July 31, 2012 by
Categories: Conferences | Interviews
Today, we're posting part two of an interview C.J. Mahaney did with Ligon Duncan, the guest speaker at this year's Pastors Conference. If you missed part one, you can read it as well. We hope you enjoy getting to know Dr. Duncan a little better through this interview.
C.J. Mahaney: Ligon, apart from Scripture, what book do you most frequently re-read and why?
Ligon Duncan: I do not think that I can answer the question, which book I most frequently re-read, since there are a number of them that I have re-read over the years. Some examples of these books would be:
- Calvin’s Institutes
- Packer’s A Quest for Godliness
- David Wells’ No Place for Truth
- Thomas Brooks’ Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices
I re-read these books because they are particularly edifying, convicting, timely and instructive.
CJM: When you finish a book, what system have you developed in order to remember and reference that book in the future?
LD: I have no system. I’m not a fast reader, but I can usually remember what I read and where I read. So, I largely rely upon my memory, but this does result in some rummaging around to find things from time to time. Of course, if I’m researching something for publication, I keep notes, by author, title, and subject.
CJM: If you could study under any theologian in church history (excluding those men in Scripture) who would it be and why?
LD: Calvin or Irenaeus.
I would choose Calvin because he is, in my opinion, the best exegete and possibly the greatest systematic theologian in the history of Christianity. He is certainly one of the five greatest theologians in the history of the Church.
I would choose Irenaeus because he played such a crucial role in the shaping of orthodoxy and because of his close proximity to the apostles. I would love to pepper him with questions about all of that for about two years, eight hours a day, five days a week.
CJM: What single piece of counsel (or constructive criticism) has most improved your preaching?
LD: Well, I’m not sure I can claim that it has improved my preaching, but at least Mark Dever’s counsel has been helpful and instructive to me: “if your wife wakes you up at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning to ask you what your sermon is about, and you cannot tell her in one crisp sentence, then that sermon is not ready to preach.” Basically, we must be really clear on what the main thrust, thesis, argument, point, and main application of our sermon is.
CJM: What books on preaching, or examples of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?
LD: I have benefited from Lloyd-Jones’ book Preaching and Preachers, the volume edited by Sam Logan called The Preacher and Preaching, and Broadus, On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons. But I have gained the most from listening to great preaching. Growing up under the faithful and powerful expository ministries of Gordon Reed and Paul Settle, and listening to Mark Dever, John Piper, C.J. Mahaney, Derek Thomas, Sinclair Ferguson, Eric Alexander, and others, have been most influential on my preaching.
CJM: What single bit of counsel has made the most significant difference in your effective use of time?
LD: I do not use my time effectively, but the best advice that I have been given is, “Learn to say, ‘No.’” Unfortunately, I have not taken this advice yet, but am trying.
CJM: What single bit of counsel has made the most significant difference in your leadership?
LD: “I have not come to be served, but to serve.” And “if you want to be a servant, you have to be prepared to be treated like one” (Glen Knecht).
CJM: That is humbling counsel. Thank you, Dr. Duncan.
Check back soon for the final installment of this interview. To find out more about our Pastors Conference or to register, visit the Pastors Conference page on our website.
July 30, 2012 by
Categories: Conferences | Interviews
This fall at our Pastors Conference, we have the honor of welcoming Ligon Duncan as our guest speaker. In addition to serving as the senior minister of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi, Dr. Duncan is the President of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, the chairman of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and the John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. He is also one of the four founders of Together for the Gospel. We hope many of you will register for the conference and have a chance to hear Dr. Duncan address us from Scripture.
Today, we want you to get to know Dr. Duncan on a more personal level, so we're posting an interview C.J. Mahaney did with him a few years ago. In this post and the two that will follow, you'll find out what books Dr. Duncan was reading at the time of the interview, what pieces of counsel have influenced him, what sports he enjoys, and much more.
C.J. Mahaney: Ligon, please describe your morning devotions. What time do you wake up in the morning? How much time do you spend reading, meditating, praying, etc.? What are you presently reading?
Ligon Duncan: I usually wake up between 5–6:15 a.m., depending on the day. I typically do my devotions at the church, since I spend almost my entire time at home in the mornings helping to get the kids ready for and to school. I do have a home office (in addition to my study at the church) and I often do devotional reading there in the mornings (but not for very long) and more often in the evenings.
At present I am reading through 1 Chronicles, both the text and the notes, in the ESV Study Bible. I was going to do one of the ESV read through the Bible in a year plans, but the Chronicles readings at the first of the year captivated me, and I wanted an excuse to read through all the ESV Study Bible notes on that book, and I was enjoying Chronicles so much and desired to know it better that I decided to luxuriate in it.
I probably read fifteen minutes or so. Prayer time is distributed throughout the day, and I haven’t tried to quantify it, so I really don’t know. I carry a prayer list in my Bible and on MS Outlook on my Blackberry and iPhone. I also set aside a special prayer time, early on every Lord’s Day morning, to pray for the ministry of a handful of other pastors.
CJM: What book(s) are you currently reading in these three categories: (a) for your soul, (b) for pastoral ministry, or (c) for personal enjoyment?
LD:I am not this well-organized! I don’t have my reading apportioned in three such good categories (but I’m not at all surprised that C.J. Mahaney thinks in these terms!). My categories are less sophisticated: what I have to read and what I want to read. Now, of course, I love to read what I have to read (most of the time), but I don’t always have to read what I want to read, so maybe these categories make sense.
Under the have to read category, (1) I am reading 15–20 commentaries at any given time, depending on what book of the Bible I am preaching through. So, currently I am reading through Luke commentaries (including Phil Ryken’s unpublished manuscript, Wilcock, Hendriksen, Geldenhuys, Ryle, Bock, Calvin, Marshall, Morris, etc). (2) Another major area under the have to read category is related to whatever courses I am teaching at that time. Right now, I am teaching covenant theology at RTS Jackson, and teaching a survey of the Westminster Confession of Faith, so I’m spending some time reading things related to covenant theology and reading commentaries on the Confession too (e.g. Hodge, Shaw, Ward, Warfield, etc). (3) The third area under the have to read category is manuscripts that I am to endorse or review (e.g., I’ve recently read Cornelis Venema’s critique of paedocommunion “Children at the Lord’s Table?” and Todd Rester’s translation of William Ames “Sketch of the Christian’s Catechism”). Or secondary literature related to writing and research projects (e.g., recently did a literature survey of every book and article written on covenant theology since 1985).
Under the want to read category, which sort of corresponds to your “personal enjoyment” category, I am an avid reader of book catalogs and a fervent frequenter of bookstores. So I’m on the hunt for new stuff all the time. I also am usually pulling recommendations from people like Al Mohler, Mark Dever, Derek Thomas, Russell Moore et al. I especially love history and great literature. At present I am reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
Check back soon for the next part of this interview. To find out more information about our Pastors Conference or to register, visit the Pastors Conference page on our website.
Our annual Pastors Conference will take place this October 30–November 1 in Orlando, Florida. The theme of this year's conference is "Grace, from First to Last." Pastors and their wives as well as anyone who hopes to be a pastor or church planter one day is welcome to attend. Online registration will remain open until October 14.
For those of you who haven't attended our Pastors Conference, we want to make you aware that the audio messages from past years' conferences are all available for download. Below, you'll find links to download messages from every Pastors Conference and Leadership Conference since 2004.
We trust these messages will encourage you and build your anticipation for the teaching and fellowship at this year's conference.
Audio from previous conferences:
You can find out more and register for our 2012 Pastors Conference at our website.
July 26, 2012 by
Categories: Conferences | International
Cedric Moss was the senior pastor of Kingdom Life Church in Nassau, Bahamas long before he ever heard of Sovereign Grace Ministries. One day, wanting to better understand the gospel personally and to more passionately preach it to his church, Cedric searched online and stumbled upon Sovereign Grace Ministries. In 2004 Cedric attended our pastors conference as a visitor, hoping to observe from a distance.
In reflecting upon the trip Cedric says,
I was a pastor who was weary in the ministry and skeptical about church associations and networks, having been closely associated with a few and having given up on them. However, to my surprise, in Sovereign Grace I found men who were genuinely interested in me as a pastor, not the size of my church, or getting my church’s name on a list.
Watch his story here or listen to his testimony shared at our 2009 Pastors Conference.
Download MP3 (3.7 MB)
Please consider joining us for our Pastors Conference this October in Orlando, Florida. There, we will consider the theme "Grace, from First to Last." Visit the overview and speakers pages to learn more. Registration is now open.
July 25, 2012 by
If you want to find sermon video from Sovereign Grace leaders, the most complete online archive available at present is the Sovereign Grace Ministries Vimeo page. Here are some of the collections we offer there:
The Vimeo archive is still fairly small, so if there are any old sermons you would love to see prioritized as we build it please let us know.
We also have a Youtube channel which we use primarily for videos related to Sovereign Grace Music, such as music videos for our songs or training videos for worship leaders.
July 23, 2012 by
Sovereign Grace Ministries is a family of churches passionate about the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are active and intentional about planting and building gospel-centered local churches. This is the core of our proclamation and our practice.
Surrounding this core is an emphasis on sound doctrine. We describe our doctrine as being essentially Reformed, yet including a commitment to continuationist practice as defined by Scripture. And we desire all these convictions to inspire a passion for the local church, the context where all believers are to grow in holiness, be equipped for service, and bear witness to the saving grace of God.
Understanding Sovereign Grace Ministries is a tool designed as an introduction to the doctrines and practices that characterize Sovereign Grace Ministries. The nine units include 21 sections that explain our primary beliefs and doctrinal emphases. The condensed version of the course summarizes each of the nine units in one section. Each section includes content, recommended resources for study, and application questions. The sermons and books listed under each section provide the body of teaching that has helped define our family of churches over the years, and contain a wealth of material for further study.
This tool should prove helpful for individuals and ministries who desire to become more oriented toward Sovereign Grace Ministries.
* Audio messages listed in this tool are available for free download at our webstore.
(If you're reading this via email or an RSS reader, you may need to visit the website to see the PDF reader.)
On August 23, C.J. Mahaney will speak at a daylong conference, Strengthening Your Marriage in Ministry, hosted by The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Conference discussions will explore practical aspects of strengthening marriages and families with special attention given to men and women preparing for gospel ministry.
Additional guest speakers include Dennis Rainey, president and CEO of FamilyLife, Russell D. Moore, dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for Academic Administration at Southern Seminary, and R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary.
Free Resource: You can download a three-part series by C.J. and Carolyn Mahaney titled, According to Plan, which addresses a biblical view of marriage and highlights biblical manhood and womanhood in the context of marriage.
July 20, 2012 by
Categories: Articles | Resources
Marty Machowski leads the children's and youth ministries at Covenant Fellowship Church and is the author of The Gospel Story Bible, Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God, and Old Story New: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family To God. In a recent blog post at the Gospel Story for Kids, Marty discussed the importance of developing a culture of reading in our families for the purpose of biblical instruction. He also offered a few practical suggestions on how you might approach this in your home. We trust this will serve you as you work to transfer the gospel to the coming generation, Psalm 78:4-6.
It is critically important to develop and maintain a culture of reading in your family. This has never been more difficult than now, during the age of personal electronics. Our children’s attention is easily captured by the mesmerizing clarity of high def television, the excitement of computer games, and the ingenuity of hand held cell phones and other electronic devices. Against this explosion of technology, we must fight to retain the simple skill and discipline of reading, a skill irreplaceable by technology, and the key to learning.
But, most importantly, reading is a way we can get to know God. God speaks to us through his Word. In John 1:1 we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. Jesus is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14); and Jesus came to bring the Word of God to us. How did we receive this Word? Of course the Holy Spirit opens our hearts to Christ, but faith comes by hearing and hearing from the Word of God (Romans 10:17). The Bible is God’s written Word. Living and active, able to cut to the core of our being and judge our heart (Hebrews 4:12). This living Word, breathed out by God, is useful for teaching, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). But most important, God’s Word gives us his gospel truth, which he tells us is the “power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). It’s a great gift to be able to read God’s Word. You can encourage your children to cultivate that gift through developing a culture of reading in your family.
How do you develop and maintain a culture of reading in your family? Here are a few suggestions.
- Read to your children – Reading is kind of like a virus – it’s catchy. I can still remember my parents and teachers reading books to me as a child. Of course, the most important book is the Bible, and it is filled with stories. For younger children, we’ve developed the Gospel Story Bible to consolidate the larger stories of scripture, connect them to the gospel, and provide illustrations with questions to help children understand the stories you read to them.
- Fill your home with good books – It doesn’t cost a penny to take your children twice monthly to the library and borrow a bag full of books. You will be amazed at how quickly your children will devour the same books that excited you as a child.
- Limit TV and other media – Television isn’t inherently evil, but too much TV will sow the seeds of sloth in your children. It takes work to read. If you have a family that is hooked on a ton of TV, take a television fast for a month. It can be very difficult to regulate something you’ve become dependent on. But if you cut it off, you will soon see how little you need movies, sitcoms, and cartoons, and you can bring television back into your life in moderation.
- Read a classic to your children – Currently I am reading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien to my youngest two daughters. On most days they beg me to read another chapter. Last night I was working on the bills when my daughter pleaded, “Only a spoonful Daddy, can you read just a spoonful tonight?” If your kids are old enough to see the movie, The Hobbit, when it comes out later in the year, tell them they won’t be able to see the movie until they first read the book.
- Keep the Bible central to your reading – Daily Bible devotions help you keep God’s Word the most important reading you do as a family. If you’ve struggled to know how to keep devotions a priority, or if you just want a tool to help make it easy, check out Long Story Short, the Old Testament family devotional that follows the Gospel Story Curriculum and helps you do Bible study with your children.
- Give your children good books for presents – Every Christmas we give our children books. There is something about opening up a book as a present that makes it more special. Don’t just give them any books, if you give them books as gifts, give them great books.
Once your children catch the reading bug, you will have to keep up with them, taking more library trips and giving them suggestions on what to read. When they hit college and find out that you actually need to read to get good grades, they will thank you. Far too many people have this unfortunate phrase as a part of their personal philosophy – “I hate reading.” By fostering a love for reading in your children, you open up the world of books to their understanding and give them a key that can unlock the greatest piece of information known to man, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For more information related to the excellent resources Marty have developed, please visit the Gospel Story for Kids homepage.
July 19, 2012 by
Categories: Church planting | Resources
Establishing new gospel-centered churches is at the heart of our strategy to advance the Great Commission. We wanted to better equip both pastors and church members to be part of that.
Often, we receive inquiries regarding where Sovereign Grace Ministries church planting resources can be found. Below is a summary of the resources you can find on our website related to Church Planting.
For men considering planting a church
For current church-planters
We're grateful for the partnership in the gospel we have with all of you. Please consider subscribing to this blog
if you want to stay updated on new resources, church-planting plans, and other things of interest to our shared mission.
Dave Taylor recently featured testimonies related to how God used the NEXT Conference in the lives of four members of Sovereign Grace Church, Sydney (Australia). One such testimony was that of Janelle Smith, which we've provided below for your encouragement.
Attending NEXT 2012 will forever be a defining moment for me in my journey as a Christian. I am so thankful to God for the privilege of being able to attend this conference. The Bible talks, worship, and fellowship were so amazing and such a rich time of blessing.
All the talks were focused on the topic of church. It was such a great privilege and a joy for me, that as I listened to each of these talks, to be able to praise and thank God for our local church here in Sydney, which I love!!!
There were many things that stood out for me during the talks; some because I was so encouraged and others because I was challenged by me need for change! The conference opened with a talk on 'The Church and the Purposes of God' and concluded with 'The Church and Disappointment'.
In Talk 1, “The Church and the Purposes of God,” Jeff Purswell spoke about how in our fallen world so often we look at church from a man-centered perspective and so he reminded us that our church is more precious and important in the purposes of God than we think. As well, he reminded us that God's heart for us is that he wants to dwell with us - he's not sitting back tolerating us, but he longs to dwell with us!
"Here is the astonishing truth: For the church of God, redeemed by Jesus Christ, this is a reality now. Through the cross God has demolished the impenetrable barrier between Him and ourselves. Through the Holy Spirit God has come and taken resident with us now. Here is your church: the place on earth where the living God most fully makes known His presence. If you treasure God you will treasure the church, for that is where God uniquely dwells. If you hunger for God, you will hunger for the church for that is where He makes Himself known. If you love God, you will love the church for she is made of the ones for whom Christ died. If you long for heaven, you'll long for the church because that's where we get a taste, in part, of what we will experience in fullness forever."
Being disappointed with church is not something I have struggled with whilst being a member of Sovereign Grace, Sydney, but I still found the wisdom and practical advice C.J. Mahaney gave in his talk 'The Church and Disappointment' so helpful. He started off his talk by saying:
"Unrealistic expectations always result in disappointment because they always collide with the harsh realities of real life, trials, and sin. The question is not if you'll be disappointed with the church, it's when you'll be disappointed with the church and how you'll respond."
C.J.'s instruction for what we should do when we encounter the inevitable disappointment that comes from unrealistic expectations about the local church came from Philippians 2:12-16. His three headings and some of the points that stood out to me were:
Remember the sovereign activity of God - "For it is God who works in you." v 13. The God who initially converted you is presently sustaining you and will bring His work to completion in you. His purpose for you cannot be frustrated. This fact is also true for your church, if it is a Gospel-preaching church. God is effectually and ceaselessly at work in your church. Avoid the temptation to complain - "Do all things without grumbling and complaining." v. 14.
"That voice in your head that keeps rehearsing the disappointments and flaws of your church is not from the Lord. It is the Accuser." - Jared Wilson
Hold fast to the Word of Life - "Holding fast to the Word of Life." v.16. Why hold fast? Because it is only the Gospel that can fully address our disappointment. It puts our lives and disappointments into perspective... "The church is to have a unique sound of the gratefulness of men and women who have been humbled by the Gospel. They are aware that they richly deserve God's full, furious, righteous wrath for the sins they have committed, but that God, in His mercy, sent His Son and crushed Him for the punishment they deserve."
Spending time at the conference really confirmed how thankful I am to God for bringing me to Sovereign Grace, Sydney; a local church that loves the gospel and seeks to apply it! I am so thankful for the people whom God has brought along to our local church for the example and encouragement of godly men and women who are seeking to apply the gospel and live lives that honour Jesus, and for the things God is doing in and through us as a local church for his glory.
Along with the great talks, the worship for me was definitely a highlight!!! The worship team served us so faithfully and the songs they chose complimented the whole conference so well. The words in the songs had a deep impact on me. Up until a year and a half ago, much of my life as a Christian had been spent not understanding the assurance of salvation secured for us through Jesus Christ. I lived with the thought that it was me that held on to God, not God holding onto me. I did not truly understand that it was God who initiated my conversion and it is Him who will keep me safe until he calls me home. Thus much of my life as a Christian had been gripped by fear and a lack of joy. Over the last year and a half, God has transformed my life, in particular, through gaining a deep understanding of the doctrine of assurance and the outworking of that. The reason I share this with you is because, in the first session, as we were singing, I was overwhelmed by God's goodness and His faithfulness through the words in the songs. I was freshly amazed as I thought about how God has lovingly orchestrated all events in my life (both the good and the hard times) to bring me to the point of being on the other side of the world listening to His word being so faithfully taught. As I sang, I was so thankful for God's grace shown to me through Jesus and for his pursuing love that will never let me go!
I am SO thankful to God for all he has taught me. I have walked away from my time at the conference with such a deep sense of joy and contentment, trusting in the goodness and sovereignty of God and knowing that "Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow!"
To read more of these testimonies and receive further updates from Sovereign Grace Church, Sydney, please visit their blog.