As many of you know, Kingsway is part of a larger network of churches called Sovereign Grace Churches. Two years ago, Sovereign Grace went through a major polity overhaul that shifted governing authority from a national leadership team to regional assemblies of elders. We used to have a more episcopal or top-down system. Now we have a more Presbyterian or bottom-up system. Let me give you a quick snapshot of how our new polity is playing out over the next few weeks at both a regional and national level.
Most of the care, accountability, and missional partnerships we enjoy as part of Sovereign Grace Churches come from our participation in the Mid-South Regional Assembly of Elders. Every ordained elder in our region is a voting member of this assembly, and most of our work as an assembly is divided among four regional committees: church planting, ordination, judicial, and nominating. Gene serves on the church planting committee. I serve on the ordination committee.
Local churches are ultimately responsible in Sovereign Grace for deciding whether or not to ordain an elder. However, they are not allowed to ordain a man who has not been vetted by the regional ordination committee and approved by the regional assembly of elders. This sort of regional oversight provides an importance level of accountability for Kingsway and should strengthen your confidence that the men leading our church in years to come are qualified for the role, both in terms of their personal character and doctrinal convictions. As a member of the ordination committee, I’m responsible for grading two written ordination exams for elders candidates in our region this week and will travel to Roanoke later this month to administer a series of oral ordination exams.
On October 20, Gene and I are traveling to Nashville, TN where I’ll serve as our church’s representative on the national Council of Elders. The Council of Elders (CoE) meets at least once a year, prior to the annual Sovereign Grace Pastor’s Conference, and provides accountability and leadership for all the regions in Sovereign Grace. We have a fairly long list of responsibilities as a CoE, including:
- Creation and confirmation of national committees (Polity, Theology, and Nominating)
- Proposal and approval of changes to Statement of Faith (what we believe)
- Proposal and approval of changes to the Book of Church Order (how we cooperate with churches inside and outside our region)
- Confirmation of members of the Sovereign Grace Court of Appeal
- Adjudication of charges against a Region
- Election of members of the Executive Committee
- Confirmation of the Executive Director of the Leadership Team
- Approval of ordination standard and exam formats
- Affirmation of the Sovereign Grace annual budget
Under our old polity, practically all these responsibilities were held by a five man leadership team. Now they are spread out among representatives from every Sovereign Grace church, which I’m convinced is a healthier and safer approach for years to come. Here are a few of the steps I’ve taken this week to prepare for the CoE meeting:
- I discussed some proposed amendments to our book of church order with Daniel Baker, a pastor in the Apex, NC church who has a keen mind for church government issues.
- I contacted a member of the Executive Committee, Jon Payne, with questions about the 2015 Sovereign Grace budget. I’m especially interested to know how much of the money Sovereign Grace receives will be invested in international missions.
- I wrote Mike Seaver, another pastor friend of mine from South Carolina, with feedback on how we respond as a family of churches to the issue of child abuse. Given the importance of this particular topic, I’m grateful MinistrySafe is providing training at our Pastor’s Conference on how local churches can protect children from abuse.
A Shared Responsibility
I pass all this information along for two simple reasons:
- I want you to see how our new polity is beginning to function and how governing authority really is shifting from a top-down to a bottom-up model. That’s going to protect us in the long-run.
- I want you to know how to pray for me over the next few weeks. Ordination exams are a big deal. I take the responsibility seriously and I need God’s help in order to give clear, accurate feedback to all the men applying for eldership in our region. I also want to cast our vote wisely at the CoE meeting and challenge the majority consensus where necessary. A handful of men speaking with conviction can turn a large group for better or worse. Pray God leads me and the other delegates to make careful and courageous decisions.
If you’re interested in exploring how Sovereign Grace works in more detail, the first few chapters in our Book of Church Order are a great place to start. Once you get into the middle of the book, it gets a little tedious. But the first part cast a clear vision for how we want to cooperate in care, accountability, and mission as a group of churches. I should also mention that a good bit of this material was written by my friend Daniel Baker from the Apex, NC church!