September 26, 2012 by
Categories: Church planting | Interviews
On Sunday, September 30th, Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville will gather for its first public meeting. In anticipation of this first gathering we've asked C.J. Mahaney to answer a few questions related to the church plant and how we can pray for them in the days ahead.
C.J., tell us about your desire to plant a church in Louisville, Kentucky.
The origins of our interest in church planting in Louisville date back some six years as we began to consider how strategic this city might be for Sovereign Grace Ministries. For several years, I, along with others, searched for a man who could church plant in this city, but we were unable to successfully recruit someone for this task. About two years ago, I had the unexpected thought that possibly the fruitless search was due to the fact that the Lord might want me to do this.
Louisville is a strategic city geographically because it will position us to plant churches in a region where SGM hasn’t done much church planting to date. It is my hope that planting a church in Louisville will eventually open up doors for more church plants in the Mid-West and South. Cities such as Lexington, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Memphis—just to name a few locations—are all exciting areas we want to prayerfully consider for church planting. To that end, we want to build a passion for church planting into our local church culture.
Louisville is also strategic because we have the opportunity to benefit from and support an excellent seminary like the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I have a deep appreciation for the superb leadership of Dr. Al Mohler, the president of SBTS—he is both a friend and a mentor in many ways. And the faculty at this seminary is not only impressive theologically, but even more importantly in their love for the Savior. The elders of SGCL are already taking classes, building relationships, and exploring ways to support the ministry of SBTS. I am hopeful that other Sovereign Grace churches located near theologically faithful seminaries will also be able to partner together and benefit from one another in significant ways.
Lastly, Louisville is strategic because it affords us the opportunity to position Sovereign Grace Ministries and the Pastors College in a more geographically centralized and less expensive area of the country. The Leadership Team has wrestled for years with the significant costs incurred by SGM in being located in the Washington, DC area. Moving the Pastors College will enable our churches to invest far less financially in any one student, thus allowing our churches to more easily send men into this context for theological and pastoral training.
What is your vision for reaching the greater Louisville area?
I think our ambitions, on one hand, are rather simple. We recognize that God has blessed Louisville with numerous excellent churches, so we’re not coming in to pioneer a unique gospel work in this area. Not at all. But we do see that need exists for more gospel-preaching churches, particularly in the eastern suburbs.
Our prayer is that God would use this church plant to one great end: that people would come to saving faith and maturity in the grace of God. We would appreciate your prayers that God would help us to evangelize consistently, boldly, and winsomely, and that we would always be ready to offer the reason for the hope that is in us.
C.J., having been in ministry for 35 years, what excites you most about this church plant?
I think three things stand out to me in that regard. First, I am excited to have the great privilege and joy of regularly preaching again. While the last eight years have provided me time to prioritize the broader mission of Sovereign Grace Ministries—and this has been a joy—I do believe the Lord has called me to preaching and pastoral ministry. This Sunday we will have our first Sunday meeting, and I’ll begin to preach through the book of Philippians. That is a happy thought for me.
Second, I am amazed at the people God has provided for this church plant. Some are new friends; many I have had the privilege to serve with for ten to thirty-five years. To a person, they model the Savior’s heart to serve. They love the gospel of grace. They love the church, and they want to reach the lost with the gospel. And they inspire me to love the Savior more. They have made significant sacrifices to relocate to Louisville, leaving behind dear friends and family members. I am humbled and deeply grateful for their support and want to serve them in any way that I can.
Lastly, I’m very excited about serving alongside the elders of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. These are the friends I don’t deserve.
Who are the pastors of this church? What are their roles?
Let me begin with the man who has served by my side in various capacities for over 35 years – Gary Ricucci. Gary will serve as an elder of the church and continue to provide pastoral care for those coming to the Pastors College. I anticipate his pastoral gifting and heart will be experienced by every member of the church. I look forward to how he and Betsy will serve the marriages of the church through their teaching and example.
Brian Chesemore is going to serve as our only full-time associate pastor at the church’s inception. While the other men will continue to carry significant responsibility with Sovereign Grace Ministries, Brian will be dedicated to pastoring God’s people in the local church. Brian is also assisting me by leading our elders meetings, developing our plans for evangelism, pastoral care and discipleship, and helping us to shape a teaching curriculum designed to complement the Sunday preaching.
Bob Kauflin is a servant extraordinaire. For the last three months, Bob has unloaded countless moving vans, met with many new friends in Louisville, and opened up his new home to those exploring relocation. He and Julie excel in hospitality. Over the last ten years, Bob has studied the topic of worship extensively, and we are delighted that his theological study, leadership of corporate worship and years of pastoral care are going to help us in not only our music ministry but also in how we think about and plan for our Sunday services.
Jeff Purswell is also quite a gift to this church. He is the Dean of our Pastors College and brings a wealth of theological discernment and pastoral skill to our church. Jeff is one of the most skilled expositors that I know, and he is going to assist me in developing the teaching curriculum of the church, and he’ll be preaching regularly on Sunday mornings. I’m eager for this man’s preaching gift to be more consistently expressed in the years to come. He and his wife Julie, along with their two sons, are a pure joy to have in the church.
And yes, as you may have noticed, most of us are really old. I refer to this as “the old guys’ church plant, serving the next generation.”
How can we be praying for you as you start this church? How can folks interested in the church plant find out more?
It is so kind of you to ask and kind of anyone to pray for us. We need your prayers! Please pray that God will bless our efforts to proclaim the gospel and build a church that pleases and glorifies the Savior. Psalm 115:1 is our prayer: “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!”
Our first Sunday morning meeting is September 30, at 10:30 a.m. at The Christian Academy of Louisville. For more information, you can visit our website.
C.J. serves Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville primarily through leadership and preaching. He also leads Sovereign Grace Ministries in its mission of establishing and supporting local churches built on the gospel. He has authored Humility: True Greatness; Living the Cross-Centered Life; and Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God. He is the editor of Worldliness and Why Small Groups?, and has coauthored other books in Sovereign Grace Ministries’ Pursuit of Godliness series. C.J. and his wife, Carolyn, have three married daughters, one son, and eleven grandchildren.