October 26, 2012 by
Categories: General | Lawsuit updates
Please be aware of the following press release.
October 26, 2012
Statement by Tommy Hill
Sovereign Grace Ministries Director of Administration
Re: A Civil Lawsuit Filed Against Sovereign Grace Ministries Oct. 17 in Maryland’s Montgomery County Circuit Court
Though not yet served, Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) leadership has obtained a copy of the civil lawsuit filed last week against SGM and several pastors of its associational churches. This recent complaint makes broad allegations that SGM pastors were negligent in providing spiritual counsel and pastoral care in situations involving persons who had previously suffered child sexual abuse. It is important to note that it does not allege any act of child abuse by a pastor or staff member of SGM or of an associated church. SGM is not in a position to comment on the specific allegations at this time, but we are beginning a careful legal review of each allegation. Upon initial review it appears the complaint contains a number of untrue or misleading allegations, as well as considerable mischaracterizations of intent.
Child sexual abuse is reprehensible in any circumstance, and a violation of fundamental human dignity. We grieve deeply for any child who has been a victim of abuse. We want to minister the love, grace and healing of God to any who have suffered this horrific act.
SGM is committed to integrity and faithfulness in pastoral care, as are the pastors of local congregations. We take seriously the biblical commands to pursue the protection and well-being of all people – especially children, who are precious gifts given by the Lord and the most vulnerable among us. These biblical commands include fully respecting civil authority to help restrain evil and promote righteousness as Romans 13 instructs us. SGM also encourages the establishment of robust child protection policies and procedures based on best practices.
SGM churches are separately organized and constituted in their respective communities. They voluntarily partner together for certain aspects of their broader common mission: to plant churches, develop resources, train pastors and serve international ministries in order to proclaim the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We ask that you please join us in praying that God guides and leads all of us in these challenging circumstances, ministering His grace, comfort and peace to all who are affected by this situation, and that His truth would prevail.
October 17, 2012 by
Categories: General | Lawsuit updates
Please be aware of the following press release.
October 17, 2012
Statement by Sovereign Grace Ministries on Reported Lawsuit
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY – Today, Sovereign Grace Ministries Director of Finance and Administration, Tommy Hill, released the statement below regarding a reported lawsuit on October 17, 2012:
It has come to the attention of Sovereign Grace Ministries through media outlets that a lawsuit has been filed against Sovereign Grace Ministries related to allegations of child abuse apparently arising in the 1980s and 90s. To date, Sovereign Grace Ministries has not been served with any such lawsuit nor does it have a copy of the lawsuit. Sovereign Grace Ministries is not in a position to comment on the allegations of the reported lawsuit. Child abuse in any context is reprehensible and criminal. Sovereign Grace Ministries takes seriously the Biblical commands to pursue the protection and well being of all people, especially the most vulnerable in its midst, little children.
Sovereign Grace Ministries is a family of over 80 churches, primarily in the United States with the goal of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ both locally and globally.
For more information, please contact Tommy Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org
August 10, 2012 by
We pass on an encouraging report from Dave Nelson about the efforts of Grace Christian Fellowship to serve and evangelize their neighbors in inner city Spokane, Washington.
Grace Christian Fellowship is located in a low income neighborhood within Spokane's inner city. The church is surrounded by single moms and families on welfare.
From 2010 – 2011 we did a variety of things starting with going door-to-door and handing out invitations to church. We also invited individuals to an “Alpha like” dinner called “Christianity Explored.” However, the overall impact was minimal and none of our efforts seemed to build bridges within the community or lead to a common mission for the church to embrace together.
In the fall of 2010, in the context of prayer, God led us to a book by Darren Patrick titled, “Church Planter – The Man, The Message, The Mission”. This book shifted our direction from a flurry of unrelated activities to a defined platform. Patrick, describes a process their church (The Journey – Saint Louis) underwent to build an evangelistic culture. Quoting from the book,
After well-intended but unfocused activity… we realized that we had not built any relationships, shared struggles, carried burdens, or really loved our neighbors that way we should have… The turning point came when we got connected with the local elementary school, Adams Elementary… We discovered that if you wanted to make an impact in that neighborhood, you had to begin by making an impact at Adams Elementary. Armed with new direction and enthusiasm, (their mission group), decided to put all their financial and people resources into Adams Elementary… in the hopes that they would help transform that neighborhood, then transform the neighborhood next to that, and so on.
Believing a similar approach was God’s will for our church, we contacted the elementary school—which happened to be across the street—in the Fall of 2011 and asked the Principal if there was any way we could serve them. The Principal gladly affirmed that they needed help, and that we could serve them best in the area of mentoring. She informed us that mentoring would take 30 minutes. Mentors would eat lunch with a student, chosen by the teachers based on greatest need, and simply spend time with them.
For the school year ending in June, 2012 we had the privilege to mentor 16 kids. Our desire from the beginning was not only to love these kids and form relationships with them, but through them to make meaningful contact with their parents and guardians. While our conviction is that the Gospel alone saves, relationships open the doors for gospel proclamation. We are finding that as we commit to these kids we ingratiate ourselves with their parents.
In an effort to meet the parents, last spring, we hosted a dinner for the kids and their parents. We printed flyers for the kids to bring home. three (of the sixteen) showed up with a parent or guardian. We hope to do two more of these dinners next year. With better advertising, we just might attract more families.
Furthermore, through a summer program, and the extreme generosity of the Union Gospel Mission, we were able to invite 50 kids, ages 8-12 to a week long summer camp. Through our relationships with the school administrators and teachers we were given full access to the appropriate classrooms in order to explain the camp and pass out flyers.
Our teaching curriculum included session’s on “Creation”, “The Fall” , “Redemption” and “Glory”. One criterion for the camp was for parents to pre-register in order to meet the camp staff, complete the necessary paperwork and preview the teaching material. In that meeting we were able to present them with the Gospel message. Only one family withdrew their child from the camp. Afterwards, each child received a hand written “thank you” note from their counselor.
On Sept 9 we are starting a 6 week Sunday School using “The Gospel of John” video. We are using the following process for recruitment. 1) Call parents and get permission to send invitation. 2) Mail invitation. 3) Call to make sure they received the invitation. 4) Mail a “save the date” reminder. 5) Call the week of and ask for a commitment.
We have no idea what interest this will generate, or how many will actually come, but we have contact information for roughly 50 households in our neighborhood. God has sovereignly put these individuals on our hearts and we pray for them regularly and will continue to pray.
Please pray with us that God will bless our efforts here. This is not a “program.” We are in it for the long haul.
August 1, 2012 by
Categories: General | Articles
We've invited Tim Kerr, pastor of Sovereign Grace Church Toronto (Ontario), to answer the question, "If prayer is such a good thing, why does it seem so hard?"
Tim has studied and taught on the topic of prayer extensively. Most recently, Tim spoke on this topic at The Gospel Coalition's Regional Conference in Ontario. Tim is also the author of the excellent Scripture-based prayer resource Take Words With You.
If prayer is such a good thing, why does it seem so hard? Of the many reasons for this struggle, most would not come up with the reason given by the prophet Isaiah: “There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities” (Isa. 64:7).
According to Isaiah, prayerlessness is evidence of a judgment from God. This is sobering to contemplate. With a few notable exceptions, the North American church is not especially known for its vibrant prayer life. This problem, according to Isaiah, is not going to be fixed by a few more strong exhortations, reading the right books, a new conference on prayer, or even better daily discipline.
If the sun were removed from our solar system, the earth would quickly grow dark, cold, and all life would soon stop. We need the sun’s presence to stay alive. In spite of all of our technological progress, we are utterly dependent on the sun. In the same way, we are dependent on the light of God’s face for prayer. If God hides his face from us, prayer becomes very difficult, if not impossible.
Until the light of God’s face shines on us, our prayers will likely remain shallow, short, or absent altogether. Isaiah mentions another cause of prayerlessness: our sin. The word “melt” has the idea of losing strength. Indulged sin, even if limited to the thought life, will effectively paralyze prayer.
So what’s to be done? In order to receive the grace to change, we need to implore God to help us, but that is our problem in the first place!
If sin makes God hide his face, the great question is, “What then makes God show his face?” If we find the answer to this, we will start to unravel the root problem of our prayerlessness.
The Scripture speaks of only one reality that compels the Almighty to turn his face toward us. When the Ancient of Days has His exacting justice fully satisfied, all shall be well between creature and Creator. But how can an infinite being ever be fully satisfied? An offering must be made that is not only capable of dying the sinners death, but of swallowing the everlasting darkness of that infinite sentence. Surely only one who is both Transcendent and Immanent could possibly qualify. Infinite Spirit mixed with flesh and blood. Set apart from sinners yet not set apart from humanity.
Here is the word we are looking for. Propitiation. Where the offended God is appeased fully. Where fury is turned to favour. The lamb slain from the foundation of the earth. Sent on a mission propelled by God’s love to drink every drop of the wine of God’s wrath. Not a drop left over for us. Not a single drop!
In other words, propitiation provides for prayer! So here’s the practical part. The first movements of renewal in prayer begin with a look at Calvary—but not in the way we usually look at that sacred cross. We are prone to see the cross horizontally—what it does for us, what Jesus did on the cross for us. But the jumper cable “look” at the cross that restarts our prayer lives is of a completely different variety. We must look at the cross vertically—what the cross did to God, how the cross affected infinite holiness. How the cross satisfied God.
Look now. Do you see the light of his face? The frown of God turned to a smile! Nothing reinvigorates prayer like the welcoming face of our God, arms outstretched, welcoming us into his presence! Let that light draw you to Him today!
“In the light of a king's face there is life, and his favor is like the clouds that bring the spring rain” (Prov. 16:15).
For further resources from Tim, please see the series of articles he contributed to desiringGod on "Pastors, Devote Yourselves to the Word and to Prayer."
You can also download Take Words with You here for free.
July 9, 2012 by
Over the next two days, SGM pastors will gather in Louisville, Kentucky to present their polity positions papers to the SGM Polity Committee. To date, the Committee has received 24 papers that have been made available to all SGM pastors for review and further study.
While churches in Sovereign Grace Ministries have enormous agreement on so much, polity is one area of our partnership that needs to be further defined. We want our polity to grow out of a robust doctrine of the church but also to be useful and practical, helping us work together in the areas where Scripture is silent or lacking in detail. The work before our pastors and Polity Committee is significant. We request that you partner with us in prayer, especially over the next couple of days, as this important work takes place.
You can pray for the following:
1. Clarity for the SGM pastors presenting papers
2. Wisdom for the Polity Committee as they consider these presentations and make recommendations to the Board
3. Unity as a family of churches through this process as we endeavor to plant and build churches together with the gospel of Jesus Christ
May God grant us wisdom from above and love for one another as we approach this most important task.
For more information regarding the purpose, goals, scope, process, and questions to be answered by the Polity Committee, download the Letter to SGM Pastors Concerning Polity.
June 5, 2012 by
Categories: General | Resources
Today, Jim Donohue, pastor for evangelism at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, shares his thoughts on evangelism and talks about a course he helped prepare for evangelism training.
Water skiing can be scary. You’re floating in dark water behind a powerful boat that’s revving its engines. Two planks of wood are strapped to your feet, and you are holding onto a rope attached to the engines. Meanwhile, someone is gently and soothingly encouraging you with the essential instructions to survive on the aforementioned wooden slats. “Keep your ski tips up, bend your knees, lean back, keep your back straight, and lock your elbows!” As you desperately try to remember these tips, the soothing voice asks, “Are you ready?”
You give a tentative nod, and the soothing voice suddenly screams, “Hit it!”
It can all be a little unnerving, and so can evangelism. In fact, water skiing is a lot like evangelism. It’s a little scary at first but once you get going, it’s a lot of fun.”
It really is true. I’ve shared the gospel in quite a variety of contexts, and believe it or not I still feel hesitant before I begin. The little voice in my head whispers, “I’m not sure this is a good idea!” But then the Spirit inside of me says, “Hit it!” and I end up opening my mouth.
Once I open my mouth, the conversation unfolds and is often very enjoyable. However, in the two decades of my Christian life, I have found that whenever I seek to share the gospel, I am met with resistance and doubt. I have never found a way to erase these feelings, but I have learned to overcome them. And I’ve experienced the flood of joy that comes when I overcome the flesh and obey God’s command to evangelize. It’s a little like finally getting up on those skis and skimming across the lake with the wind in your hair.
The gospel is the most powerful and precious message in the world. As followers of Christ, we are called to share this message with others. God does not want us to keep this good news to ourselves! But there are many challenges that we face when it comes to reaching out to people with the gospel. We can feel scared or guilty or hypocritical or busy. We can lack courage, conviction, time, or an understanding of the depth of what Christ has done for us. These things often can keep us from jumping into the water even though we know that obeying our Savior brings joy. So what can we do? Where can we find that soothing voice that helps us get up on our skis?
It’s a good question and one that prompted us to develop the Proclaim Course. This seven-week small group DVD course is designed to encourage and equip average Christians to join God in the unstoppable proclamation of the gospel. The course helps us to understand God’s role and our role in evangelism as well as the incredible motivation that comes from the gospel. We also learn how to be ourselves when reaching the lost, how to build friendships with unbelievers, and how to share the gospel faithfully when opportunities arise. It’s an easy way to get up on your skis.
Even though evangelism is challenging and our hesitant feelings may not go away, we can share the gospel with confidence because we have the Spirit’s grace-filled presence with us saying “Hit it!”
If you’d like to find out more about the topic of evangelism, check out the Proclaim DVD Course.
April 30, 2012 by
As I noted in a post a few weeks ago, we have seated a sub-committee of pastors to begin the process of developing a comprehensive polity for Sovereign Grace Ministries and our member churches. This word, “polity,” has been kicked around a lot in our circles recently, sometimes without definition.
“Polity” is simply the stated rules of how an organization governs itself. For our ministry, we want our polity to grow out of a robust doctrine of the church but also to be useful and practical, creating mutual understandings of how we work together in those areas where Scripture is silent or lacking in detail.
The Board appointed seven men to the committee; you can find their names in the document linked below that was sent to all our pastors last week. You’ll also find in this document a description of the process the committee will engage and some parameters for their proposal, including some initial questions for them to address. One interesting part of the process is the Committee’s invitation to all Sovereign Grace pastors to present position papers to the Committee for their consideration before they write their proposal for the Board.
Please pray for the men on the committee and for their work. We in Sovereign Grace have enormous agreement on so much, but this is one area of our life together that must be defined. Please pray that what results from their work will further our unity as a family of churches as together we endeavor to plant and build churches together by the grace of God.
Download the Letter to SGM Pastors Concerning Polity
April 19, 2012 by
From the Board:
At our recent retreat, the Sovereign Grace Ministries Board decided to relocate the Pastors College and our Gaithersburg office to Louisville, Kentucky. The move will take place in 2012. Given the significance of the decision, we wanted to communicate with you directly about how we reached this decision and share some of its implications.
Around 2008, our country’s economic downturn began to place a strain on SGM’s ability to do ministry in several key areas. Supporters (including Sovereign Grace churches) were broadly affected by the recession, and giving declined for several years as a result. In response, the Leadership Team made extensive cuts to staffing and other costs, while still trying to preserve the ability to fund church planters, train pastors, and serve our international partners. But there was a limit to how far cutting could go before church planting and other activity central to our mission had to be scaled back.
One program that faced particular challenges was the Pastors College. Even though the Leadership Team has been proactive about keeping costs as low as possible, the extremely high cost of living for the DC area set the base cost fairly high. This had several effects on our mission:
- Small churches could only afford to train a pastor every several years, limiting their ability to expand or pursue church planting
- Although Jeff Purswell wanted to explore a two-year curriculum, doing so would be prohibitively expensive because the main cost of attending (housing) would more than double (10 months to 22)
- Prospective church-planters from outside SGM, many already carrying debt from seminary, faced an enormous hurdle to attend the Pastors College without a sponsoring church
More can be said about this, but we hope that is sufficient background to illustrate why, for several years now, the Leadership Team has been considering relocation for the Pastors College and the rest of SGM. In short, our mission is to serve Sovereign Grace churches, and being located in the DC area was placing limitations on our ability to do so. The economic downturn raised the profile of that issue, and the idea of relocating is only further validated by the needs we now see to expand on—not lessen—church care, training pastors, and pursuing mission.
We don't want to give the impression that a move was a done deal even before the events of July 2011—it wasn't. However, this conversation long preceded these events and, for the reasons given above, it has been an increasingly strong likelihood for several years. Over the past few months, our staff has explored various locations for a potential move, including visits, demographic studies, many conversations, and much prayer. They shared this information with the new Board when it was established, thus confronting us with this question: if we were starting SGM tomorrow, what would be the main factors for determining location and where would those factors lead us?
Here are the main factors that led us, after much discussion, to approve this relocation generally, and to choose Louisville in particular:
- The cost of living index is much lower there, such that we anticipate up to 40% reduction in the cost for a student to attend the Pastors College
- The proximity to Southern Seminary allows us to upgrade our academic offerings, including opportunities for collaboration and potential transfer credit toward a Masters degree
- The lower cost of living also allows us to further reduce administrative overhead (although ours is already lower than the standard for non-profits), especially in the areas of office space (including the Pastors College) and staff compensation
- The more central location will make it easier for pastors to audit classes or attend preaching practica (Louisville is within a day’s drive for two-thirds of the U.S. population)
- Basing Sovereign Grace Music out of Louisville places Bob Kauflin’s team much closer to Nashville, where they can both learn from and help influence other spheres of Christian music development
There are three questions that we anticipate you’ll have immediately.
First, don’t we want the Pastors College to be near a Sovereign Grace church?
The answer is yes. However, another recent development will remedy this. The Leadership Team has wanted to plant a church in Louisville near the seminary for several years, and after speaking at a college event there in February 2011 C.J. began to consider leading the plant himself. He made this desire known to us when we were seated as a Board, and we approved the plant this month. Although this was by no means determinative for the Pastors College, this does mean that students will have the opportunity to participate in a church plant led by C.J. This will both facilitate CJ.’s ongoing influence in the college, as well as provide students a smaller church experience that will more resemble their ultimate ministry context.
Second, won’t it be difficult to replicate the benefits of having Covenant Life Church as a host church?
We do not want to give the impression that this decision was a no-brainer—it certainly was not. SGM’s setup with CLC has provided numerous benefits over the past 15 years. From host families and adopting care groups to event volunteers and its members’ hospitality, CLC has made a tremendous investment in the Pastors College since its inception. So, of course, this cannot all be replicated. And we want to thank the pastoral team of CLC and its members for these many years of faithful service and the fruit they have borne—the Pastors College would not be where it is without them. However, we believe that in the long run the Pastors College program will be enhanced, and all SGM churches will be better served, by this relocation and the benefits it offers.
Third, how will this affect the Pastors College calendar?
Although this relocation will require a transition period, we want to minimize any disruption to Sovereign Grace churches’ training needs. Therefore, we plan to host a new Pastors College class beginning in January 2013. The year will be slightly abbreviated, running January-August, with some parts of the curriculum delivered through other venues (e.g., small group settings). The following year’s class will commence in September, 2013, putting us back on a normal schedule.
As noted above, we are excited about opportunities this will afford us to collaborate with Southern Seminary, which will only enhance our program and facilitate further training for our students and pastors. The Leadership Team will communicate more details in coming weeks.
Please join us in praying for all those participating in this relocation. Despite the many adjustments this will entail, we are trusting God and hopeful that this move will position us for greater service to our churches as together we proclaim the gospel and plant churches for the glory of God.
Grateful for your partnership in the gospel,
John Loftness, Chairman
on behalf of the Board
April 17, 2012 by
Ambassadors of Reconciliation recently finished the report that documents their findings after a nine-month study of Sovereign Grace Ministries. Their report, as well as a response from C.J. Mahaney and our Board of Directors, is below.
Download the Group Reconciliation Report
April 14, 2012 by
The Sovereign Grace Ministries Board of Directors met this past week in Louisville, Kentucky. Many, many thanks to all of you who have prayed, both for us personally and for collective wisdom in addressing the tasks before us. We wanted you to get an update on decisions we’ve made and what you can expect to hear from us in the near future.
We met with Ted Kober of Ambassadors of Reconciliation and discussed his final report after eight months of study of our ministry practices. We appreciate the thorough and careful work of this independent ministry committed to gospel-informed reconciliation. We should have the report up on our web site in the next few days.
We spent extensive time thinking through a process for developing governance principles and practices for SGM and our partner churches. We are in the process of appointing a committee to serve the Board by proposing a future governance structure and partnership agreements. We have not yet finalized each appointee to the committee. Names and a description of the process should come to you from the committee in the next few weeks.
We also nominated, discussed, and approved officers for the Board. John Loftness will serve as Chairman and Paul Buckley as Vice-Chairman. Tommy Hill, though he is not a Board member, will continue his service as Secretary and Treasurer.
This Board’s role will be different than the role adopted by the interim Board over the past year. Our responsibilities are to appoint, evaluate, and advise members of the leadership team. The Board is also responsible for the evaluation and approval of an annual budget, review of bylaws and practices related to legal obligations, and oversight of the ministry to insure fidelity to our doctrinal and partnership agreements. We are not responsible for day-to-day leadership and management of the ministry. Typically we will meet three times per year. Any work done outside of these meetings will usually be done by subcommittees of the Board. How the Board is selected and its role and terms of service will be reviewed by our polity committee and stated in the polity we adopt when the committee finishes its work and the Board, in partnership with our pastors, produces a final document.
The leadership team will provide leadership to the ministry, propose future plans and a budget for Board review, and implement these plans. For the immediate future, C.J. Mahaney will serve as President, Dave Harvey will lead church planting and church care, Jeff Purswell will serve as Dean of the Pastors College, and Tommy Hill as Director of Finance and Administration.
Numbers of you have inquired about conflict between the Covenant Life Church pastors and the SGM Board and President. Since this past July, C.J. and the interim Board have sought to engage the CLC pastors to better understand their actions and public statements and to explore our differences. Earlier this year, Ted Kober proposed a meeting between three members of the Board and three CLC pastors led by a neutral third party facilitator. The CLC pastors expressed a willingness to meet but said that they wanted to wait until after the AOR report was made public. Since the report will soon be released, we expect a meeting in the near future.
All of these things reflect forward progress for our family of churches, and so we left Louisville encouraged. As we consider the work of God through 90 partner churches, our Pastors College, our church planting efforts, our music and song writing, and many other collective ministry efforts, we see overwhelming evidence of God at work to bring his gospel message to the world and demonstrate the effects of his gospel in our many, varied church communities. We’ve also been heartened by the many expressions of appreciation we have heard from leaders outside of our ministry for the works of grace in our midst. We are working as we wait for the Lord to fulfill his promises to us. And we are grateful for all of you who have partnered with us in this great gospel mission.
On behalf of the Board,