Over the coming weeks, we will be sharing with you a series of snapshots—brief glimpses into the lives of men who have attended the Pastors College. It is most encouraging to hear how that experience has shaped them and how it is now serving them in their ministry roles in Sovereign Grace churches. As we look forward to next year, please pray with us that the Lord would only strengthen the impact of the college upon our pastors and churches, for His glory.
The first snapshot is written by Bruce Chick (B.A., University of Georgia; M.Div., Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL). Bruce graduated from the Pastors College in 2002 and has since served as the Senior Pastor of Sovereign Grace Community Church in Roanoke, Virginia. He currently serves on both the Executive and Polity Committees for Sovereign Grace Churches. He has been teaching Old Testament survey courses at the Pastors College for the past decade. Bruce and his wife Hien have seven children. I’m so eager for you to read his story below.—Jeff Purswell
He was surprised. When the Senior Pastor of a Sovereign Grace church learned that I (a member and M.Div. student) wanted to attend the Pastors College immediately after graduating seminary, he was slightly dumbfounded. I cherished both my seminary coursework and theological training, yet it was what I saw firsthand while attending a Sovereign Grace church that fueled my interest and impassioned my desires.
If the Pastors College was somehow partially responsible for the fruit I was experiencing at my local church, I wanted an up close and personal look. I wasn’t disappointed. The theological coursework was robust, sound, and purposeful (think of an intense January term format for an entire year). But it was the intentionality of the structural framework that stood out most. Not only were doctrinal precision and theological advancement shared values but there was also a pronounced emphasis on marriage, parenting, and character development that had been almost entirely absent from my seminary education. The structural arrangement of the Pastors College in a local church setting afforded opportunities for men’s accountability, couples, ladies, and class groupings, as well as pre-class worship gatherings and private interactions with staff and church members that profoundly affected my personal life and marriage. I can still recall watershed moments my wife and I experienced in these intentional settings. This training, care, and oversight stretched, challenged, and strengthened my walk with God and has positively enhanced my ministry today.
Our local staff has also benefited. Graduating from the Pastors College has enriched our staff chemistry, theological development, and overall effectiveness as a team. The shared values, intentional emphasis on piety, exposure to gospel-centered ministry, solid theological foundation, and exceptional care received while attending the Pastors College has strengthened our unity and undergirded our philosophy of ministry as a staff, spilling over to the local church in numerous ways. The benefit of a centralized training institution that provides continuing education opportunities for current pastors to attend select Pastors College courses alongside future pastors who are being trained theologically and invested in pastorally is a model that is very difficult to duplicate on a local level. My personal interaction with other seasoned pastors in the classroom while attending the Pastors College as a student helped me move beyond the theoretical and prepare me for actual ministry. Our lay pastoral intern just returned from a year at the Pastors College benefited from this kind of interaction as well and added that it created “theological categories” that he never would have had if not for his year in Louisville.
Though my Senior Pastor was initially surprised, I no longer am. After more than a decade as a Senior Pastor myself, I have experienced the fruit borne both individually and as a staff after attending the Pastors College. What would be most surprising to me is individuals and churches that would not avail themselves to such an opportunity and privilege.
The Pastors College is now accepting applications for the 2015–16 academic year. For more information regarding the program, please contact us.
As Director of Theology and Training for Sovereign Grace, Jeff Purswell is the Dean of our Pastors College, leads our theological training, and helps develop theological resources. He is also an elder at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. He and his wife, Julie, have two sons.
June 13, 2014 by
Categories: Pastors College
This past Sunday, the Class of 2014 graduated from the Sovereign Grace Pastors College.
The Lord has been faithful to us in many ways. His grace which sustained and strengthened these men throughout the year was on vivid display at their graduation. Consider, for instance, this email from a friend of one of our graduates, who traveled from Iowa to attend the ceremony:
Being at Dale’s graduation was one of those special experiences that words can’t convey.[…]As we witnessed graduation, so much about Sovereign Grace became clearer.[…]We have struggled finding a church in Iowa that even compares to what we experienced at Grace Church in Arizona. Seeing the group of men, the in-depth training, the one-on-one mentoring, and hearing the charge to them[…]—it all made sense. I can see now what makes Sovereign Grace different is what we experienced last night.
This observation captures what we saw so often throughout this year: God’s faithfulness to meet these students and their families with his transforming grace. And all because of the gospel.
So, what is this Pastors College? What do these men study? Why do they come and what do they aspire to do?
Our Purpose and Program
We exist to train pastors. And not mere clerics or religious professionals, but pastors whose lives and families and churches are built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ. These men have been equipped to serve and to lead churches that proclaim the gospel and demonstrate its reality through transformed lives and vibrant witness.
On the diplomas the students received is 1 Timothy 4:16, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” To help them “watch their doctrine,” they attended 33 weeks of class designed to provide them a biblical and theological foundation for pastoral ministry. These classes included:
- 4 weeks of New Testament studies
- 3 weeks of Old Testament studies
- 7 weeks of Systematic Theology
- 1 week of Biblical Theology
- 3 weeks of Church History
- 2 weeks of preaching studies/training
- 6 weeks of pastoral ministry (i.e. biblical counseling, personal spiritual growth, the application and entailments of the gospel, etc.)
- 1 week each of Hermeneutics, Apologetics, Ethics, & Evangelism
- 1 week on Missiology & Church Planting
- Courses on both Marriage and Parenting
In addition to all this, they spent three mornings per week on New Testament Greek. Thus, the students received one year’s worth of seminary-level Greek.
Why do we expect so much work from these students? Because the very foundation of pastoral ministry is the abiding truth of God’s Word. It is this Word that endures; it is this Word by which God reveals himself. It this Word through which God speaks; it is this Word by which God accomplishes his purposes in the world. Without the faithful wielding of God’s Word, there will ultimately be no faithful or effective pastoral ministry.
The program is also designed to cultivate godly character. So our students met in weekly fellowship groups where they linked arms to encourage and pray for each other. Their wives received specialized training to equip them to serve alongside their husbands. As couples, they spent the year in varied and intentional contexts to help each other delight more exclusively in God, rest more fully in his grace, battle sin, and grow in godliness. And they experienced all of this with an intimate connection to the local church at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville—which is of critical importance. Their training took specific account of the local church precisely because they are being equipped to serve in a local church context.
We hope you’ll rejoice with us as we thank God for these remarkable men and women who sacrificed much this year to be trained to serve the cause of the gospel. Please pray for these men as they join pastoral teams, plant churches, care for God’s people, and proclaim the gospel to the lost, all in the cause of the gospel and to the glory of God.
As Director of Theology and Training for Sovereign Grace, Jeff Purswell is the Dean of our Pastors College, leads our theological training, and helps develop theology resources. He is also an elder at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. He and his wife, Julie, have two sons.
March 13, 2014 by
Categories: Articles | Pastors College
This week marks the 14th year we have had the privilege of welcoming Jerry Bridges to the Pastors College as a guest instructor. He is with us this week, teaching his yearly class on grace and sanctification - a class he now titles “Dynamics of Spiritual Transformation.” Mr. Bridges has invested significantly in Sovereign Grace over the years - through his teaching, his writing and his example. Many of us have benefited greatly from titles such as The Discipline of Grace, The Gospel for Real Life, The Pursuit of Holiness, Respectable Sins, The Bookends of the Christian Life, and many more. His memoirs entitled God Took Me by the Hand: A Story of God’s Unusual Providence is being released in May.
During his visits to the Pastors College, he has graciously participated in short audio interviews on a variety of topics such as learning to preach the gospel to yourself every day, how to counsel stuck-in-the mud Christians, what he’s learned in his six decades as a Christian, and more. These short audio interviews will not only encourage you, but also give you a glimpse into the heart and life of Jerry Bridges. We are deeply grateful to God for this man and the impact he has had on our lives and ministry.
November 6, 2013 by
Categories: Pastors College | Video
We had a fantastic time worshiping, steeping in God's word, and hanging out with friends.
October 2, 2013 by
Categories: Pastors College
As we welcome the 2014 class of the Pastors College, we are also looking back at the faithfulness of God this past year as the 15th class completed the Pastors College. Hear some highlights from one student, Jacob Wilson, and catch a glimpse of what the Pastors College is like.
Ever since I attended a Pastors College (PC) graduation twelve years ago, I have wondered what it would be like to one day go and be a part of the PC. Because of God’s faithfulness and grace, this past school year has been as wonderful for my wife, Kathy, our five kids, and me as we had dreamed it would be.
In the classroom
First, I can see God’s kindness in putting me in this academic setting as a student at this “somewhat advanced” point in my life. I haven’t been a full-time student in 15 years! He put a desire in my heart to immerse myself in theological study and savor it. Being an older student has helped me appreciate this experience in a way I never would have when I was younger.
Although we worked extremely hard and were pushed toward excellence, our focus was on growing in the knowledge of God through the Scriptures rather than grades. It didn’t hurt that top-notch instructors, led and modeled by our very own Jeff Purswell, taught the classes, showing us how theology always leads to worship.
For instance, I learned how to cultivate a deeper love and a conviction to make my personal walk with the Lord my first priority from Jeff and from C.J. Mahaney. But this was especially made clear during the week Mike Bullmore taught us Theology and the Practice of the Spiritual Life.
I also remember distinctly the week when Mark Prater, Ian McConnell, and Tim Shorey taught us Missiology. I felt ready to go anywhere to further the advance of the gospel, and I am sure the other guys were feeling the same way. That week gave us a hunger to see more churches planted and a desire for the gospel to inform our mission.
The academic rigors themselves bore fruit in my life. Jeff taught us Biblical Theology early in the year, and we all had to write a long paper that required not only detailed exegesis but theological synthesis. Although it was longer than any paper I’ve ever written and it spanned over the whole seven months, through Jeff’s class and Nathan Sasser’s guidance and feedback, I gained a much deeper appreciation for God’s amazing plan of redemption for his people by studying Isaiah 40 and seeing its relevance throughout all of Scripture, especially for the gospel.
After all of the classes, I am a different man. I know I have been taught well in theology, exegesis, and Greek. I have learned valuable leadership lessons from C.J. and worship leading instruction from Bob Kauflin and have been given a host of “tools” to put in my “pastor’s toolbox.” But in all of this, the gospel now stands out to me more clearly and more gloriously as the primary tool. By God’s grace I will be able to use this knowledge, the gospel, and these tools to serve his church with much greater care and precision than I’ve thought possible.
At that PC graduation 12 years ago, what stood out to Kathy and me was the context of personal and pastoral care that was given to the students and their wives. That has been our experience this year as well—this year was about so much more than only academics. The care we received from my classmates, instructors, and especially Gary and Betsy Ricucci has—really—made us different people as we leave.
Another hallmark of the Pastors College experience is the friendships developed over the school year with the other students. By spending so much time together in this “pressure cooker” environment, we got to know each other pretty quickly—and those relationships, and the common experience we shared, has shaped every part of our PC experience. I love these men. They are my brothers. I am going to miss our small group meetings, theological discussions, playing endless games of cornhole, hanging out after classes to just talk and dream, family game nights (where we barely played games but just hung out to talk more), going on Starbucks runs, bearing burdens and celebrating God’s grace, and many more sweet memories.
The local church
Finally, I love the Pastors College experience because it takes place in the context of a local church. My family fell in love with our church home away from home, Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. We eagerly looked forward to Sunday mornings and learned so much by watching the members of Sovereign Grace Church live out life while starting a new church. There is an eagerness here in the members to please the Lord by living in community. I have only seen grace and more grace during the first year of this church’s existence! And by God’s wonderful kindness, my family has been the recipient of that grace. The church experience is not a sidebar to the Pastors College—it’s a vital part of our experience. And it has served as a living illustration of what we’re learning in the classroom, and how the gospel’s power gives birth to, and builds up, the church Christ died for.
We hear a lot about the gospel in the Pastors College, and it’s the grace of the gospel I leave most aware of. That grace is evident in this Pastors College class, and I have been blessed beyond my understanding this year. I leave here filled with faith, trusting in God’s hand, and knowing he is sovereign and he is good.
Pastors College Class of 2013
Jacob Wilson relocated with his family from Covenant of Grace Church in Copley, Ohio, to attend the Pastors College. Jacob graduated in 2013. He and his wife, Kathy, have five children.
Grace Church (Peoria, AZ) was planted out of Sovereign Grace Church of Gilbert almost four years ago. We asked Chris Daukas to answer some questions to introduce you to the church and share what the Lord has been doing there.
How did Grace Church begin?
Grace Church was born out of Sovereign Grace Church of Gilbert. As a team, we had a strong desire to see a church planted on the other side of Phoenix where the gospel could be preached and disciples made. God quickly brought confirmation, and a core team was assembled. We left in the spring of 2009 and had our first public meeting on the last Sunday in August. We are now coming up on our 4-year anniversary!
What does partnership with Sovereign Grace mean for you as a pastor and for the people of your church?
There is great strength in partnership. Our partnership communicates to the church that we are not alone in our mission but are standing side by side with others who are like-minded. As a young church, that's important! I have benefitted specifically through my relationships with the other pastors in Sovereign Grace who are a resource and a sharpening tool for my leadership at Grace Church.
What's one thing you love about pastoring your church?
I'm sure that most pastors feel this way, but I love pastoring Grace Church because I love the people of the church. I love their humility, I love their zeal and passion, I love their compassion to those in need, I love their receptiveness to the preached Word. Like the prophet Jeremiah, some are called to preach to those who are difficult. I have the opposite assignment!
What are you currently preaching on Sunday mornings?
We've had an interesting summer! We had been preaching through Ephesians until July, when my daughter and I and two other families were able to partner with a couple of churches in our city for a missions trip to Uganda. What a fantastic experience that was! We were able to minister to over 900 children with a Vacation Bible School program as well as preach the gospel to the neighboring villages at night.
As of September 1, we are back in Ephesians. God has used this book to teach us about the glory of the gospel expressed in the local church.
What is the city of Peoria like, and what is your vision for reaching people in your community?
Peoria is a sprawling extension of the city of Phoenix. Our church is in the northwest section of Peoria, which is filled with growing families. Many people would claim to be Christians by virtue of their occasional attendance at one of the mega-churches in the area, but many don't know or understand the gospel.
Our vision for reaching the city is to show them Christ in our gospel community—we are committed to living authentic, grace-driven lives for Jesus as we share the gospel with those that God brings into our paths. God is faithful to use his word and our lives to reach Peoria, one person at a time!
How can we be praying for Grace Church?
We are in a season of growth, so our prayer is that God would help deepen our unity in the gospel and our commitments to the mission of our church. We want to make disciples who treasure, live, and proclaim the gospel of Christ in northwest Phoenix! Additionally, we have just sent our first student to the Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastors College. Please pray for Dale and Megan Bischof and their two children as they are equipped for gospel ministry.
Chris Daukas serves as the lead elder at Grace Church. After graduating from the Pastors College in 2004, he served at Sovereign Grace Church of Gilbert before being sent to Peoria in 2009 with his family to plant Grace Church. Chris and his wife, Tara, have four children.
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 Woodbridge 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 22, 2013 by
Categories: Pastors College
During the Pastors College year, students benefit from a wide variety of instructors, both seasoned pastors within Sovereign Grace Ministries as well as guest instructors from outside of Sovereign Grace.
This year, the Pastors College (PC) welcomed multiple outstanding guest instructors including Jerry Bridges on Grace and Sanctification, Dr. Stephen Wellum on Hermeneutics, Dr. Mike Bullmore on Theology & Practice of Spiritual Life, and Dr. Steve Nichols for Church History 3. In June, the PC welcomes Dr. John Woodbridge for Church History 2 and Dr. Iain Duguid for Old Testament 3 (The Prophets), and Dr. Michael Haykin will join the PC in July for Church History 1. We are most grateful for these outstanding instructors and the investment they make in the training of our future pastors and church planters.
This week the Pastors College is privileged to welcome Dr. Ray Van Neste for New Testament 4 (General Epistles).
Dr. Ray Van Neste serves as an assistant professor of New Testament, Greek, and pastoral ministry at Union University, where he also directs the R. C. Ryan Center for Biblical Studies. After his week teaching at the Pastors College last year he described the qualities he observed among the students, staff, and leadership:
...there was a unified eager, humble, servant spirit, loving one another and ready to revel in the beauty of God as we experience Him in His word. A humble graciousness permeated the place from students, to staff, to leadership. I am encouraged to see the work they are doing and excited to see the men who are being sent out whose love for Christ is translated into shepherd hearts for the people of God.
Along with Dr. Van Neste, we are excited about the Class of 2013 and look forward, Lord willing, to seeing God use them in the future to plant new churches and build up existing ones for the glory of Jesus Christ.
The Sovereign Grace Pastors College welcomes Mark Prater, Ian McConnell, and Tim Shorey as our missiology instructors this week. These men bring a combined history of nearly 50 years of pastoral ministry that includes church planting, replanting, and short-term missions work.
Mark Prater's opening lecture sprang from Colossians 1:24-29. He drew our attention to Paul's ambition to proclaim the person and work of Jesus Christ, even amid difficulty, so that everyone might be found mature in Christ. He then shared the following:
There are certain quotes that stir my soul. Let me share one with you for I believe it may stir your soul as well.
“Between Eden and the eternal state, between Abraham and Armageddon, between Babel and the beast’s confinement to the lake of fire, few biblical topics are as important as mission. This is because mission, while purposed by God prior even to sin, is inextricably linked to man’s sinfulness and need for redemption and God’s provision of salvation in the person and work of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. This ‘good news’ of salvation in Jesus, however must be made known. Thus mission is the ingredient that both precedes Christian existence and constitutes a major motivation for Christian living: the saving mission of Jesus constitutes the foundation for Christian mission, and the Christian Gospel is the message of mission, a mission that is not optional but mandatory.” (Kostenberger and O’Brien, Salvation to the Ends of the Earth).
This brings tears to my eyes not only for the provision of salvation I have in Jesus Christ but also because sinners, like you and me get to participate in something grander and greater than us, the “mandatory mission” of making known the good news of Jesus Christ.
For the last 32 years our family of churches has participated in the “mandatory mission” of making known the gospel of Jesus Christ primarily through church planting. Why church planting? Because it’s what you see in the New Testament, the good news of Jesus Christ being made known through ordinary people that participate in the planting of churches.
We don’t plant churches to replicate the sending church, nor do we plant churches to grow Sovereign Grace Ministries. We plant churches because you and I live “between Eden and the eternal state” which means we don’t have much time to make known the person and saving work of Jesus to those who don’t know Him as their Savior. We must not grow numb to the truth that people all around us need God’s provision of salvation in the finished work of Christ. Quite simply, that’s why we plant churches.
A Church Planting Story
Last September I attended the memorial service of my friend Gunter Kiesewetter in the Pittsburgh area. Church planting is very dear to me because in 1996, Covenant Fellowship Church sent me, my family, and about 12 adults to plant a Sovereign Grace church in the South Hills of Pittsburgh (Providence Church). One of the members of our church planting team was Dirk Kiesewetter who was sent from Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, PA. Through Dirk our church got to know, befriended, reached out to, and shared the gospel with Dirk’s father Gunter.
Gunter along with his wife Helma (who was already a Christian) immigrated to America during W.W. II. Gunter was successful in business and was a “hard working, hard playing” type of guy whose heart was hard toward the gospel. However, the members of Providence Church spent time with him, loved him, and shared the good news of Jesus with him. At some point Gunter was born again and trusted in Christ as his Savior. I’ll never forget the day when we, as a small church family, gathered around Gunter’s pool in his backyard and baptized him as a Christian.
That memory was in the forefront of my mind when I attended his memorial service in September. I pondered the joy Gunter was experiencing as he gazed into the eyes of Jesus and heard “well done my good and faithful servant.” But I also found my heart filled with gratitude to God for the members of the Providence Church church planting team. Ordinary people, like you and me who participated in something grander and greater than themselves, making known the good news of Jesus. Because a church was planted, this memorial service had an element of joy, for our friend Gunter heard the good news, responded to it, and now will spend eternity at the throne of grace. I tell you this story because it embodies why we plant churches and participate in the “mandatory mission” Jesus gave us.
Your Participation in the Mandatory Mission
Never forget there are people like Gunter Kiesewetter living all around you who need to hear about the saving work of Jesus. Pray for opportunities to befriend them and share the gospel with them for one day you will stand around a pool or baptismal and rejoice like we did on the day we baptized Gunter.
As I consider the church plants Sovereign Grace Ministries has planned this coming year, I pray for and anticipate the conversions of many like Gunter as we participate in our “mandatory mission" together.
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]