Ross W. Graham
Redemption in Gator Country
Redemption OPC in Gainesville, Florida, had a short gestation period. Some groups take several years to develop into worshiping bodies of believers who are ready to call an organizing pastor. But the people of Redemption OPC took just six months to form themselves into a vibrant, growing congregation and to call Rev. Joel Fick to be their pastor.
The people who gathered were looking for a church that was enthusiastically and intentionally Reformed. As they began to meet, it was clear that they had a common desire for gospel-centered preaching in the context of joyful and reverent worship.
In January, Joel Fick arrived from Southern California to serve as their organizing pastor. He came with a wealth of experience. Since graduating from Westminster Seminary California, he had been serving as the associate pastor of a congregation in a sister denomination. Joel is the son of a pastor and the grandson of a pastor and church planter.
Joel says, "Although I consider myself a covenant child, I was raised in a family that knew little of covenant theology. I was raised in a fundamentalist, dispensational, Pentecostal household. In fact, there are two generations of Pentecostal preachers before me. My household was like a picture of heaven, the love and grace of God being mirrored in our family relationships. I saw the love of Christ as I saw my dad love and serve my mother. I saw the submission of the church to her Husband in my mother's faithful submission to Dad. I saw the loving discipline and instruction of the Father in the discipline and instruction of my own father.
"I praise God for his faithfulness to work through my parents in the early years of my life. Although my father had been my pastor my whole life, during my high school years he became the academic dean and a theological instructor at the Bible college I would attend in the following years. My dad first taught me Greek in Bible college."
At Seattle Bible College, Joel met two other men who would later become Orthodox Presbyterian pastors. Mark Collingridge and Jody Morris were instrumental in introducing Joel to Reformed theology. In his junior year at SBC, Joel met Marianne, a freshman who had recently been saved and came to SBC to get better acquainted with her new faith. She would later become his wife and the mother of their three sons.
Redemption OPC is currently made up of thirty people. All stages of life, from infants to grandparents, are represented in the body. They are employed in the trades and professional occupations.
Redemption OPC's ministry is being shaped by the church's location in the home of the University of Florida Gators. A third of Gainesville's population is employed by UF. The 50,000 students have a huge impact on the 113,000 citizens. The congregation hopes to locate near the university. They would welcome OP youth who come to UF. Also, it is seeking to reach students with the gospel at the critical juncture in their lives where their worldview is being formed.
Joel is praying that Redemption Church will be dressed in Christ's righteousness and become mature in Christ. He would like to see the congregation become self-sustaining and a presence in the community with an identity as a gospel church. He also wants to see the congregation develop a worldwide vision.
Please pray (1) that Redemption OPC will be faithful and intentional in inviting others to worship, (2) that visitors who may not yet share the values that Redemption holds dear will be met where they are and grow to share the same values, and (3) that the congregation will grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus, in faith and hope, and in love for one another and the Savior.
Reviving the Church in Madison
Providence OPC in Madison, Wisconsin, was almost dead. An explosion scattered the body. Worship ceased for several weeks.
As worship was revived, licentiate Mark Jenkins began regularly to exhort and lead worship. He had just completed a yearlong internship at Bethel OPC in Wheaton, Illinois.
Mark describes his internship as a fantastic experience. He received a dual affirmation. Through his work under Pastor Lendall Smith and the elders, his gifts for the ministry were affirmed, as was his inadequacy for this calling. "Seeing those come together under the guiding hand of an experienced pastor was a great experience," says Mark. Wrestling with the question of where a pastor's confidence ought to lie was a maturing experience.
With confidence in his Savior, Mark ministered to the remnant of this wounded body. And the Holy Spirit began to heal the wounds from the meltdown of Providence Church. One means used by the Spirit was a family that had not been through as much of the turmoil as others. This family began to encourage others to trust in what Christ would do in them and among them.
Mark and his wife, Celeste, were blessed to see this work of the Holy Spirit. Six months later, Providence Church decided to call Mark to be its pastor. The congregation has continued moving ahead slowly.
New visitors are coming to worship. Some have been taken away through job transfers, even before they could become members. New joy in what the Lord is doing pervades the congregation. Praise God for his faithfulness in sustaining his people.
From the beginning of the restart, people have simply wanted to be a solid, faithful, Reformed church. They want to be gospel centered, serious about Jesus, serious about Reformed worship, and not compromising with the culture.
Providence Church is focusing on evangelistic efforts. There are almost a half million people in the area around the state capital. They have had Bible studies designed to reach out to underfed and misled Christians. A shift in focus to evangelizing unbelievers is under way. The Dead People in Worship Campaign is seeking to bring unconverted people under the preaching of the life-giving Word of God.
Part of their community is the University of Wisconsin, which has a reputation of having an ultra-liberal worldview. Most of the rest of the community are down-to-earth, easy-going Midwesterners. Many have religious backgrounds and see all Presbyterians as liberal.
Pray that Providence's growth in grace will be accompanied by growth in proclaiming the gospel to dead sinners. Pray, too, that the Lord Jesus would raise many from the dead and bring them into his kingdom through the witness of Providence Church.
Pray that the Lord would bring development in the congregation, leading it to organization as a new and separate congregation.
Join with Providence Church in thanking God for the strong sense of peace within the congregation and its unity.
A Parable of the Gold Miner
Ralph and Carol Rebandt
(Note from Ross Graham: Close to half of all Orthodox Presbyterian churches meet in rented quarters. Many are new mission works, just beginning their ministries. But because land and construction costs are so great, many mature OP congregations have been struggling for years to afford a building. The OPC Loan Fund exists to help OP congregations do just that. As OP people make investments in Loan Fund notes, those funds are loaned to OP churches to buy land and build buildings. So the OPC Loan Fund is part of the Home Missions story.
When I first became general secretary for the Committee on Home Missions back in 1990, one of my first visits was to a young mission work outside Detroit, which had been started three years earlier. Sixty people were gathered for worship in a large rented room on a college campus under the leadership of a young Ralph Rebandt. The dedication and dogged determination of Ralph and Carol Rebandt to see the establishment of Oakland Hills Community Church in Farmington Hills, Michigan, is part of the story of the life and work of this congregation. Now, twenty years later, God has marvelously provided for the construction of a million-plus-dollar building (partly with the help of the OPC Loan Fund) as a church home for the congregation. Here is their story.)
It goes like this. A man moved across the country to find gold. Arriving in California, he found a spot and began to hammer away at the side of a mountain where he was told there was gold. Day after day, night after night, he hammered away. Months passed. No gold. Years passed. No gold. Finally the day came when he had had enough of digging and hammeringall for nothing. He turned around in despair and threw his hammer over his shoulder. There was a "ping" that he did not hear. The hammer had struck gold. He walked away from years of hard work and from the fruit of his labor. If he had only known how close he was to realizing the dream that had cost him so many years of his life.
We serve a great and awesome God. He is patient. We are not. We live in a world of instant gratification and immediate response. We are impatient at red lights, impatient in the grocery store line, and impatient while waiting for an online connection. Sometimes even fast food doesn't come fast enough. But God is quite unlike us. He is patient. He is also faithful. He will accomplish his will and will not forget the work of his people. Hebrews 6:10 states, "For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do." This is a story that the congregation at Oakland Hills knows all too well.
A small group of eleven people began worshiping together twenty-one years ago. Day after day, night after night, they hammered away. The temptation to throw the hammer over their shoulder and walk away was great at times, but the difference was a little word called faith. The gold miner had no assurance of finding gold. To him, his efforts were futile unless he accomplished what he had set out to do. As Christians, our efforts are never futile, because the goal is to be faithful to the task, knowing that each chisel of the hammer is an accomplishment in and of itself.
However, God in his grace allowed this congregation to strike gold. A million-dollar gift allowed a building project to begin in 2005. In December 2007, a police-escorted procession of forty families forged their way through the ice-covered streets of Farmington Hills, Michigan, to a place they now call home.
But this is not the end of the storyit is the beginning. One can only guess what the gold miner might have done with his gold, but this congregation is convinced that "to whom much is given, much is required." The gold must now be refined and invested in the lives of men, women, boys, and girls. What an absolutely awesome God we serve. To him be glory forever and ever.
A Faithful Man for the OPC
He is an OP kidthe son of a preacher. His dad sang at the funeral of J. Gresham Machen. He was a pastor himself for more than twenty-four years, serving in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, and Portland, Oregon. He's been a member and past president of the Committee on Christian Education, and served on the committee that revised Trinity Hymnal. He served as a foreign missionary to the Middle East. He was the moderator of the Sixtieth General Assembly. And since 1996 he has been the regional home missionary for the Presbytery of Southern California. The question to this Jeopardy answer is: Who is Donald M. Poundstone? The above list includes just some of the highlights of an effective and productive career of serving the Lord in the OPC.
Whenever Don Poundstone has been on the job, things have just seemed to happen. And that's why it will be so difficult for us to say good-bye to him as he retires from his RHM labors this summer. During his twelve years of regional church planting, eight new churches were added to the presbytery, which grew to thirty congregations. But that is only part of the story. Because of his competence, experience, and wisdom, pastors and sessions have turned to him regularly for help with solving problems. At one point in time during his service as Southern California's RHM, he was an active member on the sessions of five separate congregations.
But his skills as an administrator and churchman have also meant that his presbytery could count on him to provide helpful assistance in a wide range of ministry situations. During his tenure, at least two organized congregations were added to the presbytery in the unique church climate of Southern California.
Don Poundstone came to his work naturally. He grew up in the manse. His father, Dwight H. Poundstone, had helped in the OPC's early years with the starting or strengthening of a number of OP congregations in Southern California. Like his dad before him, he graduated from UCLA and from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He met his wife, Carolyn, while serving overseas in the Peace Corps. And she has been by his side in ministry for forty-four years, providing hospitality and her own brand of encouragement.
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church has been blessed by the ministry of this multitalented servant of God. As he retires from an active call, we have high hopes that his labors for the church will actually increase. He'll continue to be a member of the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension, where he has ably assisted with editorial services on the republication of the manual Planting an Orthodox Presbyterian Church. So as he moves from his RHM post to a new set of labors, look for many more years of his effective service in the OPC.
The author is general secretary of the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension. Reprinted from New Horizons, July-August 2008.