The Sovereign Grace Pastors College welcomes Dr. John D. Woodbridge this week as our guest Church History II instructor. Over the last decade the Pastors College has greatly benefitted from his outstanding instruction. And through his many visits he has become well loved by the Sovereign Grace staff.
Day-by-day, Dr. Woodbridge serves as the research professor of Church History and the History of Christian Thought at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, where he has taught since 1970. In the past, among many things, he has served as a senior editor at Christianity Today.
As impressive as details are themselves, they comprise only a slice of a very interesting life. Here are a few other facts we’ve learned about this man over the years:
- Woodbridge has lectured on French history, in French, at the Sorbonne in Paris.
- Woodbridge taught himself to play the piano and in 1965 he wrote a score he titled "Sans Vous" ("Without You"). The score was ostensibly stolen by a composer and used in the 1983 TV mini-series "The Winds of War." The theme song sounded oddly familiar to Woodbridge when he heard it. In 1991 a federal jury in L.A. determined that the composer had in fact plagiarized his song. High praise! He still composes (but not regularly).
- Woodbridge is a descendant of Jonathan Edwards.
- His grandmother was a first cousin to Woodrow Wilson and introduced Woodrow to his first wife.
- His father, Charles, served on the faculty of Fuller Theological Seminary in the very early days and taught church history.
- His father was a personal friend of J. Gresham Machen and served as one of Machen's trial lawyers. In his will, Machen left Charles with money and his personal copy of the trial records.
- His father led a World War II hero to the Lord. As thanks, the officer gave him Hitler's personal pistol, taken from the Fuhrer's apartment in Munich. With Maurice Possley, a Pulitzer winning journalist, Woodbridge wrote and released the book Hitler in the Crosshairs: A G.I.'s Story of Faith and Courage about the soldier who had accepted the suicidal mission to take out Hitler in his Munich apartment. The pistol given to Charles was later stolen from the Woodbridge family home in Savannah, Georgia, was sold around, and is presently in a private collection in California.
The Woodhouse family history is remarkable as Dr. Woodbridge’s gifts as a historian himself. We are grateful to have his experience and expertise in the Pastors College once again this week.
Years ago we took the opportunity between classes to discuss matters of the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture — one area of his expertise (among many!). He is the author of three valuable books on this topic:
In the studio we asked him:
- What threats to Scripture most concern you today?
- What are the pastoral implications of the doctrine of inspiration of Scripture?
- Describe for us how inerrancy has been debated in church history.
- Who are some pastors in church history who functionally modeled a high view of Scripture?
- For a pastor who lacks a conviction about the power and authority of Scripture, what would you say to him?
You can download or listen to the 15-minute audio recording here:
May 7, 2013 by
Categories: Interviews | Transfer
If you join us in Orlando in a few weeks for Transfer, Jared Mellinger will be one of the speakers you'll get to hear from. We recently interviewed him about the topic he's speaking on—God's people—and his vision for transferring a love for the church to the next generation.
How was the gospel transferred to you?
I had the indescribable blessing of growing up in a Christian home where my parents told me about Jesus. If God placed you in a Christian home, he has been very good to you and you should thank him often for it. When I was five years old, I prayed with my mother that my sins would be forgiven so I could be in heaven with Jesus. However, during my teen years, I fell in love with the pleasures of this world and rebelled against God and against my parents. But I learned that God is the God who seeks prodigals, and he pursued me through the faithful love of my parents. I was born again as a teenager, was baptized, and joined the church. And my life has never been the same. The grace of God amazes me every day. And the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).
Would you describe the topic you will be presenting at the conference?
My topic is “God’s People,” or the local church. The church is simultaneously the dearest place on earth and one of the most difficult places on earth. We assume the church will be easy to love, because it is the bride of Christ. But the church is often weak, unattractive, disappointing, and difficult to love. Yet God has set his love upon the church, and Christ laid down his life for the church. Therefore we should cultivate a lifelong passion for the people of God. I want to spend my life saying with the Psalmist, “As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight” (Ps. 16:3).
How was that particular value transferred to you?
My dad was (and is) a pastor who loves the church. So I grew up with examples of what it means to love the people of God. When I was five or six years old, my parents were sent from Lancaster, Pennsylvania to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to participate in a church plant. When I rebelled as a teenager, my parents were surrounded by a community of believers that was committed to bearing their burdens. I grew up in a church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania that showed me what the church is supposed to be.
What challenges do you perceive to this value in our culture?
Where do we begin? There is an individualism through which we close off our lives and reject community. There is a tendency to reject commitment that ignores church membership. There is a love of change and newness that refuses to settle down and insists on hopping from one church to the next. There is a rejection of authority through which we prefer to not submit to the Scriptures and to authority figures in the church. There is a poor theology of the church, so that when people have bad experiences in a church they feel the freedom to reject the local church altogether. We are being called by so many voices to embrace a spirituality that moves beyond the church. But all of this, I believe, is a great mistake.
What are the key applications of this value in the lives of young people?
My burden is really quite simple: I want the next generation to love the local church. Not just in theory, but in reality. God wants us to love the churches we belong to, with all their weakness, faults, sins, and idiosyncrasies. I want to see more young people with a genuine enthusiasm about the church. I know you can see weaknesses and faults in your church—those are obvious. But can you see God’s purpose for the church and the beauty of the church? That is the question that confronts each one of us. I see reluctance in young people to be enthusiastic about the church, and this concerns me. If Christ gave his life for the church, I want to give my life to cultivating and spreading a passion for the people for which my Savior died.
I am looking forward to seeing everyone at the conference, and I am praying that God uses the messages and the fellowship to change lives for his glory.
Still thinking about attending Transfer? Visit www.TheTransfer.org for more information and to register.
Earlier this week we announced that H.O.P.E. Community Church will begin formal services in Allentown, PA later this summer. Emmanuel Suarez, a graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary and the Sovereign Grace Pastors College, has been diligently preparing to be sent from Grace Community Church with his family and church planting team.
Emmanuel recently took some time to update us on this church plant so we can better support him, his family, and all those involved with our prayers. You can read part 1 here. Today we bring you part 2 of this interview.
What influence did the Pastors College and your church planting residency have on your vision for this church plant?
The Lord provided several blessings during my time at the Pastors College (PC) that I believe will continue to benefit and influence the vision for the church plant. First, having just graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary the same year, the time at the PC provided me the opportunity to strengthen and reinforce my theological foundation in Scripture, which is vitally important for any church plant. Second, it turns out that I attended the PC during one of the most difficult seasons in SGM. Nevertheless, it gave all of us at the PC front row seats to observe and learn how to begin to prayerfully navigate real problems that will come to all churches. Third, I value the friendships that I have come to know through the PC. Particularly, there’s a group of us from the Northeast who are either in the process of planting churches or are already in significant pastoral situations. This group has been meeting periodically for a time of fellowship, but it also provides a context to listen and learn from the other church planters. Not to mention that these brothers provide a real context for the formation of a meaningful gospel partnership with other local churches.
My church-planting residency has afforded me the opportunity to observe and learn from my pastors at Grace, particularly in counseling, church discipline situations as well as administration. In addition, my residency has been absolutely vital for making the necessary preparations of planting a church. I am discovering that it takes a lot of time and effort to plant a church. The residency frees me up to focus on the church plant and spend quality time in Allentown.
Where is your church planting team coming from? What are some things you're grateful for about those going with you to Allentown?
Most of our church planting team is coming from my sending church, Grace Community Church. There are numbers things that I’m really grateful to God for those who are coming with me to Allentown. First of all, we have a group who are spiritually hungry to see God pour out his Spirit in Allentown. Since January of this year, we have met weekly for a time devoted to prayer, worship, and intercession. It has been exciting to observe how the Holy Spirit continues to give a spiritual increase to the group displayed in a greater intensity, faith and joy in prayer. Secondly, I am also grateful for the variety of people the Lord has brought together for this plant. It’s a mix of seasoned, mature adults combined with a solid core of young adults. This kind of mix will be particularly ideal for our children’s outreach focus. Third, I am grateful for the faith that the group has demonstrated in their willingness to sacrifice personal comforts in order to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ into a poor and needy community.
Can you describe your partnership with Grace Community Church, your sending church?
My partnership with Grace Community Church (Grace) has been foundational for the church plant in many ways. Grace has willingly surrendered families that have effectively and faithfully served in the church for many years. As a result of Grace’s generosity, the Lord has surrounded me with men and women of wisdom and experience. Another demonstration of the support that Grace has given to the plant is that they are sponsoring the Run for H.O.P.E. 5K event in Souderton, PA. The purpose of this event will be to raise funds for the church plant in Allentown. There has also been discussion of forming a permanent e-team from the members of Grace that would be dedicated for providing regular support for outreaches in Allentown. Undoubtedly, given the nature of this church plant in an urban poor inner-city community, sustaining a lasting and meaningful partnership with Grace will be vital for the gospel to go forward in Allentown through H.O.P.E.
As a church planter, how is partnership with Sovereign Grace helpful to you?
As described above, my partnership with Sovereign Grace (SGM) is most visibly expressed through our vital partnership with Grace Community Church. But in addition to our partnership with Grace Community Church, it is our sincere desire to see the same kind of partnerships form with other Sovereign Grace churches. As a church plant in an urban poor area, we are very much aware of the difficulties and challenges that will confront the church plant. We will need the prayer, financial, and resource support of many churches and organizations. My partnership with SGM has also been specifically helpful in the number of resources and information that is made available to church planters. Like I said earlier, planting a church involves a lot of different disciplines. I am grateful that I do not have to figure it out all by myself. These SGM resources release me to focus on the necessary matters of the plant and not be bogged down with administrative details. Another benefit of a partnership with SGM arises out of the religious context of inner city Allentown. Inner city Allentown has an over-abundance of small independent Pentecostal churches. I’ve observed, in many cases, that communicating to residents in the community that we are part of an organization brings immediate credibility. Some in the community are simply exasperated by all the church splits that have led to more independent, unaccountable churches. Being a part of SGM will be helpful to avoid this characterization.
How can we be praying for you and for the church plant?
As any plant, we are in need of much prayer. We greatly covet and appreciate the prayer of God’s people. Please pray for the following:
- Pray that the Lord would continue to sustain me and my family in the power of his grace and grant me his wisdom to faithfully serve his people
- Pray for the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon the entire church planting team
- Pray for a move of God in Allentown, especially among the children and youth
- Pray that the work needed to get the building to conform to code be done quickly and cost-effectively, and that we would be given much favor with the Allentown building code inspectors.
- Pray that Lord would give us the gift of wisdom and creativity as we prepare for a major children’s outreach program to launch the church.
How can those interested in the church find out more?
If anyone would like more information on the Allentown church plant they can visit our web page at http://www.allentownhopechurch.org. Also, I can be reached directly by email at email@example.com
We're excited to announce that H.O.P.E. Community Church will begin formal services in Allentown, PA later this summer. Emmanuel Suarez, a graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary and the Sovereign Grace Pastors College, has been diligently preparing to be sent from Grace Community Church with his family and church planting team. Their mission is to build a house of prayer and exultation by magnifying the supremacy of God's glory in Jesus Christ over all things for the joy of all peoples.
Emmanuel recently took some time to update us on this church plant so we can better support him, his family, and all those involved with our prayers.
First of all, when and where will your church begin?
Our hope is to begin formal services Sunday, July 7th, 2013. We will be meeting in a building in inner city Allentown that was formerly used for light manufacturing. However, the building requires a number of modifications to be made in order to bring it up to code, which could potentially impact our plans to launch July 7th. Either way, we are planning to do a children’s outreach program in the parking lot of the church building the first week in July that will officially introduce the church to the community.
What drew you to the idea of planting in Allentown?
The idea of planting in the inner city area of Allentown emerged out of my experience as a landlord in inner city Allentown. Being landlord in Allentown afforded me the opportunity to observe what life was like in this community. It did not take long to observe the economic, domestic and most importantly the spiritual crisis that many in this community lived with. As a result, I would often find myself praying for my tenants and being affected by the challenges that they faced daily. The other thing I observed was that there was hardly any kind of visible gospel presence in the community. So directing my tenants and other residents to a church close by in the community that was faithfully preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ was always a challenge. There was clearly a need for a church that would not only meet in that community but that would joyfully embrace that community with the love of Christ.
What unique challenges and blessings do you think planting in Allentown will present?
There are both many challenges and blessings to planting in Allentown. However due to time and space I will not be able to indicate all. But let me highlight just a few. First of all, the economic crisis will clearly present a unique challenge of planting in Allentown. Because of the lack of a thriving job market, there is a large percentage of the population that live day by day trying to find odd jobs and/or have become heavily dependent on government subsidies. Therefore being able to financially sustain this work will present a unique challenge to the plant. Not to mention, the constraint on available time due to the need for many to work multiple jobs. Another challenge that planting in Allentown will present is that inner city Allentown unfortunately suffers from having a bad reputation. Therefore, maintaining a committed permanent presence in the community can be challenging since many are looking to move out of inner city Allentown into what they might consider to be greener pastures. For that same reason, attracting others to come into inner city Allentown will also be a challenge. Notwithstanding, there are also many unique blessings to planting in Allentown. The poverty and needs that are present in inner city Allentown provides a rich context for exciting gospel opportunities where the Holy Spirit can bring a mighty hope and consolation for the hopeless. Also, inner city Allentown is a city with a high population of children and youth. We have a wonderful opportunity to affect the up and coming generation with the grace and love of Jesus Christ and see a progressive and lasting change in a community that has seen much decline over the last several decades.
What do you think is the most important principle to keep in mind for "urban church planting"?
There are many biblical principles that are vital for any church whether they are “urban”, “suburban”, etc. So it’s difficult to pick the most important principle. But in our case, I would say that there are two controlling principles that the Holy Spirit seems to be driving deep in our hearts. The first principle is the principle of God’s glory. The Holy Spirit has been pressing on our hearts the supremacy of God’s glory in Jesus Christ over ALL things. We must be taught by the Spirit to genuinely desire God’s glory in Jesus Christ over all things. The danger of church planting in an urban poor community is that we can easily become overwhelmed in trying to meet the needs of the community. We can become totally motivated only by the desire to alleviate human suffering. Yet, there is something infinitely greater in value than satisfying human needs, that is, the glory of God displayed in Jesus Christ. In fact, man’s greatest need is never a job or housing, but to exult in the magnificence of the glory of Christ. If we are going to see a genuine revival in Allentown, we must learn to be radically governed by this principle in everything we do. The second principle is the principle of self-conscious dependence on God. The desperate needs in the community will make it virtually impossible for our church to spiritually coast on autopilot. The needs will demand an ever-growing self-conscious dependence on the power of God through the dynamic leading and ministry of the Holy Spirit. For that reason, we hope to cultivate the ministry of corporate prayer, worship and intercession as an expression of this fundamental principle of self-conscious dependence on God.
Can you tell us the story behind the name H.O.P.E. Community Church?
The story behind this name converges on several points. First of all, as I began to consider the prevailing mood and attitude that characterized many in inner city Allentown, the one word that kept coming to me was ‘hopelessness’. I even questioned some of my tenants and residents in the community to see what was their perception. Not surprisingly, many described life in inner city Allentown in terms of ‘hopelessness’. Eventually, it became evident to me that what Allentown needs most is the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ to undermine the prevailing hopelessness that many live under. The second point that converges on the name H.O.P.E. took place a couple of years ago. The Holy Spirit began to impress upon my heart his desire to raise a church in inner city Allentown with a particular focus on the ministry of corporate prayer, worship and intercession. The Holy Spirit used passages in Matt. 21:13, Isaiah 56:7 and 2 Chronicles 1-7 to press his intended desire for His house in my heart. Put it simply, He made it clear to me that His house is always called “a house of prayer”. In other words, the most fundamental activity in God’s House is devotion to prayer and seeking after God. Interestingly, several months ago, I began to ask the Lord, “Why is your house called a ‘house of prayer’?” Why not a house of praise or a house of preaching? Well, after a few days of meditating on Matthew 21:13 in search of an answer to that question, the Lord led me to read the next verse 14 – “And the blind and lame came to Him in the temple, and he healed them.” Immediately, I understood that God desires a house of prayer so that the broken and needy may come to him and be healed. Furthermore, in Isaiah 56:7, there is a promise given in relation to this House of Prayer. The Lord promises to “make them joyful in my house of prayer.” In other words, true prevailing prayer always leads to rejoicing, that is, Exultation. So the result of converging all these points together is the acronym H.O.P.E., which stands for “House Of Prayer and Exultation”.
When did you first feel called to ministry and church planting?
My sense of calling to the ministry began early in my Christian walk. First of all, instrumental in the development of this sense of call was cultivating regular devotion to Christ through prayer and the Word. It was in the secret place with God where my affections for Christ began to form, and Holy Spirit began to share Christ’s heart and love for His Bride, the Church. Secondly, my dad’s church was a church that really encouraged active participation in the public ministry of the word. As a result, I preached my first sermon 6 months after my conversion. Even though that sermon was totally devoid of the art of preaching, that experience had a profound effect on me. The Lord used that opportunity to heighten my sense of a call to the ministry that Tuesday night. Another significant moment in the development of my sense of calling came back in 1993. After a extended season of prayer and fasting for revival and a consuming longing for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon his Church, the Lord gave me a promise one morning through Psalm 116:1 – “I love the Lord, because He hears My voice and my supplications.” When I read that verse, I can’t explain it but I had a deep conviction that the Lord had heard my cry, and that one day the Lord would grant me the privilege of being part of a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It was during that season that the Lord began to clarify a call specifically to pastoral ministry. However, my sense for church planting in particular did not begin to form until a few years ago when I became a landlord in Allentown. The Lord used that experience to clearly direct his call particularly to raising up a church in inner city Allentown that would minister the gospel of Jesus Christ to the spiritually hungry and the destitute for the glory of his great name.
*Part 2 of this interview will we posted Friday.
March 22, 2013 by
Categories: Church planting | Interviews
Last week, Sovereign Grace Church of Marlton, NJ held an informational meeting regarding the launch an upcoming church plant to South Philadelphia, PA. Jeff Boettcher is leading this effort with a team from Sovereign Grace Church.
In part 1 of this interview Jeff discussed when his desire to plant a church first began, the location for the church, and some of the challenges and blessings he experienced as a child of a church planter.
In this second part of the interview Jeff shares the role the Sovereign Grace Pastors College played in preparing him to church plant and the benefits Jeff has experienced in partnering with Sovereign Grace Ministries.
What lessons has your dad taught you about church planting?
There are two major lessons that my Dad has taught me (and is still teaching me). First, God is much more concerned about the work that he is doing in a guy, then the work he is doing through a guy. He regularly tells me that the first three years of the plant were all about God taking a chisel (actually I think he usually says a sledge hammer) to the idols of his heart. From his experience, he has said that church planting is extremely painful, because it confronts some of our deepest fears and uproots our most proud desires. Yet, while the process is painful, it is also good, because the One wielding the hammer is not seeking to crush us, but grow us. God cares about his people and so God is committed to working hard on men’s lives to make them into pastors. So he has exhorted me to lay my heart bear and let God do his work.
The second thing is not a lesson that he has spoken about verbally, but rather what I observed from his life. That lesson was that preaching doesn’t end when you come down out of the pulpit, but continues Monday-Saturday as you seek to apply God’s word to your life. My Dad isn’t a perfect man by any means, but by the grace of God, he is a faithful man. He is a man who has faithfully practiced what he has preached for over 20 years. Whatever application questions he used in a sermon, he would lead a discussion about at our dinner table and be the first to answer from his own life. My Dad was never two different people, he was always the same guy who always made it clear that his greatest desire would be that his kids would have his same savior.
What are some highlights from your experience at the Pastors College? How did that year prepare you for church planting?
A highlight was watching Nathan Sasser take down Matt Wireman (who outweighed Nathan by at least 50lbs) in about 5 seconds flat. Don’t mess with a guy who has a Van Til tattoo. Actually, I’m not sure if he has a tattoo, but I’d like to get that rumor going.
In all seriousness, the Pastors College has played a very important role in preparing me for this plant. Through the various classes at the PC- particularly those taught by our beloved Dean, Jeff Purwell- a greater love for God’s word, faith in God’s word and ability to bring God’s word to bear was invested into my life. I’m a young man without a lot of pastoral experience. Yet, my faith and excitement for this plant isn’t in myself, but in the timeless, all sufficient words of the living God. The PC opened up these words to me in new ways and through Jeff and our other instructors, I am growing in learning how to apply these words to me own life and to the lives of those whom God has called to be part of His church.
What have you been up to during your church-planting residency and how is this time preparing you for your upcoming church plant?
I have been seeking to steal as many people from Sovereign Grace Marlton as I possible can. Much time has been spent leaving unmarked envelopes full of cash in people’s mailboxes…
Besides that, I have been preaching, counseling, developing courses, being part of elder team meeting, working through all the logistics of putting together the plant team and trying to spend as much time in Philly as possible. The pastors at SGC-Marlton have been very generous in giving me real responsibilities, allowing me a lot of time in the pulpit, as well as, other teaching contexts.
What part have Sovereign Grace Ministries and Sovereign Grace churches played in your Christian walk and path into pastoral ministry?
When I was three weeks old my parents walked into Covenant Fellowship Church for the first time. 27 years later, I am still blessed to be part of Sovereign Grace Ministries. Different distinctives of SGM have been particularly precious to be during different seasons of my life. As a teen I appreciated the centrality of the gospel that brought great comfort as I was confronted with the reality of my own sinfulness. As a young adult I appreciated the sovereignty of God in election that fueled my evangelistic zeal. As a young pastor I have appreciated the gift of expository preaching and the real confidence that we can have that God will build His church through the preaching of His word.
What does partnership with Sovereign Grace mean for you as a church planter?
I wouldn't be planting this church without the investment of Sovereign Grace in my life. I was saved in a Sovereign Grace church, have been pastored my whole life by Sovereign Grace pastors, have been trained at The Sovereign Grace Pastors College, have had some of my salary in my residency compensated by Sovereign Grace, and will receive a church planting grant from Sovereign Grace. That alone speaks of the value of my partnership with Sovereign Grace. However, my partnership with Sovereign is not just about how they have invested in me in the past, but in ways that I am grateful they will continue to partner with this church plant in the future. I couldn’t be more excited about our new polity and how it brings churches together for mission, as well as, mutual care. I am so grateful that I am not embarking on this work alone, but have brothers who are linking arms with me as we seek to spur one another on to follow God with all we got.
How can those interested in your church plant find out more?
If you would like more info about our church plant you can check out our website at christchurchphilly.org
March 20, 2013 by
Categories: Church planting | Interviews
Last week, Sovereign Grace Church of Marlton, NJ held an informational meeting regarding the launch an upcoming church plant to South Philadelphia, PA. Jeff Boettcher is leading this effort with a team from Sovereign Grace Church. He recently took some time to update us on this church plant so we can better support him, his family, and all those involved with our prayers.
First of all, when and where will your church begin?
We are hoping to have the plant team move into the Southwark and Pennsport neighborhoods of South Philly this summer and we will start being the organic church right away. After taking some time to establish relationships with our neighbors, our plan is to launch formal church gatherings sometime in the spring of 2014.
What made you decide to plant in South Philly?
I am not naturally a city guy. I grew up in the burbs with a fear of the city which, over time, morphed into a consumer mindset when it came to the city. However, over the years God used the preaching of various urban planters to really convict me of the selfishness of my heart. Living in the suburbs of Philadelphia my whole life I never once stopped to consider how God felt about the people in Philly. God must have lots of love for this city, because God loves people and there are a lot of people in Philly.
Philadelphia is 5th largest city in the country with over 1.5 million residents. Yet, less than 7% of those people believe that faith alone in Jesus alone is what saves alone. Religion has choked out people’s understanding of what it means to have a true and vibrant relationship with God through Jesus. At the heart of this city are the neighborhoods of South Philly. South Philly finds itself in the unique place of being situated between the booming economy of the Center City, the fast developing waterfront along the Delaware River and the most significant investment plan in the city at the Naval Yard. Yet, while there is much prosperity in South Philly, the darkness simply could not be greater. Less than 3% of the residents of these neighborhoods believe in the Gospel. Typically missions organizations will use the marker of 4% of a population being Christian to classify whether they are “reached” or “unreached”. The unreached don’t just exist in the 10/40 window overseas, they are literally 15 miles away from where I grew up. Upon realizing this fact, I began to spend time in the city talking to people, walking the streets and praying. In doing these things God broke my heart for this city and for the neighborhoods of South Philly in particular, because “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Rom 10:14)
What do you expect to be especially challenging and especially rewarding about planting in South Philly?
I think the biggest challenge that we will face is that this is an unreached area and so growing the church through seeing conversions take place will be a long, slow and hard process. However, I think this challenge will also be our biggest reward. I can’t imagine anything more exciting than being part of bringing God’s gospel to an unreached area and seeing people converted through a long, slow and hard process. God builds his church through adding bricks to it one at a time. There are currently hearts of stone in Philly that God is going to turn into living bricks to be used in the building of His church. How awesome is that!
What are your plans for outreach as your church gets started?
Philly is accustomed to a lot of events. If we were to try to come in and try to get people to come to our church through outreach events and programs, we would get chewed up and spit out within a few months. How could we possible expect to compete with some of the world’s greatest shows?
So we aren’t planning on anything flashy or big. It seems that the best way to reach the people of Philly is to hangout with the people of Philly. So our grand outreach strategy is something that I am calling “Kitchen Table Ministry”. We are purposefully keeping our church calendar really free so that we can invest as much time as possible in having our neighbors over to our houses and sharing meals. Philadelphia is home to the greatest sandwiches on the planet (Anyone who denies that can meet me out in front of the next Eagles game and feel free to voice your disagreement with me there. Have fun with that!). Our plan is to eat a lot of food with our neighbors, to get to know them, to love them with the self-sacrificial love of Jesus and pray for opportunities to share the Gospel with them.
We also want to be a very open community, meaning that we are comfortable having unbelievers in our small groups, at our prayer meetings, etc… We don’t want there to be any separation between “Christian” activities and “outreach” activities. The Gospel is both what converts us to Christianity and grows us as Christians, so if we are truly being gospel centered then growing and converting should be taking place at the same time in the same context.
When did you first feel a call to church planting?
Church planting first started pulling on my heart while I was watching an SGM missions video about 5 years ago. I can’t honestly tell you what it was about, but some church plant was being announced and as I heard the planter share, I said to myself, “I would never want to do that…” After thinking that I felt God ask me the question, “Why?” I had tons of answers. I loved my church family, almost all my immediate family was in my church and there were ways that God was using me to be a blessing to my church. Why would I want to leave all that?
However, two days later I was reading through Romans in my devotions and I came to Romans 15:20 which says, “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation.” After reading that verse I felt God again ask me, “Why aren’t you willing to do that?” I thought about my answers again and I realized that none of my reasons for not wanting to church plant had anything to do with the glory of God, but were all about my own ease and comfort. That began a long process of praying, talking to my pastors, exploring my gifting and wrestling over whether this was something that God was using just to shake me up from my selfish and lazy heart, or because he really wanted to use me as a church planter.
Having grown up as a church planter’s kid, what’s your perspective on the challenges and blessings of church planting?
Church planting is hard work. I remember many late nights and early mornings. In order for anything to happen, all hands needed to be on deck. It can be draining realizing that unless you show up to make it happen, nothing is going to happen. Church plants aren’t big churches with the ability to spread out ministry. Everyone needs to carry the load.
While this is challenging, it is also an awesome blessing to be on the front line watching God work in people’s lives and build His church. Seeing marriages restores, families rebuilt, the addicted set free and the proud humbled through the dynamic power of the Gospel is one of the sweetest joys to be experienced on this earth.
Read part 2
Watch this video.
March 12, 2013 by
Categories: Interviews | Pastors College
The Pastors College welcomes Jerry Bridges as their guest instructor this week covering Grace and Sanctification. This marks the 13th year Dr. Bridges has served us through his teaching and example at our Pastors College. We are most grateful!
Dr. Bridges is the author of numerous excellent cross-centered books like:
Over the years Dr. Bridges has conducted interviews with us on a variety of topics. The audio from these interviews has been gathered below:
Train yourself for godliness [Audio]
Learning to preach the gospel to yourself every day [Audio]
An explanation of "union with Christ" for the new believer [Audio]
Counsel for stuck-in-the-mud Christians [Audio]
Five life truths learned from over six decades as a Christian [Audio]
C.J. Mahaney interviews Jerry Bridges [Audio]
Author and speaker Jerry Bridges will join the Pastors College next week as their guest instructor covering Grace and Sanctification.
Mr. Bridges is 83 years old, and he's been walking with the Lord for 65 of those years. A couple years ago Tony Reinke had the opportunity to sit down and interview Mr. Bridges. During that interview Mr. Bridges shared five life truths he's discovered during his six decades in the faith. Wise words from a man who never ceases to stir the listener's affections for God.
To listen to this 8-minute conversation, right-click to download, or listen here:
February 28, 2013 by
"My people's greatest need is my personal holiness." -Robert Murray M’Cheyne
Jeff Purswell, Dean of the Sovereign Grace Pastors College, sat down with Dr. Mike Bullmore to discuss the importance of the spiritual life of the pastor/preacher, cultivating and nurturing godliness on the pastoral team, and building a church that has "a life in the Word."
This interview concluded another fruitful week in the Pastors College where Dr. Bullmore served as our guest instructor on the theology and practice of the spiritual disciplines in the Christian life.
An Interview with Dr. Mike Bullmore
Homiletics, Spiritual Disciplines, and the Church
[00:01] Introductory comments
[01:25] Dr. Bullmore’s family background
[02:27] His theological training and dissertation.
[04:15] Why Dr. Bullmore left teaching at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School to plant a church?
[06:57] What has changed in Dr. Bullmore’s understanding of homiletics over the last 15 years?
[09:10] The importance of the spiritual life of the pastor/preacher
[12:40] The pastoral temptation to neglect the spiritual disciplines for the work of ministry
[13:45] The preacher’s example: the difference between perfection and fidelity
[15:21] The preacher’s life and doctrine
[19:05] Cultivating and nurturing godliness on the pastoral team
[21:15] Reading together as a pastoral team
[22:10] Prayer and the pastoral team
[23:17] How a pastor’s example influences the church
[25:23] Building a church that has “a life in the Word"
[28:38] The role of nature in our spiritual lives
[32:15] Upcoming message at the 9Marks@SBTS Conference: “Why Do We Need Expository Preaching?"
February 18, 2013 by
Categories: Church planting | Interviews
For several years, the pastors of Grace Bible Church in Northeast Philadelphia have been dreaming and praying about planting more churches in the neighborhoods of Philadelphia. It has been their desire to work with Sovereign Grace Ministries to see churches established which stand in strong relationship to one another, with their eyes focused on a common mission.
In part 1 of this interview Dan shared with us his calling to pastoral ministry, his vision for church planting in the northeast region of Philadelphia, and how the Sovereign Grace Pastors College helped equip him for this plant. Today, Dan shares with us some of his church planting residency experience and describes the unique blessings and challenges of planting in an urban setting.
Can you describe some of the things you're doing and learning in your church planting residency that will help you as you plant your church?
Right now I am learning that church planters wear many hats, perhaps too many hats. Building construction, websites, fund raising, core group training, neighborhood initiatives, counseling etc., - first, I find my pride being offended that I can’t do it all. It’s been a great reminder of my frailty and God’s sufficiency. God uses men for the in breaking of his kingdom, but without God, man is mere man. So I need God, but I also need to remember that I am not a lone ranger. God has lovingly provided partnership on a variety of levels.
- First, I thank God that he has provided a loving core group which is uniquely gifted by God to specifically meet needs on the ground.
- Second I thank God that he has provided a wise and selfless sending church. They have encouraged, counseled, and sacrificed.
- Third, I thank God for the fellowship of churches in Sovereign Grace. We have received funds, encouraging emails, and helpful counsel.
God has uniquely gifted his local and extra-local body to ensure the health of new, local church plants.
What advantages do you see to partnering with Sovereign Grace as a church planter?
In simple terms, we as Grace Bible Church, could not plant without Sovereign Grace. The advantages are vast. They include counsel, training, accountability, funding and plain-old, good relationship. We value partnership because of these advantages and we would encourage other planters to find a similar partnership.
But more specifically, I am grateful for Sovereign Grace because it is a partnership with the previous mentioned advantages that carries with it distinct theological values, and yet flexible methods. We are embarking on something unique here in Philly, and we are attempting to determine the most effective methods of going about it. It has forced us to think outside of the box, but in doing so, we do not want to compromise our shared theological distinctives. Sovereign Grace has become a partnership where helpful discussions can take place, challenging counsel can be given, and mutual prayer can be provided.
Your email address is Grace4addictions...do you have a vision for reaching out to those struggling with addictions? If so, how would you describe that vision and the part you see it playing in the new church?
For several years God has given me the opportunity to interact and disciple those who are struggling with substance abuse. I had not attempted to gain a particular burden for those in addiction, but God has definitely orchestrated opportunities, and in so doing, stirred up a burden for those who are struggling with this life dominating sin.
The new church will inevitably be attended by those who are struggling with substance abuse. So it is our vision, as with any struggling individual, to see Christ set them free unto a God-glorifying life. As a new church we don’t have specific programs for the addicted, but we do have the tool that God most often uses – loving relationships. It is our desire as a church to embrace those who are struggling as God embraces us when we are struggling. It is our desire to be ok with getting messy, because Christ has lovingly entered our mess. In other words, it is our desire to embrace gospel-living with the hope of gospel renewal.
As you prepare to plant in an urban setting, what do you see as the unique blessings and challenges of "urban church planting?"
In an urban setting like blue collar NE Philly, sin and suffering are overt. There is no hiding it. Brokenness abounds. Therefore, the challenge is to guard from becoming calloused toward the brokenness especially when the brokenness is pointed at you. Your car gets broken into. Trash is piled up in front of your apartment door. Graffiti is written across your apartment door. Sirens wake you up on a regular basis. Urban life can regularly give occasion to expose your heart for what it is, self-righteousness. The brokenness gets up in your grill and if you have not reflected on your own brokenness and God’s mercy to you through Christ, then your heart begins to become calloused with self-righteousness. This is the challenge.
On the other hand, since the brokenness is overt there is little struggle in persuading people of their brokenness. They are willing to discuss their hurt. And they are even willing to discuss their vain attempts for help. The blessing is that there are abundant opportunities to share the sure help of the gospel!
What advice would you give to someone considering an urban church plant?
This would depend on the individual... But broadly, I would suggest that urban church planting is not for everyone. Don’t get me wrong. I love the city and I want others to gain a vision for urban church planting, but we have to be honest - it is not for everyone. To the individual who is considering an urban church plant, do all you can to give six months to a year, if not longer, to be in an urban neighborhood, doing neighborhood stuff with neighborhood people. Giving time to learn the city and the cultures represented in a particular area of your city will be extremely beneficial. I would also suggest this be done in partnership with a local church that is familiar you and with that particular area of the city. And if your experience becomes anything like mine, God will use that time in the city to change you. God will show you if the city is his specific mission field for you.
How can we pray for you as your church gets started?
Thank you for asking! Please begin praying by thanking God. He has done much for his church! We have seen God already at work in calling a people out for himself. Please pray for those who have recently come to know him, that they ‘might be filled with a knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding’.
Secondly, we realize that it is a rare thing to plant a church having been given a building. From the get-go, we have a unique responsibility to steward this building for the good of the church and for the good of our neighborhood. The church building is in need of some significant repairs, and therefore we are seeking to raise funds and to call on teams who can help us repair the building for the glory of our God! So please be praying for God’s continued provision.
How can those interested in your church plant find out more?
Individuals who are interested in the plant can contact me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, individuals can go to www.gbcphilly.com/wiss for our guest page and for those interested in getting further info and potentially helping support the plant, they can go to www.plantwiss.com.