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.
December 4, 2013 by
Categories: Articles | Church planting
Jon Payne is the lead pastor of Redemption Hill Church, which was just recently planted in Round Rock, Texas. We asked Jon to share what God is teaching him as a church planter. These lessons Jon shares are wise words for anyone in leadership, not just church planters.
Church planting is going to school under the wise instruction of God. Every day, every week, every month he is teaching and training and helping me, helping me grow in my understanding of him in the schoolhouse of planting a church. Here are a few of the lessons I have received so far.
Know what to build before you start building. The temptation to craft messages and structures to create numerical success or to appease the widest audience is never greater than in the first, vulnerable days of a church plant. Building on Biblical values and gospel centrality means accepting in advance that not all interested guests will want to stay.
Don't let your heart rise and fall with attendance and the bank account. Security and impact seem to be tied up with enough money and enough people - yet unless the Lord builds this house we will be laboring in vain.
Beware of success that tempts you to neglect prayer. Seeing immediate fruit can lead to complacency in prayer, long before there is complacency in study or leadership.
Beware of disappointments that lead to anxiety and micromanagement. Godly effort and leadership is marked by peace. Pride causes worry and demands perfection.
Delegation is an act of worshiping God. Trusting God means trusting his grace at work in others - each fulfilling their own role in the body in their own God-given way.
Encouragement and thankfulness is a constant priority. Team members quickly feel the burden of the church planting task and need the strength communicated by a leader constantly pointing out how God is using them. Also, be much more concerned about preserving your team's joy and faith than upholding your ministry's appearance for guests.
Don't underestimate the familiar moments that happen every week. Anticipate God using this particular sermon, song choice, counsel, comfort to the suffering, spontaneous ministry moment, public humility, display of faith, repeated emphasis on the gospel. Church defining moments don't always advertise themselves.
Build for 100 years from now, or until Jesus returns. Your first week, month, year, sermon series, failures, successes, and new members classes, will not define the final testimony of your church. You're building for the long run. The Word, the Gospel, and the Holy Spirit will bear fruit. Don't get dismayed by the little hills and valleys in the various decades along the way.
Highlight partnership for your church. Celebrate your partnership with the theologically orthodox church of history past and a family of supportive churches in the present. Prepare your church for the potential of your own serious failure by recommending the wisdom of leaders that they can trust if you fall. Make sure they know who to call if if you die or dare to turn away from the Lord. Don't build the church's ultimate confidence into your faithfulness.
Enjoy true fellowship and friendship with your team, whoever they are. Receive correction, advice, encouragement, and accountability and enjoy moments of fun when you are not making church decisions or leading a meeting. You need Biblical community.
Enjoy your wife and children. Give time to your family, even in the earliest days of church planting. Even when you'd love a little more sermon prep. Even when you have phone calls to return. There will always be more to do, but prioritizing the family requires a constant choice to leave the "more" in the hands of the Lord.
Pursue joy in the Lord as your strength. The gospel is good news. You're going to heaven even after the end of the worst day. The worst and best emails don't define your identity. You always have hope to give people. You always have hope for yourself.
If I really had it all together, this would be a list of seven or ten lessons. But I don't have it all together, and I'm not sure which lessons to leave out. I'm grateful for all of them, as I am for the church planters that have gone before me and passed them on to me. I'm most grateful for the Lord's gracious patience to keep teaching me as I go to school each day.
Teach us, Lord, we are listening.
November 7, 2013 by
Categories: Church planting
Last night was a night 15 years in the making. I had the privilege of participating in the first official public meeting of Redeeming Grace Church, Nashville!
Celebrating the Faithfulness of God
God has been so kind to us. A year ago this fall, my family and I relocated to Franklin, Tennessee with the desire to help Dave Odom plant a gospel-centered church in the greater Nashville area. The Lord provided an incredible job for me, and I’ve been working with the Provisions Group in downtown Franklin for a year.
In many ways, this church plant is something that my wife and I have committed to the Lord in prayer for over 15 years. So last night was a very special night for us. A year ago, I would have never dreamed we would have 103 people attend our first meeting, but God has been very gracious to us.
Dave Odom, the lead pastor, is a gift from God to us and an answer to prayer. It was such a joy to hear him preach on the person and work of Jesus as we launched Redeeming Grace Church. For the first few months, Dave is going to continue to preach on the person and work of Jesus. May our focus always be on Christ!
Standing next to my long-time, close friend Howard Varnedoe and worshipping the Lord together on this plant is simply a dream come true for me and my family (and another answer to my prayers). I continually thank God for my rich friendship with Howard and his Christ-saturated influence on my life.
Our good friend, Seth Rosen, led us in worship, and we sang about the faithfulness of God. Seth is a very gifted song writer and worship leader, and the acoustics in this small venue are really incredible; it was so wonderful to sing together in praise to our faithful God!
Together on Mission
“As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight” (Psalm 16:3)
I love these people, and I love our mission together:
We exist to exalt, enjoy, and extend the grace of God in Christ.
May Jesus Christ be exalted through Redeeming Grace Church, and may many sinners come to find refuge in the Savior as they walk through our doors!
If you are in the Franklin / South Nashville area, we would love for you to join us. We are currently meeting on Saturday evenings at 6pm at Hillview Baptist Church (1642 Lewisburg Pike, Franklin, TN 37064).
Craig Cooper is an associate pastor of Redeeming Grace Church. Craig graduated from the Sovereign Grace Pastors College in 1999. He then served as a pastor with Cornerstone Church of Knoxville for nearly 8 years. He was ordained in 2011 and relocated to the greater Nashville area in 2012 where he currently works as a Senior Recruiter with the Provisions Group in downtown Franklin, as well as serving to assist Dave Odom in planting Redeeming Grace Church. Craig and his wife, Laura, live in Franklin, Tennessee and have four children.
October 22, 2013 by
Categories: Church planting | Interviews
Greg Dirnberger is leading a church-planting team to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, after attending the Pastors College and completing a church-planting residency at Sovereign Grace Church (Bloomington, MN). We asked Greg to share some of what the Lord has done in leading them to plant this church.
First of all, when and where will your church begin?
We're planting Emmaus Road Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. We’ve begun “interest meetings” already. However, we do not expect to have a public launch for several weeks.
Where is your church-planting team coming from?
Our team is taking shape with folks relocating from Sovereign Grace Church of Bloomington, Minnesota, as well as friends that we know from the Sioux Falls area. But the heart of the team is a group of young men (including our sons) who approached me a few years ago to come alongside them and plant a church that would plant more churches (both locally and internationally).
How did you decide to plant in Sioux Falls? Are there certain aspects of the area that get you excited about church planting there?
Sioux Falls is a dynamic economic center in the upper Midwest. The city is growing by 400 people per month. Banking, health/medical industries, and a vibrant climate for small business entrepreneurs makes Sioux Falls an overall strategic community. However, once again, the thing that has stirred our hearts the most for this city is the vital relationships and influence God has given us here.
What is your overall vision for the church?
Our aim is to, with God’s help, make disciples that will bring transformation to this city and region for the glory of Jesus.
What are some specific values that you want to characterize Emmaus Road Church?
My wife, Laurie, (and our sons) have walked together with me through 29 years of pastoral ministry. Along the way, several things have left indelible marks on our development process—things that make us who are and inform our values. These include things like:
- Spiritual community
- Evangelism and mission
- Education, which has been our avenue to developing strategic relationships with young emerging leaders
- Mentoring and redemptive leadership
- A heart for the nations, fanned into flame by twelve years of pastoral ministry in Hawaii and a dozen mission trips to Japan, the Philippines, Europe, and Ghana
We trust and pray that these things that we value so dearly might be “caught” and characterize Emmaus Road Church.
What aspects of Sovereign Grace Church in Bloomington do you most appreciate and want to emulate as you begin Emmaus Road Church?
Someone I dearly respect has said something to the effect of, “there are gifted servants, leaders, and pastors you can seek to emulate, and others you can only admire.” Rick Gamache is a preacher in the category of one whom I can only admire. However, I earnestly pray that the earnest preaching of the Word and the eager appetite fostered among the saints at Sovereign Grace Church Bloomington to hear the Word might somehow uniquely characterize Emmaus Road Church.
Also, there is a very sweet and passionate engagement with God in worship that characterizes Sovereign Grace Church Bloomington. May God bless us with a few “crumbs from that table.”
Part 2 will be posted later this week.
This past August, Gracia Soberana de Ciudad Juárez said goodbye to one of its beloved pastors, Ricky Ramos. Ricky and his wife, Lory, decided on an early retirement to be able to join Jon and Lory Payne—their daughter and son-in-law—to plant Redemption Hill Church in Austin, Texas. It was both a joyous and tearful occasion for our church, since this couple made a deep and significant investment in our church over the 16 years they served here.
Saying goodbye to Ricky was a joyous occasion because we all had the opportunity to review the gift that a good pastor is to a congregation. It took a whole week of celebrations to give everyone an opportunity to express their appreciation and love to Ricky and Lory. And there were many reasons to be thankful.
A Good Pastor
Ricky is a good pastor. He was excellent, along with his wife, at caring for people through counseling and instruction, but also in giving of themselves to those they were called to serve. They were full of love and kindness toward a congregation they loved, leaving a mark on our church that cannot be erased.
As they taught and discipled others in family matters, they served as excellent examples of a godly couple, pursuing growth in their marriage and their parenting. Many younger couples expressed their goal of one day “being like Ricky and Lory.”
Ricky and Lory embodied the apostle Peter’s admonition to pastors to serve by being examples to the flock. What a distinct privilege it was to honor them publicly, and in the presence of their children, by referring to them as true examples to all of us. Ricky’s example in these areas is a definition of what a “good” pastor should be.
To me, having served alongside Ricky for all those years, I can truly say Ricky is a good pastor because he was always my faithful friend who cared for me and the other pastors on staff. He wasn’t just my fellow elder; he was also my pastor, faithfully caring for the health of my soul and my family. And he was a wise counselor and a prudent elder in his role as a church leader. He was a good pastor because he guarded the gospel with zeal and helped us always keep the main thing in front of us. I have missed him being at my side almost every day since they have left.
Thankfulness to God
During their going away party, our production team designed a banner that read in bold letters: “Thank you, Ricky and Lory, we will always be grateful for your contribution into our lives.” The background of the banner looked like a brick wall. But what looked like bricks were actually words. Those words included ”kindness, generosity, instruction, friendship, counsel, care, help, nurture, correction, patience,” and many more that described some of the elements that Ricky and Lory had built into our large church family through the years. Ricky was a good pastor because the master builder used him to help edify the church.
Ricky and Lory were good gifts to us, as all God given gifts are. They were a true expression of the love of our Father in heaven to his church in Juárez. And because they were such precious gifts, a large void is felt in our hearts as they have left. But even that void is good, for it reminds us what a good pastor is and gives us reason to be thankful to God.
We rejoice and are thankful they are now being a good gift to their children and grandchildren, as well as to our new brothers and sisters in Redemption Hill Church of Austin, Texas.
Thank you, Ricky and Lory! Our Lord was good to us by sending you here to Juárez for all these years.
Carlos Contreras has attended Iglesia Gracia Soberana de Cd. Juárez for 34 years, and has served on staff for the last 22 years (15 as senior pastor). He and his wife, Kena, have been married for 30 years and have four children.
October 3, 2013 by
Categories: Articles | Church planting
Planting Redeeming Grace Church
In just a few weeks, a group of about 100 people, each with amazing stories of the grace and providence of God, will gather for their first official meeting to worship as a body, a family...a new church. Grateful tears well up as I realize the prayers, plans, vision, and work are becoming a reality.
By God’s grace, my husband, Dave, is planting Redeeming Grace Church in Franklin, Tennessee this October. As the launch draws near, it has been good to stop and reflect on what God has done to get us here. The road has not been easy with moving several times with three little ones, then having a new baby, all the while trusting and waiting for God to lead and provide for each step. It has been challenging, but it has been so good. The grace and faithfulness God has shown us has far exceeded anything we could have hoped for or imagined. Our family has grown closer, our marriage stronger, and our faith in Jesus and love for the church has deepened. God has continued to affirm this call, lead us, and meet us in such amazing ways that I would need pages and pages to recount it all. Yet as I look back, planting a church has made three things so evidently and even tangibly clear.
The reality of the love of Christ
As a mom of four little ones, I have carried them on my heart, praying that God would protect them through all of our transitions, somehow helping them understand what he had called us to do. God has abundantly answered that prayer. As we have traveled, moved, and met hundreds of believers from all over the world, my kids have gotten to see and experience like never before the reality of the love of Christ as they embraced us. They have seen this divine love as the only common denominator that unifies strangers as instant family. They are also seeing that it is the love of Christ that identifies our church, rather than a building, as we meet in temporary locations. They have watched as Cornerstone Church of Knoxville has prayed, supported, and sacrificed to send us out. And most definitely, we are so grateful for the support and care from this family of churches in Sovereign Grace which so beautifully displays to our kids (and us) what it means to be partners in the gospel.
Desperate dependence on the Spirit’s work
If anything has become clear, it is that we are completely dependent on the Lord to do this. Our weakness and his strength have become glaringly obvious so that we know that our confidence and competence is only through Christ before God (2 Corinthians 3:4–6), and his power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I have never been more desperate for the Lord and aware of my need for the Spirit to work in our lives and in our church. Desperate for the Lord has become my new norm, and there’s no better place to be.
God’s faithfulness and care
I have had a unique vantage point as I’ve been able to watch God growing this church from desires, prayers, and vision to where we are today: planting with a people marked by grace, filled with faith, eager to worship, serve, and share the gospel with this community. What faith God has granted them to commit to God’s call even before houses were sold or jobs worked out, and yet he has been faithful to provide! This has built our faith. We don’t question for a second that it is God who is building this church. We are just humbled and grateful to be a part of it!
The journey here will forever change our family. We already love to recount the stories to our children of God’s kindness and faithfulness as we look back, and it fuels our faith as we look ahead. I am so grateful for my husband and follow him with joy as he shepherds this new church. We pray that God will use this church to change many lives with the gospel of his redeeming grace.
Mary Beth Odom and her husband, Dave, are originally from Montgomery, Alabama, and have been married for twelve years. They have four children, ages eleven months to nine years. Dave graduated from the Pastors College in 2012, and then served at Cornerstone Church of Knoxville as a church planting resident. The Odom family has just moved to Franklin, Tennessee to be part of the Sovereign Grace Church plant, Redeeming Grace Church, starting in October 2013.
September 20, 2013 by
Categories: Church planting
I can’t imagine planting a church without the partnership of other churches. Well, strike that. I can imagine it, and it scares me. The idea of planting alone is nightmarish because so much of God’s provision for our new church plant has come to us through the gift of other local churches. These churches have sacrificed time, energy, and money to support us—to tell us of their love and desire to see God work in our little plant. Let me give the list that springs to mind:
- Sovereign Grace Church of Gilbert, Arizona sent out 22 dear friends and members to plant this church. They also supported me during the pre-launch phase and sent us a generous financial gift as an investment in our mission. They continue to provide unceasing encouragement and prayer support.
- Ricky Alcantar, the lead pastor of Cross of Grace Church in El Paso, Texas, connected me to a pastor friend of his who wanted to donate a “church in a box”—sound equipment, chairs, tables, even children’s ministry toys—to support our church plant.
- Lynn Baird of Sovereign Grace Church of Pasadena has communicated his consistent commitment to pray for our church plant.
- Glynn McKenzie, senior pastor at Grace Community Church in Westminster, Colorado, invited me to speak at his church so that they could pray personally for our church plant, and so that their church could give our church a gift of support.
- Tim Kerr, who pastors at Sovereign Grace Church of Toronto, Ontario, has consistently been praying for our church plant team members and even took time to specifically encourage our team about faith for our journey.
- The pastoral team of Covenant Fellowship Church has sought to communicate their support both in encouragement and in practical support, helping our intern (Aaron Mayfield) as he pursued the Pastors College and through supporting our children’s ministry needs.
- Gracia Soberana de Ciudad Juarez (Sovereign Grace Church of Juarez, Mexico) sent out their dearly loved pastor Ricky Ramos, his wife, Lory, and their daughter, Linda, to participate in our church plant.
- Melissa Goins, the administrative assistant for the Pastors College and a member of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, helped the Mayfield family drive back from the Pastors College so Holly Mayfield and the boys wouldn’t have to drive alone.
- Grace Church of Frisco, Texas, led by Craig Cabaniss, took time to “live chat” with me on a Sunday morning as a way of encouraging our church plant and inviting their members to prayerfully consider participation.
- Bob Odom and Josh Jordan, the pastors of Lifegate Church of Seguin Texas, invited our entire church plant team down to their church meeting, encouraged me to speak on the mission of church planting, treated our whole team to a BBQ lunch, and sent out one of their faithful servant members to join our church plant team.
The amazing thing about this list is that it’s just the most recent gifts of partnership! It doesn’t include the gift of the Pastors College in preparing me to preach, the gift of Sovereign Grace Music in supplying our song diet, the gift of doctrinal clarity in guarding our teaching, the gift of a church plant grant to support us as we get started, the gift of Pastors Conferences to encourage our pastors and wives now and into the future, and the gift of pastoral friends and examples from around the country and world who love us, pray for us, and encourage us constantly!
The gift of partnership is a gift of grace—an overwhelming, heavenly, undeserved, abundant gift. I thank God for all of the Sovereign Grace churches and the impact you are already having in Redemption Hill Church and, through us, in Greater Austin and Central Texas. May God continue to be glorified through the amazing gift all of you are to us.
Jon is the senior pastor of the newly-planted Redemption Hill Church in Round Rock, Texas. Prior to church planting, he had been on staff at Sovereign Grace Church of Gilbert, Arizona since 2005. Jon graduated from the Sovereign Grace Pastors College in 2005. He and his wife, Lory, have three children.
September 16, 2013 by
Categories: Church planting | Church Updates
On Sunday, August 25, Covenant Fellowship Church shared the joy of sending out Andrew Kalvelage and a group of 30 adults and 10 children to plant Covenant Community Church in West Philadelphia. Andrew, a 2011 graduate of the Pastors College, felt the call to church planting and initially thought he would plant in the midwest. But he changed his plans during his church planting internship at Covenant Fellowship, setting his focus on the city of Philadelphia. Andrew and his wife, Christina, have three children and are eager to begin this next season of their lives with a group of families they have come to love deeply.
We at Covenant Fellowship are excited to be sending one of three Sovereign Grace church-planting teams into the city of Philadelphia. We are joining Sovereign Grace Church (Marlton, NJ), planting Christ Church in South Philly, and Grace Bible Church (Northeast Philadelphia, PA), planting Grace Bible Church of Wissinoming. Realizing that our three churches did not coordinate this effort to reach Philadelphia builds our faith and creates an anticipation for what God will do through these three church plants.
The church plant to West Philly is particularly exciting for me as my 20-year-old son, Nathan, is a part of the church-planting team. What a joy to see him catch a vision for reaching the city and partnering with the other families of Covenant Community Church. Please keep Covenant Community Church in your prayers. They will be starting their evening gatherings immediately and will soon be meeting in a christian elementary school’s chapel on 42nd and Baltimore.
If you are interested in becoming a part of this plant or want to know how you can be more involved right from where you are at, don’t hesitate to contact Andrew and let him know.
Marty Machowski leads the children's and youth ministries at Covenant Fellowship Church and is the author of The Gospel Story Bible, Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God, and Old Story New: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family To God. He received a Bachelor of Science in industrial design from the Philadelphia College of Art. Marty and his wife, Lois, reside in West Chester, Pennsylvania and have six children.
Sovereign Grace is a family of churches devoted to seeing the gospel proclaimed to all those who don’t know Jesus Christ as their Savior. One of the ways we participate in gospel advancement is through the planting of churches. Church planting has always been in our DNA, and we pray it always will be. That’s why we get excited when other people have the same vision. The folks organizing Plant New England are some friends who talk about and live out the same mission we do. And as partners in the gospel, we want to support them in their efforts to see the gospel spread. Sovereign Grace, along with 9Marks, The Gospel Coalition and The NETS Institute for Church Planting are sponsoring Plant New England. This conference is designed to equip churches and church planters to plant gospel-driven church in the New England areas.
The conference (October 14-15) will be held in the Boston, Massachusetts area and is titled True Conversion: Church Planters As Soul Physicians. As their website states, the theme is focused on the church planters preparation as competent soul physicians. Current church planters, future church planters, men and women who desire to participate in a church plant—anyone excited about church planting—is invited to attend. Main session speakers include Mark Dever, Stephen Um, Jim Hamilton and Wes Pastor. Among the breakout session teachers, is our own Executive Director, Mark Prater, who is teaching a breakout session titled The Church-Planting Church: Multiplying Conversions.
For more details on the conference, visit www.plantnewengland.org/ or follow us on twitter at @plantne.
Living Faith Church in Franklin, West Virginia, joined Sovereign Grace in 1986 and has "grown up" along with Sovereign Grace. We asked Josh Blount, a pastor at LFC, to answer some questions to help you get to know this church that has a long-lived history and partnership Sovereign Grace.
How did Living Faith Church begin and become part of Sovereign Grace?
Living Faith Church began out of a Bible study group that met in the 70’s and early 80’s. The first formal beginnings of the church were in March of 1982. There were five people at that first meeting in Steve and Linda Teter’s apartment. Over the next four years, our numbers grew to between 60 and 80, and we began meeting on Sunday mornings in a rented facility. In 1986, we joined what was then PDI Ministries out of a desire for extra-local partnership.
What does partnership with Sovereign Grace mean for you as pastor and for the people in your church?
Our pastoral team says often that without our partnership with Sovereign Grace, we wouldn’t exist as a church! In a sense we have “grown up” with Sovereign Grace. It’s impossible to tell our story as a church without also telling the story of God’s work in Sovereign Grace as a whole: Celebration Mid-South, leaders and worship conferences, shared books and messages—all these are part of our family history with Sovereign Grace Ministries. In strengths and weaknesses, growth and growing pains, our past is tied to Sovereign Grace.
As we move forward into the future, we are most excited about our partnership with Sovereign Grace in two areas: accountability and mission. We love our fellow regional pastors and are grateful to be joined together in a shared mission to build churches and proclaim the gospel in our region.
What do you love most about pastoring your church?
As the youngest member on the pastoral team here, I would say the thing I love the most about being a pastor at LFC is the deep love that our members have for one another. I’ve experienced this personally: when I came to Franklin as a single, 23-year-old pastoral intern, the church as a whole took me in as though I’d grown up in the church. Since then, they have been equally as welcoming to my wife Anna, and now our newborn son, Elliot. Paul’s description of the Thessalonian believers in 1 Thessalonians 4:9 applies to the people in our church as well: “you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another.”
What are you currently preaching on Sunday mornings, and what is the Lord showing you and the church through it?
We’re currently preaching through the book of 1 Samuel. One of the main themes we’ve seen from this section of Scripture is that God’s purposes for his people unfold even in the midst of opposition and persecution.
What is the city of Franklin like, and what is your vision for reaching people in your community?
Franklin is a town of 800 residents in a county of around 8,000. It’s a beautiful setting: we’re surrounded on all sides by mountains, woods, and trout streams. Our vision for reaching our community is through our relationships with the people of our town. Because we’re a small town with little economic or population growth, change happens slowly and we don’t see a lot of new faces. But God, the great Evangelist, is infinitely patient, and His work to draw people to Himself operates on a much bigger time scale than ours. We want to be a church of believers alert to the ways God has gone before us in the lives of unbelievers around us, so we can love them well and share the gospel as God opens doors.
What are some events or ministries that God is particularly using in your church these days?
In July, we hosted a four-day Vacation Bible School for kids in our church and community. The whole church is involved and serves wonderfully to do drama, songs, games, snacks, and crafts. We also recently did a father-son overnight camping trip that culminated, as all good camping trips do, with a torrential rainstorm and lots of good memories.
In September, after twenty years, we will celebrate a “note-burning” Sunday as we pay off our building loan. Praise God for His faithfulness!
What are a few prayer requests for Living Faith Church?
As we pay off our building this fall, our desire is to invest more resources into mission, both locally and beyond. Please pray that God would give us wisdom to know the particular places and people he is preparing for us. Also pray that we grow corporately in our passion for evangelism and outreach.
Josh Blount has been on staff at Living Faith Church since 2009 and was ordained in October 2011. After moving to Franklin in August of 2007, Josh spent a year as a pastoral intern at LFC, then graduated from the Pastors College in 2009. Josh and his wife Anna were married in April 2010 and have one son.