June 14, 2011 by
Categories: Donor updates | General
From Tuesday to Thursday this week, we will be gathering with our regional leadership team for their annual retreat. C.J. Mahaney and Jeff Purswell will be joining us for part of the retreat this year. The men on that team all live and do ministry in different areas of the USA and abroad, so this retreat is one of the most strategic opportunities of the year to pray and talk about the ministry, enjoy fellowship, and build together relationally.
The regional leadership team’s role is to help Sovereign Grace Ministries facilitate church planting and church care, as well as international ministry, so those are the areas of our ministry that we’ll be looking at together. And because we’ll all be together, the retreat will also provide a context for the regional team to give invaluable counsel and feedback to C.J., Jeff, and me.
If you think of it, would you please pray that God would enrich our time together, giving us wisdom and faith to know and do his will? Here are some of the things we’ll be talking about and need God’s help in:
- What have we learned in the past year about pastoral ministry and church planting that we can pass on to all the churches?
- How can we better equip more churches to advance the Great Commission?
- Where can we grow in supporting and strengthening pastoral teams in our local churches?
As an aside, I’m also going to present some follow-up material to the message on "Durable Partnerships" that I presented at last year’s Pastors Conference. I hope to share some of that material here on the blog after the retreat, so stay tuned. And thanks for praying for us!
Next month, Keith Breault is planting Redeemer Church of Charlottesville, Virginia. In part 1 of our interview, Keith talked about the transition from pastoring an established church to planting a new one. Today, he talks about plans for outreach at UVA and how to get in touch with the new church.
Redeemer Church of Charlottesville will be meeting across the street from UVA. What do you envision for outreach at the university?
Right now we’re waiting on the Lord. I envision our outreach at UVA being primarily relational. I don’t see us doing big events and trying to draw a crowd as we’re starting out. Those events have value—people hear the gospel at events like that, and that’s great. But given where we are and the size of our church plant, duplicating a big college ministry isn’t an option for us right now.
We’re looking at relational outreach, hanging around a campfire in our back yard, inviting college students to go to coffee with an older Christian—and I think that is exciting to these students.
I also think there’s something about diversity of age and demographic that pleases God. It’s like musical harmony—it’s intrinsically pleasing, and you can’t have harmony if every note is the same. So we’re excited about just inviting these students into our homes. I think it will bring a balance to students’ lives and a balance to the church’s life. We’re trusting God that the outreach, Bible studies, etc. will grow organically from what we have now.
College is a busy time of life. What would you say to the student who says, “I’ve got classes, extracurriculars, my part-time job, my campus ministry—I’ll join a church after I graduate”?
I’d much rather answer this question one-on-one, because there are nuances to each situation. But in general, I believe that we need each other. In a church we aren’t gathering just because of our season of life, or because circumstances caused our lives to intersect, but because we’re bound together by Christ. We’re agreeing that we need each other. We’re essentially saying, “I’m part of you and you’re part of me. We need each other for strength, wisdom, and so much experiential grace that only flows to us through one another.”
Now it’s true that there’s a lot of community in college. A lot of that grace does come through our friends in college—encouragement, studying the Bible together, memorizing Scripture—basically having a blast! So if you’re experiencing that, that’s great!
But there is also an authority that comes to us from the local church. We don’t just take it or leave it; my church is a place to which God has called me, and I’m responsible to respond to the teaching and accountability there.
When we join a church we’re saying, “These aren’t just casual friends; this is my church. These are my people, and I need them, and according to Scripture, grace flows to them through me, so they need me as well.”
It’s not about which church you join, as long as it follows Scripture. But by all means you should join yourself to a local church. And this doesn’t just pertain to college students; it pertains to all of us.
As a church planter, what do you find helpful about partnering with Sovereign Grace Ministries?
I just smiled when I saw this question. I can’t even imagine doing any of this apart from Sovereign Grace Ministries.
From the moment my wife and I came through the doors of Sovereign Grace Church in Chesapeake, we had a sense of “this is home.” We were engaged at the time, we knew Jesus, we had memorized lots of Scripture, we had been in church since we were little kids, but looking back, we had no practical theological training as we were preparing to embark into marriage.
During that foundational time in our lives, being part of the local church was a gift. (A big thank you to John Butler, who was our senior pastor then!) We found examples to follow in our church, and then at the Pastors College. It was like Paul said to Timothy, “Join with me in suffering for the gospel..." or "Follow my life and my conduct.” We were—and are—so blessed everywhere we turned to be surrounded with godly people whose walk of faith we can imitate.
And then there’s the instruction we’ve received: through preaching, written materials, and at the Pastors College (and the scholarship that enabled us to be there).
And the financial support has been so generous. As we’ve stepped out in faith to explore church planting, Sovereign Grace has totally stepped out in faith with us. We’ve never been dangling out there by ourselves. Every time the path or the timetable changed, Sovereign Grace guys were caring for us in very personal and practical ways. After the Pastors College, when I needed more training in preaching, Sovereign Grace sponsored that. And it wasn’t an impersonal “Here, we’ll write you a check,” but Dave Harvey was on the phone with me talking about it and asking how we were doing. As we planted this church, because of Sovereign Grace's first-year grant for this church plant, we are freed up to focus on reaching our community instead of worrying about finances.
So from when we were first married all the way up to the details of church planting, we can’t imagine doing any of this without Sovereign Grace Ministries. Christ has cared for us so well through SGM's care, teaching and practical support!
How can interested folks find out more about Redeemer Church of Charlottesville?
It's easy to contact us through the website: www.RedeemerCville.org. From there, I'm happy to speak with anyone and do my best to answer their questions—either by phone, by email, or face to face.
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.