Striving Together at the Council of Elders
Why should our family of churches care deeply about the Council of Elders meeting each year? Because it’s one thing to applaud the interdependence of churches we see in the New Testament, it’s another thing to pursue it practically.
In the New Testament there’s a clear pattern and model that these churches were not simply independent, they were interdependent. One church recruited a pastor, only to send him and another pastor on a missionary endeavor to plant churches beyond them (Acts 11:26-29). In multiple places, we see that one church sent emergency relief money from one church to another (Acts 11:29, 16:1-4). One church sent representatives to another church to help make key decisions (Acts 15). A new convert is brought in and discipled in one church, only to be sent out to strengthen other churches (Acts 18:24-28). We believe this in Sovereign Grace Churches. We want to be a family of churches that are involved in more than just friendly cooperation, but vitally linked together in this kind of work.
But applying this interdependence in real churches is not always easy. Where Scripture is not clear, wisdom must be applied. Where disagreement arises, unity must be pursued. We have not arrived, but we are pursuing something.
On October 26, dozens of churches gathered from suburban and urban areas, from the South to the Northeast, from the US, Mexico, Australia (and beyond) for the Sovereign Grace Council of Elders. The Council of Elders is one of the most significant moments in the life of our family of churches each year. Sovereign Grace Churches is not a ministry independent of our churches, it is an expression of our churches, governed by our churches, to serve our family of churches. It grew out of our shared commitment to hold fast in our Christian faith, to display the unity of Christ’s church, and to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ.
If you are a member of a Sovereign Grace church you may never attend a Council of Elders meeting, you may never understand Rober’s Rules of Order that govern the meeting, but you will feel its effect. By God’s grace during each meeting our grip on the gospel is strengthened, our hearts are stirred for our mission together, and strategies and money are released to advance this mission. It’s one thing to see the interdependence of churches in the New Testament, it’s another thing to strive for it in the details of motions being made, committee reports being given, and votes cast. But I believe the striving is glorious in the sight of God.
The Council of Elders has wisely decided to make our meeting minutes available to all our members each year, and those will be available soon, but allow me to share just a few highlights of how we strived this year:
- We heard a State of the Union address from our Executive Director Mark Prater where he highlighted where God was at work in our family of churches, and called us to faith where changes and adjustments were necessary. This is us striving for unity of purpose together.
- We heard what I believe was a historically significant report on our progress in developing a plan to advance the gospel globally. As Rich Richardson, our Director of Global Mission said, “We do not want to be an American organization with global partners. We want to be a global family of churches.” We learned about three new regions of Sovereign Grace forming—in Latin America, in the United Kingdom, and in the Asia-Pacific region—directly from the men leading those efforts. This is us striving together to make Jesus name great among the nations.
- We heard an encouraging report from the Theology Committee on their plan to revise our existing Statement of Faith over the next few years into what would be more a full confession of faith. We saw the first three sections, heard their plan to gather feedback from all our churches, and rejoiced once again at the character of God and the nature of Scripture together. This is us striving together to hold fast the gospel of Jesus and our confession of faith.
- We strengthened our Book of Church Order through several amendments—which is the structure that expresses our unity in practical form. After living with our BCO, we are making good, prudent, and necessary changes to make it something that will serve us for many years. This is us striving together to walk in unity.
It was a long meeting, full of good work, full of important decisions, fueled by multiple cups of coffee. Representatives from many churches brought questions, amendments, reports. In a real and tangible way, each church was represented in that room. These are just a few highlights, but I hope they help you see that while we are not there yet but we are striving toward what we see in Scripture.
And this is what I love about Sovereign Grace: Our churches are not striving alone, we are striving together.
Ricky is the lead pastor at Cross of Grace Church in El Paso, Texas. Additionally, he serves on Sovereign Grace’s National Church Planting Group. He and his wife, Jenn, have two sons.