Sovereign Grace Ministries

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by Scott1, Jul 3, 2008.

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  1. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    Sovereign Grace churches describe themselves on their web site as follows:

    This thread is intended to be informational. I would like to hear from people from within and without this denomination and prefer to avoid the "continuationist" aspect here only so we focus on answering the question:

    Is this a Reformed denomination in doctrine and practice, particularly in relation to:

    1) The doctrines of Grace
    2) Covenant theology
    3) Church government
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2008
  2. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist

  3. danmpem

    danmpem Puritan Board Junior

    I think with some of the recent threads about the difference between being Reformed and being a Calvinist, we can say that Sovereign Grace churches are not Reformed due to the differences in sacriments and/or ordinances (I'm not sure what they call them) and ecclesiology.

    Personally, I have benefited greatly from the preaching of many Sovereign Grace pastors (i.e. Mahaney) and resources like The Shepherd's Scrapbook.
  4. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    Their web site under "Statement of Beliefs" links to a "Together 4 the Gospel" site and its "Affirmations and Denials," which looks to be an 18 Article Statement.

    Signatories to this 18 Article Statement include Mr Ligon Duncan, Mr Mark Dever, and Mr Al Mohler.
  5. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    Scott, I hope you don't mind my changing the thread title to "Sovereign Grace Ministries." Since about the 1960's there are a number of independent Calvinistic baptistic churches that are part of a "sovereign grace" movement that is distinguished from Reformed Baptists by their relative lack of emphasis on the LBCF and other confessions. They are known mainly (from what I can ascertain) for having several Bible and/or pastors conferences, some of which have been going on for decades. This is what I thought of with the title "sovereign grace" churches since I attended one for a few years.
  6. JonathanHunt

    JonathanHunt Puritan Board Senior

    I'd slightly differ with Josh

    1. Definately yes
    2. No
    3. No
  7. Neogillist

    Neogillist Puritan Board Freshman

    Here is the answer from the horse's mouth:
    Sovereign Grace - FAQ
    "3. How are you different from other churches that identify themselves as Reformed?
    A helpful way to summarize our Reformed convictions is that we hold to a Reformed soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). We believe that God is sovereign over all things, including the salvation of individual sinners, and that all things, including salvation, have as their ultimate goal the glory of God. Such a perspective keeps the gospel central and grace amazing.

    We do believe and cherish the doctrines that historically have been called the TULIP (Total depravity; Unconditional election; Limited atonement or, perhaps more accurately phrased, particular redemption; Irresistible grace or, more accurately phrased, effectual calling; and Perseverance of the saints). However, we never want to focus on more narrow aspects of Reformed theology to the neglect of truths that are central, and that we share with many other Christians. These truths include the gospel, sola fide (justification by faith alone), and sola Scriptura (Scripture alone as the sole infallible source of doctrine and authority).

    While we believe that Reformed theology faithfully represents the teaching of Scripture, our ultimate theological commitment is not to a particular system of theology, but to theology that is biblical. We have no other boast but the cross of Christ.

    Beyond this agreement on the general tenets of Reformed theology, there are a few aspects of doctrine and practice that are common to many Reformed traditions but to which we do not hold. These include infant baptism, cessationism (the belief that some miraculous spiritual gifts have ceased), and some traditionally Reformed types of church government."

    I would probably add myself that their worship is not reformed either (like psalm-singing and hymn-singing), and is probably quite lively. Also, they do not appear to be sabbath-keepers. Overall I would describe them as Calvinistic Pentecostals, or mainstream evangelicals that happen to be calvinists.
  8. Reformingstudent

    Reformingstudent Puritan Board Junior

    While we believe that Reformed theology faithfully represents the teaching of Scripture, our ultimate theological commitment is not to a particular system of theology, but to theology that is biblical. We have no other boast but the cross of Christ.


    Where exactly do they think we get our theology from, the Koran?
  9. BlackCalvinist

    BlackCalvinist Puritan Board Senior

    Amen. :)

    If you'd include the anglican church as 'reformed', their church government structure is somewhat similar.

    CJ would be archbishop of canterbury.
    The founders of SGM are kinda archbishops as well.
    pastors/elders of churches are below them.

    Multiple Eldership in their churches, with one head elder.

    Not much different than some RB churches I've seen.

    On the sacraments, they call them sacraments, but they hold to a memorialist view. Josh Harris recently finally took Covenant Life through a series on this. At times, they sound like they want to become sacramental, but then go back to memorialist language - kinda trying to be 'in the middle'.
  10. Leslie

    Leslie Puritan Board Junior

    Perhaps what they are saying is to always go back to the scriptures, that quoting the confessions is not equivalent to quoting the scriptures. While the confessions themselves claim to be subservient to scriptures, in practice they, at times supplant scripture, being considered infallible.
  11. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    From their Statement of Faith page, it appears they do not infant baptize. It appears they specify immersion- not sure from this if the method is a point of doctrine.

    I have a friend who is going to one of these churches and he told me they had "convinced the Session" that their son's infant baptism (in a PCA Church) is sufficient and that his son would not need to be re-baptized.

    There also does not appear to be the idea that Christ is spiritually present during the Lord's Supper. Maybe they have a "higher view," of the Lord's Supper stated somewhere or practiced.

    It would be helpful to hear from someone who has been part of the denomination on their doctrine and practice with regard to the Sacraments- and whether those views are written down or is there variation in practice.
  12. jogri17

    jogri17 Puritan Board Junior

    Reformed yes, calvinist yes

    There is not one set of rules that define reformed. There are broad principals. A church may be congregationalist (like Edwards or sovereign grace) or plurality of elders (like many reformed baptist churches and presbyterian) and have a historic claim in the title Reformed. I would argue that orthodox Lutherans also would have that honor. One can be a lutheran, Reformed, and Calvinist. Reformed baptists and Presbyterians and Lutherans don't agree on the sacraments/ordinances. Now over the decades certain posistions have been more focused than others leading to the idea that these are the defining deffinitions. But I do not believe the Reformes would limit the title to those who accept one out of 10 or so confessions.
  13. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    It looks like the earlier threads concentrate on whether they are "4 point Calvinist" (seems to indicate they are moving more and more toward defining themselves "all the way" 5 points) and the "continuationist" issue.

    Still not much about their official view of the Sacraments doctrine or practice.
  14. raekwon

    raekwon Puritan Board Junior

  15. turmeric

    turmeric Megerator

    Whoever is moderating this, feel free to delete if need be.

    I looked at the site above, and noticed that hte things being described are typical of Charismatic churches. I grew up in these in the '70's, and remember the "shepherding" movement. These things are typical of churches and movements which have perfectionistic tendencies. In my humble opinion, any church which teaches the need for a "second experience" after conversion is operating from at least a somewhat perfectionistic view, why else would one need this "second work" unless to make one able to be more sinless? It's like the "rededication" some SBC and Independent churches push, and the teaching has similar effects on troubled consciences. I realize this is off-topic and only mention it here. If there's a desire for further discussion, we can maybe start another thread and leave this one for its original purpose.
  16. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    It looks like that to me too.
  17. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    How true- "semper reformanda," is a very reformed concept.

    It is also very reformed that while there is "Unity in essentials, liberty in nonessentials, and charity in all things," in reformed theology, the unity of the church must be grounded in doctrinal agreement.

    I have found it helpful that when someone asserts that Reformed theology tends to elevate confessions of faith above Scripture to ask for a specific example. Ask them to give an example where a Confession summarizes a doctrine that is not in Scripture or is not clear from Scripture. It's often a good entree into discussion, that God can use to help both parties.

    As this relates to Sovereign Grace ministries, I am wondering what is the source of their doctrinal agreement in their denominational polity.
  18. FenderPriest

    FenderPriest Puritan Board Junior

    Hey Scott, hopefully I can help answer some of your questions. In relation to your direct questions, the answers are: 1) Yes. 2) Yes, depending on who you talk to, you may get varying degrees of affirmation. 3) There's a plurality of elders, church discipline, church to church accountability. If you search the SGM website, there's a booklet published on our polity, which you can download, or buy for something around $5 - and judge there on whether we're in line with #3 or not since I'm unsure the extent to which your question would go.

    As for SGM itself, I love being in the church we're in (Covenant Fellowship in Glen Mills, PA). The pastoral leadership here is phenomenally Gospel centered, and very intent on bringing our lives into conformity with the Bible (in our jobs, marriages, parenting, friendships, knowledge of God, etc.). The pastors care for us deeply here, and are constantly seeking to encourage faith in us, and help us run the race. There are, of course, our faults where we need growth. But the church itself is the most healthy church I've ever been a part of. All the members are constantly encouraged to grow in their knowledge of God and their application of the Gospel - through the preaching on Sunday, through our community groups, through reading solid books. My wife and I moved to PA from Alabama to be a part of this church, and it has definitely seen God's grace in our lives through it. Through the pastoral leadership and Gospel community, God is continually working in our everyday lives to conform us to the image of Christ - I love the Savior more and more through the work of God in our church and family of churches.

    Anyhow, I could go on, but I imagine I'll bag beyond my welcome here. But I figured that since you wanted thoughts from someone in a SGM church that I should share.

    Last edited: Jul 8, 2008
  19. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    From my admittedly cursory perusal of the site, I suspect they would be critical of the emphasis here on the PB and in many Reformed churches of being in submission to the elders. Membership covenants are also a staple of many Baptist churches.
  20. Leslie

    Leslie Puritan Board Junior

    What is wrong with the rededication or second experience or whatever? Is it not true that "Reformed" means "Always reforming"? What's the difference if one does it by a few quantum leaps or more often? I truly don't understand the problem.
  21. FenderPriest

    FenderPriest Puritan Board Junior


    The problem with some Pentecostal teaching on "second blessing" is that it makes a two stage Christianity. This is obviously contrary to Paul's teaching in his Epistles. I think what you are speaking to here is those markers of particular awareness of the Spirit's work in our lives that are a part of every Christian's sanctification. There are indeed those moments when we are freshly awakened, freshly renewed, or suddenly aware to a dimension of sin and grace that we weren't before - that's the Spirit's work in our lives. But the problem that the "second blessing" theology presents is that there are two stages of Christians, those who've "merely" been converted, and those who've been empowered. This results in the problems people like Charles Finney and Phoebe Palmer have caused in the church in America.

    I hope this helps.
  22. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    As a point of clarification, charismatics do not necessarily demand a 'second experience/blessing'. Pentacostals do require a 'second blessing', but not all charismatics are Pentacostals.

    I do not know for sure, but I assume SGM is charismatic of the '3rd Wave' variety which do not require a 'second blessing'. Please correct me if I am wrong....
  23. raekwon

    raekwon Puritan Board Junior

    I should add that my posting of the above link isn't for the purpose of bashing SGM. I have good friends who are members and pastors in Sovereign Grace churches (FenderPriest being one of them), I've benefited greatly from the preaching and writing of guys like CJ Mahaney and Joshua Harris, and when we moved to Ohio, SGM was one of the first groups I looked at for finding a church home.

    I just wanted to show that there seem to be some consistently unhealthy tendencies in some SGM churches.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2008
  24. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    If I'm not mistaken originally their statement of faith did teach a subsequent Baptism of the Holy Spirit but it was revised in order to accommodate those who had joined or who wanted to join and couldn't subscribe to that teaching.
  25. Jared

    Jared Puritan Board Freshman

    They have recently changed their official statement regarding pneumatology to welcome those who are Third Wave. People who are Third Wave believe that spiritual gifts are still operating in the church today, but that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is received at salvation and we can be filled and empowered more and more with the Spirit subsequent to salvation. This is my position as well.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2008
  26. Jared

    Jared Puritan Board Freshman

    I have been to a Sovereign Grace church a few times. I went to one close to where I live. It's called Cornerstone Church of Knoxville and it is in Knoxville, TN. I have not been to a "truly reformed" church, so I could not compare it to that. But I do know that I always leave feeling like some of the other sermons that I have heard are almost refuse compared to the preaching there. Also, their worship is very cross-centered. I happen to like it since I was raised Pentecostal. It's a good mix for me because I don't want to leave behind what I believe to be the work of the HOly Spirit in the church, and I also want to have a church that is biblical in their doctrine.

    Unfortunately, their church is too far from where I live to attend every Sunday.
  27. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    Okay- it looks like we have identified one major issue here in answering our question in this thread- Is this a Reformed denomination in doctrine and practice...

    The Sovereign Grace Ministries doctrinal standard holds that the Holy Spirit at conversion and the Holy Spirit at the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" are two different experiences. It appears, from the standard, however, this belief is not considered an "essential" for the denomination.

    In Reformed theology it would probably be an essential to hold that the "baptism" of the Holy Spirit comes at salvation.

    Without commenting on this underlying issue, it seems to me it would be difficult to hold unity over a point such as this, remembering that in Reformed theology, the unity of the church must be grounded in doctrinal agreement. This would go to the first point in understanding the denomination we're focusing on:

    1) Doctrines of grace
    2) Covenant theology
    3) Church government
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2008
  28. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    From this:

    which you quoted, it seems apparent that the leadership team of SGM is definitely Pentacostal. (because Oss certainly is and his contribution to "Are Miraculous Gifts For Today" is for the Pentacostal view) But they do not insist on a second blessing that is evidenced in tongues speaking. They do not insist on this in order to make room for the '3rd Wavers'.

    If this is true, then it seems that they are definitely Calvinistic Pentacostals but they are willing to tolerate Calvinistic '3rd Wavers'. This being the case, I don't see how anyone could call them 'Reformed'.
  29. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    I only looked at the first page and saw no specifics, only innuendo and little or no argumentation from scripture. Do you have anything specific you saw that you can point me to? Where I'm coming from is that today many people view any kind of attempt at pastoral care at all as intrusive, abusive and even cultic. This even includes rudimentary steps like the pastor or elder contacting a family that has been absent from church for several weeks. In the past few years I've come across some sites alleging abuse at Reformed Baptist churches as well and I'm sure there are probably some about Presbyterians too.
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