LIBERATED BY GRACE: LETTER FROM PASTOR JON
Salvation is not a status to be earned or a right to be claimed, it is a costly gift to be received. To say otherwise is to undermine the central message of the Bible. Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9; c.f. Eph. 2:8-9). God has done it — not by waving a divine wand or casually dismissing our sin (an impossibility for a holy and just God), but by sending his beloved Son into the world to purchase our redemption with his precious blood. Freedom from judgment and condemnation was procured on Calvary’s cross.
Fine morals, family connections, and good intentions, therefore, do not rescue sinners from God’s coming wrath. We cannot save ourselves. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Christ bears the costly and efficacious wounds of love for you and me. What a Savior! We were outcasts and enemies of heaven (Rom. 5:10). But now, in Christ, we are undeserving guests at God’s banqueting table, and his banner over us is love (Song of Solomon 2:4).
Dearest members of Christ Church, this good news is what liberates and compels us to a life of grateful and growing obedience. It’s what motivates committed church membership and a heart for the lost. The gospel is what will put wind in our sails as we embark into future ministry and mission.
The following is a pastoral reflection on various and sundry things going on in and through Christ Church Presbyterian. My prayerful goal in this letter is to inform, encourage, challenge, and edify every member of our beloved flock as we move into the second half of our first decade as a church.
CCP Five Year Anniversary | June 10th, 2018
Not long before moving to Charleston to plant Christ Church, I was given some sage advice by a fellow minister. He said, “Don’t overestimate what God might do in five years and don’t underestimate what he might do in twenty.” For many of us, the Lord doesn’t work as fast as we want or expect him to. I suspect that we, like children, often desire things before we are ready for them. It’s comforting to remember that our loving Father always knows what we need and when we need it. He knows what we can handle. That being said, we are the beneficiaries of God’s extraordinary blessings. He has done marvelous things in our midst. He has answered prayers above and beyond all that we could ask or imagine. I could tell you stories for hours about how God has answered prayer and changed lives at Christ Church.
If my estimations are correct, in our five year history we have seen about 300 people join the membership of Christ Church, and hundreds more have visited and attended regularly. Of course, a significant portion of those members have moved away from Charleston due to job transfers, etc., and we miss them very much. I am in regular contact with several of our former members, and it’s a joy to hear how the Lord is at work in their lives.
On Sunday, June 10th we will, as a congregation, celebrate God’s faithfulness to Christ Church over these past five years. The five year anniversary celebration will only be special if all or a most of our congregation attends. So please mark your calendars and plan your vacations around this special day. We will have a special joint family Sunday school to reflect upon our five year history. There will also be special music, lunch, fellowship, and fun festivities for the kids. I can’t wait.
Summer / Fall Preaching Schedule
In the shadow of the executioner’s sword in Rome, Paul charged his disciple Timothy (and every gospel minister since) to “preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (II Tim. 4:1-2). There is no greater task for your pastors, or our church, than to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ from all of Scripture. Indeed, the unapologetic preaching of the Word is the primary task of our mission. It is through the preaching of Christ that God is pleased to save those who believe (I Cor. 1:21).
As we move into a new season at Christ Church, I have sensed the need for our congregation to spend some time getting to know the Holy Spirit better. Thus, I’m excited to announce that next week we will begin a twelve week summer sermon series on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. On that doctrinal foundation we will commence a lectio continua [systematic expository] series on the Book of Acts in the fall. I’ve never preached a series on either subject and am very excited for the challenge and blessing it will bring to our lives. Please pray for me as I study and prepare for these two important series’.
Last fall we launched our first ever Sunday school program. It has been a tremendous blessing to see how our new classes have impacted our church both in terms of discipleship and growing relationships. From toddlers being taught the gospel through simple felt-board presentations to an adult class unpacking the doctrinal riches of the Westminster Larger Catechism, every age group at Christ Church is growing in grace and truth. Moreover, it has been wonderful to see our children interacting more and getting to know one another better. Last week Marla and Helen Royal got together one afternoon to pray for the ten or so toddlers in their Sunday school class. What an encouragement!
Reformed believers have always emphasized the blessing and significance of the Lord’s Day as a concentrated day of worship, devotion, discipleship, and fellowship. God commands us to remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy because he loves us (Ex. 20:8). He knows we need this weekly spiritual recalibration in our lives. Christ Church’s weekly Lord’s Day schedule with congregational prayer meeting at 8:50 a.m., Sunday school for all ages at 9:30 a.m., morning worship at 10:30 a.m., and evening worship at 5:30 p.m. underscores our Biblical and confessional emphasis to set the entire Day apart for communion with God and one another.
Therefore, if you want to grow stronger in your walk with God and cultivate more intimate fellowship within the church, make attendance to Sunday school (and the other Lord’s Day meetings for prayer and worship) with your family a non-negotiable part of your Sundays. Don’t forfeit this rich time of spiritual growth and fellowship. The Sunday school classes may not be led or taught according to your or your children’s preference. Even so, for the sake of church unity and health, I warmly encourage you to make Sunday school a priority for you and your family.
Giving | Financial Report
The giving at Christ Church has been outstanding since our inception in 2013. Since January, however, we have seen a slight downturn in contributions. Perhaps you noticed in last week’s bulletin that through March our giving is about $40,000 under budget. Thankfully our expenses and our contributions are about even at this time. But that will not likely continue if our giving does not improve.
Giving the firstfruits (read: tithe) of our income is basic to faithful discipleship and church membership. Not only does giving a tenth of our income loosen our grip upon the riches of this world, it also provides the necessary means to support the ministry and mission of the local church (Matt. 6:24; I Tim. 5:18). Therefore, let us recommit ourselves to tithing the firstfruits of our income to the church and to the faithful proclamation of the unsearchable riches of Christ.
If you would have asked me two years ago if we would still be worshipping at Moultrie Middle School and continuing our search for a longterm facility I would have said, “No way! Surely something will open up before then.” Well, God had other plans. It reminds me of the Proverb, “The heart of a man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Prov. 16:9).
For the time being, you’re still looking at old gum and food fragments from five-hundred middle-schoolers, and Dwayne Johnson (a.k.a. The Rock) is still staring me down from the back of the cafeteria every time I preach. Now, lest we feel too sorry for ourselves, let us remember how truly blessed we are to have such a safe, bright, and strategically located meeting place. Compared to most Christians in the world, we are profoundly blessed to be meeting at a middle school in Mount Pleasant! Nevertheless, there is no shame in desiring a facility that will both better reflect the transcendent glory of God in worship and also expand ministry during the week.
Our lack of success has not been for a lack of effort or a dearth of prayer. We are working with commercial real estate agents and trying to follow up on every viable option. We have even written the leadership of several churches in the area to explore interest in a potential resource/facility share. Thus far there has been no interest. Even so, we will keep working and calling upon the Lord. Our Father’s timing is always best, and he will prove that to us again before long. For now, let’s keep praying hard and searching diligently for potential properties. If you discover anything that might work on the Peninsula or south of the IOP Connector in Mount Pleasant don’t hesitate to reach out to me or one of the other church leaders.
Church Life Coordinator | Austin Griffin
I recently announced that Mrs. Austin Griffin, wife of Mr. Stevie Griffin, has been hired to fill the new full-time position of Church Life Coordinator. Her job will fulfill many important roles in church administration, women’s ministry, and children’s/nursery ministry. Austin will begin her new position at the end of August. Please pray for her and Stevie as she gives birth to their first child, a boy, in just a couple of weeks. In addition, pray for Austin as she prepares to play a vital new role in the life of Christ Church Presbyterian.
Prayer is the engine of a healthy church. It is the power of the Christian’s walk with God. Without prayer, there is no real communion with God. Indeed, the prayerless version of Christianity is no Christianity at all. It is only a kind of formalistic religion built on man’s terms. Paul encourages God’s people to “pray without ceasing” (2 These. 5:17), and our Lord commands us to “Watch and pray that [we] do not enter into temptation” (Mt. 26:41). Prayer is at the very core of Christian identity and discipleship. Christ Church, God’s calls us to pray.
Of course, the command by our Lord to pray shouldn’t be viewed as a burden, but an astonishing privilege. It’s not that we have to pray, we get to pray! This morning in our men’s Bible study we were reminded that in Christ “we have boldness and access and confidence through our faith in him” (Eph. 3:12). In other words, we have been given access to the blessed holy of holies through the blood of Christ. We are free to approach the throne of Grace and pour out our souls to God in prayer (c.f. Heb. 4:16).
Therefore, let us pray earnestly for one another at Christ Church. Take time to pray for our families with new babies — the Pepins, the DuRants, and the Henleys. Let’s pray for our pregnant mothers — Austin Griffin, Laura Lea Vernon, Kristin Gee, Camden Batte, Allison Long, and Mallory Morgan. Pray for those struggling with infertility and those who are engaged in the adoption process. Please pray for the health of Jack Muirhead and Jackie Wear. Pray for Cathy Paterson’s sister, Ashley, whose husband unexpectedly died recently. Pray for Scott Buchanan as he undergoes cataract eye surgery the last week of April. Pray for healing for Rev. Robert Berry’s neck. Pray for Alex Levitt who is currently doing a medical rotation in Africa. Pray for your unchurched and under-churched friends and neighbors. Pray for your pastors — for wisdom, strength, purity, humility, and godliness. Pray for the preaching of the Gospel — that God would save and sanctify those for whom Christ died. Pray for a building where our church can trumpet the unsearchable riches of Christ and carry out gospel ministry during the week. Pray for our missionaries (see our new missionary prayer guide). Pray for the elders and deacons of Christ Church — Jon Payne, Ross Hodges, Keith Hester, Scott Buchanan, Andrew Godwin, and Wen Bumgardner. Pray that God would raise up new leaders. Pray for Austin Griffin, our new Church Life Coordinator. Pray for the Christ Church summer missions team to Northern Ireland.
Pray for biblical reformation and revival in the Presbyterian Church in America — that our denomination would be faithful to the Scriptures, true to the Reformed Faith, and obedient to the Great Commission. Pray for the PCA General Assembly that meets this June in Atlanta. Pray for our covenant children — that they would, by God’s grace, believe the Christ-centered promises of God made to them in their baptisms. Pray for God’s protection over our teenagers. Pray for our marriages. Pray for your pastors’ wives— Marla Payne and Joanna Hodges (doing more behind the scenes than you will ever know). Pray for Christ Church — that we would grow in our hunger for God, his Word, and Christian fellowship; and evidence that hunger through attendance to the weekly prayer meeting, Sunday school, evening worship, and weekly ministries. Pray for the weekly men’s and women’s Bible studies. Pray for our visitors. Pray that God would raise up missionary church planters from our congregation. Pray for an expanded student ministry at MUSC, CofC, The Citadel, Charleston Southern, etc. Pray that the Holy Spirit would convict us of our spiritual mediocrity and worldliness, and mature us in our devotion to Christ and the church. Pray that the gospel would be that which compels us to love God and our neighbor.
It’s a tremendous honor and privilege to serve as an under-shepherd of Christ Church Presbyterian. There is truly nowhere I’d rather be than with you, my dearest flock and church family. I can’t wait to see how our Father is going to use our feeble efforts to grow his church in Charleston and around the world. If you ever need to talk, pray, or receive counsel please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am your servant. May the gospel be the wind in our sails as we journey into the future together.
Your Pastor and Friend,