October 20, 2014 by
Categories: Articles | Polity
This is the second post in a series on church partnerships. Read the first post.
Here is the way the New Testament is not written: “Then Paul reviewed the ordination guidelines that had been forwarded to him and had a robust discussion with the Ordination Committee. Meanwhile in Jerusalem, Peter drafted several proposed changes to the Book of Church Order related to church plants in Macedonia and sent them via messenger to the Director of Church Planting in Antioch. And having nothing else to do on Malta, John did the thankless task of reviewing and preparing the minutes from the last Council of Elders.”
Quite obviously, this paragraph is not in the New Testament. Yet, these are pieces of our church government in Sovereign Grace Churches. So how did we get here? If our deep desire is to build churches that are faithful to the Scriptures, and modeled to some degree after churches in the New Testament, how did we end up with all these elements?
Ultimately these questions force us to the most fundamental question about church government and polity: “Is it biblical?” Perhaps you’ve asked this question yourself and, if so, I want to encourage you that it is the right place to start.
What I cannot do here is reproduce the arguments for our polity listed in our Book of Church Order, and really, you should stop reading this post right now and go read those arguments instead. Instead, what I aim to do is provide the basic steps you take to get from Scripture to our Book of Church Order. It’s also important to note that I’m focusing here very specifically on extra-local church partnership and interdependence. I strongly believe that the local church’s identity and government and mission must be lived on a local level through wise application on that level. Yet we must also be clear about church life beyond the local church, so that is what I’m focusing on here.
First, we recognize the clear model of interdependent churches in the New Testament.
In reading Acts and the letters of the New Testament I believe it’s impossible to conclude that local churches were to live autonomous and completely separate lives. Here are just a few places I see a clear interdependence in the New Testament:
- Theology –– The gathered leaders from a wide variety of churches brought reports and made theological decisions in Acts 11:1–18 and Acts 15:1–21. Then they sent letters with these theological decisions to other various churches (Acts 15:22–35). The New Testament is filled with letters from men in some churches writing about theology to people in other churches.
- Government –– In 1 Peter 5:1–5, Peter exhorts and charges the elders in a group of churches. In Titus 1:5, Paul gives specific governmental direction as he charges Titus to appoint a plurality of elders in each church.
- Mission –– In Antioch, we see that pastors from one church are sent out (Acts 13:1), picking up help from other churches along the way (Acts 16:13; 18:18), and then return to strengthen the original church (Acts 15:35).
Through the unique leadership of the apostles (like Peter and Paul) we see a beautiful picture of interdependence in the early church. Some of what we see in the New Testament is simply unrepeatable without the unique authority of the original apostles, but it’s impossible to deny the overall shape and example of New Testament interdependence.
Second, we constantly strive to be as biblically faithful to that model with the tools passed on to us.
Now we come to a crucial sticking point. Many denominations are built around a nearly complete independency, and many independent churches look at the New Testament and say, “It was nice when the apostles were around, but now every church should be completely independently governed and, at best, cooperate with other churches.”
Here is where we part ways with many friends. Because rather than seeing this kind of interdependence as a relic of a bygone era, we see it as a vital pattern passed on to the church and seek to fulfill it as faithfully as we can with the tools given to us. My friend Ian McConnell says that the picture of local churches we see in the New Testament is not simply a monument to admire but a model for us to emulate. We do not have the apostles and their unique church-planting gifts, but we still seek to plant churches. We do not have the apostles and their unique Spirit-empowered gifting, but we still pray for the sick. We see the beauty of churches working together in the New Testament and, rather than asking, “Why even try without the apostles?” we ask, “How can we be as faithful to the pattern of Scripture we can with what was passed on to us?”
I also think that there are hints at the trajectory of this interdependence beyond the apostles. Here are a few:
- Theology –– It seems clear that Timothy had a unique ability and authority to do some things because of his mandate from Paul—and that from Paul’s unique role. But Paul writes, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). Paul intends not just for Timothy to pass this teaching on, but for Timothy’s protégés to pass it on, and the pattern is to continue beyond them.
- Government –– In Acts 15, all the elders in Jerusalem were present and were clearly part of the deliberation and the decision. If only the apostles met and made decisions, we could conclude that only apostles could do so. Instead, we find the opposite––that “the apostles and elders were gathered” (Acts 15:6).
- Mission –– It seems clear in Acts 18:24–28 that Apollos was not an apostle. But it’s also clear that he is discipled by some in a local church and sent on to other areas to help support other local churches (19:1). This kind of example models churches working together to deploy men to advance the gospel, but without the direct initiative or intervention of apostles.
Additionally, while the example of church history is not definitive, it is helpful, and it should also matter to us that, in the early church after the apostles, we see that the church aimed (albeit imperfectly) for interdependence. The goal was to build together in theology, in some aspects of governance, and in mission. So, this aim should affect us and our churches.
Third, we constantly strive to apply clear scriptural principles to areas that are less clear with wisdom and discernment.
I do not think it’s a stretch to say that, when it comes to the government of the local church, some of our questions are answered very clearly, but other questions are not answered as clearly. So what do we do? We start with what is clear, then seek to apply that with God-given wisdom. For example, there are very clear commands from Paul that elders must fit the qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and Titus 1:5–9. We simply do exactly what the Bible commands.
Or do we? This command raises many other questions not directly addressed in those passages: What’s the step-by-step process for testing the character of elders? What training should an elder have? Such questions illustrate that, while we must cling to what is clear in God’s word, applying those clear instructions forces us to develop specific applications of these things.
Here are some very specific aspects of our church government as we seek to obey the Bible:
- Our judicial committees and process seek to answer the question, “How do you apply scriptural principles about accusations against elders and accusations in general in real life situations (e.g. Matthew 18:15–20 and 1 Timothy 5:19–21)?”
- Our church planting committees and processes seek to answer the question, “How can we plant churches in our 21st century world that are faithful to the New Testament example?”
- Our Leadership Team seeks to answer the question, “How do you effectively lead a group of interdependent churches forward in our mission to plant and water churches?”
Fourth, we constantly strive to become more faithful and wise in our church government.
One of the things I love most about our Book of Church Order is not what is in there now, but what will be there 10 years from now. One of the greatest gifts our polity gives us is a wise and judicious and scripturally faithful way to make changes now and in the future. Why? Because we have not arrived. We should not think that, after centuries of church government, we have finally nailed it—that we have found the holy grail of church polity. We are trying to be as faithful as we can and—by God’s grace—we do think it’s a good polity. But we know that, as we study the Bible, we will be constantly reformed by it and we want to embrace this precious reality. We hold our church government firmly, but humbly—always under the authority of the infallible word of God.
As I write this post, I’m preparing for our annual Council of Elders meeting, and I thank God for it. When I sit in a room with representatives from churches across the world, when we pray together, when we debate theological issues as we ask for God’s wisdom, when we plan for the furtherance of the mission, I see the shape of the New Testament churches. I see men being deployed for ministry and churches linking arms to plant new churches. This work excites me. And it leads me to pray that God would make us as a family of churches into an ever better picture of His bride until He returns.
- Read our Book of Church Order, especially the first few sections giving biblical support for our government.
- Read other related resources on our polity page.
- Read Paul Buckley’s excellent posts on how having extra-local leadership functions does not kill the role of our own local church leadership and governance: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
Brick photo from Shutterstock.
Ricky is the lead pastor at Cross of Grace Church in El Paso, Texas. Additionally, he serves on Sovereign Grace’s National Church Planting Group. He and his wife, Jenn, have two sons.
October 6, 2014 by
Categories: Articles | Polity
This post is the first in a series on encouraging strong, meaningful church partnerships.
I want to convince you about the importance of real, biblical partnership between churches––the kind that involves councils and committees and even a Book of Church Order––and I want to do this by telling you about a house I once almost bought.
Miraculously, almost impossibly, the house appeared in our search for our first home. It was in the perfect area of town. It was exactly the age and style we dreamed about. It had recently been upgraded, with a refinished gorgeous wood floor and granite countertops and new paint. When we first walked in, we immediately imagined parties in the den, hanging out in the kitchen, and walking to the park nearby. It seemed simply perfect.
But then we noticed that while the walls were painted with a textured and cracked look, there were also very real and non-decorative cracks in the walls. And when we brought in an inspector, he found that the very foundation of the house was bad and that this meant the structure and walls it supported were unstable. Quite literally, the inspector said, the house could split open one day. While the property owner had spent significant money on the inside of the home, they had neglected the less obvious but more important aspects of the house.
Here’s the point: In day to day life in our churches, we often focus on the stuff inside the house, but the stuff we don’t see matters at least as much, if not far more. We see tweaks and changes to ministries and groups, like furniture being rearranged in a room. We see new and departing members and leaders, like friends coming and going inside the house. We get really excited when we knock down something existing to create a new ministry, like a wall being knocked down to expand a room. But behind the scenes, you need the foundation of the house to stand firm, you need the beams in the walls to hold, you need the roof to stay strong.
Think about what supports your local church life through the metaphor of the house: You need a solid foundation of theology, you need healthy beams of structure and governance, you need to tap into resources your church does not have by being hooked up to utilities, you need a life beyond your house, and you need help from outside you when something in the house goes really wrong. You should care deeply about these things as a pastor, or deacon, or church member. Much of this happens solely on a local level, but there are very key ways that being linked together with other churches provides needed strength.
I believe in our polity and governance at Sovereign Grace, first because I believe it accords with Scripture. But beyond the question, “Is it Scriptural?” comes the second, but extremely important question, “Is it helpful? Does it make a compelling difference in my local church?” I believe the answer is a resounding yes. Look very briefly at the four points that Phil Sasser shared with my church earlier this year and see their practical value:
1) Our union of churches itself is a testimony to the gospel. It is one thing when a neighborhood or city has the same zip code, but it is another thing for that place to feel and act like a real community. It is one thing to confess the unity of the church on a theological level, but it is another to see a group of diverse churches link arms and commit to walking together through the good and bad and to practically live this union out. In the same way, the unity of a local church is testimony to the gospel (Ephesians 4:3, 13)—the unity of a family of churches points to the gospel.
2) Our union of churches helps to guard the gospel and sound doctrine. If the foundation of our church is our theology, it means we should do everything possible to build and keep strong foundations. Being linked theologically and confessionally with other churches holds our foundation steady. See Acts 15:1–35 for a compelling example of this reality.
3) Our union of churches provides help in troubled times. Most home problems we handle ourselves, but when a pipe bursts or a roof caves in, we need help. While a biblical process for handling accusations against an elder, or providing an avenue of appeal may not seem particularly exciting, it’s absolutely vital when things go wrong. In places like 1 Corinthians, an Apostle outside the church helps a local church when things go wrong. While we have no more Apostles, we should display the same heart and desire to be helpful to one another in ways that respect our local governance but provide extra-local help when needed.
4) Our union of churches enables us to much more effectively accomplish the mission of the gospel. One house on its own can accomplish significant things, perhaps even faster without red tape or pesky neighbors. But that pales in comparison to what a city can do, to what whole groups of homes can do when they have a common mission and purpose. In the church in Antioch, we see a local church that both receives help from outside pastors (Acts 11:22), as well as sends some of its own pastors beyond itself on mission (Acts 13:1). Key people from other churches join this mission team (Acts 18:18, 16:13), and some return later to strengthen the church again (Acts 15:35).
So by all means, pursue ministry in your church––meet with your small group, participate in mercy ministry, tell others about Jesus. But don’t neglect the foundation and walls, because they are the parts that make ministry possible. And while you give attention to the unseen things, pray for the unseen union of churches that helps each church stay strong.
Window photo from Shutterstock.
Ricky is the lead pastor at Cross of Grace Church in El Paso, Texas. Additionally, he serves on Sovereign Grace’s National Church Planting Group. He and his wife, Jenn, have two sons.
May 21, 2014 by
Those who know me well know my fascination with Sequoias. Some of these herbal behemoths live for thousands of years, stand some 250–300 feet into the air, branch out with limbs bigger than every tree that most of us have ever seen, weigh in at 2,000,000 pounds, are voluminous enough to swallow 13 blue whales, and are so fat that four tractor trailers can drive through one simultaneously—all of which makes them among God’s more impressive natural wonders.
But here’s the thing that surprises: these massive trees, standing so high and weighing so much, have root systems only 4–5 feet deep. That’s the distance from my chest to the ground. Yet they stand through storm and wind and fire and time as monuments to endurance and to an enduring life-sustaining God.
So what is their secret? The answer is that their roots travel outward. These far-reaching, underground, tenacious webs wind their way out over 2–3 acres of land, grasping countless tons of dirt in their fibrous grip. As importantly, they interlock their roots with those of other Sequoias. Big, enduring, lasting Sequoias are almost always found in groves. Rarely do they grow alone. Rarely do they flourish alone. Rarely do they last alone. Almost always do they live and lock together. I call this grove partnership.
A Metaphor and a Regional Assembly of Elders
It’s a useful metaphor. I think it’s what Sovereign Grace Churches need to be about. I’m not advocating for shallow roots (that would be a metaphor malfunction). Rather, I would suggest that as we grow downward, we must also grow outward. Churches are meant to be Sequoias: tall, strong, enduring monuments to the glory of God. And we are strongest when we stand together. We are strongest when our roots intertwine and provide interlocking stability. We are strongest when, as churches, we realize that storm and wind and fire will never stop raging this side of heaven—and only those who stand together will stand for long.
The Sovereign Grace Churches (SGC) ecclesiastical union is a grove partnership. Each of the current SGC regions is a grove partnership. And SGC Regional Assemblies of Elders (RAEs) provide root-growing and root-intertwining opportunities. So when the Northeast RAE met on April 11 and 12 and enjoyed a great time of fellowship, discussion, debate, and brotherhood, roots grew deeper, tighter, closer, and stronger.
As dozens of regional pastor-elders gathered to worship and pray—and we did lots of both—roots intertwined in the soil of grace. As we discussed (and debated) mission and polity, partnership strengthened. As we shared updates about church planting, global opportunities, and men being ordained to gospel ministry, the grove grew and will stand stronger and longer as a result.
As we heard about the biblical option of bi-vocational ministry (from yours truly) and the glories of revival (from Craig Cabaniss) and the mission to make and mature disciples (from Ian McConnell), we were all stretched and nourished in spirit. As we shared reports about our new Judicial Review processes and safeguards, we discovered that our roots felt somehow more secure and stable. And as we discussed pending (most likely soon-to-be-made) decisions to multiply our one region into two to four, we were reminded that the grove is growing and the branches of gospel truth and grace will spread even further as a result.
Glad to Be a Part
There’s nothing romantic about all of this. It takes work and time and effort and humility and honesty and leadership and grace—kind of like the slow, steady crawl of Sequoia roots in all directions. But it is worth the effort. Poll the guys who attended the Northeast RAE, and I think you’ll find that they agree. We’re all glad to be a part of something bigger than us, and we are the stronger for it. The trees keep standing and the grove keeps growing. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful in our eyes.
+ original photo by Flickr user Joi Ito
May 8, 2014 by
Bryan DeWire is the new Communications Manager for Sovereign Grace.
Last week, Sovereign Grace’s Regional Leaders met under Craig Cabaniss’s leadership to pray for our churches and to plan for strategic ministry. I had the opportunity to attend the retreat in order to get to know these men better. During the time, we:
- Gave personal and ministry updates and prayed for each other;
- Heard and then discussed three powerful messages on “Bi-Vocational Ministry in the Local Church” by Tim Shorey, “Introduction to Revival” by Craig Cabaniss, and “Mission and Community” by Mickey Connolly;
- Spent time praying for revival in our churches;
- Discussed the role and responsibilities of Regional Leaders, including how to best conduct Regional Assemblies of Elders throughout the year;
- Introduced The City, which is software we hope to use to better communicate internally as Sovereign Grace pastors throughout our regions;
- Considered how the older and younger generations of Sovereign Grace pastors can learn from one another and partner together to build healthier local pluralities of elders and stronger regions;
- Laughed together and enjoyed each other’s company (well, at least I enjoyed theirs…).
So, would you pray for our Regional Leaders? Specifically, please pray that they would serve our regions in cultivating unity as they implement our new polity and seek to reach the nations for Christ.
The pastors of Sovereign Grace ratified a new polity and Book of Church Order in April 2013. The new polity called for our family of churches to be organized into geographic regions. Each region forms a Regional Assembly of Elders, which simply means that every ordained elder in those regional churches is a part of the Regional Assembly. The Regional Assembly of Elders in each region then chose and affirmed, by majority vote, a man who serves as the Regional Leader. The Regional Leaders were chosen and affirmed by the Fall of last year.
Because these Regional Leaders play key roles in leading their respective regions, I wanted you to meet each of them. Therefore, over the next several weeks, we are going to introduce them to you through a blog series entitled, “Get To Know Your Regional Leader.” But before you meet each of these men, I thought it would be good to explain how our regions are divided geographically, briefly introduce each Regional Leader, and tell you a little more about what they do.
Presently we have 6 geographic regions: Northeast, Mid-South, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest and the West. Because we are still developing the global aspect of our polity, our churches outside of the U.S. and Canada aren’t included in this initial regional alignment. You can see the alignment in the map below. (CLICK HERE TO SEE AN ENLARGED VERSION OF THE MAP)
Our Regional Leaders
Each of our 6 Regional Leaders is an experienced pastor and leader, whose gifting for broader leadership has been recognized by the elders in their respective regions. Many of these men not only lead their regions, but also lead their local churches as the Sr. Pastor. Let me briefly introduce them to you.
Northeast Region:Tim Shorey, pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, PA.
Mid-South Region:Mickey Connolly, Sr. Pastor of CrossWay Community Church, Charlotte, NC.
Southeast Region:Aron Osborne, Sr. Pastor of Metro Life Church, Orlando, FL
Midwest Region:Rick Gamache, Sr. Pastor of Sovereign Grace Church, Minneapolis, MN
Southwest Region:Billy Raies, Sr. Pastor of Sovereign Grace Church, Midland, TX
West Region:Steve Shank, pastor at Sovereign Grace Church, Gilbert, AZ
What Our Regional Leaders Do
Each Regional Leader provides leadership for the churches in their region so that each of the churches and their elderships receive the care and counsel they need. He also helps the regional churches work together in planting churches and participating in gospel mission. In addition, he serves as the Moderator for the Regional Assembly of Elders, ensuring that they fulfill their defined responsibilities. Each Regional Leader serves a 4 year term with no limit on the number of terms he may serve.
I look forward to you meeting each of our Regional Leaders in the weeks to come. In the meantime, would you pray for each of these men? Pray that the Spirit would empower their gift of leadership and ask God to give them wisdom as they lead their respective regions. May their labors be used to strengthen our churches and advance the gospel for the glory of Christ alone.
June 26, 2013 by
Several members of the Polity Committee met this week in Louisville, Kentucky, with Ted Kober from Ambassadors of Reconciliation. It was a fruitful time of brainstorming how we can put together training and procedures that will assist our elders in walking out our new Rules of Discipline in the Book of Church Order.
In particular, Ted brought a wealth of wisdom from nearly 20 years of experience serving multiple denominations. He has great expertise in helping to implement procedures in a way that is faithful to a group’s theology and governing documents.
This work will help to ensure that we not only have biblical and judicious Rules of Discipline in place, but also that our pastors are well equipped to employ them in a way that serves people and glorifies God. It was particularly faith-building to see how the Book of Church Order will be an ongoing means of blessing and help to our pastors and churches.
Matthew Wassink is a 2009 graduate of the Pastors College and served as an associate pastor at Sovereign Grace Church (Bloomington, MN) before moving to Kansas in 2011 to be the senior pastor of Providence Community Church. Matthew and his wife, Hannah, have two children.
June 8, 2013 by
Categories: Audio messages | Polity
Sovereign Grace Ministries is a family of churches.
Yes, our new polity has ushered in denominational structures. And yes, we are a network intent on planting churches. But there’s something more to our ecclesiastical union. The churches of Sovereign Grace possess shared traits that give us a family resemblance. These shared traits are the shared values we celebrate in relationship with one another. Church to church. Pastor to pastor. Member to member.
At the inaugural Council of Elders, Craig Cabaniss addressed these shared values of Sovereign Grace churches by citing page 50 from the Sovereign Grace Book of Church Order, which states:
All the elders of the joining church commit themselves to promote the shared values of the Sovereign Grace churches, including
- Reformed soteriology
- Gospel-centered doctrine and preaching
- Continuationist pneumatology
- Complementarian leadership in the home and church
- Elder-governed and -led churches
- National and international outreach and church planting
- A family of interdependent churches united in fellowship, mission, and governance
These seven shared values Craig said, “make up the DNA of our family of churches.” And they serve in three primary ways for the future of SGM.
- Our seven shared values provide clarity.
- Our seven shared values provide a basis for unity.
- Our seven shared values provide opportunity for a healthy diversity.
Clarity, unity, and diversity. By God’s grace and through his Spirit, these shared values can draw Sovereign Grace churches further together amid the storm we have been weathering. We believe these are biblical values that make for healthy, enduring churches that glorify Jesus.
Grateful for our past, we now have this opportunity to join together in the present as we follow God in the mission that lies in our future.
You can listen to the entirety of Craig’s message here.
April 13, 2013 by
We are pleased to announce that the Sovereign Grace Proposed Polity and Book of Church Order was ratified yesterday.
Thank you for your partnership in prayer at this significant time in the history of our ecclesiastical union.
The details of the vote were shared with Sovereign Grace Senior Pastors earlier today. We pass on that correspondence to help inform your continued prayers for us.
Good Morning Guys,
Yesterday members of the Provisional Council of Elders were involved in an historic day for our family of churches by participating in the polity ratification vote. I’m eager to send you the results of yesterday’s vote:
- 67 churches participated in the vote.
- 62 churches voted “yes” to affirm the polity.
- 5 churches voted “no” to not affirm the polity.
According to our Book of Church Order, the polity needed a simple majority (51%) to be ratified. Based on the ballots cast yesterday, the new Sovereign Grace Polity and Book of Church Order was ratified with 92.5% of the vote!! This morning, let’s give God thanks for providing clarity through the voting process for the results of the vote communicate an overwhelming support of our new Polity and Book of Church Order. Let’s look to the future with faith in God that as we implement our new polity. He will give us grace to be even more effective in planting and building churches with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Next week you will be receiving a “Letter of Intent.” The signing of the letter indicates that your church intends to be a part of our ecclesiastical union (Sovereign Grace Churches). The initial deadline to sign the Letter of Intent is May 3rd. You may sign the Letter of Intent anytime after May 3rd but you won’t be able to participate in or have a vote on the Regional Assembly of Elders or have a vote on the national Council of Elders until you sign the letter. In the days to come we will also be sending you specific steps for how our new polity will be implemented.
Thank you for praying for the polity ratification vote. God has been good to answer your prayers. Now let us pray with faith for our future asking God to glorify His great name through our new ecclesiastical union.
Thanking God with you,
After sending this, Mark desired to add that 6 churches refrained from the vote for various reasons. We thank you for your continued prayers for the work ahead implementing our new polity.
"Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!" Psalm 115:1
April 12, 2013 by
Today is no ordinary day in Sovereign Grace.
For our small family of churches passionate about advancing the Great Commission through church planting, it is a historic day. At least, we feel that way. Here’s why:
Over three years ago the Sovereign Grace Leadership Team began a process in reevaluating the polity of our ministry. This led to much study, dialogue, presentations, debate, drafts, and revisions of a proposed polity and Book of Church Order we hope will serve the churches of Sovereign Grace for decades to come.
Pastors and members alike engaged in searching the Scriptures to reevaluate historically held convictions related to church government. This was a healthy process allowing us to engage in respectful debate from God’s Word. The result of this multi-year process was the proposed polity presented February 25th this year.
Today, the churches of Sovereign Grace vote on this polity. A simple majority carries us into an ecclesiastical union that contains denominational structures with a unifying Book of Church Order. As Phil Sasser (Chairman of the Polity Committee) wrote, “We have no illusion that that [this] represents a perfect polity, but we believe it gives us the needed structure and guidelines to begin a new chapter in Sovereign Grace’s history…we anticipate that the Council of Elders will continue to make changes and refinements for years to come.”
We owe much to the Leadership Team, Board of Directors, Polity Committee, Sovereign Grace pastors and members for bringing us to this day of voting upon a proposed polity.
As we’ve given special attention to praying for the unity of our churches these past 10 days, we appeal for your fervent prayers especially today. We are confident that whatever the outcome God is working for our good and his glory, even in the challenges we face. We are assured that God is on his throne doing all that he pleases and that he is the one building his church.
Thanks for your participation and your prayers.
Mark is the acting director responsible for church planting and church care for Sovereign Grace Ministries. 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 Ministries Church Planting Group and regional representative overseeing the Northeast region of churches in the United States. He and Jill have three married daughters and a growing number of grandchildren.
March 13, 2013 by
Daniel Baker, a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church (Apex, NC) posted some tips and suggestions on reading the new polity proposal, available here. If you'd like to read the proposal but find the lengthy document overwhelming, Daniel's ideas may be helpful to you.
You might be wondering if you have the fortitude to wade through another document that passes the 100-page mark. If that’s you, here are some things to know about the new polity and which parts of it (if any) you should read.
- There is a “Brief Explanation of Major Revisions to the Book of Church Order since November 2012” on page 7 that is well done.
- The basic structure in the revised polity is unchanged from the first proposal. That is, it’s still basically a presbyterian church government in the sense that elders from local churches in a given region work together to accomplish things like church planting, ordination, and accountability. Our churches are connected, and the most felt connection will be at the regional level.
- The polity committee decided that there was not sufficient agreement on enough issues to require subscribing to the new polity without any exceptions. So, they decided to recommend elders/churches submit to the basic structure in the new polity even if they did not agree with some of the reasoning or exegesis behind it. This isn’t true for the Statement of Faith. Elders must hold to the Statement of Faith without condition or exception.
- The Governing Board is now significantly changed. One change is that it is called the Executive Committee. This reflects the fact that it doesn’t “govern” anything but instead is responsible to manage the Leadership Team. If that’s confusing, go to page 41 in the document to see a comparison of the old board and the new Executive Committee.
- The new document has added several helpful sections to make it more understandable and useful. In the “Introduction to the Second Edition,” Phil wrote a helpful history of SGM to provide overall context. Three “defenses” were included from different perspectives: “A Defense of the Proposal from a Congregational Perspective” (Paul Buckley), “A Defense of the Proposal from a Presbyterian Perspective” (Matthew Wassink), and “A Defense of the Proposal from an Apostolic-Presbyterian Perspective” (Nathan Sasser). These are useful and help highlight different strengths of the new polity. All of these are included in the “Preface” of the document.
- You might also be interested in reading the “Partnership Agreement” (page 89). This is what elders will actually be signing if and when they join Sovereign Grace Ministries.
- Last, the proposal recommends a name change for the movement to better capture the essence of the new polity. A serious suggestion was “Sovereign Grace Churches United.” A less serious suggestion was “League of Ordinary Churches.” An even less serious suggestion was “Motley Church.” Phil was trying to recapture some of the glory of 80s music with this reference (see page 6 for this…enlightening section).
* This post originally appeared on the Sovereign Grace Church blog.
Daniel Baker serves as one of Sovereign Grace Church’s pastors. His areas of responsibility include overseeing corporate worship and family life, home school support, and college and singles. He has a B.A. in Music from Kenyon College and an M.A. from Ashland Theological Seminary. Daniel has been a member of Sovereign Grace Church since he and his wife Anne moved to North Carolina in 1998. He has been on staff since 2000, after having attended the Sovereign Grace Ministries’ Pastors College. He and Anne have five children.