This post contains the video and text of Joshua Harris’ and Mark Mitchell’s remarks from Sunday, January 25. Media outlets and others who would like a synopsis: Please see the statement from the Covenant Life elders about Joshua’s transition.
Text of Message by Joshua Harris
Covenant Life Church, you are beloved by God. Don’t ever forget that. You are not just loved by God, you are greatly loved by God in Christ! And I love you, too. I’m so grateful for you.
I want to start by reading a passage from Matthew chapter 4. It’s the story of when Jesus called his first disciples…
Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. —Matthew 4:28-22
I love the simplicity of this story. Being a disciple of Jesus means you follow him. Jesus calls, you go. Leave your boat, leave your father and follow.
Today is not a typical Sunday. I won’t be giving a typical message. Instead, I have some important news to share with you about how Jesus is calling me to follow him. So today will be part announcement, part story, and part sharing from God’s Word.
So I’m going to cut to the chase and start with the announcement: My big news is that later this spring I’m going to step down from my role as lead pastor so that I can go to seminary. The school I’ll be attending is called Regent College, and it’s on the West Coast in Vancouver, B.C. My plan is to attend for at least a year with a good possibility that I will stay a second year to pursue a masters degree.
Obviously, this is a huge decision and it has significant ramifications for my family and for our church. It has not been an easy decision for me to make. It’s been heart wrenching, and there has been much prayer, much counsel and much discussion. In a few minutes, I want to share the story of how I came to this decision, but the bottom line is that I believe Jesus is calling me to do this.
I think he stills calls people to drop their nets and follow him.
I don’t know all that the future holds, but I know that Jesus is leading me into a season of recalibration as a leader. I believe my Master wants me to turn aside for a time of study and training.
So how did I get here? I want to take a moment to share a little bit of the journey that God has had me on—not just the last year but over the past 23 years.
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a short story called “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” (Maybe you saw the movie starring Brad Pitt). It’s about a man who ages in reverse—he is born old and with each passing day becomes younger.
In reflecting on my own story, I can’t help but think that I have lived a sort of backwards life. Without meaning to, I have experienced life out of the normal order and sequence of events.
At the end of last year I turned 40 years old. Yet it is only now that I am going to school. I haven’t completed any post-graduate study. I don’t even have an undergraduate degree. In fact, I have never attended a formal school full-time in my life.
I’ve been on a unique educational path my whole life. For the first 17 years of my life I was homeschooled by my mother. My father was a well-known homeschool advocate who traveled the country teaching parents the biblical principles for and advantages of home education. I was “Exhibit A” of my dad’s philosophy that you could learn by doing, be directed in study by your delights and succeed outside of the “system.”
At age 17, when most kids my age were going off to college, I started a ministry called New Attitude. I began publishing a magazine and putting on conferences for teenagers. I felt a clear sense of calling from God to speak to my generation and call them to a passionate pursuit of God. When I was 21, I wrote my first book, which met with a good deal of success.
That’s when I met C.J. Mahaney, who was the previous Senior Pastor of our church. In C.J. I found someone who understood me and who was willing to train me. He was a charismatic pastor (in all senses of the word) who pastored a mega-church, led a national network of churches, and embraced both reformed theology and charismatic practice.
Like me, C.J. got his start on the conference circuit before becoming a pastor. Like me he had never received formal theological training, and the group of churches he led, which grew out of the Jesus Movement in the 1970s, at that time didn’t place a high value on seminary training. So instead of attending seminary before becoming a pastor, I moved into C.J.’s basement, worked as an intern in the church, traveled the country with him and began preaching. It was on the job training and I soaked up everything C.J. taught me.
Seven years after I arrived at the church, I was set in as the hand-picked replacement for C.J. I was 30 years old, with no formal theological training and no formal training in organizational leadership, and I was the Senior Pastor of a 3,000 member church. That my friends is a crazy, backwards life!
The plan was for me to be the pastor of Covenant Life with C.J. as the apostle over our church and our movement. I’m not going to go into the story of how that plan got derailed. But suffice it to say there were serious flaws in this structure and from the earliest moments of my tenure as Lead Pastor there was tension and great difficulty behind the scenes.
I recount this story not to criticize C.J. We’ve all learned a lot and would do certain things differently now. I want you to know I’m grateful for the way God used C.J. to lay the foundations of this church in the gospel. We’ve had our disagreements, but I never want to forget all the ways God has used him to be a blessing.
Two weeks ago I shared a sermon about the life of Joseph from Genesis 50. That was a very personal message for me. It is a great comfort to know that God uses difficulties for his glory and our good. So I don’t look back with regret on how things have worked out. I see the hand of God.
If I had been seminary trained with established convictions about church polity, pastoral leadership and other topics, I don’t think I would have been chosen to lead our church. (I might not have accepted the job!) But I believe that it was God’s purpose for me. I think it was God’s will for me to lead Covenant Life over the past 10 years—through all the challenges that we’ve faced. I don’t regret that for one minute.
And even though these past four years in particular have been painful and difficult, I believe that everything—stepping away from Sovereign Grace, the pruning of our church, strained relationships and even the lawsuit—has all been used by God to refine us. God has used it for good.
We have needed to repent and change in many ways and that is an ongoing process. God is a good Father and he disciplines those he loves. Boy, he must love us something fierce!
But really … can anyone look at the crazy sequence of events that we’ve faced and not say, “God is doing something!” I know our heads are spinning. I know it feels like too much. But God is transforming so much. We’re like an overweight guy who goes to the gym. It feels like the trainer is killing us, but we’re actually just getting healthy. It might be painful and we might ache, but this is the road to good health.
People can look at the last few years and say, “It’s so sad that Covenant Life has gotten smaller.” I don’t view it that way. God’s kingdom hasn’t gotten smaller. I think he’s been scattering us for the sake of kingdom advance. New churches have been started. And I say God bless and grow every one of them. And there are hundreds of former members who are attending other established churches across this county. And I say, “Lord, use them to bless and grow those churches and give us all a kingdom mindset that yearns for the glory of your name alone in this city!”
God is doing something wonderful. But it’s been hard because the change isn’t fast enough for some people and it’s too much for others. But at the end of the day, our Father is transforming and refining his beloved children.
He doesn’t waste these kinds of challenges on his kids.
He’s redeeming and healing. He’s changing wrong thinking. He’s forcing us to clarify vision. He’s pushing us out into our community. He’s giving us a heart for the nations. He’s unleashing members to lead ministry. He’s teaching us how to work together as members and leaders.
Think about this: Last week for the first time in our history we voted to affirm our elders. Do you realize what a step forward that is? Ten years ago I was made the new Senior Pastor, and you had no say in that. Zero input. No, we’ve not arrived yet, but we’ve come a long way. And God is still at work.
But here’s where my personal story intersects with the story of our church. This is what I’m realizing: I need to hear clearly from Jesus about his purpose for me. Losing my mom a few years ago and turning 40 has been a gut check for me. I’m asking, “What does it mean for me to be faithful to God’s purpose for me in the remaining years I have?”
I’m realizing that everything that I’ve learned about leadership, pastoral ministry, and much of the Christian life has been in one context. It’s all been here. While I’m grateful for some of that, there is a lot that I’ve realized needs to be evaluated and changed (and that’s hard to do while you’re leading). I’ve been trying to grow and change, but there’s a lot of muscle-memory when it comes to leadership. I believe that to be fruitful for the next stretch of my ministry, I need to step away from the responsibility of leadership and learn in a different context.
I love this church so much, but it’s not enough for me to just keep serving in this role because it’s what people expect. I’ve had many people over the years tell me what God’s purpose for my life is. But I’m learning that only Jesus can place a call on my life. I can’t live someone else’s plan for my life. I can’t even live my plan for my life. I need to live Jesus’s plan for my life.
In the last four months I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching. I’ve been asking questions that I haven’t asked in a long time: What are my best gifts, and am I stewarding them well? Who has God called me to be? What do I actually want to do? What desires has God placed in my heart? And am I best suited for the role that I’m in?
All this has led me to the decision to make this change at this time. It breaks my heart because I love you, and I don’t want to hurt or disappoint you. But the challenges of the last few years have left me drained spiritually and emotionally. I’ve realized that to press forward right now would be a disservice to my own soul and ultimately to the church I love.
I’m convinced that to be faithful and fruitful for the long haul, I need a season of recalibration. I need a time of retooling and training. I’ve been in public ministry for 23 years, I’ve been on staff here for 17 years and have served as lead pastor for 10 years. In that time I’ve never set aside time for focused study. I need a season of being poured into, a time of interacting with different thoughts and ideas, a time of gaining perspective and fresh vision.
I realize that some people will think this is the worst possible time for me to make this change because of all that we’ve been through as a church. And I understand that. And it’s something that I’ve wrestled with.
What I want you to hear is that I don’t just think this is the right decision and timing for me. I believe it’s best for our church overall.
Now is a time for healing, for rebuilding, for alignment of vision, for clear leadership and for moving forward. But because of all that God has been doing in me internally, I know I’m not the person to lead this rebuilding. I believe God can provide someone well suited for this good task.
Dialogue with the Elders
I want you to hear the counsel that I’ve already given the elders. This will be their decision to make, but my encouragement is to pursue a seasoned, godly pastor from outside of Covenant Life and Sovereign Grace circles. Just as I need a season of recalibration, I believe our church would benefit from someone bringing fresh insights and fresh perspective. I want this for the members of this church, but I also want this for our pastoral team. These men have been so faithful through so many challenges, and I’m jealous for them to be cared for and led by someone with fresh legs who isn’t carrying the burdens of the last few years.
Together as elders we’ve made the decision to begin a thorough search process that will involve the congregation for finding a new permanent lead pastor. Obviously this will be a lengthier process. But in the meantime we’re going to pursue more quickly a man who can step in as an interim teaching pastor. Again, I believe our church would benefit from someone who can come and minister grace to this church as he teaches God’s Word. A main part of my work over the next few months will be participating in the process of finding this man. Please join me in praying for God to provide.
I want to say a word about the elders of our church. I want you to know how much I love and support these men. They are my dear brothers. They love Jesus and his people and are going to keep building this church on the truth of his Word. They are good gospel-men—full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit. You’re going to be well served. And I’m excited to see how God is providing more elders in the men who have been nominated to be non-staff elders. I want you to know I voted to affirm every one of them. I am confident God is going to use this group of faithful, godly elders to lead Covenant Life forward.
The elders have loved me and my family through this season. Last summer during a real low point, they sent Shannon and me away to receive counseling—something that greatly served us. They have expressed their support of us, and they have told us over and over that they want us here at Covenant Life.
And most meaningfully, they have expressed their support of us following the call of God. And that has been an incredible blessing to us.
I want to take some time to briefly share a few a passages from Scripture that have been shaping, guiding verses for me in this season.
Matthew 4:19 “Follow Me”
Jesus said, “Follow me,” and the first disciples left everything and followed. It’s hard to explain, but that’s what I feel is happening for me. It’s scary and exhilarating all at the same time.
Up until six months ago I had literally never considered doing anything but being the pastor here. I had my life neatly planned out. So my first response to Jesus calling me was, “I can’t follow you, I’m a pastor!”, Isn’t that a great response to the Lord of heaven and earth? “You can’t change the plan.”
Friends, Jesus is Lord. He isn’t bound by our neat plans. He isn’t impressed by our neat plans. He will have his way. No matter how long we’ve been a Christian we should all be ready for him to redirect and upset our plans for his bigger purposes.
Galatians 1:17-18 – “After Three Years”
Another verse that has stood out to me is Galatians 1:17-18 where the Apostle Paul tells the story of his conversion. It’s a short biographical detail. He says, “I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter.” (NIV)
I often forget this about the Apostle Paul’s story but after he was converted he took time away—time in the desert—to prepare for God’s call on his life.
Even with all his knowledge of the Old Testament and training he went into the desert for three years to learn directly from Jesus before he launched into his apostolic work. I’ve been in some form of ministry for 23 years but I’ve never set aside time for focused study and I think that’s been a weakness in my ministry.
I’m not Paul, but in the days ahead I believe God wants to use me in new ways to speak to this generation. He’s giving me a heart to influence the broader body of Christ and the broader culture. I don’t know all that will entail—but I believe I need to begin with a time of preparation.
I read a quote by Abraham Lincoln that challenged me. He said, “If I had eight hours to cut down a tree I’d spend six hours sharpening my ax.” I believe Jesus is calling me to do some ax sharpening.
Isaiah 30:15 “Returning and Rest…”
Another theme verse for me has been Isaiah 30:15 that says, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” I believe God is leading me into a transitional season marked by “returning, rest, quietness and trust.”
I want to reflect on each of these words:
Returning: The word can also be translated “repentance”. I love what that tells us about repentance. It’s always a turning back to God—a turn back to relationship and intimacy. I believe God wants me to return to my first love. In some cases to repent of wrong ways of thinking.
Most importantly to find my sense of passion and identity in him alone—even before my work and ministry position. I need to turn away from living someone else’s story and embrace his unique purpose for my life.
Rest: School is going to be work, but overall I think this is a season of rest for me and my family. This is like a Sabbath year for us. It’s a time to rest from the demands of senior leadership.
I’ve been in the grind of hyper-speed ministry and leadership and crisis-management for a long time. And it’s taken a toll on my soul and my family. I need this rest in order to continue to be fruitful.
Quietness: Quietness is not easy for a preacher. We like to talk. But part of knowing God and having faith in him is realizing that our busy activity and words are not the answer. Lamentations 3:26 says, “It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” I believe God is calling me to learn to be still, to quiet my heart before him and trust in his provision for my future.
Trust: Rest and quietness are both expressions of trust. Making a change like this takes a good deal of trust. I don’t know what is on the other side of this season of study. I’m needing to trust God financially, for my family and for my future.
But the biggest area that I’ve needed to trust the Lord is in regard to the church that I love. It’s been hard for me to consider going because I don’t want to cause more disruption and challenge for our church.
But God has given me a great sense of peace and trust that he alone can carry Covenant Life. But it’s even more than that. I believe that as I surrender to his purpose, as I let go, he is going to accomplish a purpose that he can’t with me in this role. There are places he wants to take Covenant Life that I can’t lead in.
He wants to use other men. I need to entrust this church to the Lord. I know he will be faithful.
Mark is going to come in a few minutes and share on behalf of the elders. Please pray for and love and support this man. He’s working so diligently.
A few more side notes before I close…
First, I want to ask you to use this moment to press toward the Lord in prayer. Next month I want to call us to a focused season of prayer and fasting—asking the Lord to provide what our church needs, to build us into him and to continue his good work of reformation in our midst. Church, I want to challenge you to be who you are: you are the body of Christ. Our church is not about one man, or about the pastors. Our hope is Jesus. People have said to me, “People will leave if you leave.” I just want to say, please don’t do that without seeking the Lord. I hope you’ll stay. Please don’t make your decisions about any church based on one man. I want to ask all of us to join together in waiting on the Lord and seeing how he wants to use this moment for his greater purposes in our midst.
Second, there are going to be a million opinions about all this. Everyone is going to become a commentator and expert. And then people are going to just plain make up things. Please don’t help spread drama. I’m not being pushed out of my position. I’m making this choice. I’m not leaving because of disagreements. So if you have a question come ask me or one of the elders. We’re happy to answer your questions. Please don’t speculate or pass on rumors. Let’s spend commit ourselves to prayer.
Third, I understand it’s going to take time to process this. I invite your thoughts. It’s okay if you disagree with me. It’s okay if you’re upset with me. I pray that you’ll come to a place of being able to support and bless me as I follow what I believe Jesus is calling me to. And if you’re happy that I’m going please just pretend that you’re sad.
Practical Answers to Questions…
First question: Why Regent? We love Regent’s vision to train all Christians (not just pastors) to integrate faith with all of life—the marketplace, the arts and culture. We like the fact that it’s not a denominational school—Christians from all over the world and from many different church backgrounds and vocations come to study there. We want to be an environment where we’ll be exposed to many diverse perspectives and viewpoints. Regent has been shaped by men like J.I. Packer, James Houston and Eugene Peterson who we deeply respect. And good friends of ours attended Regent and described it as a place that helps people discover their identity in Christ apart from what they do vocationally—and that’s very appealing to me.
Second question: When are we moving? Our family’s plan is to move in June. So I’ll be serving on staff through mid-April but here in our church community through June. (Josh Cooley has informed that I have 17 years of Discovery Land volunteering to make up for!) But through mid-April I’ll be working closely with our teaching team and leadership team to make the transition smooth. I’ll be here on Sundays, but much of what I’ll be doing will be behind the scenes helping with the search process for the interim teaching pastor. I’ll be working with the elders to make this transition as smooth as possible.
Covenant Life, I am so grateful for you. This is such a bittersweet moment for me and Shannon. We love you! God has given me such a deep affection for you, and that will never change. And we want to keep strong ties of friendship and gospel-camaraderie for years to come. We want to stay connected.
I realize this is challenging and that a change like this is difficult. But I also believe so strongly that God is in this. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, he is the Chief Shepherd of Covenant Life. Let’s rest in his care and let’s continue to follow him.
Remarks by Mark Mitchell on Behalf of the Elders
Dear friends, I’m just going to share a few things on behalf of the elders, but the first thing I just want to acknowledge is ... There are probably a wide variety of feelings out there right now. Some may be feeling shock or a sense of disbelief, an appropriate sadness because of what you’ve heard this morning, and we just want you to know that we understand. You know, the vast majority of you came in not expecting to hear this news ... and the pastors have had time to interact with Josh ... we’ve spent quite a bit of time just praying together and talking together. So we’ve had time to process our own emotions in this, and we know it’s going to take time for you as well.
Josh is our dear friend and brother. We love him and his family very, very much. He has invested in our church for 17 years, and for 10 as our Lead Pastor, and we are immensely grateful to God for him and his ministry.
• He’s taught us, he’s cared for us, he’s nourished us from God’s Word on countless occasions. Josh has been delighted to share not only the gospel of Jesus Christ with us, he’s shared his very life with us. He’s been humble, he’s been real, he’s been so relatable. You know ... Josh, as we all know, has a way of preaching and interacting that just makes it feel like he can connect with anyone. And we’ve so, so appreciated that.
• His pronounced gifts of writing and teaching have been used by the Lord to bless countless believers throughout the world. What a blessing it’s been for us to have him week after week as our Lead Pastor.
• Under the headship of Jesus Christ, he has led us as a congregation with courage, humility, great compassion and perseverance. He has lovingly guided us through the difficult challenges of the last few years as a skillful shepherd. We all owe him a debt of gratitude. He’s been a gracious gift from the Lord to us all!
So we’re going to miss him. We’re going to miss him dearly.
For the last 17 years, the Lord has entrusted him to us—to befriend him, learn from him and serve together with him in the ministry of the gospel. Now it’s our privilege to entrust him and his family back to the Lord. As much as we all want him to stay, he’s not ours to keep. Our heavenly Father and sovereign Lord is calling him to move on to his next post.
It’s clear to Josh and it’s become clear to the elders that the Lord Jesus is calling him into a season of training and equipping in a different context. And we want you to know that all the elders fully support Josh as he’s seeking to follow Jesus Christ. He has our full blessing, affection, prayers, and support as he leaves to attend seminary. We’ve spent many hours in conversation with him and, as we’ve prayed individually and together, we believe our faithful, and sovereign Lord is orchestrating these changes for his glory and our good. Though it’s sad for us, both Josh and the entire team of elders are confident that this is God’s good and loving plan for the Harris’s and for Covenant Life Church.
We really do believe the promise of Romans 8:28 that for those who love God, all things work together for good. We can be honest. It doesn’t feel good, certainly not at this moment. And it may take us some time to see the genuine good that the Lord means to bring about, but he is faithful to his promises and he’s faithful to us as his covenant people. So let’s trust him. Let’s trust that the Lord will care for us as we process this transition together and let’s trust that he has good plans for the future of Covenant Life. Jesus is the head of this church. We are his body. And though we don’t understand all his ways, we do believe he is leading and guiding us as our good Shepherd.
In the Lord’s providence, next week we’ll be installing nine non-staff elders and one staff elder to join our pastoral team. These men are a gift from God to help lead Covenant Life at this unique time in our church history. They are godly men, who are full of the Spirit and wisdom and I’m eager to have them join the Board of Elders as we serve you. And I want to say something about our current pastoral team.
These men love you with all your hearts. They pray for you regularly, they carry you on their hearts, and they’re dedicated to serving you. Make no mistake. We are weak, fallible men. In light of the last few years, we don’t have to convince you of that. Therefore, our ultimate hope can’t be in men – not in a lead pastor or a team of pastors. Our hope must be in our gracious and sovereign God whose steadfast love for us never changes.
As Josh has said, he is not sure what the Lord has in store for him after he attends Regent College. We want to pray as the Lord has taught us, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done.” Regardless of how the Lord chooses to use Josh in his kingdom, we look forward to maintaining our relationship with him and benefitting from his ministry, as the Lord leads.
In the meantime, Josh is still here. He’ll continue to preach and serve as our Lead Pastor until about mid-April. He and I will continue to work closely together with the elders, to lead the church forward. Josh’s strong desire is to finish well and to do all he can to love and serve Covenant Life as he prepares to transition to seminary. I so commend him for that.
After April, he and his family will continue to attend Covenant Life until they relocate sometime in June. So we still have plenty of time to interact with him. And we’ll make sure that as a congregation, we have an appropriate occasion to send him off.
Regarding the future leadership of Covenant Life, we’re going to do two things:
First, we’ve put together a plan to establish a Lead Pastor Search Team. This team will be made up of staff and non-staff elders, as well as other members of the congregation, both men and women. The Search Team will meet with groups of members of the church for input and they will assist the elders in finding and assessing potential candidates. We anticipate the Search Team will begin meeting in March, so they can benefit from Josh’s input before he leaves. We’ll share more with you about this later this week.
Second, as Josh mentioned, we’re going to begin right away to seek the Lord for an Interim Teaching Pastor and Josh will play a significant role in this. Our plan is to connect with a number of pastors and leaders in the body of Christ to seek their help in identifying potential candidates. We trust that as we seek the Lord together as a church family, he’ll provide the right person at the right time to meet our needs.
Immediate Priorities: Pastoral Care and Prayer
Going forward, we have two immediate priorities – to care for one another and to seek the Lord in prayer together.
Starting this week, the pastoral team will be reaching out to connect with as many of you as we possibly can. We’ll be visiting care groups, setting up times to meet with you and providing other contexts to talk and pray.
Second, as Josh mentioned, we’re going to begin a focused season of praying together as a church family. As we humble ourselves and seek the Lord together, we believe he’s going to meet us with his wisdom, guidance, power and grace. We look forward to seeing what the Lord’s going to do as we seek him together.
In just a moment we’re going to turn our attention to the Lord in song. But before we do, let me close with these words from Lamentations 3.
Lamentations 3:24–25, 32 (ESV)
24 – “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
25 – “The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.”
32 – “… though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love”
[A pastoral prayer by Robin Boisvert and congregational singing followed.]
Media outlets and others who would like a synopsis: Please see the statement from the Covenant Life elders about Joshua’s transition.
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January 25 2015 at 11:45 am 2 Comments
During Sunday services at Covenant Life Church this morning, Joshua Harris announced that later this spring he will step down from his role as lead pastor of Covenant Life Church in order to attend seminary at Regent College in Vancouver, B.C. Currently, he plans to study at Regent for at least a year.
As preparation for fruitfulness in the next years of his ministry, Joshua believes he needs to step away from the responsibilities of senior leadership and seek to grow through formal studies.
As the elders of Covenant Life, we wholeheartedly support Joshua in this decision. We are excited for him and the ministry opportunities we expect God will open for him. He has served the people of Covenant Life with faithfulness and distinction for 17 years, always pointing us to the glory of God revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, our unbridled enthusiasm for Joshua’s future is mixed with a deep sense of loss and sadness to see him go.
Joshua will be actively involved here through mid-April in his roles as elder and preacher and will then continue to participate in Covenant Life as a member until he relocates in June. He will go west with the love and blessing of the elders and congregation of Covenant Life. We look forward to maintaining our relationship so that we can continue to partner as the Lord leads.
The Elders of Covenant Life Church
Full video and text of Joshua’s remarks is available here on the blog.
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January 20 2015 at 11:03 am 0 Comments
We were reminded in our service yesterday, that every human life is sacred because we are made in God’s image. And every Christian has a responsibility to defend this truth in our culture. Please consider Terry Wilcox’s testimony below, and the list that follows it, of ways you can take a stand for the rights of the unborn.
I am here today to share the story of how God has worked in my life through the Forgiven and Set Free Bible Study. The end of this month marks the 34th anniversary of my abortion.
My story starts a long time ago. I was raised in a “good” Catholic family in the San Francisco Bay area. I was the middle of seven children (six girls and one boy). It was your typical dysfunctional family. My dad provided for our family but didn’t say a whole lot, and my mother drank to make it through her days. By the time I graduated from high school, my mom had finally stopped drinking, but the relationship between my parents wasn’t going too well. As I saw that happening, I turned to boys in search of love and acceptance. I didn’t really care what happened to me, so I ended up getting pregnant.
Being a “good” Catholic girl, I knew abortion was wrong, but I had just started college, and a baby didn’t fit into the picture. I was over 18 so I was able to set up the procedure without my parents ever knowing about it. My friend and I skipped school and drove to the clinic.
I chose not to think about what I was doing. I just kind of went into auto-pilot and went through the motions.
About a day and ½ later I started having some complications, but I was too afraid to get help. Looking back now I see God’s hand on me to protect me. I felt the Lord drawing me to himself after the abortion. I gave my life to the Lord shortly after the abortion and found a group of believers to help me learn about the Lord.
Fast forward three years, and I met my husband to be, Barry. My abortion had left me with a great desire to have children and a sense that a child would right the wrong of killing my first child. We were married for seven years before we had our first, and somehow the hole left by the abortion didn’t fill up. Every January, on Sanctity of Life Sunday, I would be there trying to fight back the tears as they talked about the millions of babies that had been aborted.
We continued to be blessed with child after child, and the hole just kept getting bigger. In 1999, we lost a baby girl to a chromosome disorder, and I felt like I didn’t know how to mourn the loss of our little girl. I realized that I had so much going on that I just jumped back into auto-pilot and kept on going.
Then a couple of years ago, I found out that Covenant Life was offering the Forgiven and Set Free Study. Being so tired of not dealing with the feelings of shame and condemnation, I looked into it. I joined the group, and as I began the study, I found the hope, grace and support that I needed.
I discovered that it was OK to grieve the loss of my first child and of the loss of our stillborn and the three other miscarriages I have had over the years. And just as important I found a fellowship, albeit a “secret society” of sisters, where we all share the same shameful past but who are forgiven and set free! We have grown to love each other and to share in life’s ups and downs. I love them all, and I know that I can reach out at any time, and they will be praying for me and lifting me up.
If you have had an abortion, there is hope, grace and healing available to you, too. This Bible study has been life changing for me, and I’m confident it can be life changing for you. There will be an intro night on Tuesday, February 10 from 7:30 to 9 p.m., and the actual study will on Tuesdays from March 3 to April 21. This is a confidential study and held in a home not far from church. Please call the church office or check the Forgiven and Set Free webpage for more information.
Thank you for letting me share. God Bless.
March For Life | Thursday, January 22, National Mall - Noon rally, 1 p.m. march
The March for Life began in 1973 as a small demonstration to peacefully protest the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade to legalize abortion. The march is organized by the March for Life Education and Defense Fund. The overall goal of the march is to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision. It has rapidly grown to be the largest pro-life event in the world.
40 Days for Life | Ash Wednesday, February 18 through Palm Sunday, March 29
40 Days for Life is an international group that campaigns against abortion. The campaign is active in the fall and spring of each year. The fall 2010 campaign launched in 238 locations around the world, including the United States, Canada, Australia, England, Northern Ireland, and Denmark. Should you be interested in participating, please contact the Pro-Life ministry for more information.
Maryland March for Life | March 9 at 6:30 p.m. in Annapolis
On January 22, 1974 thousands of pro-lifers participated in the first March for Life to stand up for the unborn. Since that time, a yearly march to the State House to redress the State of Maryland’s stance on the issue of abortion has been held. After over 30 years the Maryland March for Life has grown to dozens of organizations, churches and schools. It has become a centerpiece of the pro-life movement and has grown from a rally to a full social and religious event where pro-lifers from around the state can work together toward a common cause.
“Forgiven and Set Free” Post-Abortive Bible Study | Tuesday, February 10, 7 - 9 p.m.
Find healing and wholeness in this post-abortion Bible study which effectively ministers God’s healing grace. You will be guided gently into bringing your emotional scars from abortion “out of the dark past and into His holy light,” where true and lasting healing can take place. This is a confidential 12-week Bible study offered in a safe and understanding environment.
Prayer at Covenant Life Church | Wednesday, January 21 at 7:30 p.m.
A prayer meeting is held every Wednesday evening at 7:30 in the Spurgeon Room. On January 21 the prayer will focus on the sanctity of life and all issues pertaining to the protection of life.
Monday Morning Prayer | Every Monday morning from 8 - 10 a.m.
Residents of Germantown, Gaithersburg and the surrounding areas in the metropolitan Washington area have been called to take a public stand against LeRoy Carhart’s late term abortion clinic through a weekly prayer vigil on Monday mornings from 8-10 a.m. Please join us. The address is 13233 Executive Park Terrace, Germantown, MD.
The Pro-Life Ministry Team
Our focus is to hear and obey the Lord’s heart regarding life issues, including all stages of life from conception to natural death. If you are interested in joining this ministry, contact:
We would love to have you join us!
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January 20 2015 at 9:30 am 0 Comments
The Sheep and the (Year of the) Goat
Ever been to Clarksburg? You know, just north of Germantown? With only around 14,000 people, it’s not the biggest “burg” in the world. In fact, when compared to the population of any major city in the U.S., it seems quite dinky.
But what if you were tasked with contacting and evangelizing all 14,000? What if you had to reach each person in this town with the gospel? Suddenly, Clarksburg wouldn’t seem so small any more, right?
Numbed by Numbers
When we talk demographics, we casually use words like “thousands” or “millions” without really grasping the weight of the numbers.
In Montgomery County, there are over 28,000* residents who were born in China. How do we wrap our minds around 28,000? Well, for starters, it’s twice the population of Clarksburg. Second, think of it this way: If you were to have an hour-long gospel conversation with each Chinese-born person in Montgomery County it would take you over three years. 28,000 is a lot of people.
And yet God has brought them here. Why?
Why Are They Here?
If you ask them, they may tell you they are here for the career or educational opportunities. Just a couple of days ago I was speaking to a man from China who had come to the States to study. But it would seem that God’s reason for bringing him here had less to do with education and more to do with salvation. He gave his life to Christ after participating in a Bible study with believers who had reached out to him.
Praise God for the brothers and sisters who reached out to this man! These people took Jesus’ directive to “make disciples” seriously. All of us would do well to follow their example. I say all of us because I think the Great Commission of Matthew 28 (as well as his other commissions in Mark 13:10, Luke 24:46-49, Acts 1:8) was given to all of us. And I think one of the reasons it was given to all of us, is because the task is so big.
Why Are We Here?
In his book, What Is the Mission of the Church?, Kevin DeYoung answers the title’s question by saying,
The mission of the church is to go into the world and make disciples by declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit and gathering these disciples into churches, that they might worship the Lord and obey his commands now and in eternity to the glory of God the Father.
Now, setting aside the inherent danger of reducing the biblical mission of the church to a single sentence, we can all agree that if the above isn’t all of the church’s mission, it’s certainly not less.
So, if “making disciples” and “being his witnesses” is really important, the question must be asked: are we doing that? Are we going into the world, declaring the gospel? Is this the trajectory of our lives? If we can be so bold as to presume that Jesus’ “you will be my witnesses” was not only for the original audience, but for us as well, we must ruthlessly evaluate if we are obeying Him. We cannot be comfortable ignoring any of our Lord’s commands—especially one that is so central to our purpose.
The Predictable Caveat
Look, I’m not saying we should be witnessing to every single person we see. Certainly, we could all be “witnessing more.” However, for those of us who can’t remember the last time we shared our faith, or for those who have been Christians for years and have never, ever made one disciple because reputation, leisure, money, fellowship, conferences, retreats and other things have taken precedence, we have to ask ourselves if we have lost sight of one of the main reasons we have the ability to communicate.
Mission Impossible (Sort of)
Reaching the 28,000 Chinese-born people in Montgomery County with the gospel is an impossible task apart from God’s power and wisdom. As to His power, He has placed His Spirit within us and sends us out in His authority (Matthew 10:1). As to His wisdom, He has put us on a team. It’s not just you seeking to reach the masses of people who don’t yet know Christ. It is us.
All of us.
Rubber, Meet Road. Road, Meet Rubber
Consider praying that God would give you a relationship with a Chinese non-believer if you don’t already have one. As providence would have it, the Chinese New Year season is upon us. You could make friends at any of the various activities in the area, including at Lake Forest Mall. If God has given you a heart for the Chinese, meet with friends to pray before hand and ask God to lead you to someone. You might be surprised to find that God has been working in someone (remember Saul and Ananias, Acts 9:10-19) before you even get to them.
“Almasih Kahdost” is a long-time friend of CLC who desires to see the nations come to Christ. Though preferring to publish anonymously, Almasih Kadost welcomes your comments here.
See all the posts in this series.
*Of the 28,000 people in Montgomery County who were born in China, there are indeed Christians. But—and this is anecdotal—I dare say the majority are not.
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January 15 2015 at 10:31 am 0 Comments
We received the following updates from the missions team currently serving the church in Uganda. Thank you for praying for them.
UPDATED: January 15, 2015
God is at work here! On Wednesday, the pastors and youth conferences started and have been going great. We are leading the youth conference with around 200 people attending. This year’s theme is “Live and Love Like Jesus” based on 1 Timothy 4:12. He has been preaching through the book of Mark and showing how we can live and love like Jesus by looking at his life and ministry. We have enlisted the help of local young men to lead the discussion small groups and they are doing a fantastic job.
Members of our team have been leading the pastors through a study of 1Timothy. There are about 70 pastors and deacons that are attending the conference. We have been introducing some helpful hermeneutical tools to the pastors that they can take back to their churches and use in the future. Today, after teaching on 1Timothy 2:1-7, we introduced prayer cards for the unreached. What a powerful and sweet sound to hear the group praying in unison for scores of different people groups!
We have also been leading the children in different lessons and crafts during the conference as well. About 45-50 children have been hearing various Bible stories and a clear Gospel proclamation. After the conference each day, there has been an outdoor crusade in the village. Yesterday, a young man stepped forward and said he wanted to give his life to the Lord! Praise the Lord!
Another exciting story from the conference: there is a specific young man that has been attending the conference this week and hearing the Gospel. We have been able to talk to him, encourage him, and share the Gospel with him. Please pray for this young man! If he were to trust in the Lord, his family would most likely disown him and throw him out. Please pray for him; that God would move in his heart and give him courage to follow him!
The team is tired but doing well! Please continue to pray for strength, good health (we’ve had a few upset stomachs over the last few days), and that people would continue to be encouraged and drawn closer to the Lord through us! We are seeing God at work here and are excited to see what else he has for us.
Thank you for keeping the team in your prayers!
January 12, 2015
On Friday night, we hosted a dinner for the pastors and their wives who will be attending the conference this week. It was a great time of reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. We were able to bless the pastors with monogrammed ties and their wives with beautiful shawls.
Saturday was spent resting and preparing for the rest of our trip. We were grateful for the time to catch up on sleep, prepare for the outreaches and youth conference, and spend time with some of the teens in the church. The time spent with the teens was rich as they learned how to lead Bible studies for the conference this week, practiced crocheting, and learned the rules of basketball.
Sunday we joined the church for their Sunday service. It was lively and filled with worship! The team performed a few songs, but unfortunately, there is no video evidence. Our team leader preached an excellent message on how God views his children and his specific love for each of them. After church, we had lunch and then did a basketball clinic for the teens in the community. The men on the team led a clinic with about 25 teens, but at least 200 men, women and children came to watch and enjoy the games after the clinic. We shared the gospel when the clinic was finished, and we are hoping that many were affected by it. We all loved spending time with everyone at the clinic; whether it was teaching basketball or just talking with the locals. After the clinic we headed over to the local radio station with one of the local pastors to share his testimony over the radio. His testimony was excellent and very encouraging. The rest of the team enjoyed listening to it on the radio back at the guesthouse.
Monday we had a very good time repairing two widow’s homes in nearby villages. The ladies played with children, carried water, and helped the women with cooking. The men shoveled sand, mixed cement and tried to keep the skilled nationals supplied with all they needed. Our team had a long talk with an unbeliever about Jesus. One of the widows whose home was repaired had just been saved and added to the church. She was very grateful!
The whole team is feeling well, although many have not adjusted to the time and are a bit tired. Pease continue to keep us in your prayers.
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January 5 2015 at 9:12 am 1 Comments
This month we are sending two teams to serve in western Uganda and Central Asia. One of the best ways we can participate in supporting these teams is to pray for them. Here are some points to help guide our prayers.
For almost a decade our church has enjoyed a unique partnership with a group of churches in western Uganda. More than 200 members have traveled there and been powerfully affected by the work that Pastor Moses and his team are doing.
This Wednesday we will send out another group to continue the tradition. Here are some of the things they will be doing during their two-week trip:
—Teaching and sharing testimonies in 10 villages
—Serving hundreds of young people at a four-day youth conference
—Helping repair homes for several widows
—Sharing the good news door to door
—Teaching on the radio
—Teaching local leaders at a four-day seminar
—Loving and encouraging the members in these local churches
—That everyone would be filled with the love of God and the boldness of the Spirit
—That our team would be given the right words to share in each context
—That they would see God’s power triumph over sickness and evil spirits
—That they would experience the unity of the Spirit from start to finish
—That our team would grow stronger in faith as they step out to in obedience to the Great Commission
For the team headed over to serve:
—Health and safe travels
—Quick adjustment to time change and sound sleep
—Sensitivity to the Spirit
—Words of knowledge, prophetic songs
—Strength to serve with musical gifts
—Flexibility and ease in working with the sound system
—Overflowing hearts of God’s love to share no matter how tried they are
Prayer points for the women attending:
—Pray against any feelings of guilt or comparison that the women attending might feel as they come together and share what God is going in their lives.
—Pray for traveling mercies for all who are coming to the meeting, for no travel delays and easy connections along the way.
—Pray for those leading small groups, break-out sessions, worship, teaching, prayer warriors, logistical helpers, and other volunteers coming to help with child care. Pray especially for our speaker, to be spirit-filled as she shares.
—Pray for this meeting to be a great encouragement to the women no matter what stage of life they are in presently.
—Pray that each woman will leave the meeting with one tool to use to share her faith and deeper motivation to proclaim the good news more boldly.
—That this would be a time of equipping for all of the women involved.
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