We came from one end of Texas and the other. We came from suburban communities and from more rural communities. We came from different backgrounds and ethnicities. But we came together for one reason: because the gospel had united us as elders with a passion to see Jesus change more lives like ours in Texas and the South Central region.
At the end of July, about 20 men from the South Central region gathered in Round Rock, Texas for three days of prayer, encouragement, and planning. The three messages given there also served as broad themes for our retreat, and as God worked through his word, he also worked in surprising ways to drive these themes home.
Revival: Craig Cabaniss—lead pastor of Grace Church in Frisco, Texas as well as the Director of Church Development for Sovereign Grace––led us in a study on the topic of revival in Scripture, encouraging us to pursue the ordinary means of grace while we ask God to do an extraordinary work through them. Throughout the retreat, we spent significant time in prayer for one another, making time to hear from each elder and about each church. As we heard stories of God’s grace in our churches in the last year, it stirred our hearts toward faith for what God can and is doing among us.
Mission: Carlos Contreras—lead pastor at Gracia Soberana in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico––gave us an encouraging report of what God is doing in Latin America through Gracia Soberana in Ciudad Juarez, and he used God’s Word to call us onward in our mission together. We considered how we as a region could serve our brothers in Mexico and beyond. During the retreat, we also worked through a new framework for planting churches together and heard about some potential opportunities to plant churches in our region. We gathered in Round Rock, Texas, the site of our most recent church plant, precisely in order to be stirred to plant more churches across our region.
Pastoral Ministry: Tim Shorey—a pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania and Regional Leader for the Northeast region––taught on bivocational pastoral ministry in a clear, biblical, and practical way. Nearly every church in our region either has bivocational elders or is in process to appoint them. A personal highlight was that my own father, Joe Alcantar, was affirmed by our regional elders as part of his ordination process. As a faithful husband and father, a member of our church’s pastoral team for over 25 years, and a respected man in our community, he is a wonderful example of the kind of men we want to see pastoring in our churches—even when not serving as a pastor full-time.
Of course, no regional meeting for us would be complete without consuming huge (and potentially unhealthy) amounts of Texas barbecue, watching ten church leaders cram into tiny go-carts and trash-talk each other, or collectively sharing a likely misguided but enthusiastic hope for the upcoming Dallas Cowboys season.
We left our retreat with a renewed commitment to the importance of prayer and, in that spirit, here are a few specific ways you can pray for us and for our region:
- Pray that God would work in extraordinary ways through the ordinary means of grace (preaching, singing, prayer, counsel, etc.).
- Pray that multiplying disciples and multiplying churches would be part of our DNA as a region.
- Pray that God would continue to help us raise up elders and pastors who image the Chief Shepherd.
Road photo from Shutterstock.
Ricky is the lead pastor at Cross of Grace Church in El Paso, Texas. He and his wife, Jenn, have one son.
We take global missions seriously at Sovereign Grace because we take the glory of God seriously. That’s why I’m excited to tell you a bit of the story of my friends, Mario and Jen Vucenovic, and their vision to spread the gospel in Dalmatia, Croatia. I hope this small glimpse whets your appetite to find out more about the Vucenovics and support them prayerfully and financially as the Lord leads.
Devoted to Christ
In November 2005, Mario promised his Savior that he would spend the rest of his life proclaiming the gospel of Jesus and the miracle Jesus did in saving him to the world. The Vucenovics have been worshiping with the disciples in Christ Community Church in Reading, Pennsylvania, where their pastors and congregation share the same burden to proclaim Christ in truth. Mario and Jen have been growing and learning about who Jesus is and what it means to live their lives on gospel mission.
For the last eight years, they have felt a burden and a need to make Jesus Christ known in Croatia, Mario’s home country. Like Mario would tell you, in Croatia, many people go to church but may not know Jesus as the Savior of their souls. It is Mario and Jen’s prayer that God would use a native Croatian who understands the language, culture, and values to bring him glory by planting a local church that celebrates and proclaims the life-transforming power of the gospel.
Mario recently traveled up and down the coast of Croatia to visit six churches to see what their needs were and find out how they can best serve there. There is a profound need for Croatian leaders in the local church. There are many faithful foreign or short-term missionaries who are not native to the language and culture and whose desire is to train and equip natives to disciple their own people. There is also a need for new church plants. There are many towns where you will find followers of Jesus with no church and no pastors. Many believers travel over an hour to attend a gospel-preaching church. Therefore, Mario and Jen long to see new believers come and be discipled the way they have been discipled in their local church in Reading.
They hope to reach this goal in four steps, Lord willing. They are willing to make sacrifices, just as others are making sacrifices to help them reach Croatia with the gospel. So they are currently selling their home and possessions and using the proceeds from the home to fund the following steps as much as possible:
- Study Bible and theology in Mario’s native language and serve the local Croatian church. Christ Community Church is sending them to partner locally with The Master’s Academy International (connected with The Master’s Seminary in California), which operates a theological training center in Krapina, Croatia. Their mission is to train native Croatians to plant and pastor local churches.
Beginning this September, their family will spend ten months training at the school, studying Bible and theology in Mario’s native language and serving the local church. All the while, they will engage locals through outreach; through providing support, leadership, and encouragement; and through establishing the foundations for a long-term ministry. Their goal is to raise $20,000 for this trip, and they have committed a minimum of $5,000 of their own money toward it.
- Attend the Sovereign Grace Pastors College in fall of 2015. They have been tentatively accepted into the program for next fall and will use their house sale proceeds toward the living expenses and costs to attend.
- Complete a one-year pastoral internship.
- Plant a church in Dalmatia, Croatia.
How You Can Get Involved
Be a part of God’s work in Croatia:
- Please pray for unwavering trust in the Lord as Mario and Jen travel the path he has mapped out for them. Pray for much-needed grace as they keep their eyes fixed on Jesus—that he will continue to sustain and lead them. Ask the Lord that they would not be tempted to do anything in their own strength, but that they would cling to him through each bump and turn in the road. And pray for their family of six to adjust to life in Croatia.
- Please financially partner with them in bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to Croatia. They are asking us to join hands with them to plant a Christ-centered, Christ-exalting, Sovereign Grace church in a 95% Catholic country. God will save and redeem his people from every people, tribe, tongue, and nation, and you will be at his throne worshiping the Lamb who was slain with those who will be rescued through this gospel endeavor in Croatia! One-time gifts or monthly support in any amount is greatly appreciated as it enables them to serve the Lord full-time. They know it would not be possible to go without our support.
Learn more about who they are, receive updates, and find out how to give at their website.
Street photo and Croatia map from Shutterstock.
Ian is Sovereign Grace's Director of Church Planting and Mission. He also serves as the lead pastor of Grace City Church in Northeast Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ian and his wife, Rachel, have three children.
June 26, 2014 by
Categories: Church planting
For the past three days, Sovereign Grace’s National Church Planting Group met to strengthen our disciple making efforts. This group consists of Ian McConnell, Andy Farmer, Mike Seaver, Chris Daukas, Ricky Alcantar, and Greg Dietrich.
Here are some specific highlights from our time together:
- We marveled at the Lord of the harvest and the power of God in passages like Matthew 9:35–38 and 1 Corinthians 2:1–5.
- We poured out our hearts to the Lord of the harvest to provide laborers to advance the gospel by planting churches.
- We shared how God is moving among us both personally and throughout the regions of our family of churches.
- We prayed for and encouraged each other.
- We considered and refined our vision for making disciples and planting churches together.
- We continued to develop the assessment and training process for interested leaders to partner with Sovereign Grace through planting and adopting.
- We visited Philadelphia and Princeton area sites for a Great Awakening Tour.
- And we may have spent time watching Phillies baseball and the World Cup!
Please pray for our church planting efforts. Without Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5). In harmony with Revelation 5:9, we long for “every tribe and language and people and nation” to proclaim that their Redeemer is worthy of all glory and honor and praise!
Street photo from Shutterstock.
Bryan (@BryanDeWire) is the Communications Manager at Sovereign Grace.
One of the reasons I love being a part of Sovereign Grace is because of our shared desire to reach the lost with the gospel through church planting. I want to tell you how God is using our small church plant in the Wissinoming section of Northeast Philadelphia to do just that.
God gave us favor to host 500 people for our Easter celebration at Grace City Church-Wissinoming. He provided a unique platform for us to listen to our neighbors as they shared their concerns for our struggling neighborhood. And he gave us the opportunity not only to listen, but also to speak the hope of Christ. We have already seen fruit from these conversations, as a few young believers have been faithful participants in our church family.
We also strive to serve our neighborhood. Recently, we took part in a cleanup day in which we helped our local elementary school. We received a big bundle of handwritten thank you cards from the kids, and we are continuing to develop relationships with some of the teachers and volunteers.
Likewise, I couldn’t be more encouraged by what God is doing in our church family. We have several young parents—many of whom are young believers—who are so eager to know what God says about parenting. We have started to gather together to discuss these matters and explore what heart change looks like personally as well as in parenting. It has brought tremendous joy to hear that these parents are actually doing what they are learning, by God’s grace. And they are finding joy in doing so!
The constant flow of unbelievers into our gatherings has also given us great delight. People are coming in the most unexpected ways. For instance, one teenage girl who has struggled through a difficult family situation has recently brought most of Pizza Hut’s evening shift with her. And each of her friends from work have commented on how they want to know more about how she leans on God to get through her difficulties because, of course, they are suffering similar pain. On Sunday, a few of her coworkers were in tears during the songs, and they were eager to ask me questions after the service about forgiveness. What incredible opportunities!
Besides all of this, we have needed to baptize numerous people. So we are getting ready to celebrate God’s amazing grace in the lives of several new believers, and we can’t wait to do so!
While God has been working in so many ways, much of what he is doing he is making possible through Sovereign Grace. There is no other way around it. Without our family of churches, this wouldn’t be happening. God is changing individual families and individual people as we continue to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ!
If you’re interested in supporting work in our Northeast Region like this, prayerfully consider giving to our Mission Fund and designating your gift for “US Regional Church Planting.”
Jesus promised, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Mathew 16:18). The SOVEREIGN GRACE National Church Planting Group has the hope-filled privilege of serving the churches of Sovereign Grace to partner together in advancing the mission of the unstoppable gospel.
There are church planters to be raised up who will lead teams of disciples to go with the gospel and spread the fame of Christ. There are people who don’t know Jesus, who will hear the gospel and become disciples. There are churches to be planted where the gospel has little to no presence. This will happen! Jesus will build his church—and it’s amazing that we all get to be a part of it.
The National Church Planting Group is driven by the promise of the unstoppable gospel to continue our rich history of partnering together to make disciples and plant churches for the glory of God. As a team of servants, we have the privilege of serving together in order to help facilitate this partnership, region by region, in relation to our shared vision, mission, values and polity.
This week I will be leading a training event in Austin, Texas with the National Church Planting Group and representatives from our Regional Church Planting Committees. The goal is to equip our pastors serving on their regional committees to carry out the essential tasks of assessing church planters and church adoptions with consistency & efficiency.
Please pray for us as we gather! Here are some ways you can specifically pray…
- Wednesday night we will be holding a prayer meeting asking the Father to pour out the Holy Spirit to give us greater vision and faith for advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout our existing regions and beyond.
Pray for God to meet with us and that the overflow from this prayer meeting would bless Sovereign Grace Churches that exist and do not exist yet.
- Thursday morning we will be hearing from Jeff Vanderstelt, who leads SOMA network, on the vital relationship of Gospel Community & Gospel Mission.
Pray for God to use this teaching to provoke us in areas of weakness where we need to grow as a church planting movement, reinforce ways in which we are strong and need to express gratitude to God for his grace, and develop a relationship with another church planting network that shares our core theology, mission and values.
- Thursday late morning until late afternoon we will be leading discussion on revamping our church planting and church adoption process to bring it into conformity to our decentralized regional polity with the hopes we will walk away with a shared vision of carrying this out in our regions in anticipation of God’s blessing.
Pray for God to use the National Church Planting Group to envision and equip our Regional Church Planting Committee members to understand and apply the assessment process with consistency & efficiency across our regions. Also pray for all of us to experience unity in the midst of our diversity as we seek to develop parts of the process that are in progress.
- Thursday Night through Saturday afternoon we will be attending the VERGE conference which aims to equip leaders in the mission of making disciples & planting churches.
Pray for God to use the conference and the entire retreat to draw us together relationally as we worship, learn and serve together.
Thank you for your prayers and keep your eyes open for updates, pictures, and sound bytes on Twitter and Facebook.
I am so glad we are in this together.
On Sunday February 9, Christ Community Church celebrated our first year of public meetings. In the fall of 2012, around 35 faithful servants (adults and kids) moved to the “north shore” of Lake Pontchartrain, which provides a natural barrier to the north of New Orleans. We were sent from Lakeview Christian Center in New Orleans where many of us had been established for 20 years and more!
We were drawn to the Mandeville/Covington area of St. Tammany Parish (on the north shore) to plant a church with some folks who had been commuting to attend Lakeview. St. Tammany Parish is an affluent area but also an area desperate for gospel hope and healing. The parish has maintained the highest suicide rate for the state the past couple of decades. Churches marred by splits have left believers disillusioned and wandering from church to church.
We began our public meetings at a church on Saturday evenings and, after six months, we signed a lease for the building that we met in on Saturdays. We have had front row seats to experience the faithfulness of God in astounding ways. Since we moved into our own church home, we have been well received in the surrounding community. We have gone door-to-door introducing ourselves to the community on numerous occasions and have sensed a unique opening for the gospel that we are seeking to be used by the Lord to advance in the coming months and years.
In planting Christ Community Church, we prayed to see conversions. And the Lord has answered our prayers for conversions in ways beyond our imagination!
Our first conversion was the sweet moment when my daughter, ten years old at the time, came to the awareness of her own sinfulness as we continued to cast the vision of our family's involvement in planting a church to see people come to trust Christ for salvation. We had spent months before and after our move envisioning our five kids still at home about God’s call on us to plant a church to see people come to repentance. My daughter began to ask deep questions about her relationship with God, and she prayed with us in her room, surrendering her life to Christ. A couple of months later, the same thing happened to my younger daughter, who was eight years old at the time. I never anticipated our first converts coming from my own house, but I am overjoyed!
This past October, we moved into our own church building, allowing us to move our worship gathering to Sundays. We spent a couple months renovating and personalizing the building in preparation for an Open House Sunday on December 22. A mom in our church had been praying for years for her two daughters to come to faith in the Lord. She invited them both to the Open House, and they both came. The married daughter brought her husband as well. That Sunday, we had a couple share their testimony of coming to Christ during the service, and then I preached a message targeted to the lost. The invited couple couldn't stop crying the whole time. Benny, the husband, shared that when they came, the emptiness they had been trying to deal with and fill was finally gone after God touched them both. They haven’t missed a Sunday since.
Our most recent conversion occurred in late January. The men of the church met to discuss our study of The Godly Man's Picture. Ten minutes into a discussion on forgiveness, a guy named Brad interrupted me. Brad had come to church the previous two Sundays with his family as a result of an outreach in his community about two miles from church. He was sitting right next to me and asked for prayer because of the hatred and anger he had for his dad. He said that if he died that night, he knew he would go to hell because of his anger. I asked him a series of questions about his salvation, and he prayed with us all on the spot to repent of his sins and trust Christ for salvation as the men gathered around him. It was a glorious moment indeed!
The new believers added to our church family has served to reignite passion and zeal that reminds us of the sweetness of our own conversion experiences. We pray for more conversions. We pray for our growth as disciples. We pray for Christ to be preeminent in all things!
Jeff Ehrhardt is the senior pastor of Christ Community Church in Covington, Louisiana.
If you’re like me, there are certain verses that stick with you because they call you to live your life in a certain way. One of those verses for me, and I believe for Sovereign Grace is 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” This verse calls us to remain steadfast in the work of the gospel. The faith-stirring truth is that our labors for the gospel are not in vain!
As the Executive Director of Sovereign Grace, I have the unique vantage point of seeing how God is using our family of churches in the steadfast work of the gospel. I want you to see what I see, because our labors for the gospel are not in vain. So here are some snapshots from my last few weeks. As you read these stories, I hope they not only stir your faith to continue to labor for the gospel, but also remind you of the mission we share as a family of churches.
A few weeks ago I attended Grace City Church in the Wissinoming section of Northeast Philadelphia. This church plant, led by Dan Birkholz is meeting in a 90+ year old church building that they were given last year. The church building gives them a presence in the community from which they can reach out to the people living in the surrounding neighborhoods. Through the faithful labors and outreach of the members on the Grace City church planting team, this church has grown in attendance from 30 to 60 in the last couple of months! On the Sunday I was there I met Doug, who is from Northeast Philadelphia, and was attending for the very first time. As we talked he told me about the rough life that he had lived, and that he decided to come to church because he had been invited and because he “wanted to come back to Jesus.” I told Doug if that’s what he wanted, he was in the right place. You see, that morning we sang the truths of the gospel, and Dan clearly preached the gospel in his sermon from Ephesians 1. The labors of Grace City Church are not in vain because Doug heard the life-saving message of the gospel that morning. I drove home that afternoon reminded again of one of the reasons Sovereign Grace exists. We exist to plant churches as a means to proclaim the gospel to those who don’t know Jesus!
Two weeks ago I received an e-mail from Jeff Ehrhardt. Last year Jeff was sent from Lakeview Christian Center in New Orleans to plant Christ Community Church in Covington, LA. In his e-mail Jeff told me of a man who recently was born again. This is how Jeff recounts the story: “Our most recent conversion occurred last Thursday. The men of the church met at church to discuss our study of The Godly Man's Picture. 10 minutes into the discussion on forgiveness, Brad interrupted me. Brad had come to church the previous two Sundays with his family as a result of an outreach in his community about 2 miles from church. He was sitting right next to me and asked for prayer because of the hatred and anger he had for his dad. He told us that if he died that night he knew he would go to hell because of his anger. I asked him a series of questions about his salvation, and he prayed with us all on the spot to repent of his sins and trust Christ for salvation as the men gathered around him. It was a glorious moment indeed!”
Why did Brad attend this study? Because the members of Christ Community Church were abounding in the work of the Lord by reaching out to their community. As I read Jeff’s e-mail, tears filled my eyes because we serve a God who still saves!! And Brad’s story reminded me again of the mission we share in Sovereign Grace; to reach those who don’t know Jesus with the good news of the gospel.
This past week I had a phone call with my friend Carlos Contreras. Carlos is the Sr. Pastor of Iglesia Gracia Soberana de Cd. Juarez, Mexico. One of the reasons we scheduled a call is because in a couple of weeks Carlos is traveling to Spain, on behalf of Sovereign Grace, to talk with pastors about planting churches in Spain and the Canary Islands. We don’t know if those churches will ever be a part of Sovereign Grace. We simply want to serve them, and I know we have much to learn from them. I’m telling you about this conversation for a couple of reasons. First, please pray for Carlos as he makes this trip. In particular, ask God to give Carlos wisdom in knowing how to best serve these pastors as they consider how to plant churches in Spain. Second, Carlos told me that only about 1% of the people in Spain are evangelical Christians. That statistic alone is a reminder that we are living in a post-Christian world which only makes our labors for the gospel more necessary and more urgent. You see it is vital that our family of churches remain steadfast and immovable in our labors for the gospel.
I hope these stories remind you that God is at work all around us. I hope these stories also encourage you to remain steadfast and immovable in your labors to make the gospel known. Let us not grow weary in abounding in gospel work because our labors are not in vain!
January 30, 2014 by
Categories: Church planting | Interviews
Larry Malament recently relocated to Clarksburg, Maryland to lead a team to plant Grace Church. We asked Larry to tell us a little bit about himself and the new church.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your family?
My wife's name is Marilyn and we've been married for 34 years this February. We have three wonderful children who are all married and are part of the church in Charlotte. My son, David, is married to Anne and they have two children: Kate and Sam. My daughter, Jeni, is married to Lee Kubicek, and they have a little girl on the way. My daughter, Keri, is married to Isaac Cowles. I graduated from George Mason University and spent my first two years out of college teaching and coaching high school basketball. I've been in ministry since 1983. Marilyn and I both love to read—no better vacation than sitting next to each other at the beach and reading a good book. I enjoy playing golf and woodworking.
How long have you been in pastoral ministry, and which churches have you served in?
I've been in pastoral ministry for 25 years. I spent my first six years in ministry serving as a church administrator. I've served at the former Sovereign Grace church in Fairfax, the church in Atlanta, the church in Charlotte, and now in Clarksburg, Maryland.
For the past fifteen years I have served SGM internationally by helping care for and plant churches in Asia; specifically Burma, Korea, and India. Songhwan Kang in Korea planted a Sovereign Grace church in 2009. Yesupadam and Alpha Syiem in India, and David Vunga in Burma have partnered with Sovereign Grace for many years allowing us to help serve their pastors through teaching, evangelism teams, and medical camps. I've had the privilege of traveling to these countries more than 50 times and consider all these men dear friends and brothers in Christ. On most of these trips numerous pastors from other Sovereign Grace churches have accompanied me and shared in my ministry responsibilities. What has been very encouraging is to see the new relationships these pastors have formed with our international partners. Bill Kittrell and a number of Cornerstone members have been to Korea twice to serve Lord's Grace Church evangelistically by hosting children's camps and seminars. I'm looking forward to seeing more SGM pastors connect with Songhwan, Yesupadam, Alpha, and others as we continue to work with these godly men.
How did you decide to plant a church in Clarksburg, Maryland?
I was aware that there were a number of families in that area who wanted to be a part of a Sovereign Grace church. I grew up in the D.C. area and knew a number of the folks requesting a church plant. That, along with changes we needed to make in Charlotte due to financial limitations, made it seem like it might be a good fit for me.
What makes the Clarksburg area unique? Do you have any particular burdens for the area?
Clarksburg is not unique in that it is a growing community outside of Washington, D.C. Like all growing communities, it needs the gospel, and the more churches, the better. What does make this area unique is that 33% of the population is Asian. With my background in international ministry, specifically to Southeast Asia, I think I might be able to connect with some of these folks. My burden is to see the gospel impact the many young families and internationals that make up Clarksburg.
What things are you and your church planting team excited about?
We very excited about the makeup of our church. We have both young and older couples, which allows us to reach a broad range of individuals. I love that we're planting in a smaller community. Our desire is to reach Clarksburg proper, and we are thinking very narrowly regarding our community. I trust we'll attract others from the surrounding area, but our heart is to be a "community" church.
What sermon series will you be using for the first public meetings?
How can we be specifically praying for your church?
Pray for boldness to share the gospel and fruitfulness in seeing others come to faith in Christ.
How can those interested in the church find out more?
I'd be happy to have folks call me. 301-810-5707.
December 30, 2013 by
Categories: Articles | Church planting
Several friends of mine have recently sold their homes, secured new jobs, relocated from hundreds of miles away, and left everything they had previously known to help plant a new church in the greater Nashville area. I have so much respect for each one of them.
There’s such a mixture of emotions that can attend a decision like this. On the one hand, there’s the excitement of a new venture and the joy of answering the call of God. On the other hand, there’s the difficulty attended with “starting over” in a new city and the sadness of leaving behind the people you love.
Jesus answered those who followed him with the assurance that they would be blessed, that they would encounter trouble, and that they would receive eternal life:
Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life (Mark 10:28–30).
These promises apply to everyone who follows Christ, regardless of whether or not he or she participates in a church plant. However, these assurances are particularly poignant to one who has relocated for the sake of the gospel and the cause of Christ.
Jesus comforts us with the promises that all the sacrifices involved, be it financially, relationally, personally, or professionally, will be rewarded.
My wife and I have been in the greater Nashville area for a little over a year now. We left an incredible, established, rich, gospel-proclaiming church and many of our dearest friends at Cornerstone Church of Knoxville in order to participate in planting Redeeming Grace Church in Franklin, Tennessee. CCK is where I came to faith in Christ. It’s where I was taught the truths of Scripture. It’s where I developed a passion for gospel mission, and it’s where I was eventually commissioned to “GO” to spread the gospel to a new region.
Which means that it’s where I had to leave. For so many reasons, leaving CCK was difficult for me. I can remember worshipping together the last few Sunday morning services and thinking, “What am I doing?” And yet the desire to help start and plant a new church in a new location for the sake of the gospel was so strong that I could never truly “shake it.” In the end, I knew my family was called to “GO” and that some of our dearest friends were called to “STAY.”
As we were preparing to plant, our lead pastor, Dave Odom, said this many times:
“Jesus is worth it.”
A year in to this gig, I can attest that Jesus is good on his Word. He is faithful to his promises. He has richly provided, far beyond anything we could have hoped for, asked for, or imagined. Church planting has expanded my horizons. It’s helped me see ways in which the Lord is at work everywhere around us. We’ve been embraced by the people of God in this area and have experienced deep fellowship with other believers in Christ. I’ve formed new friendships with other believers, and it feels like we’ve known each other all our lives. I’m amazed by that. I’ve also had the opportunity to share the good news of the gospel with people I would have otherwise never met.
As I look back on this year, I thank God for 17 wonderful years of being ministered to at CCK. I thank God for my short time at Immanuel Church of Nashville while we waited for the rest of the church-planting team to arrive. And I thank God for our new church home, Redeeming Grace Church. As I stand and sing with my new friends at Redeeming Grace Church, it feels like home. It feels like the “dearest place on earth” to me.
Church planting also makes me yearn for heaven more than ever before. I look forward to the day when the saints of God will not be separated by geography and limited by the restraints of time and space.
The greatest reward of church planting, for me, is that through the spread of the gospel, more and more people will see Jesus’ worth.
I’m taking Jesus at his Word that those follow him will be blessed, will have trouble, and will receive eternal life. I’m convinced that Jesus is true to his Word, and that he will reward our efforts.
And I think Dave Odom was right: “Jesus IS worth it.”
Craig Cooper is an associate pastor of Redeeming Grace Church, a newly-formed church plant located in the greater Nashville, Tennessee area. He also blogs at RevivingTheSoul.com, a website created to encourage, comfort, and strengthen believers in Christ.
December 17, 2013 by
Categories: Articles | Church planting
We recently had the privilege of adopting Community of Grace Church, located in Buffalo, New York, into our family of churches. We asked pastor Rob Saathoff to tell us a little bit about the church.
How long has you church been in existence?
The church began in 1990.
How long have you been the pastor of the church?
I came to pastor the church August 1991.
How did you become the pastor?
The semester before I graduated from seminary, my wife and I took our spring break to visit some friends who graduated from seminary the prior semester. He and his wife moved to western New York to plant a church. The church I currently pastor was the sponsoring church for his plant even though it did not have a pastor yet. During our spring break visit I preached at the sponsoring church and a connection was made that started a process that ended with my wife and I coming to Buffalo in August of 1991. Originally neither the church or I was interested in each other, but God used that process to turn our hearts toward each other. Just a side note, being a native Texan, it has been a bittersweet thing to have all my children born yankees. God’s grace is sufficient.
What are some things which make your church unique?
I don’t think of my church as being that unique. I think we are probably like most churches with solid, faithful members who have a really great Savior. We love Christ and are devoted to his will and kingdom. We love the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition to this, I love that we are multi-generational. I love how all generations are serving together. I love that my church is committed to disciples making disciples. I love how members of the church are involved in a variety of local ministries that serve single mothers, the homeless, and crisis pregnancies. I love the close fellowship and support we experience as a church family. I love that every Sunday is like a family reunion around a gospel feast. I love that I have been in the church long enough to see young children become young adults, get married and have their own children. I love how generous, kind, and welcoming my church is.
What was your first contact with Sovereign Grace?
I first became aware of Sovereign Grace through their music. I was looking for contemporary songs that have some doctrinal grit. My wife, Terri, and I began to notice the same copyright on a number of songs we loved to sing. I did some research and found Sovereign Grace Ministries (PDI at the time) and saw they offered a worship conference. I planned to attend the next worship conference, but circumstances prevented me. The following January I was able to take a group of young adults to the New Attitude conference in Louisville. While there I was befriended by a Sovereign Grace pastor who invited me to the pastor’s conference. I was stunned by what I heard at both New Attitude and the pastor’s conference. Every song, every sermon, every prayer was textured and permeated with the gospel in ways I have never experienced.
Why do you want to become part of Sovereign Grace?
It became apparent to me that my church and I were running on parallel tracks with Sovereign Grace. What God was doing in my church seemed to be mirrored in Sovereign Grace. We held similar values such as the priority of the gospel, sound doctrine, expository preaching and the vital role of the Holy Spirit. I realized we were essentially a Sovereign Grace church though we were not officially a member. I also saw gospel fruit in so many of the people who had befriended us in SG and wanted that fruit in my life, in my marriage, my children and in my church. We want to be part of what God is doing through Sovereign Grace: to preach Christ, and to plant and support Christ-exalting, gospel-centered churches.
How is your church reaching out to your local community?
In September the church was called to pray and fast, asking God to fill us with a passion to bring Christ to our community. Currently the whole church is being trained through the evangelistic curriculum “MyCircle Initiative.” This training inspires people to be on mission with God by taking responsibility to give the gospel to people in our circle of influence. In this training we learn what it means to have a gospel presence in someone’s life in order to have a gospel voice. Through this training my church is challenged to pray everyday for unbelieving family, friends and neighbors, and to seek weekly opportunities to give a gospel witness.
You can find out more about Community of Grace Church on their website.