We received this gracious letter of thanks from Jeff Purswell, Dean of the Pastors College, and wanted to share it here with everyone. Thank you, Jeff!
To the pastors and members of Covenant Life Church,
As the conclusion of the 15th year of the Sovereign Grace Pastors College approached, I asked for the opportunity to thank you for the inestimable contribution you have made by hosting and serving the college since its inception. It is a daunting task—but one which I relish—to attempt to express my gratefulness for the myriad ways Covenant Life has facilitated, strengthened, and enhanced the training of future pastors through the college.
One of the things that distinguishes the Pastors College from many pastoral training contexts is its connection to a local church, and it has been our privilege for many years to be connected to this particular local church. When I arrived here in 1997, I encountered a culture of servanthood that was unique in my experience, and to my delight that servanthood has been channeled into the Pastors College in countless ways. Some of you have served in the most personal way possible by opening your homes to students as host families. More than opening your homes, you have opened your lives to them, and in many cases life-long friendships have been the result. Scores of you have “adopted” students and blessed them in many and various ways through your care group. Stories abound of cookouts held, household goods donated, money (and frequent flyer miles!) given, babysitting offered—all of this and more has lightened the load and brightened the hearts of our students. Hundreds of you have served in numerous events held for the students, who have been unfailingly blessed and instructed by the joy, creativity, and effort that you displayed. I must make special mention of those of you who have served on the PC Administrative team over the years (affectionately—and accurately—known in the halls of SGM as the “Dream Team”). I’ve never worked with a more devoted, creative, sacrificial, and delightful group of servants—you will always hold a cherished place in our hearts. And to the pastors, thank you for supporting the students, teaching the students, and leading a church context that over the years has provided both a model of church life and a place where these students and their families can worship and be nurtured by God’s word during their time at the Pastors College.
My summary of your contribution has been written in the past tense, but there’s a “present tense” to your labors that I want to bring to your attention. Over the past 15 years, 243 men have graduated from the college, of which 175 are in full-time or part-time vocational ministry. These men serve in 84 churches in 16 nations. Thirty-two of these churches have been planted by PC graduates (in the current class alone, we have eight men slotted for future church plants). Sixty-one men serve as senior pastors. Such statistics only hint at the conversions given by God through these churches, the seeds sown for the gospel, the thousands of people cared for, the marriages healed, the families strengthened—eternity alone will reveal the fruit borne by the grace of God through these graduates. My hope is that you will recognize that the service you have given, the prayers you have prayed, the generosity you have expressed, and the kindness you have extended are having an enduring effect through the lives of these men and their families that continues to impact the world for the gospel.
As the Pastors College prepares for our transition to Louisville, we do so aware of the foundation that has been laid for us here in Gaithersburg—and we will not soon forget the names and faces of those of you who have given so selflessly to help make the PC what it is today. I am deeply grateful for you, and humbled by the privilege of laboring with you.
Our graduation ceremony will take place on Sunday evening, June 10, at 6 p.m. in the Covenant Life Auditorium. I would like to invite you to share in the celebration of that evening. It would be an honor to have you with us.
With enduring gratefulness,
“For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.” –Hebrews 6:10
March 18 2009 at 2:30 pm 0 Comments
Drew Garfield sent me word about plans for the next Uganda Mission trip:
For the last two years we have partnered with a church in rural western Uganda to help with their annual youth conference. We’re involved in nightly “crusades” where our team contributes by preaching, giving testimonies, doing skits, and leading singing and small group discussions. We have also gone door to door to pray and share the gospel and ministered in a local prison.
These missions trips offer an extraordinary opportunity to invest in gospel ministry. While the two trips to date have included only singles, the 2010 trip is open to all church members, including 16-18 year olds if accompanied by a parent.
We are looking for individuals who have a passion to see the gospel taken throughout the world and vision for partnering in the work of the gospel with our brothers and sisters in East Africa. Team members will be chosen through an interview process that takes into account a variety of factors.
Please pray and consider applying. The tentative trip dates are January 1-13, 2010. Each person on the team provides his or her own support. The projected cost is $2,700 per person. You can download an application here and submit it to the church office. Application deadline is May 3.
February 5 2009 at 6:10 pm 0 Comments
Last Sunday we took some time to pray for our nation and President Obama. I read a prayer written by Dr. Albert Mohler, and since then several people have asked me for a copy of it. You’ll find it here on his website, www.albertmohler.com.
January 27 2009 at 5:40 pm 2 Comments
This Sunday we’ll take time during the meeting to pray for our new President and his administration. To help us pray effectively, I wanted to share the following article written by my friend, Ligon Duncan. (Ligon is Senior Minister of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Miss., an author, theologian, and part of Together for the Gospel.) Regardless of your political affiliation, I would encourage you to read his comments and let them inform your prayers for President Obama now and in the coming years:
As Americans, I suspect that none of us can fully appreciate the far-reaching significance of this event, though our nation and much of the rest of the world are electric with the inauguration of Barack Obama as the new President of the United States of America. To say that this is historic, is a gross understatement.
Many are rejoicing at this very visible public realization of the ideals of the Declaration of Independence at the very pinnacle of our civic life. In the ascendancy of an African-American from less-than-privileged circumstances to the leadership of the free world, we see the fruit of aspirations of the Founders: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” You don’t have to read far in the newspapers of the world to see them marveling at yet another astounding accomplishment in the great experiment that is America.
Do you realize that our republic has now enjoyed 44 peaceful transitions of power in our two-plus centuries of existence? There is no parallel for this in human history. And we need to thank God for his singular blessing in bestowing it upon us, undeserving as we are.
But I said I wanted us to think about all this Christianly (and not just as grateful or concerned Americans, much less as giddy Democrats or grumpy Republicans!). And this presents us with some challenges, doesn’t it?
As much as we may feel “this is my President and I want him to succeed,” as much as we may feel sympathetic joy with millions who watched President Obama’s inauguration with tear-filled eyes and hope-filled hearts, feeling themselves a part of the American story in a way they’ve never felt before, there lingers a question as to how to think about our leader in areas where his views and policies conflict with biblical conviction.
Many Christians find themselves profoundly conflicted because of some of the moral positions and social policies that Mr. Obama espouses. So how do you pray for your President when you disagree with him?
Thankfully, the Bible is not silent about such a question. After all it commands us to pray for all in authority (1 Timothy 2:2), no matter their party, policies or religion (or lack thereof). It is vital that we think Christianly, which is to say, biblically, about this issue (and not just as Democrats or Republicans who happen to be Christian). So, back to the question. How do we pray for Mr. Obama? Here are some ideas (and I want to thank Al Mohler and Justin Taylor for many of these thoughts and words) for praying for our new President, Barack Obama:
First, it needs to be said, that we ought to commit ourselves to pray for our new President, for his wife and family, for his administration and for the nation. We will do this, not only because of the biblical command to pray for our rulers, but because of the second greatest commandment, “Love your neighbor,” and what better way to love your neighbor than to pray for his well-being. Those with the greatest moral and political differences with the President ought to ask God to engender in them, by His Spirit, genuine neighbor-love for Mr. Obama.
We will also pray for our new President because he (and we) face challenges that are not only daunting but potentially disastrous. We will pray that God will grant him wisdom. He and his family will face new challenges and the pressures of this office. May God protect them, give them joy in their family life and hold them close together.
We will pray that God will protect this nation even as our new President settles into his role as Commander in Chief, and that God will grant peace as he leads the nation through times of trial and international conflict and tension.
We will pray that God would change President Obama’s mind and heart on issues of crucial moral concern. May God change his heart and open his eyes to see abortion as the murder of the innocent unborn, to see marriage as an institution to be defended and to see a host of issues in a new light. We must pray this from this day until the day he leaves office. God is sovereign, after all.
For those Christians who are more concerned than overjoyed about the prospects of an Obama presidency, there should be a remembrance that as our President, Barack Obama will have God-given authority to govern us, and that we should view him as a servant of God (Romans 13:1, 4) to whom we should be subject (Romans 13:1, 5; 1 Peter 2:13-14). Thus, again, we are to pray for Barack Obama (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We are to thank God for Barack Obama (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We are to respect Barack Obama (Romans 13:7). We are to honor Barack Obama (Romans 13:7; 1 Peter 2:17).
For those Christians who are more overjoyed than concerned about the prospects of an Obama presidency, there should be a remembrance of our ultimate allegiance: Jesus is Lord (and thus, He, not we, decides what is right and wrong), we serve God not man, and the Lord himself has promised to establish “the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him” (Malachi 3:18). Thus, where our new President opposes or undermines biblical moral standards in our society, fails to uphold justice for the unborn, undermines religious liberties or condones an ethos that is hostile to the gospel, we will pray for God’s purposes to triumph over our President’s plans and policies.
Without doubt and whatever our particular views may be, we face hard days ahead. Realistically, we must all expect to be frustrated and disappointed. Some now may feel defeated and discouraged. While others may all-too-soon find their audacious hopes unfounded and unrealized. We must all keep ever in mind that it is God who raises up leaders and nations, and it is God who pulls them down, and who judges both nations and rulers. We must not act or think like unbelievers, or as those who do not trust God.
So, now, Christian. Let’s get to work. And pray.
January 22 2009 at 5:18 pm 1 Comments
A busy book table after church is always encouraging!
My friend and pastor of Iglesia Gracia Soberana de Gaithersburg, Joselo Mercado, e-mailed recently with this good report about the church. (Gracia Soberana is the Spanish-speaking church that meets in the Events Center here at Covenant Life at 4 p.m. on Sundays):
Just wanted to take a couple of minutes to share the grace that we have been encountering. It is still amazing to think that we are less than five months old. By the way the church is interacting and the grace we are experiencing, it feels like we have been together for a longer time. Several quick testimonies of God’s kindness:
Over 100 people have been attending in recent weeks, and we have a group of 10 or so coming regularly who were un-churched before coming here.
A single who was discouraged about church due to trials in his former church ?is experiencing grace and growth in his life since coming to IGSG.
A mother and her 18-year-old son who live in a nearby community have been coming for the past five ?weeks. A ?member of Covenant Life who lives in the same house they do communicated with them using signs (due to the language barrier). This is part of the amazing blessing that it is for us to partner with Covenant Life.
So, thank you for your partnership! The Events Center is serving us so well. Your generosity and care for us has much to do with the grace we are enjoying. By the way, if people want to reach out to Spanish-speaking friends, they can stop by Covenant Life’s Welcome Center on Sundays and pick up invitations to IGSG.
December 16 2008 at 6:52 pm 0 Comments
I want to let the church know about an outreach that the Singles did over Thanksgiving. What happened with this outreach excites me about future efforts to reach our community with the gospel. I’ve asked Drew Garfield to share specifics of this project:
It all started with a member of our church, Dennis Castaneda, and his passion to bless those both in and outside the church who are in need and would be helped by a Thanksgiving meal. Nothing would have happened if Dennis hadn’t approached Mark Mitchell about Covenant Life getting involved in what he and others have already been doing for a couple of years. What is really exciting is that, by getting the church involved, we were able to expand from the five families Dennis helped last year to blessing 30 families this year!
After Dennis approached us we started work on the logistics. I began gathering names from the pastors, Dennis and several school counselors at area public schools. Members of the singles ministry donated nearly $1800 to purchase food, and then at the November Big Meeting the singles pastors took their respective spheres to three local Giant supermarkets to do the shopping for the meals. The next day more singles came out to help prepare and deliver the baskets.
It was particularly rewarding to be able to work with the different school counselors; they were so grateful for our help. One counselor told me that one of the mothers began to cry when she heard that we would be providing a meal for her and her children. Others who were served included a mom and her kids who were planning to eat pizza for their Thanksgiving meal, a family whose home is without heat or electricity and a single mom who recently lost her job.
It was great being able to show kindness toward people in real need. It was also exciting to see the joyful and willing help of the singles in our church; there is something really amazing about seeing a group of people come together to help someone else.
I’m grateful for Drew’s leadership that made this event possible. Dennis, I want to commend your heart to see the members of our church expressing love and care for the needy in our community. Thanks for your initiative!