Since I am now settled and moved into the church offices, I want to fill in
more of the story which explains how I came to be here – working on staff
at SMPC and what this means to our local church.

Here is the sketch: In July 2011, the Session determined to hire a new staff person, which was one of the goals determined by the previous year’s leadership retreat. As the Lord would have it, they approached me to gauge my interest in stepping into a coordinator capacity of the various equipping ministries of the church. This would include community groups, frontline prayer teams, Christian education, and other discipleship efforts. Several months leading up to this, I had already been praying with the elders for advice in considering whether or not to leave Las Vegas to attend seminary in order to pursue Gospel ministry. I eventually determined to not leave Las Vegas.

Therefore, when I saw the prospect of (1) being hired to work in the church that I love (2) enrolling in Reformed Theological Seminary’s distance Masters program and (3) coming under care of the Pacific Presbytery with the intention of being ordained in the PCA, I was excited and humbled by this wonderful providence.

Seven months after my conversation with the Session, I was hired on formally as “Director of Equipping Ministries”, a title of my choosing. Under the authority of the Session, I will serve and coordinate the various lay-leaders of the church, providing them the necessary resources, structure, and back-end support so that they may raise up and train disciples of Christ, who in turn will train more disciples.

I have since received Session endorsement to come under the care of the Pacific Presbytery (the church court to which Spring Meadows belongs). Lord-willing, starting in September, I will be formally recognized by the Presbytery as a “candidate for Gospel ministry”. For those who like ecumenical jargon, this is termed as being “under care” which means that my preparatory training is under the “kindly and sympathetic interest” of the Presbytery (Book of Church Order, Sec 18).

So what does all this mean for Spring Meadows? Christ told his church that the Father had given to Him all authority under heaven and earth, and therefore as a consequence the twelve apostles, the foundation of the church, act under King Jesus’ authority and are commanded to make disciples and add to the covenant community by baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the general purpose every true church shares – to administer the Word and sacrament. You will recognize this as the great commission.

For Spring Meadows, we see our unique purpose to be found in our mission statement, “ bring the resources of the historic Christian faith to bear on the city…” As Reformed Christians, we are “Ecclesia semper reformanda est”, that is the church
always being reformed. The Roman Church once tried to accuse our protesting forefathers of innovation, newness, and foreign teaching. The Reformation however was not novelty or newness, but rather a miracle of Spirit-led repentance to attempt to recover the Gospel and reform the church by removing the medieval perversions of the Gospel.

Therefore, we too must be constantly reformed by the Holy Spirit as He commands us to repent from our natural, inward, self-centered disposition and look to Jesus who saved us from judgment by the very word of the Gospel. This is why we are reminded every Sunday of Jesus Christ; Buried and Risen. This is the news we must be prepared to tell everyone, believers and non-believers alike.

This is the end to which equipping takes aim – so our people may grow in the knowledge of God. By walking into a church you are essentially saying, “I am here to be equipped to do the work of ministry to which the Lord has called me.” In our “Intro to Spring Meadows” binder it reads,

“Traditional churches expect the pastoral staff to build up the believers, but the Bible expects believers to build up one another. Traditional churches expect the pastoral staff to attract and win new persons mainly through programs, but the Bible says that the body grows member-to-member as each speaks the truth in love, builds up, and equips the other.” (Introduction to Spring Meadows, P24)

The former ‘traditional model’ results in a perception of “professionals” vs. “laymen”, whereas the latter ‘Biblical model’ relies on the gifting of all believers to build up believers among the body of the church. This is not done by quick-fix programs or classes, but it is done when we grab coffee with a friend and ask them, “How is the Lord challenging your faith?”. It is done when we send an email to a member of our community group telling them you are praying for them. It is done when we ask our unbelieving friend, “So who do you think Jesus is?”

After meeting with several of the teachers, community group leaders, and other men and women of SMPC since being hired, I am incredibly encouraged at the tremendous treasure of people Jesus has entrusted to the care of the elders of Spring Meadows. In the weeks and months ahead, we will be taking a fresh look at the purpose of our community groups, teaching ministries, and frontline prayer teams – to ask how each of these colleges are building the body into maturity. In the next letter, I will make the case as to why we must be committed as church to do any ministry through teams of leaders. In the meantime, be praying that the Lord shows you the ministry to which you are called and that He would provide the equipping you require for such an impossible task.

In Christ,

Mark Russell

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