Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What is our Denomination?

I am often asked what our denomination is at Sovereign Grace. This is an interesting question that is usually loaded with ideas like, "I hope we aren't in a denomination with some weird ideas or strange cultural practices." Because this is such a loaded question I often like to avoid answering it head on. I would prefer to reorient your understanding of denominational involvement before jumping into the answer.

In brief, to be involved in a denomination is to partner in the gospel with other churches for the forwarding of the gospel among the nations. There are numerous ways to partner. There can be partnerships that involve just the pastors or the whole church. Those partnerships can include everything from encouraging each other to pooling financial resources to accomplish a mission. Further, partnership need not be limited to a denomination. Partnership can include networks, missions organizations, and pastoral fraternities.

Let me state first that Sovereign Grace is an independent church governed by elders who are appointed and confirmed by the members of the church. Sovereign Grace has no outside body that governs her. From time to time, our elders bring in outside pastors to coach us and provide advice to us. We even choose to submit to some of that advice because we don't believe we are the great bastion of all wisdom in leading the church. So, we are not non-denominational in the sense that we don't partner with anyone. In fact, we consider it a virtue to partner with other churches and individuals for the advance of the gospel among all peoples.

Now on to who we partner with. You might say our partnerships are in 3 categories: 1). Pastoral Partnerships 2). Church Partnerships 3) Mission Agency Partnerships.

1). Pastoral Partnerships

I partner with several pastors both formally and informally. I coach other pastors and have been coached by other pastors. I train other pastors at times and I am trained by them. I have sat on assessment teams for the purpose of evaluating a man for church planting with other pastors. I partnered with the Acts 29 network for the purpose of advancing church planting for a time. I still partner with many A29 pastors toward that end. My most formal pastoral partnership is with the Evangelical Free Church of America. I am ordained by them and often have the privilege of sitting in on ordination councils for other men.

2). Church Partnerships

Sovereign Grace participates with two different groups of churches for the furtherance of the gospel. We partner with the Southern Baptist Convention. Wait, aren't those the culturally odd guys who banned alcohol, dancing, and Disneyland? I'm sure some are. However, the SBC believes in the autonomy of the local church. And, by the way, there are greater freedoms to give up. But don't worry, I am going to Disneyland this week. On the positive side, the Southern Baptist convention employs over 10,000 missionaries worldwide. They have the best disaster relief workers in the world, bar none. They provide amazing retirement and benefits packages for pastors. They also have excellent seminaries that men from our church can be trained at for half tuition. We also partner with the Pacific Church Network. This network is a new network with great resources for planting churches in Southern California. The network will assess, train, coach, fund, and encourage men who are planting churches. We are part of planting 4 churches with them in 2014. The plan is for this number to double each year.

3). Mission Agency Partnerships

Sovereign Grace partners with Radius International, and Joseph and Jessica Bonura, to train people to plant churches among unengaged and unreached people groups. We were part of founding this missions organization. Our second class of trainees begins in January 2014. Further, we also partner with New Tribes Mission in the work of Brandon and Brooks Buser among the Yembi Yembi and Biem people groups. We partner with Acts 29 Europe and Steve Timmis for the purpose of planting churches in Europe. Finally, we are also partnering with a few different church plants in Southern California by way of financial support until the end of 2013.

So there is the list as it currently stands. We reevaluate partnerships over time as best fits the mission goals of Sovereign Grace Church. We do not, however, ever allow ourselves to slip into a solo mission for the advance of the gospel among the nations. Gospel partnership is everywhere modeled in the NT and it is our privilege to join with other churches to see Jesus proclaimed among the nations.

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