This is our fourth post recapping what various pastors shared this past Sunday evening at Members Meeting. Previous posts:
Isaac Hydoski on “Small Group Ministry” – Sunday, Nov. 17
In concert with our work on organizational structure and the role of a pastor, a third project team consisting of myself, Adam Malcolm, Joe Lee, Kenneth Maresco and Angel Cabrera was tasked by the elders of the church with the important work of evaluating our existing small group ministry.
From the earliest days of Covenant Life Church, small groups have played a vital role in our life together as a congregation. Relationships have been developed, believers have matured in the faith, unbelievers have come to know Jesus, and we have provided care for one another for many years. As pastors we recognize this fruit and are deeply grateful to God for what He has done through our small group ministry.
Through the years, we’ve seen much fruit, but we recognize that our practice of small groups has had its weaknesses. We believe an honest look at both strengths and weaknesses of the past will help sharpen our direction for the future.
As we began our work in earnest back in September, it was our conviction that our church’s purpose and approach to small group ministry would remain first and foremost rooted in Scripture in both purpose and methodology. A particular area of interest related to this conviction are the “one anothers” of the New Testament.
When studying the dozens of “one anothers” in Scripture it becomes clear the body of Christ is called to be in close relationship with one another so that we can live out the fellowship we share in Christ. Verses such as “instructing one another” (Romans 15:14), “serving one another” (Galatians 5:13), “bearing with one another” (Ephesians 4:2), “forgiving one another” (Ephesians 4:32), all share the common trait that Christians should be helping each other live out the plan God has for each of us and the church overall. We believe that being in small group fellowship is a vital way we can live out the “one anothers” together.
There are many models and ideas for small groups in the body of Christ. And with the diversity of models that exist, it would be easy to simply adopt a structure that seems exciting, innovative or compelling. Instead of taking a purely pragmatic approach, we want to focus on the values we see in Scripture. That means making small groups a place where we are helping each other worship God in all aspects of our individual lives, love one another as Jesus loved us, and make more disciples of Christ.
And so our approach has been with these values in mind as we prayerfully pursue a renewed vision and direction for our small group ministry that is pastorally wise for our particular church in this particular time.
Here’s some of what we have done to date to sharpen our thinking:
• We began by studying the 45+ verses earlier referred to as the “one anothers” in Scripture to help bring definition to what the church is and how the church is to interact together as the body of Christ.
• We are seeking to learn as much as we can from other evangelical churches that are committed to small group ministry. We are currently speaking with leaders from eight different churches that cover the spectrum of small group ministry approaches, from Bible study groups, to fellowship groups focused on sanctification, to missional communities focused on outreach. We are learning a lot by looking at the strengths and weaknesses of these various models.
• And finally, we are listening to you! This fall we invited the entire church to attend two meetings where the goal was to solicit your ideas, input and feedback about our small groups. Over 160 of you attended and had in-depth conversations with each other, led by a group facilitator, on topics such as the purpose of small groups, present small group experience, role of leaders and members, role of pastors, how a variety of biblical values should function in a small group setting, to a simple final question that we wrapped up with: “What is the one thing you’d like to say to the pastors about care groups?”
The result of these brainstorming sessions was a 30-page report capturing your ideas and input as members. This has helped us to understand both the strength and the diversity of opinions that exist within the church. Your feedback, thoughts and counsel are helping shape our work in an ongoing way, and your participation is making our partnership together tangible.
While our research and discussions are ongoing, there are a few key categories we have settled on, and even referred to in my brief summary tonight. Moving forward we’re likely to include these in our final presentation to the elders:
• We believe small groups are a vital component to the overall health of Covenant Life Church. Small groups are one of the primary ways we fulfill our purpose and mission as a local church overall.
• We believe that our church family will need clear and ongoing biblical vision for what true community life in the church looks like, and the role that small groups will play in this.
• We don’t believe it necessary to do a church-wide reorganization of all our small groups. Rather we will be seeking to widely and systematically influence and equip our groups in a more concerted fashion.
• We believe that more training and more consistent equipping for our small group leaders is a vital means for us to be an effective discipling and equipping church.
• We believe that the study of the Scriptures should be a vital aspect of every small group’s fellowship together.
We will be keeping you updated in the days ahead and making you aware of the progress we are making. Thank you for praying for us!
January 22 2013 at 4:58 pm 0 Comments
Mark Lauterbach brought greetings and thanks from his home church when he preached here this past Sunday—on video. The clip featured Mark and fellow pastor Ken Burdette sharing their thanks for Covenant Life’s partnership, especially in helping make it possible for Grace Church San Diego/North County to multiply and send roughly a third of their people to plant a new church in San Diego’s East County area last fall.
We thank the Lord for these brothers and sisters and for the gift of our cross-continental preaching exchange! Read our post from October of last year for more on the relationship between our churches.
January 16 2013 at 4:05 pm 0 Comments
We’re writing to update you on a new development in the legal process that began unfolding last fall. The lawsuit that was filed in October has been amended. It now names our church and our school as defendants. In addition it alleges sexual abuse by an unnamed “pastor and teacher” and “children’s ministry worker” (though it does not make clear what institution these persons are connected with nor when the events allegedly occurred).
We’re currently working with legal counsel to investigate these allegations. But our counsel has confirmed with counsel for the Plaintiffs that these unnamed persons are not current employees of the school or pastors at the church.
It will take time for us to review and investigate these new allegations. We ask for your patience—it’s very likely that this is going to be a lengthy process. Please continue to pray.
We are sickened by the thought of such abuse—sexual abuse in any form is evil and unconscionable. We are grieved by these allegations. We also recognize that we don’t have all the facts. We would encourage everyone to withhold judgment until an appropriate legal process can be completed.
We want you to know our commitment is to do what is right before the Lord throughout this process. We want justice and truth to prevail—whether this indicts past actions or vindicates them. If wrong has been done, we want that to be revealed and for there to be appropriate accountability. We also know that it is possible for people to be wrongly accused, and so we pray that God will protect anyone from inaccurate or distorted or false accusations.
Please join us in praying for God’s will to be done and for our church to walk through this difficult process in a manner that demonstrates our hope and trust are in him. Let us pray that this testing will make us more dependent on God, more compassionate to the hurting, and more effective in sharing the love and tender care of Jesus Christ with others.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1 ESV)
The Pastors of Covenant Life
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August 21 2012 at 6:35 pm 0 Comments
This month Crossway Church of Lancaster, Pa., marks its 30th Anniversary. Our own Robin Boisvert was the founding pastor of Crossway and preached at the church’s first official meeting in 1982. He travels to Lancaster this coming Sunday to preach and join in the celebration.
The above video from the Crossway Church blog notes Robin’s faithful work and investment in the church (see the 1:32 mark). Thank God for Robin and Clara and their long history of service in equipping God’s people for the work of the ministry!
Close on the heels of Robin’s visit comes the grand opening of Crossway’s beautiful new church building September 8 and 9. Let’s pray for this church as they continue to share God’s love in Lancaster and beyond.
August 12 2012 at 6:13 pm 8 Comments
Pastor Erik Sheffer sent the letter below to the members under his care last week. We hope it encourages your soul, too!
When was the last time you had a fresh encounter with our living God? If you are like me, sadly, these aren’t every day occasions. These moments are rare. And I want to share one with you to remind you that he does speak, personally and intimately still.
But first I want to remind us that they need not be rare. God is speaking powerfully right now. God is fully present right now. It’s our hearts, our seeing and hearing that is the problem. Romans 1:19-20 says,
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
So my prayer that I have been crying out to God is for him to help us truly see him and hear him, which I believe will lead us to love and worship him. How can a heart that has seen or heard the voice of God not melt before him?
Ok, so now the story I wanted to share. My newborn daughter, Jubilee, was in the NICU for a few days after her birth before I finally got the phone call from my wife, Jerusha, that she was ready to be discharged. As I was driving in, excited, yet weary, I thought I’d listen to a song to refresh me and help me worship with a grateful heart. I remembered the Sara Groves song, “He Has Always Been Faithful,” and than remembered I purchased her new album a while back, “Invisible Empires.” I really never listened to it, but the song, “Keep Your Eyes On The Prize,” grabbed my attention so I began to play it. What a great song!
Again, picture me 10 minutes away from Shady Grove Hospital ready to pick up Jubilee and Jerusha hearing this song. Without giving any specifics of the song away (you have to listen to it!), the way the song ends (the last 30-45 seconds, so you can skip to it if you don’t have 3 minutes) reminded me that God still speaks … not just corporately, but personally and intimately. He knew exactly what I needed at that moment AND I had the grace to slow down, listen, and worship.
Let’s keep praying for God to speak powerfully in and through our lives today, for he is a consuming fire!
Grateful to be your pastor,
June 7 2012 at 1:25 pm 6 Comments
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