Last year at our Pastors Conference we shared that God has opened a door for Sovereign Grace Ministries to plant a church in North Africa. We are currently in the process of giving additional training to the men who are leading this effort, as well as giving them an opportunity to visit Sovereign Grace churches to build a prayer support network and potentially recruit members to join the planting team. This is the final of three blog posts to answer some of the most frequent questions asked of team members during these visits. Previous topics: "Is this plan a shift in our missiology?" and "Why are we planting a church there, and why now?"
Who is going and how does someone apply to join the team?
I wish you could personally meet each member of the team and spend some time getting to know them—it’s a godly crew who love the gospel. For most of them, joining this team represents serious sacrifice—leaving family, uprooting from an otherwise comfortable life for a more risky one, career shifts, and the list goes on. And while the team is already formed, we are still in the process of securing visas and processing other necessary paperwork for their relocation. Sharing information about these members could endanger their safety and require a major shift in the timing of the church plant. Not only that, but it could also have serious consequences for the safety of the Christians in the region to whom they’ve previously ministered. Please pray for this team even though you don’t know their names!
What I can tell you is that we are still looking for one to two more families or singles to join the team. If you want to explore this possibility, contact the senior pastor at your church and ask him for the team profile (which describes some of the things we are looking for in candidates) and the application forms. With those documents in hand, you can begin the process:
- Examine the profile and invite others to do this on your behalf as well
- Fill out the application
- Ask your pastor to fill out the pastoral recommendation
- Contact us for instructions on submitting the completed application documents
If you have questions about the application process, or if you're not a member of an SGM church but want to apply for the team, please contact us.
What will ongoing care look like for the church-planting team?
A primary reason the team is taking time to build a partnership with SGM is because they wanted to deepen the care they receive as they work there. By developing a larger church-planting team, they will be able to more effectively care for each other. There are also some local believers in North Africa who will extend fellowship and care to those on the church planting team. The prayers and support of SGM churches will also play an important role in the team’s care. Finally, Kenneth Maresco is responsible for providing the team with care and counsel after they launch.
Ultimately, of course, our greatest comfort is found in knowing that God himself will care for the team. The Savior has promised that he is with us in our going, so as we labor to make disciples in North Africa, we have the promise that he will be with us always, to the end of the age. With confidence in the unrelenting faithfulness and goodness of God, we eagerly entrust those we send to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build them up and give them an inheritance among all those who believe.
How can I pray for the team?
For the church in North Africa: that the Lord will strengthen the faith of believers, increase their hunger for his Word and fellowship, and use the present turmoil in that region for the building of the church. And pray for the work of the gospel: that the team would be completed and assembled, that God would strengthen them with faith and courage, protect them, and raise an army of prayer warriors who long to see God glorified in North Africa and among the nations.
If you want to get more regular prayer requests, please contact us.
This week at the Pastors College, C.J. Mahaney will teach a course about Pastoral Ministry based on the Bible's keystone biblical metaphor for pastoral leadership, the shepherd. Drawing from Scripture and his own experience, C.J. will lead the class in a study of the shepherd metaphor and its implications for pastoral ministry and modern pastoral challenges.
Beyond our enrolled Pastors College class, we're honored to have 42 other pastors attending the class as guests. Please join us in praying for these men as they study together this week:
- John Koh
- John Lenfestey
- Jon Hansel
- Jose Mendoza
- Jose Mercado
- Ken Mellinger
- Kurt Weaver
- Larry Malament
- Luke Middleton
- Miguel Nuñez
- Nathan Fancher
- Niwlton Jaquez
- Peter Privitera
- Rolando Espinal
- Ron Boomsma
- Sam Shin
- Shannon Day
- Steve Heitland
- Steve Shank
- Trey Richardson
- Vince Hinders
Also, if you're a member of a Sovereign Grace church, thank you for supporting your church and Sovereign Grace Ministries so that we can provide training opportunities like this class. If you're interested in other ways our Mission Fund is invested, you can browse our Mission Fund pages or watch the Donor Updates category on this blog for related news.
In late March a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck northeast Burma, killing more than 70 people. We recently posted prayer requests for Burmese churches and an opportunity to give. Here’s a more recent update from David, who leads a church-planting ministry we partner with in Burma:
Two of [the churches] sustained major damage…Though there are no casualties from those churches, at least 18 families have lost their entire homes and some 30 families also suffered significant damage to their houses….
In an interview with a lady from the church, she told us, “Our house was made of wood and bamboo with a thatch roof. When our house collapsed, no one suffered major injury as the building materials are very light. Today, we sleep under the tree as the local authority warns us to stay away from any building.” When asked what worried her most, she replied, “We have planted some crops on the hills or terraces not too far from our home. Many of our crops were destroyed because of a landslide and trees falling. This damage will hurt us for several months as our livelihood deeply depends on our farm land.”
….[One leader writes] “In one village, the church was so badly damaged that we have to meet at the house of one of the members. For most people, the church building is often part of their identity in the midst of Buddhist pagodas in the region. For them, to lose their church is somehow to lose their identity. It has been a difficult time for them. But I know God’s grace is with them. I can only encourage them from the Word.”
A truck was hired and some bags of rice and several hundred large water bottles were transported to the affected villages for distribution. Many people were very hungry and thirsty, as most people lost their homes or dare not go into their homes. And there are no convenient stores to purchase food and water.
Please continue to pray for those victims. Many people still live in temporary tents due to fear. Please pray also for the two congregations that lost their buildings.
You can donate to our disaster relief fund for Burma here. And whether or not you can give, please pray with us that God will provide for these believers, protect them, and cause the good news of Jesus Christ to spread widely in this region.
Photo: An open-air prayer gathering after the earthquake.
Last October, Christian Wegert was installed as the new senior pastor of Arche Church—the Sovereign Grace church in Hamburg, Germany. You may recall Christian as the Pastors College student whom we featured in our 2008 Mission Presentation.
A week after becoming senior pastor, Christian, along with his father Wolfgang, joined Jeff Purswell to film an interview that explores the history of Arche Church, how they joined Sovereign Grace Ministries, and what they are doing to reach German-speaking Europe with the gospel. The video below is an excerpt from that interview that explains how and why Christian became the senior pastor. The whole interview was an hour long, so we broke the rest into shorter segments which you can browse using the list of links below the video.
(If you're reading this in an email or RSS reader, you may need to visit our website to see the video.)
Table of contents for Jeff Purswell's interview with Christian and Wolfgang Wegert
- Converted and preaching at age 16: how Wolfgang became a Christian and began ministry
- 1974: Wolfgang takes the reigns as senior pastor of Arche Church
- The spiritual landscape of Germany: is it still a Christian nation?
- From TV to church planting: how broadcasting sermons paved the way for new churches in Europe
- "We decided to write an email": Sovereign Grace Ministries' surprising introduction to Arche Church
- From one generation to the next: why Wolfgang changed his mind about handing over leadership of the church
- Leading through change: how the elders prepared Arche Church for a new senior pastor
- The gospel must be preached: Arche Church's future with Sovereign Grace Ministries and the mission to plant churches
- Preparing the next generation of leaders: Wolfgang's dream for pastoral training in Germany
- Watch your life and doctrine: Wolfgang's counsel for young pastors entering the ministry
February 15, 2011 by
Categories: Donor updates | International
Two pastors from Sovereign Grace churches recently traveled to Burma and South Korea in order to visit the church planters whom Sovereign Grace Ministries supports in those countries. We shared about their time in Burma last week, and today will focus on the trip to South Korea. For security reasons related to Burma, we won't share their names.
As you may recall from a recent video our churches showed, in 2009 a pastor named Kang Songhwan graduated from our Pastors College and planted Lord's Grace Church in Seoul, South Korea. It was the first Sovereign Grace church in that country. What you might not realize is that our church-planting efforts mean much more than simply getting a church started—in fact you might say that most of what we do to help our church planters succeed comes after the church launches, not before.
Because of the many challenges that newly established churches face, opportunities for us to serve them are especially numerous in their first few years of existence. And thanks to the generosity of Sovereign Grace churches, in recent years we have been able to take advantage of those opportunities with increasing frequency.
Our pastors' recent trip to Seoul illustrates this diversity of opportunities well:
- In response to Songhwan's request for help teaching on marriage, they were able to plan and lead a three-session marriage seminar attended by church members and others from the community.
- To help Lord's Grace Church build bridges in a country where Sovereign Grace Ministries is still a relative unknown, they spent time with local Christian leaders to discuss how Lord's Grace Church and Sovereign Grace Ministries could be a long-term blessing to the Christian community in Seoul.
- Because Songhwan currently serves as the only pastor at Lord's Grace Church, they also spent an extended time encouraging him and helping him to think strategically about various ministry decisions.
On behalf of Songhwan, thank you for investing in our common mission of planting churches and providing them with long-term care in the years following their launch. Trips like this visibly display your partnership and care to the people of Lord's Grace Church, even though they are several thousand miles away from the nearest Sovereign Grace church.
Would you also join us in praying for them?
- There is a possibility that they will lose access to the building they currently use for Sunday meetings. Please pray that the Lord provides for them either in their current space or somewhere new.
- Please pray for God to raise up small-group leaders to help care for and disciple the members of the church.
- Please pray that in time Lord's Grace Church will become a church-planting hub, able to reach other areas of eastern Asia and the Pacific with the gospel.
Photo of the Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul by Ziggymaster, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 license.
Two pastors from Sovereign Grace churches recently traveled to Burma and South Korea in order to visit the church planters whom Sovereign Grace Ministries supports in those countries. Today's update will focus on their time spent in Burma, and our next update will highlight their time in South Korea. For security reasons, we won't share their names.
In Burma, we have the privilege of working with a budding church-planting ministry led by a recent graduate of our Pastors College named David. In a recent visit, pastors and members from Sovereign Grace churches got to demonstrate that partnership through both practical aid (mercy ministry) and strategic training.
The mercy ministry was extended by a team consisting of members from five Sovereign Grace churches (Gaithersburg, MD; Chesapeake, VA; Fairfax, VA; Spokane, WA; and Franklin, WV) who operated a series of medical clinics over the course of a week. Quoting from the blog of Covenant Life Church (which sent several people), "The team saw approximately 1500 men, women and children in four days of clinics! Three clinics were held in rural villages, and two of those were in areas that lack a church. The hope is to eventually establish churches in both locations. Another clinic was held in a more urban setting at an orphanage."
The other priority of the trip was to help David plan strategically for long-term growth and health in the churches he leads. Given the context and resources available to him, there are several questions and challenges he needs to address:
- What theology courses should he prioritize at his ministry school, which hosts men who are both recent converts and developing leaders?
- How can he provide ongoing care and training for pastors in a network of roughly 45 churches, some of which are several days travel apart?
- How can he lead the mercy ministries of his churches (an orphanage, disaster and famine aid, and other projects) without neglecting the care and training of current and future leaders?
- Where will funding for the ministry programs come from?
Although the visit was brief, the pastors who spent time with David were able to help him think through several of these critical questions and begin making concrete plans for future leadership training. Although building the right foundations there is going to take time, it is a mission we believe has significant potential for building the Burmese church, especially given David's proximity to people groups who have never been reached with the gospel before.
If you give to the Mission Fund, we want to sincerely thank you on David's behalf for the support you've given his ministry over the last several years. He is a humble and grateful man, and would be the first to tell you that your example of service and generosity have in no small way shaped and enabled the ministry philosophy he now models in Burma.
He would also be the first one to tell you that the Burmese church needs your prayers. When you think of them, here are a few ways you can pray:
- Pray for favor with local officials, who often are the deciding in factor, humanly speaking, in whether ministry programs can function or not
- Pray for financial provision, not only for the mercy ministries but also for the critical leadership training and church-planting work that David hopes to lead
- Pray for the next generation of leaders in the Burmese church, that God would raise men who can think, lead, and teach with theological precision
Image: Pagodas and temples in Bagan (public domain).
January 27, 2011 by
Categories: Donor updates | International
Thank you to everyone who prayed for Jim Britt's trip to the Dominican Republic earlier this month. Although the churches he visited are not formally associated with Sovereign Grace Ministries, they are dear partners in the gospel and we count it a privilege to come alongside them in their ministry.
These are some highlights Jim shared with us upon returning from his trip:
- Several meetings with Tomás Martinez and other leaders from Iglesia Cristiana Oasis (ICO), the church that hosted him on this trip, to discuss gospel-centered ministry, outreach to Haiti, leadership training, and other aspects of ministry
- Preaching twice at ICO and once at its sister church in Santiago
- Teaching Sunday School instructors at ICO about infusing every lesson with the gospel
- Leading a marriage seminar at ICO for 100 couples about the gospel and reoccurring marriage issues
- Speaking about grace-motivated service to faculty at King's Christian School, a 400-student day school operated by ICO
- Meeting with Miguel Núñez, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Internacional, to talk about plans for a conference that C.J. Mahaney, Dave Harvey, and Jeff Purswell will speak at this summer
If you give to our Mission Fund, please know that your support plays a significant part in our ability to train and equip pastors internationally. Jim received significant gratitude from the churches he was able to care for during his trip, and that gratitude extends to you as well.
Photo by ChezSant, licensed under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license.
January 13, 2011 by
Categories: Donor updates | International
Jim Britt, pastor of Sovereign Grace Church (Greenville, SC), travels this week on behalf of Sovereign Grace to the Dominican Republic to provide various training opportunities at a church there. In addition to meeting with pastors individually, he plans to...
- lead a marriage seminar for couples,
- hold a meeting with the church's small-group leaders,
- provide training seminars for adult Sunday school teachers and grade school instructors, and
- preach at two Sunday meetings
We'll post a recap of the trip here later this month. In the meantime, please pray that God will sustain Jim's energy for the teaching schedule (12 sessions in four days) and help him to build good relationships with the pastors there.
In this year's Mission Fund materials we alluded to ongoing training opportunities that our Pastors College provides for pastors in Sovereign Grace Ministries. One of the most strategic elements of that ongoing training is the Preaching Practicum, a three-day workshop where a small group of pastors get to preach and evaluate sermons with the help of C.J. Mahaney and Jeff Purswell. This is a relatively new initiative for the Pastors College, and this week we are hosting 17 Sovereign Grace pastors (along with current Pastors College students) for our third one.
If you're a member of a Sovereign Grace church, thank you for your help making training like this possible. We have gotten wonderful feedback so far on the usefulness of past Preaching Practicums, and they really are a direct result of your support of your pastors and giving to our Mission Fund.
Below are the men in attendance this week, along with Twitter links where available. Please pray for them, as well as C.J. and Jeff as they lead the training.
Last month, we asked for prayer for a team from two Sovereign Grace churches who were visiting one of our partner ministries in India. They were holding a conference for pastors and their wives who represent a network of more than 500 churches.
Here’s an update from one of the pastors who went on the trip:
Thanks for praying for our team and our time in India! Here are a few highlights of the things God did during our time...
- Along with staff and students, 32 leaders from eleven states attended our six-day conference. Some traveled as far as 42 hours by train. Twenty of them brought their wives.
- Despite the long travels, the men were eager and attentive during all the sessions. We were told that the material was not only personally encouraging, but would also provide them with excellent tools with which to equip their churches. The leaders were encouraged to go back to teach their churches all the sessions on membership, and then teach the material to new attendees on a quarterly schedule.
- To provide the maximum impact from the conference, teaching outlines were provided in electronic, written, and audio form with translations for the men to review, as they prepare to teach the material in turn to 500 more leaders back at their churches.
- The wives attended the same sessions as their husbands, except for three sessions designed especially for the ladies, providing grace-centered teaching on their roles as wives. Gifts were sent ahead for the purchase of saris (Indian dresses) for each wife, which was a surprise and a treat.
- The vacation Bible school outreach served 100-200 children a day for four days. The children were very responsive and well behaved.
- About 30% of India’s urban population lives in slum areas. About three years ago, a newer leader began to reach out to the slums nearby to serve and to share the good news with them. As a result, the leader and his wife have relocated to live in the slums to reach the people living there. After enduring hardships from the people, they now have been granted favor as they have served the children, and the parents have seen great results in the children’s education and character. They are now holding Sunday meetings in three areas, and are building a ministry center where they can meet weekly as well as provide education for the children daily.
- On a lighter note, we took the students to see the latest Chronicles of Narnia movie in 3D. Just getting the students comfortable going up escalators was fun to watch, much less the excitement of a McDonald’s lunch and movie!
Thanks again for your prayers.