May 14, 2015 by
Categories: Church Updates
I am excited to inform you that CrossHaven Church in Belleville, IL has been adopted into the Sovereign Grace family of churches!
Last month the Midwest-Northwest Regional Assembly of Elders unanimously voted to adopt CrossHaven and in doing so receive their elders, Chris Oswald, Rodney Fickas, and Victor Chininin Buele into Sovereign Grace. We asked Chris Oswald to briefly share how God moved CrossHaven to join Sovereign Grace and to give some reasons why he is excited about our partnership:
Rodney Fickas and I planted CrossHaven without outside funding. While that isn’t an approach I’d now recommend, God has more than redeemed our impatience.
Since we were both working full-time jobs, a lot of our dreaming and vision-casting happened online. Multiple times a week, we’d shoot emails back and forth saying, “check out this song, we should sing this at CrossHaven” or “listen to this conference message, this guy is nailing it.” Nine times out of ten, we’d trace these songs and sermons back to this group called Sovereign Grace. Thus, Sovereign Grace informally influenced our culture from the very beginning. I suspect there are a lot of churches out there with a similar experience.
We came to believe that Jesus’s vision for His bride includes extra-local connectivity and cooperation between local churches. We also came to believe that we were called to give to and not just take from this network of churches. About 18 months after the initial launch of CrossHaven, we contacted Sovereign Grace to explore adoption.
Shortly thereafter, a pastor from all the way up in Minnesota called me. I vividly remember sitting in my car on my lunch break sensing the Spirit at work in Rick Gamache. He and Jon Hansel served us from the very beginning. I cannot express how much I respect these men. When, in the midst of the adoption process, CrossHaven observed the difficulties Sovereign Grace was experiencing, I was able to assure the plurality of leaders and the congregation that I was absolutely resolute. I was going to walk with Rick Gamache in gospel partnership no matter what.
Earlier this month, we attended the Midwest-Northwest Regional Assembly of Elders where we were officially adopted into the Sovereign Grace family of churches. On the drive back to St. Louis, Rodney and I praised God for His kindness to us. Somewhere in Iowa, the Lord led us to schedule a six-day fast for the purpose of renewing our resolve and raising our expectations for the spread of Jesus’s fame in the St. Louis metro. As I write this, we are on day four of six and the Spirit is working in our midst.
During the retreat, we were excited to get to know Ian McConnell and hear how the Lord is using him throughout Sovereign Grace and specifically at Grace City in Philly. St. Louis and Philly have a blue-collar ethos in common and I’m excited to apply some of what Ian’s doing at Grace City to our work in our metro. I must admit I’m a little jealous of his beard, but I am certain that he is far more jealous of my baseball team.
CrossHaven is under four hours away from Louisville, so I hope to take advantage of our proximity by attending as many classes at the Pastors College as possible. I can’t tell you how excited I am at the prospect of receiving fresh encouragement through theological education. In many ways, this adoption feels like a new beginning. Which is to say, it feels like grace —because it is.
Amen, Chris. It is all grace, and we are thrilled to welcome you into the Sovereign Grace family.
Join me in praying for CrossHaven Church asking God to bless their labors for the gospel in the St. Louis area.
Mark Prater is the Executive Director for Sovereign Grace and serves as an elder at Covenant Fellowship Church. He and his wife, Jill, have three married daughters and a growing number of grandchildren.
April 10, 2015 by
Categories: Articles | Church Updates
Zach Varnell, a pastor at Cornerstone Church of Knoxville, leads a college campus ministry called Volunteers for Christ. This group gathers once a week at the University of Tennessee to worship together, encourage students, and spread the gospel throughout their communities.
And word is getting out about this weekly gathering. NBC recently featured this ministry on their WBIR Knoxville news site, and we thought you would be encouraged by their coverage. Please pray for this important outreach and if you know of anyone in the Knoxville area, be sure to tell them about this group!
Bryan (@BryanDeWire) is the Communications Manager at Sovereign Grace.
This Sunday, March 22, Christ Church South Philly will be celebrating our one-year anniversary! As this date approaches, my mind has been flooded with the millions of expressions of God’s faithfulness to His mission that we have experienced this year as a church.
One of the most precious of those expressions is the fact that we would not even exist as a church if it weren’t for our partnership with Sovereign Grace Churches. Our churches have a shared value of being committed to church planting. That shared value is not just something that is put on a piece of paper, but something that we, as a church plant, have felt in very tangible ways.
Our church plant team was made up of people from three different Sovereign Grace Churches. The chairs we sit in every Sunday were given to us by New Covenant Church in Arnold, Maryland. The sound system through which we hear God’s word sung and preached was given to us by the Sovereign Grace church in Delaware after they closed. The toys our children play with on Sunday and the tables and chairs where they sit to learn about Jesus came from a Sovereign Grace church.
This summer, two different Sovereign Grace churches are coming to our small part of Philadelphia to help us reach our neighborhood by throwing a block party and putting on a kids camp. Another church might be coming in the fall. This past fall, I had a significant flare of my Crohn’s disease and had to have major surgery that put me in the hospital for ten days and out of commission for seven weeks. Seven different pastors from five different Sovereign Grace churches helped shepherd our church through this challenging time by coming and strengthening us with God’s word from the pulpit.
In our neighborhood, having a place to meet is really important because people don’t take you seriously unless you have some roots in the ground. In two weeks, we are going to be celebrating the grand opening of our newly renovated warehouse where we will be able to not only hold our weekly worship services, but also bless our community in numerous ways and communicate to our neighbors that we are here—and we aren’t going anywhere. This strategic missional gathering place is only possible because of the grant given to us by Sovereign Grace and gifts from other generous donors.
So you see why it is not hyperbole to say that, without Sovereign Grace, Christ Church would not exist. And if Christ Church did not exist, then there are specific names and faces who we didn’t know when we first started one year ago, that would not be with us today as our beloved brothers and sisters. Even though they have never been to a Sovereign Grace conference and probably don’t even know what Sovereign Grace really is, they have Sovereign Grace to thank for being the vehicle through which God came to rescue them.
If you care about mission, you have to care about partnerships, because mission moves forward best when churches are strategically, confessionally, and governmentally aligned together. I’m grateful to be part of this family of churches that cares about mission and therefore purposefully pursues meaningful partnerships with one another.
Jeff Boettcher (@jbettch) is a pastor at Christ Church South Philly. He and his wife, Angie, have two children, Sophie and Judah.
In March 2014, Grace Church Bristol partnered with Bob Kauflin and Sovereign Grace Music to host a WorshipGod conference here in the United Kingdom. People came from more than ten different European countries and over 100 different churches from across the U.K. We received a lot of positive feedback regarding that conference and have just released details of our second conference in the U.K. in May 2015.
Our desire is not only to serve churches in our nation through conferences, but also to develop and strengthen relationships with like-minded pastors and build genuine partnerships between gospel-centered churches so that the good news of Jesus Christ might shine brightly into and dispel the darkness that covers the U.K. In an effort to start moving toward that goal, we recently hosted a pastors lunch in Bristol.
We managed to hijack Jeff Purswell’s return trip from teaching at the Arche Pastors College in Hamburg, Germany to participate in this pastors lunch.
On Wednesday, October 1, 26 pastors gathered together for a time of fellowship, encouragement, and refreshment in the gospel.
Jeff powerfully opened up God’s Word to us from Lamentations 3:19–25 and reminded us that, though much of the call to be a faithful pastor involves caring for people as they walk through pain, trials make life complex because of the effects of sin. Even though our own lives and ministries often involve loss, opposition, and loneliness, there is a divine perspective that we need to recall to our minds and speak to our hearts: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, great is His faithfulness. Although situations and circumstances may remain unchanged, God desires to become our portion as we fix our eyes on Christ.
As you would expect, Jeff’s warm, winsome humility and joyful manner won the hearts of all the men in attendance, with many of them telling us that this was a word in season for them in the face of ongoing personal and ministerial challenges. One of the particular highlights of the day was seeing Jeff take an active interest in each man by greeting them, asking about their stories, and caring personally for them.
As a local church and a pastoral team, we so appreciate our deep friendship with Jeff that has been forged over the years, and we are so glad for the opportunity to introduce him to and share him with other pastors and friends here in the U.K. We thank God for our family of churches and the shared mission and tangible partnership that we experience together that generously enabled us to host the lunch, have Jeff participate, and give some free books and music to these men in order to bless and encourage them. We are grateful to each man who took time out of his schedule to join us that day. We pray and hope for ongoing and developing relationships as we build together with some of these men and their local churches. Please pray that God would graciously grant the gospel to spread all across our needy nation for the glory of Jesus’s name!
Nathan is the senior pastor of Grace Church Bristol (UK).
September 24, 2014 by
Categories: Church Updates
I am deeply honored to announce that Sovereign Grace Church of LaGrange, Georgia is now part of Sovereign Grace Churches!
They have pursued a relationship and affiliation with Sovereign Grace for the past several years. After much prayer, discussion, and assessment, the Southeast Region voted unanimously to adopt Sovereign Grace Church of LaGrange a couple of weeks ago. We asked their senior pastor, Russell Tusing, why they wanted to join our family of churches:
We began pursuing relationship and association with Sovereign Grace approximately 6 years ago. During that time, we have developed many meaningful connections and friendships—brotherly and sisterly bonds that we hold very near and dear. This holds true even beyond our Southeast Region. The times our leaders have spent with others at the Sovereign Grace Pastors Conferences (and beyond these), both corporately and privately, have been excellent and necessary for our relationship. This time, for us, has been nothing but a display of a gospel-saturated culture. After all, Christ has not only cared for His church, but He continues caring for His church! Sovereign Grace Church of LaGrange has experienced this in profound ways. The church being the church is an astonishing display of Christ in us. Sovereign Grace has shown this beyond dispute.
My fellow regional pastors have shown such interest and care for Sovereign Grace Church of LaGrange. These men and their wives have extended themselves to my wife and me, as well as to the rest of our church in so many ways. For instance, they returned a phone call at 4:30 AM (on a Sunday morning!), they joined us for a local leaders outing, they ministered at our leaders seminar, they included us at a Regional Retreat, and so on. I could go on. These guys and their wives are great!
We are excited about being a part of Sovereign Grace. Our church is looking forward to the many ways and opportunities that this partnership will allow us to minister to and serve others within our family of churches. The gospel-centered culture and enthusiastic worship is so refreshing to be a part of. Having been independent for so many years, thinking that our local theology and practice was peculiar or unique, only to find that there was a larger body of believers just as peculiar or unique as us, was refreshing. Confusingly refreshing, albeit. I mean, Evangelicals who are passionately Reformed Continuationists? Really? How can this be? Someone pinch me! How could we not partner?
I’m so glad Russell, his pastoral team, and their church are now a part of the Sovereign Grace family. Please join me in thanking God for this new partnership, and pray that much gospel fruit will be produced through our labors together.
September 16, 2014 by
Categories: Church Updates
It’s a great joy to announce that Grace Life Fellowship in Hastings, Nebraska is now a Sovereign Grace Church!
They have pursued a relationship and affiliation with Sovereign Grace for the past couple of years. After much prayer, discussion, and assessment, the Midwest-Northwest Region voted unanimously to adopt Grace Life Fellowship last week. We thought it would encourage you to hear from Chad Haygood, their senior pastor, why they wanted to join our family of churches:
For many years now we have been encouraged and served by Sovereign Grace. Whether through messages, conferences, music, or friendships, we have been the beneficiaries of Sovereign Grace for some time. Over the last four years specifically, we have been blessed to develop relationships with the pastors within our region, specifically Rick Gamache and Matthew Wassink. These men in particular have been willing to serve the pastors of our church in a variety of ways. Sovereign Grace Church in Minnesota has been a model and source of encouragement for us. Their pastors have offered us advice when we needed it and even more encouragement at just the right time. By developing these relationships, seeing the Christ-like character that marks the people of Sovereign Grace, and observing the passion for the gospel that Sovereign Grace is committed to, we eagerly desired to be a part.
We are excited to join together with likeminded churches for the advancement of the gospel! We’re honored to share in the mission of advancing the kingdom of God through the planting of healthy churches. We also know that joining together with Sovereign Grace will benefit the overall health and longevity or our church. We are thrilled to be in the Midwest-Northwest region and look forward, with great anticipation, to all that God will do both at Grace Life Fellowship and throughout every church in Sovereign Grace for the sake of Jesus’s name.
Now you can see why I’m so excited that this church has joined our family of churches.
Please join me in thanking God for this new partnership, and pray that we will bear much gospel fruit through our labors together.
Mark Prater is the Executive Director for Sovereign Grace and serves as an elder at Covenant Fellowship Church. He and his wife, Jill, have three married daughters and a growing number of grandchildren.
Excited children, eager volunteers, great songs, cool instruments, and lots of food! These were the components of Kingdom Life Church’s second annual Summer Music Camp, held during the last week of July. And they made for an exciting five days! Building on the success of the previous year’s camp, this year we at Kingdom Life welcomed 119 boys and girls between the ages of 4 and 14 years old. Starting as early as 8:30 am each day, these children streamed into our church building with bundles of energy in their bright yellow Music Camp t-shirts. Each day, our church building was filled with high energy and the lively sounds of children singing (and laughing) and instruments playing (and banging)!
Participants in the Music Camp were exposed to the piano, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, flute, set drum, and Congo drum. They also received basic music lessons and voice training. But, above the musical exposure and training, our music campers heard the gospel and were taught about God as Creator, Provider, Protector, Savior, and King.
Although we focused on a defined set of instruments, we also introduced a new and exciting component to the camp this year: Bring Your Instrument Day. On this day, campers were allowed to bring their own instruments, and what a variety they brought! That day inspired us to consider how we might expand the list of instruments we feature in the Music Camp in the years ahead. It also encouraged us as we saw how parents are currently investing musically in their children by purchasing instruments for them and enrolling them in music classes.
This year, we experienced once again the benefit of gospel partnership as a group of thirty volunteers from four different churches and a short-term mission organization (Next Step Ministries) came together to serve at the camp. Without this group of dedicated men and women, many of whom joyfully sacrificed money and time to serve, it would be impossible for our church to offer this camp free of charge to our community. We are grateful to God for our volunteers’ sacrifice and gospel partnership.
Looking back over this year’s Summer Music Camp, our hearts are filled with gratitude for the many ways the Lord worked. He allowed us to reach out to our community and touch the lives of a large number of boys and girls, as well as their family and friends who filled our church building on the final night to attend the Music Camp performance concert. We also had the opportunity to pray for some who completed prayer request cards, and we are looking forward to welcoming six of them to our upcoming Christianity Explored course, the Lord willing. While we continue to thank the Lord for yet another successful Music Camp, we especially thank him for allowing us to reach out and touch lives, because, beyond the music, touching lives with the gospel is our ultimate goal.
See some highlights from the camp in this video:
Cedric Moss is the senior pastor of Kingdom Life Church in Nassau, Bahamas.
We had our first formal meeting as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Assembly of Elders (MA RAE) on July 29 in Bowie, Maryland.
As our first order of business, we formally approved and now have all of our regional committees in place.
Once our committees were established, we started working on our calendar for the coming months, as one of our major goals within our Region is to strengthen relationships and encourage fellowship and mutual care for the elders in our region. We are planning a Family Crab Feast hosted by Ed O’Mara at New Covenant Church in Arnold in September (Thanks, Ed!), an MA RAE Couples and Guests Lunch at the upcoming Sovereign Grace Pastors Conference, and a Senior Pastors Couples Retreat in March 2015.
We welcomed Mark Turek from Sovereign Grace Church (SGC) in Joppa as our newest RAE member. Mark worked full-time on the SGC staff from 1980–2003. Mark served in a variety of capacities but primarily as our Christian school’s administrator for over 20 years. Upon his ordination in 1998, he served as our Family Life Pastor. In 2003, he stepped out of his full-time pastoral position to care for his wife, Carol, whose MS had advanced to the point where he could no longer serve as a pastor and continue to serve his wife well. Last year, Carol went home to be with the Lord. Mark currently serves as a bi-vocational pastor while he continues to works as a speech-language pathologist. He has two married daughters and two grandchildren. We are both delighted and excited to have him once again serving SGC Joppa as a pastor and serving as a member of our RAE.
John Loftness, the Senior Pastor of Solid Rock Church, told us about his church’s plans to plant a church in Bowie, Maryland, where approximately 25% of his church members live. The goal is to make gospel connections with neighbors and connect them to the relational network of the church. Plans are moving forward for Sunday meetings to begin in the fall with the church becoming a separate congregation in early 2015.
Jimmy Cannon shared that SGC in Joppa is moving forward to establish a campus in White Marsh, Maryland in the fall. SGC has had a burden for a while to better position itself to reach out to the Baltimore County area, while continuing to reach out to the Harford and Cecil County areas through the Joppa Campus.
As we also share a desire to find ways for our churches to participate together in regional functions, we discussed the upcoming Northeast Regional Leaders Conference and the possibility of having a regional men’s retreat together.
During lunch, Bob Donohue and Joselo Mercado gave us an update on a recent missions trip to the Dominican Republic in which both of their churches participated. This segued into other discussions about what our regional churches are doing in the area of missions.
Larry Malament said he had recently returned from his 50th trip to India and also made another trip to Songhwan Kang’s church in South Korea. Jimmy mentioned that SGC in Joppa had participated in a medical missions trip to India last year and had visited our sister church in Zambia to explore opportunities to serve there. Joselo mentioned that his church was planning a missions trip to Bolivia, and Bob mentioned that our sister church in Australia had invited him to visit them.
It became obvious quickly that our churches are very passionate about advancing the gospel and building the church, not only nationally, but internationally as well. So the next time we meet, we will be discussing how to better partner together in the area of missions.
All in all, we had a wonderful time of encouraging, edifying, and envisioning one another as we seek to move forward together to fulfill God’s vision for us, not only as individual churches within our region but as a regional movement of churches called to co-labor together to glorify God within and beyond our region.
It truly is a great privilege for me and my wife, Daryl, to fellowship with and serve these seasoned pastors and their wives who are “men (and women) of a different spirit” (Numbers 14:24). They are men and women who are passionate for God and his glory, who daily lay their lives down for the churches they love and serve so well, and who are working together to advance the gospel both here and abroad!
Road photo from Shutterstock.
Jim is the Regional Leader for the Mid-Atlantic Region of Sovereign Grace. He also serves as a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church (Joppa, MD).
August 12, 2014 by
Categories: Church Updates
Like many churches, Crossway has a desire to reach our city (for us, it’s Charlotte, NC) with the gospel. Like many churches, we recognize that we can’t do that alone. Like many churches, we also recognize that there are fine churches and fine ministries serving in our city.
The question for us has been: How do we get to know other churches and ministries in our city in a meaningful way—a way that enables us to support and cooperate in gospel mission without creating artificial structures or awkward relational connections?
We certainly don’t have all the answers, but we feel like we got a good start with our recent Mission Sunday. We invited twelve local ministries to come and share with Crossway what they were doing and how we could serve them. We had ministries to the poor and homeless, pro-life ministries, refugee ministries, and a ministry in Charlotte working against sex trafficking set up at tables in the lobby with their information and a representative.
After the Sunday meeting, we served a lunch to make it easier for people to hang around and invited them to wander around and see what these ministries were up to. It gave folks in the church with a heart to serve in specific areas a way to connect with existing, successful ministries without us having to reinvent the wheel and create a bunch of programs that didn’t do it as well and took us away from our primary mission to make disciples of Jesus.
In addition, Joe Lechner preached a message on “Reaching our City” (available at our website) and we took time to pray for each of the ministries that came. The feedback we got from both the church and the ministries was great. Our hope and prayer is that connections were made and relationships built that will serve our city in the years to some.
Charlotte skyline photo from Shutterstock.
Mickey is the senior pastor of Crossway Church (Charlotte, NC) and serves on Sovereign Grace's Executive Committee. He and his wife, Jane, have three married children and a growing number of grandchildren.
We are rapidly approaching our one-year anniversary as Redemption Hill Church. Planting this church with these dear friends has been one of the great highlights of my life and a treasure trove of stories about God’s grace. Here is a bit of our narrative in this first year:
September 15, 2013 was our first public Sunday. Team members had moved from Arizona and North Carolina and Juarez, Mexico and Louisville and had joined us from communities around Austin itself. We spent last summer studying our core convictions as a church and remembering the privilege we have to build a biblical foundation for future generations. We met on Sunday mornings in homes for several months in a relatively casual format, hearing teaching, discussing, praying, and anticipating together. We held several interest meetings, inviting neighbors and new acquaintances to come and find out about the church. Lifegate Church in Seguin, Texas, led by Bob Odom and Josh Jordan, hosted us for a Sunday barbecue to encourage our church plant team.
Then, on September 15th, our church was born. Our first message came from 1 Corinthians 2:1–5 and celebrated the gospel of Jesus Christ as our permanent first priority, proclaimed in dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit. Since that day, a number of new members have become central to our community—people we did not know a year ago are now an integral part of our church life. We enjoyed our first two baptisms and many occasions of celebrating the Lord’s Supper.
We have been blessed by a large number of Sovereign Grace leaders who have been in town and have taken the time to greet our church and express affection and support. Tim Kerr, Craig Cabaniss, Pete Payne, Billy Raies, Rich Richardson, Steve Tong, Chris Daukas, Adam Prather, Carlos Contreras, Rob Tombrella, John Loftness, Ian McConnell, and Josh Jordan all either visited us, encouraged our church publicly, or gave an entire message on a Sunday—a remarkable parade of support from our family of churches. We also benefited from two different worship team substitutions from Grace Church in Frisco, as well as a Grace Church evangelistic team that came down for a weekend to spread the word about our church and to also spend an evening serving a member of our church.
Our pastoral intern, Aaron Mayfield, has been a particular gift to us, shouldering the weight of engaging in pastoral ministry while also working another full-time job—an amazing display of faith and love for the mission of Jesus Christ. We have journeyed through the book of Colossians, as well as an evangelism series, a series on Jonah, a series on membership, and currently a survey series through the Pentateuch. God has answered our prayers for provision miraculously—including a church donating a large amount of equipment and assets to us along with faithful, generous giving from our church community. We’ve also enjoyed the amazing provision of a rented facility that has plenty of space, including storage capacity, and is easy for guests to find—once again, a miraculous answer to prayer.
God has also sustained our team through unique challenges and difficulties, which we believe to be spiritual opposition in relation to the planting of our church. Team members have faced unique spiritual temptations and physical challenges, along with the normal shock of moving away from dear family and friends and an established church and job. Their enduring faith and godliness is a testimony to the grace of God in their lives and God’s incredible love for the people in our community who are benefiting from their service and example. I know some heroic church planters face the daunting task of starting a church without a team, and I pray God will surround them with support soon. For me, life without this incredible group of friends and partners is the definition of a nightmare. These “saints in the land” are the “excellent ones, in whom is all my delight” (Psalm 16:3).
As our second year approaches, we are praying for boldness in evangelism, endurance to face fresh trials, further richness in our community life, and greater passion to know God in our public meetings and private worship. If this first year is any indication, year two will be full of stories of God’s grace, stories of partnership, and stories of the power of the gospel again.
To all of our dear friends throughout Sovereign Grace: Many thanks for your faith, your generosity, your prayers, your encouragement, and your affection. We are grateful and indebted to you and count it a privilege to be partnering with you as you have partnered with us.
Jon is the senior pastor of Redemption Hill Church in Round Rock, Texas and is a member of Sovereign Grace’s Executive Committee. He and his wife, Lory, have three children.