The back page of my journal has this title written across the top: “Verses That Shape How I Want To Live the Rest of My Life.” As I read God’s Word daily, there are certain verses that jump off the page, and when that happens, I write them down. These verses are important because, as my wife Jill and I grow older, knowing that we don’t have much more time in this life, God uses these verses to challenge us to spend the rest of our lives in serving our Savior, Jesus Christ.
A Verse That Shapes My Life
One of the life-shaping verses that you would find written on the back page of my journal is Acts 20:24, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Paul is in Miletus where he summons the Ephesian elders to join him there. He knows it’s the last time that he will see these men because, as Acts 20:22–23 tell us, Paul is on his way to Jerusalem where he knows that “imprisonment and afflictions” await him there.
Speaking with these dear friends from Ephesus one last time, he not only shares his heart, but he also speaks of his desire to finish the ministry the Lord had given him regardless of the cost, and so he says, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Wow! That verse is challenging and life-shaping. To persevere in gospel mission means that I must not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself. To continue to testify to the gospel of the grace of God means more “self” in my life must die. To say it another way, the joy of participating and persevering in gospel mission far exceeds the sacrifice it requires!
A Verse That Shapes Sovereign Grace Churches
Now you see why this verse is written on the last page of my journal. It’s one I think of often, and it’s one that Jill and I pray that God would give us the grace to live out. But in recent days, I’ve wondered if Acts 20:24 is a verse that is also for our family of churches in Sovereign Grace. Could it be that God would give us the grace to be a group of churches who don’t count our lives of any value nor as precious to ourselves, if only we may finish our course to testify to the gospel of the grace of God? Could it be that God’s grace and power will work in our lives so that the joy of persevering in gospel mission together will far exceed the sacrifice it requires? Our family of churches has this amazing privilege of participating in something far grander and greater than ourselves: the proclaiming of Christ to those who don’t know him.
My friends, may we not count our lives of any value nor as precious to ourselves. May we be a family of churches who persevere in gospel mission together no matter the cost. May our labors to testify to the gospel of the grace of God reach those who don’t know that saving grace. And may our perseverance in gospel mission together bring Jesus much glory!
Race track photo from Shutterstock.
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.
When asked about the secret to his great success in ministry, Charles Spurgeon famously responded, “My people pray for me.”
Indeed, as Jesus says, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Oh, to really believe that all that we do is possible only in Christ!
Therefore, our Leadership Team covets your prayers. We need the upholding hand of God to strengthen and sustain us in the work he has called us to do. So here are some ways you can pray for us:
Pray that God would give me wisdom as I interact with our Regional Leaders and pastors.
Pray that God would give me clarity as I evaluate areas of priority to focus on for the coming ministry year.
Pray that God would empower me with his Spirit to stir a vision for renewal among our pastors. Join me in praying for revival in Sovereign Grace churches.
Pray for the Sovereign Grace Executive Committee Retreat (July 30–August 2) that I will be attending.
Pray that the work I did for a recent trip to Rancho 3M in Guadalupe, Mexico would bear much fruit through Christ.
Pray that I would envision and equip our pastors and churches to be faithful in doing the gospel mission we have been redeemed for—multiplying and maturing disciples of Jesus Christ for the glory of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Pray that I would be faithful to lead the National Church Planting Group in developing systems and tools to serve our Regional Church Planting Committees for doing this gospel mission in each region.
Pray that I would be steadfast to pray in the Spirit for the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into his harvest to make more disciples and plant more churches.
Pray that I would use the gift of faith to stir people to start things only God can finish.
Pray that God would give us wisdom as we plan the Pastors Conference scheduled for October 21–23.
Pray that God would give us grace to continue to be a family of churches who reach the lost with the gospel through strengthening and planting churches.
Pray that God would give the Leadership Team wisdom for the decisions we need to make in our meeting this month.
Also, Bob Kauflin recently ministered in the Dominican Republic, and Jeff Purswell worked in Germany before joining Bob (and others) in the DR. Please pray for these two men to recuperate from this season knowing that, in the Lord, their work is never in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Church photo from Shutterstock.
Bryan (@BryanDeWire) is the Communications Manager at Sovereign Grace.
In just a few days many pastors and their wives from within Sovereign Grace Ministries, as well as men and women who are friends of Sovereign Grace Ministries, will come together in Orlando for our annual pastors conference. I am very, very excited for our conference. Why am I so excited? Here are several reasons why.
- Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve prayed for all of the pastors and wives who are registered for the conference by name. As you know, when you pray for people you carry them on your heart, so I can’t wait to see how God will use this conference to strengthen them and refresh them. I believe God will use the conference to strengthen the weary, lift the discouraged, and build up the pastors and their wives.
- Sovereign Grace pastors and wives are some of my favorite people. Honestly, I'm just looking forward to hanging out with them! I can't wait to laugh, pray, fellowship, and eat with them.
- The theme of the conference is Hope Abounding (Romans 15:13), and I believe God is going to impart hope to each of us as we move forward in gospel mission. It's no secret that the past several years have been very challenging for us in Sovereign Grace. I believe God will use this conference to infuse all in attendance with fresh hope for the future.
- The desire of the Leadership Team is to make this conference a spiritual and relational highlight for our pastors this year. In regards to being a spiritual highlight, I’m very excited about the teaching we have planned.
- Ray Ortlund Jr. is going to preach on revival and I think his message will stir us with fresh faith for true, Spirit-driven revival.
- The ladies (most of them pastors wives) who are attending the conference make huge sacrifices as their husbands serve in ministry. We wanted to show our appreciation for them by having a Women’s Breakout Session which Jani Ortlund is teaching. I know it will encourage them.
- I’m excited because I love singing to Jesus and worshiping God with our pastors and wives. I can't wait to lift my voice along with hundreds of other men and women in praise to our Savior.
- I’m excited because we have pastors traveling from 10 different countries to participate in this conference.
- I’m excited because when SG pastors and wives are together there is much laughter and joy.
- I’m excited because I really do believe God is going to use this conference to move SG ahead into making disciples of all nations.
Would you please join me in praying for our Pastor's Conference? Please pray for your pastor and his wife by name. Please pray that the Holy Spirit would be active in our midst. And above all, please pray that Jesus will be glorified.
October 18, 2013 by
Categories: Leadership Team updates
After being affirmed as the Executive Director of Sovereign Grace in May, one of the first things I set out to do was to work with the Executive Committee to form a Leadership Team. Leading Sovereign Grace is not a one-man job. I need a team of qualified men to serve our churches. After interviewing a number of qualified men and gaining the affirmation of the Executive Committee, a Leadership Team was formed. The overall purpose of the Leadership Team is to serve our pastors and our churches.
According to the Sovereign Grace (SG) Book of Church Order (BCO), the Leadership Team is made up of men that the churches of SG recognize and designate for specialized tasks. In that sense, the Leadership Team is made up of men with very particular giftings who can serve Sovereign Grace in very specific ways. For example, I’ve asked Craig Cabaniss to serve as the Director of Church Development so he can use his specific gifts and experience as a former Regional Leader to develop, equip, train, and encourage teams of elders in our churches. With that goal in view, we formed a larger Leadership Team in order to perform very specific tasks that will serve our group of churches.
Recently, I introduced the Leadership Team to our pastors and said, “Given the limitations in my gifting and wisdom, I’m assembling a larger team so I can benefit from a larger group of wise and gifted men. It’s also my desire to see our pastors and churches served by some of our wisest elders. One of the reasons I’m excited to introduce these men to you is because each of them have a genuine heart and desire to serve the churches in SG as we continue our mission to make Christ known.” The men on the Leadership Team are the real deal. They are men who are passionate about the Lord, passionate about the gospel, and passionate about serving the churches in Sovereign Grace.
Please pray for each of these men as they step into these roles with a heart to serve our pastors and churches. May God use them as we seek together to plant and build churches for the glory of Jesus Christ.
Mark has served as an elder at Covenant Fellowship Church (Glen Mills, PA) since 2002. In 1996, he led a church-planting team to Pittsburgh in order to begin Providence Church, where he served as senior pastor until 2002. Mark and his wife, Jill, have three married daughters and a growing number of grandchildren. They make their home in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Mark loves spending time with his wife, Jill, and they love getting as much time as they can with their grandkids, especially at the beach.
The Executive Director is the presiding officer to the Leadership Team, ensuring its successful operation through leadership, strategic planning, support, evaluation, and communication.
Director of Church Development
Craig is senior pastor of Grace Church (Frisco, TX). He grew up in the Houston area, going on to study at Baylor University. After graduation, Craig married Ginger, and they moved to Pasadena, California where Craig earned his Master of Divinity from Fuller Seminary. While in seminary, Craig was first introduced to Sovereign Grace Ministries through their member
church in Pasadena. He later served on their pastoral staff for five years, and then planted a church in San Diego. Craig pastored Grace Church in San Diego for ten years before returning to Texas to lead a team in planting a new church in Frisco. Craig and Ginger have four children and one grandson.
This position is previously known as the Director of Church Care. I’m changing the name of this role to emphasize that in our new polity, care for churches occurs primarily at a regional level. However, the Director of Church Development will promote and coordinate care for our churches and pastors by equipping, communicating, and working with our Regional Leaders, ensuring that there is a consistent standard of care experienced across our regions. Beyond the care component, the Director of Church Development will help develop and equip local elderships as they mature at a local level. Craig has six years of regional leadership experience that has equipped him for this role, and he possesses a doctrinal depth that is needed for the equipping and development of local elderships. I’m excited for you to benefit from some of the ideas Craig has to develop our local pluralities of elders.
Director of Church Planting and Mission
Ian serves as Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Grace Bible Church (Philadelphia, PA). One of Ian’s main shepherding responsibilities at Grace is the proclamation of the Word. He also
provides oversight and direction for the pastoral team in carrying out our vision to display
God’s glory through the gospel as a community of believers in Northeast Philadelphia. Ian
and his wife, Rachel, have three children. Ian writes and blogs at Blue Collar Gospel.
The Director of Church Planting and Mission promotes and coordinates church planting domestically by working with our Regional Leaders and Regional Church Planting Committees as they assess, equip, and deploy church planters. The Director of Church Planting will also lead in a way that he cultivates a mission-minded church planting culture among our union of churches, and thereby allows Sovereign Grace to remain a viable church planting organization. In addition, the Director of Church Planting coordinates the assessment of church adoptions by working with our Regional Leaders and Regional Church Planting Committees. Ian has replanted Grace Bible Church in Northeast Philadelphia, and his church recently planted Grace Bible Church of Wissinoming, also located in Northeast Philadelphia. Ian has served on the Church Planting Group for the last three years, where he brought creativity and innovation that has helped Sovereign Grace grow in the area of church planting. Quite simply, Ian lives and breathes mission, and I look forward to how you will benefit from his heart to make Jesus known.
Director of Theology and Training
Jeff is the Dean of the Sovereign Grace Pastors College, a role he has filled since 1998. He
also serves as an elder at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, Kentucky. He and his wife, Julie,
have been married for 25 years, and they have two sons.
The Director of Theology and Training ensures that our future and current pastors receive sufficient, on-going theological training by overseeing the Pastors College and providing theological training in other teaching contexts. He is responsible to see that ordination standards and testing are in place as a means to serve Regional Ordination Committees. He will also work with the Theology Committee in developing our Statement of Faith. In addition, the Director of Theology and Training is responsible to develop resources through writing and publication to equip people both in and outside of Sovereign Grace. Jeff has faithfully served our pastors in this role for years, and there isn’t a better person in Sovereign Grace to develop us theologically!
Director of Music and Worship
Bob serves as an elder at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, Kentucky. His responsibilities
include overseeing the music and helping to provide pastoral care. His full time job is
serving as the Director of Sovereign Grace Music. Bob and his wife, Julie, have four
daughters, two sons, and an ever growing number of grandchildren.
The Director of Music and Worship works with our Regional Leaders to coordinate the development of our present and future worship leaders and songwriters in SG Churches. He also oversees the development, production, and distribution of SG Music. God has blessed Bob’s labors to write, develop, and produce doctrinally strong, gospel-saturated music for years. And you already know of his ability to develop worship leaders and songwriters. I look forward to how God will use Bob to serve SG and beyond in the years to come as we seek to produce and sing songs that glorify Jesus.
Director of Church Governance
Phil is senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church (Apex, NC). He graduated from The
Ohio State University in 1972 with a B.S. degree in Pharmacy. Before moving to North Carolina in 1989, he served in pastoral ministry in Ohio for 13 years. Phil has been a member of the church since its inception in 1992 and on staff since 1994. He became the senior pastor in 2001 and teaches regularly at the Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastors College in Louisville, Kentucky. He and his wife, Cassie, have five children and 17 grandchildren.
The Director of Church Governance is a 2–3 year Leadership Team role that is responsible for the development and implementation of our newly ratified polity. In this role, the Director of Church Governance is responsible to develop our polity and Book of Church Order as it is refined over the next 2–3 years. He will also be responsible for the effective and efficient implementation of our polity at both the regional and national level, including the training of regional Judicial Review Committees and the SG Court of Appeals. As a part of the polity implementation, the Director of Church Governance is tasked to be the Roberts Rules of Order expert so that Council of Elders meetings are run more efficiently. Phil chaired our Polity Committee that developed our Book of Church Order while leading his church as the senior pastor in Apex, North Carolina. I’m not aware of anyone who knows our polity and Book of Church Order better than Phil and, therefore, I’m excited to see how God will use him to strengthen our ecclesiastical union.
Director of Finance and Administration
Tommy Hill, CPA
Tommy is the Director of Finance and Administration for Sovereign Grace
Ministries. He has been with SG in this role for over 15 years. Tommy holds a BBA in
accounting from Baylor University and a Masters degree in accountancy from University of
Tennessee-Knoxville. His background includes experience at a major public accounting firm
and consulting with pastors and churches in all areas of administration (including finances,
human resources, and tax counsel) for over 30 years. He has been a member of a SG church
for over 20 years. Tommy is originally from the great state of Texas and is also a proud Tennessee Vols fan. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have been married 23 years and have nine children ages two to 21. They currently reside in Louisville, Kentucky and attend Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville.
The Director of Finance and Administration ensures that SG finances are used and handled with integrity to help us accomplish our mission and maintain the trust we have with our donors. He also administrates the functions of the Leadership Team and coordinates the successful operations of our centralized functions. In addition, the Director of Finance and Administration acts as the contact person for all legal matters. Tommy has faithfully served our churches in this role for years. Quite simply, we can’t move forward in strength without his ongoing expertise.
Director of Global Missions
Role yet to be filled
In response to the motion created at the previous CoE meeting, I created a Global Missions role so a man can be dedicated to developing our mission globally. Therefore, the Director of Global Missions promotes and coordinates global missions work and church planting through strategic thinking, strategic planning, assessment, equipping, and deployment of SG pastors, church members, and international church planters by working with our international churches and our domestic Regional Leaders. The Director of Global Missions will help refine our missiology and apply it by defining and implementing a global missions structure that will foster church planting and global missions work among our ecclesiastical union. He will also be responsible to help develop the international aspect of our polity. I continue to interview qualified men for this role, so please pray for wisdom as the interview process continues.
September 6, 2013 by
Categories: Leadership Team updates
It’s been about three months since I started serving in my new role with Sovereign Grace. During that time, I’ve been asked dozens of times, “Hey, what’s it like to be the Executive Director?” Honestly, I don’t really know yet. I’ll let you know once I figure that out. But here is what I do know: Sovereign Grace exists because of Jesus Christ, and we exist to make Him known.
It’s a common occurrence—usually several times a week—that when I think about our churches, the pastors who lead them, and the members who fill them, I remember that every pastor and every member in our churches is purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. One of my favorite verses in Scripture, Acts 20:28, emphasizes this truth. Paul is speaking to the elders from Ephesus and he says to them, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”
Every member in each of our churches is obtained by the precious blood of Jesus. Because Jesus shed his precious blood, every pastor and member in our churches is precious in God’s sight! Even though I’m still figuring this Executive Director thing out, I do know this: if you are precious in God’s sight, then that truth affects everything I do.
I remind myself of this truth almost daily because it helps me remember not only what I’m called to do, which is to serve you and our churches, but also it reminds me why Sovereign Grace even exists. We are truly a family of churches who only exist because Christ obtained us with His precious blood, and in response to that staggering truth, our mission as a family of churches is to make Jesus known. It’s that simple, and yet it’s that profound. Simple in the sense that we exist only because of Jesus; profound in the sense that we get to participate in something far grander and greater than us—the mission of proclaiming the good news of Jesus to every tribe, tongue, and nation.
As we move forward, taking with us the lessons learned from the last couple of years, as we implement our new polity, as we refine our Book of Church Order, let us not lose sight of why we really exist. We exist to tell others about the sin-washing, wrath-removing, life-giving blood that was shed by our Savior Jesus Christ.
In that same conversation that Paul had with the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, he said something that captures our future together: “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).
Let us, Sovereign Grace, finish our course by devoting our lives, resources, and church planting efforts to testifying to the gospel of the grace of God. Let’s pray that God would give us grace to play our small part in making Jesus known to those who have yet been redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb.
Mark Prater is the executive director of Sovereign Grace, leading us in our mission to plant and build churches with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Mark has served as an elder at Covenant Fellowship Church since 2002. In 1996, he led a church-planting team to Pittsburgh in order to begin Providence Church. Mark has also served as the director for the Sovereign Grace Church Planting Group and regional representative overseeing the Northeast region of churches in the United States.
January 15, 2013 by
Categories: Leadership Team updates
The Sovereign Grace Board recently asked Mark Prater to be our acting director of church planting and church care. We are very pleased to announce that Mark accepted.
This acting role will allow us to benefit from Mark’s leadership as we make further progress in our mission, to plant and build churches with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Mark will serve in this key role until a new Leadership Team is selected and confirmed, assuming ratification of the proposed polity.
Mark brings to this role church planting, church care, senior & executive pastoral experience. Mark has served as an elder at Covenant Fellowship Church since 2002. In 1996, he led a church-planting team to Pittsburgh in order to begin Providence Church, where he served as senior pastor until 2002. Mark has also served as the director for the Sovereign Grace Ministries Church Planting Group and regional representative overseeing the Northeast region of churches in the United States.
Please join us in welcoming Mark Prater as our acting director of church planting and church care.
December 20, 2012 by
Categories: Leadership Team updates
As we work together in our mission to plant and build churches with the gospel of Jesus Christ, we want to inform you of a change in Sovereign Grace Ministries’ Leadership Team. Dave Harvey has made the decision to resign from our Leadership Team so that he can resume his full-time role as an elder at Covenant Fellowship Church. Dave made a public statement yesterday explaining this change on the Covenant Fellowship Church blog.
As Dave communicates in his post, this change does not reflect any lack of support for the direction or leadership of Sovereign Grace Ministries. Dave is, in fact, excited about our future mission and the benefits our new polity will bring to this work. He has expressed hopes of possibly returning to SGM service someday in the future. As Dave states, “…the story on this is not about what SGM lacks but what one pastor needs right now…It is one of those times where local and family needs must take priority over extra-local relationships/ministry.”
This brief update provides insufficient space to adequately thank Dave for his outstanding contributions leading us in church care, church planting, and international expansion since 1995. These past 17 years Dave has played a vital role in keeping Sovereign Grace’s mission to plant and build churches with the gospel of Jesus Christ at the forefront of all we do both domestically and internationally. His proactive development of an SGM church planting group served to prepare future church planters for their calling. His model of church care in the Northeast region both strengthened individual churches and SGM as a whole. Covenant Fellowship Church, where Dave served as senior pastor for 18 years, has influenced SGM in countless ways through its example, teaching, and generosity. And Dave’s vision to further equip church planters through his focused writing and preaching on the topic will serve pastors for years to come. Please join us in thanking Dave for the unique role he has played serving us as a family of churches.
We are grateful that his influence and service do not end here. Though transitioning from our Leadership Team, we look forward to Dave’s continued investment in the mission of SGM through his service as an elder at Covenant Fellowship Church this year. Please join us in praying for Dave and his family during this transition.
Finally, we want to you know that the SGM Board looks forward to communicating the plan to cover Dave’s responsibilities as part of our transition to the new polity, pending ratification.