Everyone who wrote with questions about Group Reconciliation Assistance over the weekend—thank you. Below are answers to two common questions that seem pressing to clarify to all our readers.
Is there a way for me to participate if I can’t attend the seminar?
Yes. This concern came up pretty early in the planning for Group Reconciliation Assistance, so here is what we worked out the following with AOR. For those who want to participate but can’t attend, there will be an alternative option after the Pastors Conference concludes. We will record and publish on this blog the “Getting to the Heart of Conflict” seminar. Those who listen to the seminar online will have an opportunity to complete feedback forms regarding SGM and send them to AOR for inclusion in their review of SGM (similar to the forms that seminar attendees will fill out). People may also indicate in those forms if they desire a phone interview. If a large number of people make this request, AOR will select a sample from them for phone interviews.
Because the interviews are not just for receiving information but also for coaching, AOR prefers to meet in person as much as possible—so we (SGM and AOR) do hope that many people will attend the in-person event and interviews. At the same time, the second option is designed to give others a meaningful way to participate, receive helpful teaching, and provide input for AOR’s review.
Can a single woman participate?
Yes. The uncertainty arose from the portion of Saturday’s blog post that read, “Women may attend an interview together with their husband, or they may request a separate interview with our woman coach.” This was meant to add, not limit, options. I updated the post to read this way instead: “Married women may attend an interview together with their husband, or they may request a separate interview. If a woman (single or married) prefers to be interviewed by a female from AOR’s team of trained conciliators, they can note that on the registration form.” I hope that's more clear for everyone.
Next month, Keith Breault is planting Redeemer Church of Charlottesville, Virginia. Joining him is a church-planting team from Charlottesville, Virginia Beach, Richmond, and elsewhere.
Keith graduated from our Pastors College in 2000 and has been in pastoral ministry since then. Most of that time he’s been at Sovereign Grace Church (Chesapeake, VA), including four years as senior pastor. Most recently, he completed a church-planting residency at KingsWay Community Church in Richmond, Virginia. Keith and his wife Joanna (pictured at right) have one daughter and four sons.
(And in case you had the same question we did, Keith’s last name rhymes with Salt.)
Where and when does the new church start?
We start officially on June 5. We’ll be meeting on Sundays at 3pm at University Baptist Church, across the street from the University of Virginia (at the Corner).
You spent about ten years at an established church in Chesapeake, Virginia. How did you move from there to church planting?
From the very beginning my wife Joanna and I wanted to plant a church. We always had a sense of call to evangelism, and as a military kid I was used to moving around a lot and meeting new people, so that didn’t intimidate me. It seemed the most normal, natural thing to do.
After I returned from the Pastors College to Sovereign Grace Church in Chesapeake, church planting was put on hold for a while because of the season the church was in. They had just finished a building and were in a time of gathering people locally rather than sending out. After the senior pastor (John Butler) moved to Atlanta, I became the senior pastor. Joanna and I love the church family there deeply, but we both had a sense that God ultimately had something else for us.
A few years later Eric Hughes, who had been on staff at Chesapeake, went to the Pastors College with the intention of planting a church afterward. Early in the year he emailed me saying that his heart was being drawn back to Chesapeake and asking where my heart was. Eric and I are really good friends, and for years we had talked to each other about our respective callings and desires. So when his email came, it was kind of a “Yeah!” moment. He had been a teenager in the Chesapeake church and couldn’t imagine being anywhere else, and I’d wondered about church planting for years.
So we prayed and fasted, talked to the other pastors, talked to friends, and eventually sought counsel from the whole church. The church confirmed it, even though they have been through a lot of pastoral transitions. It’s counterintuitive but Sovereign Grace Church, rather than being winded by things like that, has been reminded through this that the Holy Spirit is their head, and he is bearing fruit through them.
We began to pray about the location, and our sense that we would end up somewhere in Virginia was confirmed as we visited Charlottesville and got to know the area. It seemed to match how God has made us—our background, our education (we both graduated from the College of William and Mary), our demographic as a young family, our heart for people who are grappling with the big questions of life, and our desire to reach people from other nations. People move to Charlottesville from all over the world for the university and for big research employers, and a lot of international refugees come here as well. Then people began to email us asking about the possibility of a church plant in Charlottesville.
The church plant will be meeting at University Baptist Church, and we have been welcomed by this church to the nth degree. They’re renting us a facility that will meet all our needs, at a very generous rate. We officially start on June 5.
A reader named John emailed us with a question about church planting in Charlottesville and collaboration with established churches. Here’s his question:
First, let me say that I greatly appreciate the church planting dedication of SGM. However, as a lay leader in a healthy local church here in Charlottesville, VA, I'm wondering what type of collaboration occurs with established churches before deciding to enter a certain area. Our church, for example, wouldn’t align with your ministry on every doctrinal issue, but as a "9 Marks" baptistic church, SGM would certainly approve of our confession, identity, and ministry. My fear is that all too often, we "over plant" in areas before proper due diligence thus hyperdenominationalizing the area and fragmenting the body of Christ more than we unite it.
That’s a really good question. Our burden in coming to Charlottesville is to see the church grow through God’s adding new believers to our fellowship—through evangelism and prayer.
Having been a pastor for eleven years, I know what it feels like to have a new church come to town and for folks to start going there. So I’ve been pursuing friendship with other pastors here. When this process started, I emailed several pastors in the area to ask for their thoughts, and they all said, “Please come, we absolutely need laborers here. Come and preach the gospel.” And since coming we’ve had weekly meetings with pastors from the area, communicating to them that this is our intention: we’re here to spread the gospel to people who are currently not saved.
If a believer does feel that they haven’t found their home yet, then we’ll be happy to meet with them and talk about that. But it’s not our focus. We’re not here to try to be the biggest church around. And overall the message from other pastors has been emphatically welcoming.
What are your present needs? How can we pray for the church plant?
- For wisdom! There’s no illusion that we know what we’re doing, that we know all the answers, or that there’s a clear blueprint. Every church plant is different, and we’re waiting on the Lord to know how we can serve the people here best. We are joining a solid group of believers that predates us in Charlottesville. We see ourselves as among a band of men, women, and children sent into the harvest.
- Specifically, for wisdom and fruitfulness in evangelistic outreach. Please pray that every person in Charlottesville would have a chance to hear the gospel, from whatever pulpit or ministry. We’re not the only ones preaching the gospel here, but preaching the gospel is why we’re here.
- That the details would go smoothly as we prepare for public meetings.
- Please join us in thanking God for the many doors he’s opened for us. For example, two families who were moving here for the church plant sold their houses within weeks of putting them on the market. It feels like the Israelites at Jericho—“Wait, wasn’t there a wall here?” “Aren’t we supposed to be in a recession?” We’re grateful for how God is meeting us in these ways.
Check back on Thursday for part 2.
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 first of three blog posts to answer some of the most frequent questions asked of team members during these visits.
Why are we planting a church in North Africa?
As a family of churches, we love the gospel and want to see the name of Jesus Christ honored among those who do not know him. We also want to see churches planted and nations reached for the glory of God. We want to make his saving power known. And, yes, there are many places that need churches! So, why North Africa?
Primarily it's because it appears God has opened a door to reach that region. Most of our international work involves equipping indigenous pastors to build local church planting movements. Over the years, though, we've sought to also be sensitive to where God is establishing relationships that position us to serve unreached areas and people groups. God has provided us with just such an opportunity in a part of North Africa. We're excited about a developing partnership with a few qualified men who will lead the mission. And, it's been incredible to watch our family of churches come together to provide training, financial support, and prayer for the North Africa team—this partnership gives us confidence to move forward with the endeavor and trust God with the results.
Given the instability of North Africa, is this really a good time to plant a church there?
Great question! Thanks for asking this particular one since I think it reveals a heart to care for the people we are sending to North Africa. We have carefully followed current events abroad and in North Africa in particular. We have not only prayerfully considered whether the location is right, but if the timing is right. Of course, our goal isn't to intentionally seek danger and we certainly don't want to put anyone in harm's way. At the same time, spreading the gospel is inherently dangerous, and church planting among Muslims in North Africa will, inevitably, involve heightened risk. As a result, we've concluded that it does not seem best to allow the cultural and political stability of a region to determine whether we take the gospel to that place. We also don't see waiting for peaceful times as a pattern in the New Testament. With that said, we do move forward cautiously, trusting God that he is leading us according to his plan and timing.
We don't know how long instability will remain in North Africa and whether things will get better or worse in the future. We do know there are brothers and sisters there who need care and spiritual leadership. And we know there are many men and women in North Africa who have never heard the saving message of Jesus Christ. We believe we can help by sending the church planting team to this troubled region sooner rather than later.
As the man leading the North Africa church planting team said, "Jesus commands us to make disciples of all nations, not just the ones that are safe. Unreached nations are unreached for a reason: they are inherently hostile to the gospel. They will never welcome us. We don't just lower our shoulders and go in blindly. But if we allow our evaluation of a favorable political climate and a craving for security to have authority over Scripture we will never go. Jesus promises us a hostile reception. He also promises to be with us. That is all we get. And that is enough."
January 18, 2011 by
Categories: Questions from readers
David and Marie, both members of Sovereign Grace churches, recently wrote to us asking essentially the same question: does Sovereign Grace Ministries' apostolic team still exist? Below is an expanded version of our responses to them, posted here in case others in our churches have the same question.
The apostolic team, for those of you new to Sovereign Grace Ministries, was for many years what we called the team of pastors who help us facilitate church planting, international ministry, and church care. But over time, we discovered the name confused more people than it helped, so now we’re considering alternatives. We’ve also gained a better understanding of the term "apostolic," which makes us even more careful in how we apply it. So for now, the team is more commonly just called the regional leadership team. (For more on the role of apostolic ministry in the church’s mission, see Dave Harvey’s blog post, "Apostolic Ministry and Church Planting.")
The "regional leadership" moniker comes from the fact that Sovereign Grace churches are currently grouped into eight regions, and each pastor on the team is responsible for serving the churches of one region. It’s a broad role, but primarily involves the following:
- Helping pastors develop and execute church planting plans
- Providing care and counsel for pastors when requested
- Facilitating cooperation among churches for regional events, mission trips, or other activities
- Coordinating the ordination process for new pastors
- Building relationships with other churches who are interested in joining Sovereign Grace Ministries
- Assisting in the assessment, training, and deployment of church planters
Below is a roster of the men currently on the team and a description of the regions they serve. If you’re a member of a Sovereign Grace church, please join us in praying for the man who fulfills this role in your area. They play a vital part in helping Sovereign Grace churches advance the Great Commission both locally and globally.
- Dave Harvey, Covenant Fellowship Church (Glen Mills, PA)
Dave is responsible for church care, church planting, and international expansion for Sovereign Grace Ministries, so it is his responsibility to lead and coordinate the efforts of our regional leaders. You can read more about him on his bio page.
- Aron Osborne, Metro Life Church (Orlando, FL)
Aron serves churches in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and the Caribbean. Danny Jones, who founded and led this region for several years, still serves as the senior pastor at Metro Life Church where Aron is based.
- Craig Cabaniss, Grace Church (Frisco, TX)
Craig serves churches in Texas, Kansas, and Louisiana.
- Gene Emerson, KingsWay Community Church (Midlothian, VA)
Gene serves churches in North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
- John Loftness, Solid Rock Church (Riverdale, MD)
John serves churches in Maryland and the Washington, DC, metropolitan area (including Northern Virginia). He is a recent addition to the team; Covenant Life Church pastor Kenneth Maresco used to lead this region, and still serves two churches in Africa because of his unique relationship with them.
- Mark Prater, Covenant Fellowship Church (Glen Mills, PA)
Mark serves churches in Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and parts of Canada.
- Pete Greasley, Christchurch (Newport, Wales)
Pete’s region is enormous—with the help of others, he serves churches in Europe, Australia, and parts of Africa and Asia.
- Rick Gamache, Sovereign Grace Fellowship (Bloomington, MN)
Rick serves churches in Illinois and Minnesota.
- Steve Shank, Sovereign Grace Church (Gilbert, AZ)
Steve serves churches in California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, parts of Canada and Latin America, and because of existing relationships, the Philippines.