January 31, 2013 by
We love the Psalms. They are full of devotion, usually succinct (except for Psalm 119, of course) and easily apply to our ever-needy souls. We can read a psalm in a few moments yet gain a days’ worth of truth to meditate upon.
Now, there are several Psalms that – at first glance – seem out of place with the purpose of a book of songs for worship. Picture with me the festive throng gathered at the Temple, choirs amassed with instruments blasting, cymbals crashing and priests running to and fro in their duties, all while the Psalter is opened and sung with some ancient melody:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2)
My first thought about Psalm 1 is that it belongs in the book of Proverbs, as though Solomon got a hold of his father’s songbook and added his own page of pithy wisdom. I don’t picture it being sung by worshipful crowds. Even more striking is the fact that this Psalm is the firstPsalm. This is the kick-off, the start gun, the tone-setter for our divinely inspired hymn book. You might think that something like Psalm 150 (with all of its cymbal-crashing, foot-stomping and Hallelujah-ing) would make the best start to a psalter.
I cannot improve on Pastor Ray Ortlund Jr.’s comments on this incredible Psalm from the upcoming book on the Psalms, “Forgotten Songs”:
So why does Psalm 1 stand as the doorway of this book focusing on the worship of God? What does that tell us? It tells us that delighting in God’s Word is where true worship begins. It tells us that we step into the worship of God through and according to the Word of God. It tells us that the first filter for guiding and assessing and inspiring our worship of God is the Word of God. It is not as though we are worshipping God only when we are singing, and then listening to the sermon is something else. The whole of a church service from beginning to end is all worship if it is focused on the Word. Christians worship God by singing the Bible, praying the Bible, reading the Bible, preaching the Bible, hearing the Bible, believing the Bible, and obeying the Bible. Psalm 1 defines biblical worship because only the biblical message can lift us to God in worship pleasing to Him…
Psalm 1 nails it: our worship of God will be true and blessed inasmuch as we are motivated and directed by the Scriptures. My worshipful feelings for Jesus and my passion will result in something awful if not shaped by and inspired by the Word. The Bible, therefore, must remain open from start to finish whenever Christians gather. It’s not just a “sermon thing” and Bible references ain’t just for notetakers. Scripture is for every single second of corporate singing, fellowship, preaching, serving, etc. and etc. I love how Pastor Ortlund puts it later in his chapter: “Our heavenly Father is a good teacher. And when we become lovingly fascinated with what He teaches in the Bible, we are worshipping Him.”
Worship of God, in all the wonderful facets of a worshipping life, will always be biblical (bible-directed and bible-inspired). If it isn’t biblical, then chances are:
- We worship someone or something other than the one true God
- We attempt to worship God as we feel or believe, rather than as he has required – which is just as bad as #1.
(Remember the first two of the Ten Commandments?)
The whole chapter by Ray Ortlund Jr. is available online for free perusal here.
*This post first appeared on the Crossway Church (PA) blog.
Doug Plank is a pastor at Crossway Church located in Millersville, Pennsylvania, where he oversees worship, singles, and young adults. Doug and his wife, Brenda, have five children. You can listen to some of Doug's songs here.
January 30, 2013 by
We are bringing back the ever popular February Sale for 2013. Most items (excluding Proclaim items and items found on the Clearance page) are up to 40% off, while supplies last. So now is your time to stock up on books and music! Take advantage of these discounted prices starting February 1st, as we will not be restocking inventory until after the sale is over.
January 29, 2013 by
What could you do with $51? I’m sure you could do a lot. That’s how much individual registrations and married couples will keep in their pockets if you register for Transfer before the early bird registration ends in just 3 days. Also, by your request, we have also included an additional 15% discount for families bringing four or more people.
If you already plan on coming—then please save yourself some cash! We are willing to loose money so you can get to the conference. That’s how much we think there is to gain by spending four days together celebrating, proclaiming, and responding to the truths from God’s Word that matter most.
It’s also going to be a lot of fun! It will be a blast hanging out with friends from your local church as well as getting reconnected with brothers and sisters across our family of churches. I can’t wait to meet you and beat some of you in pick-up basketball. Bring it on!
Fellowship like this is a great gift and a soul-building means of grace.
January 28, 2013 by
Categories: Church planting | Interviews
On January 18th, Cornerstone Church of Knoxville officially announced (in classic CCK style) their intent to send Dave Odom to plant Redeeming Grace Church in Franklin, Tennessee. This decision was the culmination of much prayer as a church. Today, we interview Dave about this plant so we can support him, his family, and his church planting team in prayer.
First of all, when and where will your church begin?
We will have our first public service on October 13, 2013. We are planting the church in the city of Franklin, TN. Franklin is part of the greater Nashville area, and is located about 20 miles southwest of downtown Nashville.
Why did you choose to plant near Nashville? What attracted you to that city?
I had the privilege to serve as a pastor at Third Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, TN prior to attending the Pastors College. During my six years serving outside the city of Nashville, our family fell in love with the area. We had a number of contacts in Nashville who expressed interest in a church plant. Likewise, Cornerstone Church of Knoxville desired to plant a church in the Nashville area for a number of years. So, when an opportunity arose to participate in a church plant from Cornerstone with Sovereign Grace, we were eager to participate. It is clear that God has orchestrated this church plant in his timing. And we get excited watching the Lord gather his people to participate in this plant.
What's your vision for this church plant? What would you want to characterize it?
We want to make much of the grace of God found in the gospel. We believe God’s grace is compelling to the unbeliever; and because of the sacrificial death of Jesus, God readily supplies it. Therefore, we want to make much of it three ways: Jesus, Community, and Mission. First, we experience the grace of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ; therefore, we want to make a really big deal about the person and work of Jesus Christ. Second, we experience the grace of God through authentic gospel community; therefore, we want to get people connected within our local church. Finally, we extend the grace of God to others by sharing the gospel; therefore, we want to actively and naturally engage our community with the life-giving person of Jesus Christ.
How do you hope to partner with other churches in the Nashville area?
Obviously, our partnership with churches in Sovereign Grace is unique, and we want to preserve that. But, we have much to learn about effective gospel ministry in the Nashville area, and developing relationships with other churches and pastors in the community is a great way to learn. I plan to be involved in a strong network of gospel-centered church planters in the Nashville area that is already meeting regularly.
One church in Nashville that we have already formed a unique partnership with is Immanuel Church, pastored by Ray Ortlund. There are a number of families participating in our church plant that are currently worshiping there. They have been gracious enough to host and release these families to us when we arrive. Recently, Ray interviewed me during his worship services in order to express enthusiastic support for this Sovereign Grace church plant and these families in their church. Like Immanuel, we are planting this church because we earnestly desire to see the gospel advanced in Nashville. Therefore, we want to come alongside other churches in meaningful ways in order to strengthen our efforts. In our local church, we want to highlight, support, and speak highly of other churches in our community.
Where are you doing your church planting residency? How is this time preparing you for planting a church?
I’ve had the privilege of doing my church-planting residency here at Cornerstone Church of Knoxville. This church has been nothing short of spectacular in providing support for this church plant. Not only are they helping me to build a church planting team here at CCK, they have joyfully sent out one of their long time pastors, Craig Cooper, to lead this church plant with me. This pastoral team has continually expressed faith and trust in me as a pastor. They have given me opportunities to preach, allowed me to sit in on all team meetings, and provided feedback to serve me as a pastor. In addition, this church and pastoral team has personally cared for every member of my family. It will be tough to leave this summer, but Redeeming Grace Church will be more effective because of the example that Cornerstone Church of Knoxville has set for me.
What does your partnership with Sovereign Grace mean for you as a church planter?
In short, this church is not planted in Nashville apart from our partnership with Sovereign Grace. Sovereign Grace has provided resources, training, and ongoing support for me and my family throughout this process. When I have questions, there is a long list of Sovereign Grace pastors that stand ready to assist me. There is a tangible sense that we are planting a local church that is connected to a larger community of faith. Redeeming Grace Church of Franklin is grateful for our partnership with Sovereign Grace; and Lord willing, look forward to many years of fruitful ministry together.
How can we be praying for your church plant as it gets started?
Thank you for asking this question because we do covet your prayers. We are in desperate need of God’s help and your prayers are a means of grace to us. We agree with Psalm 127, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” There are two specific ways we would ask you to pray us. First, please pray for provision. My heroes are the people who are willing to sacrifice everything in order to participate in this church plant, particularly those relocating from Knoxville. They are leaving a great church, careers, homes, friends, family, and schools in order to see the gospel advanced in Nashville. Please pray that the Lord would not only supply their every need, but would bless beyond their wildest expectations. Second, please pray for favor in Franklin. We want to serve this community and be a blessing to them. As a church plant, Redeeming Grace Church will face many obstacles in the days to come. We want to prepare our hearts for this, and see these as opportunities to exemplify the power of the gospel to a community that will be observing us. We desire favor in this community not for reputation sake, but that we may draw attention to the person of Christ when asked “for a reason for the hope that is in” us.
*For a more in depth interview with Dave on his testimony and pastoral history, listen to this episode of CCK's podcast.
January 25, 2013 by
Categories: Transfer | Video
From generation to generation... What we treasure, we must transfer!
One of the things that was transferred to Rich that he hopes is transferred to you is a love for the local church.
In the following video, watch Rich recount his experience as an 18 year old, driving a delivery truck, listening to God's Word preached. Through a message titled, Passion for the Local Church, Rich became convinced that the place God does his work is in the local church. From that moment on he resolved, whatever he did for a profession, to give his best to serve God in the local church. A love was transferred from one generation to the next.
Join us May 25-28 in Orlando, FL for Transfer, a four-day gathering hosted by the churches of Sovereign Grace Ministries to celebrate and proclaim those biblical truths that are most important to pass on from one generation to the next.
January 24, 2013 by
Categories: Interviews | Pastors College
What is the role of the Mosaic Law?
Where are people most vulnerable to misinterpretation of Scripture?
What priorities should pastors have for their ongoing study?
These questions (and many others) were answered by Dr. Stephen Wellum in a recent interview with Jeff Purswell, Dean of the Sovereign Grace Pastors College. For 45 minutes they explored covenant theology, hermeneutics, and biblical theology with application for the busy pastor in mind. This interview concluded a very fruitful week in the Pastors College where Dr. Wellum served as our guest hermeneutics instructor.
|An Interview with Dr. Stephen Wellum
|Covenant Theology, Hermeneutics, and Biblical Theology
[0:01] Dr. Wellum: husband, father, student, pastor, and professor
[4:18] A discussion on Dr. Wellum’s latest book, Kingdom Through Covenant
[6:50] Where does Dr. Wellum's understanding of the covenants fit among Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology?
[12:46] What is the role of the Mosaic Law?
[15:46] What about the Sabbath command?
[19:08] Is the Mosaic Law normative for us?
[22:30] A discussion on hermeneutics
[26:22] Where are people most vulnerable to misinterpretation of Scripture?
[29:38] Wisdom for the young preacher/exegete
[32:16] Wisdom for the busy pastor who recognizes his need to grow in putting the whole of the Bible’s teaching together in his preaching
[35:42] 3 prioritizes for a pastor's ongoing study
[40:05] Every pastor should read these books...
[41:48] How has Dr. Wellum’s pastoral experience influenced his academic work?
January 23, 2013 by
Our songwriter's retreat was a success. Thank you for your prayers! In today's post, Doug Plank provides us with some reflections from the retreat and shares one of the songs he submitted for our upcoming album.
This past week I did my part to fill the otherwise more subdued Southern Baptist Theological Seminary campus with many noisy attempts at songwriting. I spent the week writing and collaborating with nearly 20 other Sovereign Grace songwriters under the direction of Bob Kauflin. It was a seriously splendid time. I was truly honored to take part and I gladly went representing Crossway Church! In speaking with many of the other writers and Sovereign Grace staff (including Bob and CJ Mahaney), they all asked how the church is doing, and I was able to report about the grace and goodness of God among us.
Our focus at this retreat was to write songs drawn from the pages of the book of Romans – such glorious sixteen chapters of grace, law, spirit, death, life, righteousness and Christ. It is hoped that this new album with these worship songs will be released at WorshipGod West, June 27-29. I believe nearly sixty songs were submitted by the end of the retreat, which certainly gives Bob, Steve Cook, and the Sovereign Grace music team much to work with as they start pulling together the Romans worship CD.
One of the songs that I brought to the retreat that is under consideration for this upcoming album was “Rescue Me” – a song drawing from Paul’s words of struggle in Romans, chapter 7. How we need our Lord’s rescue, even daily!
* This post originally appeared on the Crossway Church blog.
Doug Plank is a pastor at Crossway Church located in Millersville, Pennsylvania, where he oversees worship, singles, and young adults. Doug and his wife, Brenda, have five children. You can listen to some of Doug's songs here.
January 22, 2013 by
I Love the Gospel
When I was a teenager God in his mercy compelled me to turn from my sin and trust in Jesus Christ as my Saving King. I wasn’t looking for God, I wasn’t in a religious family and I wasn’t going to church. But amazingly God was looking for me. Since then my life has never been the same. This gospel has been progressively changing my life to love what God loves, hate what God hates, and long for others to know the good news that the Father sent Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. On the Earth—Jesus lived the life we could not live. On the Cross—Jesus died the death we deserve to die. From the Grave—Jesus rose from the dead so that all who turn from their sin and trust in him are forgiven all their sin, delivered from all God’s wrath, and accepted now and forever in a life-transforming relationship with God and God’s people. This is the gospel and I love it!
I Love our Local Church
I have the unbelievable joy and undeserved privilege to lead and do life and mission with the most amazing group of Christ followers in the city where I was born and raised. We’ve been experiencing God bring a dying church off life support and not only get healthy but now reproducing through church planting. Our heart is to be a city within the city that is for city that multiplies disicples and churches throughout the city—neighborhood by neighborhood. We want to see lives transformed and neighborhoods renewed by the power of the gospel. Man, I love being a part of my church.
I Love our Family of Churches
Although we have a local mission that keeps us busy, we are not alone. We are vitally connected & partnered in mission with a group of churches throughout the country and world. We share a vision to plant & build—reproducing local churches with the gospel. I wholeheartedly believe that the Great Commission is accomplished as churches plant churches in partnership with churches. Our partnership is more than a shared vision but also includes the grace & wisdom that comes from shared leadership, resources, training, and the accountability of being in this together. I love being a part of Sovereign Grace Ministries.
I Love the Next Generation
The clarity of the gospel, a passion for the gospel and the mission it calls us all to lay our lives down for must be transferred to the next generation. In our church and our family of churches we long for what God is doing in us and through us to out live us. Starting things that the next generation has to finish is part of our vision. Because of this it is imperative that we invest in the lives of those who will come after us. If we assume the succession of the gospel and a commitment to the mission of the gospel then we will lose it. But if we truly treasure it we will go out of our way to transfer it to the coming generations.
These are the reasons why I am excited about speaking and helping lead Transfer. Transfer is a conference that seeks to stir the next generation to a greater love for the gospel, their local churches, and our partnered mission as a family of churches. It’s about these four loves converging in one place for our good and God’s glory! There are lots of conferences you could attend and there are plenty of ways to spend your money, but I think Transfer will be well worth your time and resources. Check it out…and please come!
* 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.
January 21, 2013 by
The Chairman of the Polity Committee, Phil Sasser, wrote the following letter to update the Sovereign Grace pastors on the work of the Polity Committee. We pass this letter on for your information and continued support through prayer.
Since it has been a while since we last gave an update on the Sovereign Grace (SG) polity matters, we thought it would be wise to do so now and to go over the polity timeline again.
As you all know, October 31st of last year began a 90-day period of examination and feedback on the Polity Proposal.The Polity Committee has been quite engaged since then with many of you by one means or another: email, phone, Facebook page, or face to face in regional polity gatherings. And it has been great. On behalf of the Polity Committee and Board, I would like to express our gratitude to all of you who have communicated to us your thoughts about polity and the proposal. It is not surprising to me, but still very encouraging to see and hear SG pastors participating in such rich fellowship and theological discourse. Such discourse is, perhaps, long overdue. While the examination period is not over, we have begun the process of revising the Polity Proposal. The Polity Committee met Wednesday and Thursday of this last week in order to consider which parts ought to be changed based upon feedback. The revisions are not written in complete detail here and they have not yet been reviewed and approved by the Board. But the Committee thought it might be helpful to you if I communicated some of the changes we are now advocating. They include:
- The removal of the strong (“God-given”) authority language in the General Principles section.
- Being clearer and more circumspect on the cooperation between local church elderships and the Regional Assemblies of Elders on ordination. While the RAE performs a vital and essential function in screening candidates, the authority to ordain and install elders rests with the local eldership.
- A provision was added to the effect that the RAE must demonstrate just cause to reject a candidate who has been previously vetted by his local church and has passed the required ordination examinations. Just cause must consist of either heterodoxy (deviation from the SG Statement of Faith) or scandalous moral disqualification from office.
- The Partnership Agreement has been revised so that an elder need not agree with every doctrinal statement in the Book of Church Order (BCO). An Elder must simply commit to abide by the actual rules of the BCO.
- Full subscription to the Statement of Faith will be required. However, an elder with exceptions to the Statement of Faith may still subscribe as long as he reports those exceptions to his Regional Assembly of Elders. It is up to the discretion of the Regional Assembly to judge the seriousness of those exceptions. Down the road, this will be more relevant as the Statement of Faith becomes (hopefully) more developed.
- A 2-year period of grace during which existing SG churches may join without fulfilling any church adoptions requirements and may leave SG without cause and without censure.
- The removal of any mandated financial giving for the first 2 years. After that 5% will be mandated, but this is subject to the amendment of the Council of Elders. It is hoped that churches will continue to give generously as they are able, but there will be no mandated giving for these first two years.
- Renaming the Governing Board the “Executive Committee”. When we began polity deliberations last summer, we unwisely retained the title of Governing Board. This has caused some misunderstanding since the (now) Executive Committee is so different from a governing board: its only function is to oversee the Leadership Team. The Executive Committee is an extension of the Council of Elders (CE) and derives whatever authority it does have from the CE.
- After the Executive Committee has approved a yearly budget, the Council of Elders must affirm it.
- The Council of Elders will meet annually instead of every two years.
- The elections for the members of the Executive Committee will be accelerated. Four Committee positions will be up for election this year, and the remaining five will be up for re-election next year.
- Bi-vocational elders will be described in more favorable and approving language.
- After the 2-year period of grace, only churches separating from SG within five years of having been planted shall be required to repay their church plant grant, and that at a prorated rate. Actually, the Board had already changed that, but I failed to pick up that change in the final edits in October.
- The Nominating Committee will consist of five Regional Leaders (rather than three), one Leadership Team member, and one Executive Committee member). The members of the Nominating Committee shall serve three-year terms.
- A change of name. How does Union of Sovereign Grace Churches sound? If you don’t like that, please send us your suggestions.
There are more revisions to be made, but this contains some of the most important. When the revisions are completed and approved by the Board, we will get them out as quickly as we can.
At this point, the polity timeline is as follows:
- January 31st ends the formal 90-day period of examination and feedback.
- February 10th the Polity Committee submits its recommended revisions for Board approval.
- February 15th (or thereabouts) the Board will send out the Revised Polity Proposal to all of the SG elders.
- Soon after that we will send out a final survey on your thoughts about the Revised Proposal.
- March 15th (or thereabouts) a provisional Council of Elders will vote on the ratification of the Polity. We’ll give you more details of how that vote will take place. We are not envisioning a convention, but rather a written or electronic ballot. If the Polity fails to garner a majority, the existing polity remains in tact until the Board gives further direction.
- If the Polity is approved, then those elderships wishing to participate and be involved in the formation of the initial Regional Assemblies of Elders will sign the partnership agreement. In order to prepare for all that will need to take place before the fall and the first Council of Elders meeting, we will need to know by April 15th, which churches are participating.
Thanks again for your excellent feedback on the Polity Proposal. I know that this is all very new to Sovereign Grace. Given the historical weakness in some of our structures and policies (in particular, the lack of formal structures that foster good theological discussion and debate), as well as the turmoil of the past couple years, there may be some who remain doubtful that significant change will take place. I understand that, I really do. But I remain hopeful in God that significant polity reform will happen and that He will lead us forward to greener pastures.
On behalf of the Polity Committee,
Once again, thank you for your continued prayers for the Polity Committee, the Sovereign Grace Board, and our family of churches. We are most grateful!
January 18, 2013 by
Categories: Audio messages | Transfer
He said, “Yes.”
We are very excited to announce the addition of pastor, author, and seminary professor, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson to the lineup of speakers for the Transfer Conference. There are few preachers today that speak of the glory of God and the gospel with the captivating clarity and passion that he does. He is a unique gift to the church of Jesus Christ and we are grateful that he has accepted our invitation to join us as we seek to transfer the clarity and passion of the gospel to the coming generations.
Dr. Ferguson preached at our 2009 NEXT conference [The Return of Jesus] and our 2011 Pastors Conference [Consider Jesus]. These messages can be found below. Enjoy the gospel feast!
"The Return of Jesus" Right-click to download, or listen here:
"Consider Jesus" Right-click to download or listen here:
More on Dr. Ferguson
For more information on Dr. Ferguson you can read or listen to C.J. Mahaney’s interview with him.
Join Us For Transfer
Join Dr. Furguson and hundreds of others May 25-28 in Orlando, FL for Transfer, a four-day gathering hosted by the churches of Sovereign Grace Ministries to celebrate and proclaim those biblical truths that are most important to pass on from one generation to the next.