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."
May 9, 2011 by
At Next 2011, we want to help attendees answer this question: "How does Christ transform the way I look at the world?" Your answer will profoundly shape the way you think through the issues of our day: Does absolute truth really exist? What is the role of reason in the Christian faith? Is Jesus the only way to salvation?
Regardless of how much you have engaged with these issues in the past, our main sessions will strengthen the foundations of your worldview as a Christian. And building on those main sessions, we designed a number of breakout sessions to help you think about common questions ("Is Scripture reliable?") and the Bible's implications for your vocation (law, journalism, politics, art, medicine, and finance to name a few). Check out the speaker line-up to learn more.
Of course, we also hope the conference will be a time of fellowship and worship for everyone attending. To that end we're hosting concerts each night—including special guest Shane & Shane on Monday—and there are a number of other options for R&R at our venue as well.
The conference runs May 28-31 in Orlando, and registration and our hotel discount rate both end on midnight, May 11. We hope you'll join us!
May 7, 2011 by
Categories: Weekly roundup
Video has been added to the pages for “The Great Commission and Church Planting” (Mark Dever) and “Profile of a Church Planter” (C.J. Mahaney).
C.J. Mahaney released an ebook on his blog: "The Pastor and Personal Criticism" (PDF).
We're grateful for the honest and helpful reviews that our new album, Risen, received. If you haven't heard the music for yourself yet, here are some takes on it: Christianity Today, Worship Leader Magazine, Church Music Today, and Amazon.com reviewers.
Bob Kauflin shared reflections from leading worship at a conference in Wales, as well as a new animated video set to "All I Have is Christ."
Sam Shin and Kurt Weaver both shared some thoughts from their time at C.J.'s Pastoral Ministry class this week.
And in case you were wondering, Eric Turbedsky explained "Why We Party."
May 6, 2011 by
My friend Doug Hayes, the director for Covenant Mercies, posted the following article on Covenant Fellowship Church's blog today. I thought it was well said and offered some helpful thoughts to pastors on how to help God's people think about the death of Osama Bin Laden. I hope it serves you in the same way it did me.
Should I Rejoice in the Death of Osama bin Laden?
By Doug Hayes
It's been almost ten years, but I can still recall the defilement I felt. In the days following the September 11 attacks, I watched with anger as people from some parts of the world danced in jubilation over the death and mayhem that had been inflicted upon America. The tears I had shed as I watched the twin towers collapse were still fresh, and for a moment I wished for bombs to come raining down on anyone who would celebrate the indiscriminate mass murder of unsuspecting civilians as if it were justice. I admit this to my shame. It took time for my heart to be tutored back toward the heart of my Savior, who said "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do," when an even greater injustice was inflicted upon him.
I was reminded of these feelings of defilement this week, when the announcers of a baseball game I was watching shared the breaking news that Osama bin Laden had been killed. As word spread through the stadium cell phone by cell phone, it was accompanied by a rising chant of "USA! USA!" I don't fault anyone who participated in that chant. I may have been swept up into the same euphoria had I been there. But I felt a caution in my heart as I heard it. I don't rejoice in the death of Osama bin Laden.
I'm not advocating an overly pious or naïve desire for peace, love, and understanding. As much as I desire peace, I support the God-given role of the governing authorities to wield the sword of justice (Romans 13), and I congratulate the men and women of our armed forces (right up to the Commander in Chief) for a job well done in this regard. And as much as I desire mercy for even the worst of sinners, there are biblical principles at work here that can't be denied. "Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity" (Proverbs 22:8). If you live by the sword, you die by the sword. If you make enemies by killing innocents, the forces of justice will rightly pursue you. In this sense, the death of Osama bin Laden is a vindication worthy of celebration. It's not all that complicated.
What's complicated is my heart. While there is a legitimate satisfaction that comes from seeing the cause of justice fulfilled, my heart often wants to go beyond that. This is where I sense my need for caution. I must beware of oversimplifying the heart of God in matters such as this. The reality is, our Heavenly Father has revealed himself as One who doesn't wish that any would perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). There is a sense in which God's heart grieves for the loss of Osama bin Laden, even as He also exacts furious justice against this man who devoted his life to violently defying His rule. I want my heart to see and appreciate the glory of God in His righteous judgment against sin, while also grieving for the greater glory that might have been.
And more than anything, I want my heart to see and appreciate the grace that has been shown to me. I was once dead in my trespasses and sins. I once walked in the way Osama bin Laden walked. Though his ways never came to full fruition in my life, this is only and completely due to the grace and mercy of God. "For by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). Let us rejoice in this gift God has given us, even as we grieve for a world that suffers the just results of refusing it. And let us view the justice of God with sobriety, even as we celebrate its vindication in the events of our day.
With all the talk these days about church planting, some pastors can begin to wonder if they are selling out on the mission or missing the adventure if they aren’t looking to do a plant themselves. Jim Donohue is on the pastoral team of a local church and uses his own story to encourage ordinary pastors with how they can be fully engaged in mission even if they never plant a church.
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.