedule, and music; visit the Resolved 2012 Conference Website.
June 21, 2012 by
Carolyn Mahaney will speak at The Gospel Coalition National Women’s Conference in Orlando this weekend. The conference will be streamed live online starting tomorrow, June 22. Nearly 4,000 women from around the world will be attending this inaugural women’s conference. The broadcast will feature every event that takes place on the conference main stage through Sunday at noon. This will include Carolyn's workshop on Saturday at 1:30PM on "The Snare of Compare" (from John 21:15-22).
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.
Please join us in praying for Carolyn, the other conference speakers, and those attending. May God use this conference as a means to share biblical encouragement as sisters, daughters, wives, mothers, and friends.
June 19, 2012 by
Categories: Church planting | Resources
Sovereign Grace Ministries emerged from a church-planting vision, and we continue to pursue that vision through equipping pastors to plant and lead churches. We see church planting as a vital part of our mission to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
At last year's PLANT Conference, C.J. Mahaney spoke from 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 on, "The Profile of a Church Planter." In this message C.J. shared, "I want to draw your attention to two primary points from this passage that give us a vivid picture of the heart of a church planter and form the profile of the kind of man who would plant a church. This man, according to the text, has 1) A Heart for the Gospel 2) A Heart for People."
Listen or watch the entireity of this message below.
“Profile of a Church Planter” (1 Thessalonians 2:1-12)
Download (right-click and select “Save link as” or “Save target as”)
(RSS readers, you may have to click through to the post to stream the audio and video.)
June 18, 2012 by
Last month, Nathan Sasser, one of the speakers at The Clash, shared a few blog posts about worldview. Today, Nathan is back to share his thoughts on worldview and scientific methods. If you missed Nathan's previous posts, check out part one and part two.
In past blog posts, I argued that everyone has a worldview, and that what distinguishes the Christian worldview from any other is that it is based ultimately on the Bible. This means that when Christians think consistently with their worldview, they interpret every fact in the world in light of what the Bible says about it.
Let’s say for example that you are wondering how long it will take the earth to do a complete rotation—that is, how long it will take for one day-night cycle to occur. You recall that in all of your past experiences, this cycle has taken 24 hours. But how do you know that this cycle will occur again, just as it always has?
As a Christian, my confidence in the regularity of nature is based on the fact that everything in the universe is created and controlled by God, including the planets (e.g. Isa. 40:26, Ps. 104:19). God’s plan for the universe includes the regularities of nature as well as God’s miraculous and exceptional activities in the world. I interpret every fact in light of this plan, the broad outline of which is revealed in Scripture. So Scripture, which contains God’s plan for the universe, gives me a basis for making scientific predictions.
My secular friends will have to approach science differently. On the one hand, if they do not assume that nature works uniformly and regularly, then they will have no way to give explanations or make predictions. How long will it take the earth to complete a full rotation today? Well, it’s always taken 24 hours when I have observed it in the past; if nature is regular and uniform, it will take 24 hours today too. But if nature is not regular, then I have no idea how long it will take.
On the other hand, some of the most thoughtful non-theistic philosophers (for example, David Hume) have concluded that there is no reason to believe in the uniformity of nature. No matter how many times we have observed the orbits and rotations of the planets, it is always conceivable that something different will happen the next time: the earth may slow down or start spinning the opposite direction. You might think that planetary back flips like this, though conceivable, are vastly improbable. But to say that an event is improbable is just to say that it has never been observed before. And the very question which we have to answer is, “how do we know that really weird, never-before-observed events do not occur?”
Here’s my point: Scripture gives me the only possible basis for doing science. It gives me a basis for believing that nature is in general regular, since God providentially controls it. Scripture also tells me when there have been and will be miraculous exceptions to these regularities. If we do not presuppose that God’s plan controls the world and that he has revealed this plan in Scripture, then we will have no basis for thinking that nature is regular or predictable at all.
To find out more information about The Clash, visit its page on our website or follow The Clash on Facebook or Twitter. You can also register online—and remember, if two or more people register from the same church, each of you get a $100 rebate that will be applied in mid-July.
June 15, 2012 by
The Clash, our six-day worldview conference, is coming up July 29–August 4. We love the idea of young people attending this conference and getting a vision for the importance of a Christian worldview and how it affects all of life, and what we love even more is the idea of you bringing a friend (or two or three!) from your church with you to the conference so that you can listen, learn, and grow together.
To help make that happen, we’re offering a special Clash registration rebate. If more than one person from your church signs up for The Clash, each of you will receive a $100 rebate effective in mid-July when registration closes. To take advantage of this offer, make sure both you and one or more of your friends register for the conference.
If you're looking for some more incentive to attend, take a look at this video of Nathan Sasser, one of our speakers, answering the question “why come to The Clash?”
June 14, 2012 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 welcomed multiple outstanding guest instructors including Jerry Bridges on Grace and Sanctification, Dr. Tom Schreiner for a week on Galatians, Dr. John Woodbridge for Church History 2, Dr. Steve Nichols for Church History 3, Dr. Iain Duguid on Old Testament 3 (The Prophets), and Dr. Ray Van Neste for New Testament 4 (General Epistles). The Pastors College was well served by these top-notch theologians/Bible scholars.
Dr. Ray Van Neste, one of our guest instructors, 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, 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 2012 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.
For more information about this year's graduating class, check out our previous post.