Wednesday, September 7, 2016

GPTS Welcomes New Class for Fall Semester 2016

Greenville Seminary welcomed seven new U.S.-based students for the Fall Semester during our opening week activities, including our 30th Convocation and new student banquet. An application is pending for an eighth new U.S. campus student. The new class includes students from Brazil, China, and Korea, as well as several U.S. states. In addition, one new student from Switzerland is registered for the Fall Semester at the GPTS extension, Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Gateshead, England. Three other students have newly enrolled in Greenville Seminary's Th.M. advanced degree program.

We are pleased to introduce to you these excellent students as they join our body of scholars seeking to serve the Lord in Christian ministry in the future.

Jerry R. Bressler
Jerry hails from the Bay Area of Northern California where he was a member of Sunnyvale Orthodox Presbyterian Church, formerly pastored by now GPTS Professor Ryan McGraw. Jerry moved to Greenville in 2015, hoping to begin studies at GPTS. He sought local employment to help finance his studies and is now able to begin. He is enrolled in the Master of Arts degree program with a goal of teaching at a Christian high school in the future. He received a paralegal certification from California State University East Bay in 2014.

Nicholas Clark
Nicholas is enrolled in the Bachelor of Divinity program and will study via distance learning from him home in Gambrills, Maryland. His previous studies were at North Central University in Minneapolis, Minn. and Valley Forge Christian College in Phoenixville, Penn. He and his wife Megan have a 1-year-old adopted daughter, Deborah. Nicholas is a deacon at Severn Run Evangelical Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Millersville, Md., pastored by GPTS alumnus Jesse Crutchley. He works as general manager of a salon in Annapolis.

Felipe Cortial
Felipe comes to GPTS from Brazil, where he practices law. His wife Danielle is a surgeon. Felipe is a resident student in the Master of Divinity program at GPTS. The Cortials are members of Memorial Presbyterian Church, a congregation of the Presbyterian Church of Brazil. Their pastor at a previous church in Brazil was Paulo Brasil e Souza, a GPTS alumnus. He and Daniele are now attending Fellowship Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Greer, S.C., which has had several Brazilian interns from GPTS.

Joseph Dobbels, Jr.
Joe is enrolled in the Master of Divinity distance learning program. He lives in Porter, Tex. where he works in polygraph services. He received a B.A. in Biblical Education from Multnomah University in 1984 and an M.S. in Strategic Intelligence from National Intelligence University in Monterey, Calif. in 2003. He formerly served with Custom and Border Protection in Texas and the Defense Intelligence Agency in Virginia. He and his wife Adrian have two grown children and are members of Providence Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Kingwood, Tex.

Michael Juncheol Han

Michael is a Bachelor of Divinity student from Korea studying via distance learning from Osaka, Japan. He previously studied at the University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA) and Marymount California University. He currently serves as the English Missionary/Pastoral Intern at Osaka Onnuri Church. In this capacity he is in charge of the international English worship service on Sunday evenings as the main English teacher and preacher, as well as music leader.

Jessie Tam
Jessie (Wai Yi Jessie Kong) comes from Hong Kong and is seeking a Master of Arts degree in biblical studies from GPTS. Her husband Tai Chueng came to Greenville to study at Bob Jones University and then at Geneva Reformed Seminary, where Jessie also studied. She served as an English teacher at United Christian College in Hong Kong and the Number One Institute of Education in China. She has a degree in linguistics from the University of Melbourne in Australia and worked as a translator for Wycliffe Bible Translators and New Tribes Mission. The Tams have three sons.

Tom Wagoner
Tom is enrolled in Greenville Seminary's Bachelor of Divinity program while studying from his home in Gainesville, Fla., where he is employed by Hobart Corp. He, his wife, two sons and one daughter are members of Redemption Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Gainesville. Tom came to saving faith in Jesus Christ in 1998 through the witness of Ligonier Ministries and a Reformed church in his area.

Florian Weicken
Florian is originally from Switzerland, where he earned a bachelor of science in business law from Zurich University of Applied Science. He later studied at the Free Church College in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is currently a member of Gateshead Presbyterian Church in England. He previously worked in the admission and crediting office at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. He married his wife Veronica in 2013. He is enrolled in the United Kingdom-based GPTS/Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary Master of Divinity program.

Students newly accepted for advanced-degree Th.M. studies include alumni Scott Cook and Jesse Crutchley and local Pastor Rob McCurley of Greenville Presbyterian Church (Free Church of Scotland-Continuing), located a block from the seminary. Admission to advanced-degree studies is by invitation of the faculty only.

Altogether, registered students for the Fall Semester, excluding Th.M. students, total 56. Of these, 28 are mentored distance-learning students and 28 are studying on campus. Twenty-three are full-time students, and 33 are part-time students. Thirty-two students (57 per cent of the student body) are studying under the seminary's church-subsidized tuition-waiver program.

Whose Seminary Are We?

One of the mottoes Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary has used over its 30-year history is "Serving Christ, Serving His Church."

Seminary staff and faculty are often asked what denominational affiliation GPTS has. It's a difficult question to answer, because, although we are independently governed by our own Board of Trustees and not the official arm of any denomination, we believe strongly in accountability to the church. Indeed, because of this commitment, we have formal sponsoring agreements with a number of local churches, presbyteries and denominations. Therefore, the term "independent seminary" doesn't quite fit.

One way to answer the question is to point out where our 181 ordained alumni are serving as pastors or ruling elders. Here is a list, indicating the largest GPTS representation is in the Presbyterian Church in America and Orthodox Presbyterian Church:

Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church — 7 (4%)
Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches — 4 (2%)
Evangelical Presbyterian Church of England and Wales — 2 (1%)
Orthodox Presbyterian Church — 45 (25%)
Presbyterian Church in America — 70 (39%)
Presbyterian Church of Brazil — 4 (2%)
Reformed Church in the United States — 4 (2%)
Reformed Presbyterian Church - Hanover — 4 (2%)
United Reformed Church of North America — 8 (4.4%)
Various Baptist denominations — 10 (5.5%)

The other 14 per cent are serving in a variety of other denominations or independent churches, seeking calls, or are involved in other ministries or vocations. A number of alumni are military chaplains, missionaries, or serving in ethnic (e.g. Korean or Chinese) or indigenous churches domestically (United States and Canada) or elsewhere internationally (Czech Republic, Albania, South Korea, Germany, Haiti, Brazil, India, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Uruguay, Australia, Malawi, etc.). The status of some of our alumni is unknown, and our female graduates who are not in ordained ministry serve in various capacities in their respective churches.

McGraw Delivers Inaugural Lecture Tying Historical Theology to Contemporary Application

It was a provocative title, as it's author acknowledged: "Gisbertus Voetius, Presbyterianism, and Smart Phones."

Dr. Ryan McGraw attached it to his inaugural address as Greenville Seminary's new professor of systematic theology, saying the church needs a systematic theology, based on the timeless truths of the past, expressed in a contemporary context but without transforming them. The lecture was delivered on Aug. 23rd at Covenant Community Church (OPC), Taylors, S.C.

Basing his lecture on I Timothy 6:3-10, Dr. McGraw acknowledged that his title may have had his audience scratching their heads and perhaps even chuckling.

"Basically what I want to do is use each of those strange headings as a springboard into a general topic that pushes forward this address," he said. "Gisbertus Voetius is a model for wedding theology with piety. Presbyterianism is doing things through the church and for the church. 'Smart phones' is contemporary application," he said.

He said that, as a professor of systematic theology, he believes today's church and students of theology need to bring doctrine, faith, piety and practice together and apply classic Reformed theology to a contemporary context.


Gisbertus Voetius was a 16th and 17th century Dutch theologian who emphasized the practical nature of Reformed scholasticism.

"We need ministers in our age who are able to wed doctrine and piety," he said. "Theology is the doctrine of living to God or living to God specifically through Christ."

For Voetius, whether in the pew or in the classroom or in the pulpit, "the idea was that all of God's people teaching and listening were to walk in fellowship with the Triune God. Theology was doctrinal, it was something we learned, something we teach, but it was also something personal and something that applied to our souls."

"I'm standing here inaugurated as a professor of systematic theology and what does that mean?" he asked. "...[O]ften we lose sight of the fact that as Reformed people, when we take the name Reformed upon ourselves, we're not simply making a statement of what we think the Bible says, but we're making a statement about history."

He said that by taking the name Reformed upon ourselves we are identifying with "a certain way of understanding Scripture, and we cannot take the name Reformed without having some historical content. Yes, we are subject to Scripture and Scripture alone, but the term has to mean something historically or it means nothing."

"Perhaps the thing that strikes me the most is if you look at our forefathers and the Reformed faith, one of the things that they wanted to inculcate in systematic theology was preaching and piety," he continued. "Many of these systems were actually written to teach men how to preach better and many people read systems today and wonder how they can have anything to do with ... preaching at all. You see, there's a different model, an integration of Scripture, an integration of history, an integration of scholastic distinctions, an integration of piety, an aim at the hearts of men who are going to aim at the hearts of God's people in the church; a wedding together of things that ought not to be separated, in other words, in these historical models."

He said historic Reformed systems of theology were designed to inculcate personal godliness. "The idea was that theology, even scholastic theology, should not be dry and sterile. It ought to cause us to love Jesus Christ more clearly and because more clearly, more fervently and zealously, and so these men always aimed at the heart," he said.


Turning to Presbyterianism, Dr. McGraw said, "We need godly and learned men..., but we also need men who serve through the church and who serve Christ in the church, who serve the church of the Lord Jesus Christ; and, in my mind, the term 'Presbyterianism' encapsulates this the best way."

"Basically if everything I've just said about historic Reformed theology promotes a unity and a catholicity with the entire Christian tradition and interacting with the best that Jesus Christ has revealed through the church, well, Presbyterianism builds upon that theme by creating a catholicity and unity now," he said.

The individual congregation is not the only sense in which the New Testament speaks of the church, he said, noting that the word often encompassed whole regions.

"When men were ordained to the ministry, whether an apostle in Acts 1 or a deacon in Acts 6 or an elder in Acts 14, we see the same pattern. The people in the congregation vote and approve of the men who come, and we also see the group of men called presbyters, elders in a broader church connection laying on hands and approving men," he said.

"In a Presbyterian seminary in particular, we want to reflect the structures that Jesus Christ has put in the church himself. We want to labor through the church, we want to labor for the church. Historically, say in the days of Voetius, there was a transition back and forth many times between the pastorate and the university — the pastorate, or as we would call it now, the seminary. And the idea was that the professor was a minister of the Gospel and his job was not simply to be an academic but to train pastors; to wed doctrine and piety himself but also to know how to shepherd the church of God."

Dr. McGraw said that the seminary faculty covets the prayers and support of the people in Christ's church.

"When my brothers and I are laboring here at the seminary, we may be called to stand in the classroom and do the teaching; but I'd love all of you to think of this as your work as well. When you're on your knees in prayer, you're laboring to spread the Gospel through Greenville Seminary. I hope you do so even more preeminently through your local churches, through your local pastors and sessions, for we must recognize that prayer is part of the labor of the kingdom in spreading the Gospel, and we deeply covet your prayers, that we might do the things that I'm discussing here."

Smart Phones

 "We live in a contemporary world," Dr. McGraw went on to say. "I use smart phones here. I've got a smart watch hidden under my long shirt here, and we have all kinds of new things facing us in the new world. Where do we stand as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ? Where do we stand as a seminary in teaching theology?"

Dr. McGraw said the church and schools of theology need to wisely address a new generation with old truth.

"I don't believe that we should dress like Voetius. I don't believe that I should simply start lecturing in Latin as Voetius did.... I don't believe that I should simply regurgitate his system of theology or any of these other men and push it upon a present generation. I believe we need to learn. We need to apply. We need to adapt and adopt, but at the same time, there's also a danger of running far afield."

He said that some wishing desperately to be relevant to today's generations wind up incorporating modern and post-modern philosophies. These are pagan philosophies, faulty views with theology superimposed, distorting the whole system, he said.

Other men come up with new perspectives on classic doctrines but in the process change "virtually every part of the entire system," he said.

"Smart phones, ministering to people in a contemporary world. I'm not going to talk here about how to use technology, though I do that," he said. "I'm not going to talk about how to reach the contemporary man; particularly what I am going to talk about is this: in a contemporary context we need to do several things, we need to learn to apply the past without simply repristinating the past.

"We're not Puritans. We don't live in that day and age. We learn from them; we should love them; but we're here now and that doesn't mean we need a new system of theology or a new confession of faith; and you won't find from me a quest to come up with a new method of organizing the system taught in the Bible; but what we need to do is go back to our forefathers. We need earlier models. We need to realize that it's possible to have a doctrine that accords with godliness; that it's possible to have a precise and careful Reformed theology that is historically informed, that is still relevant to people, that you can teach to children in your congregation. But we need to know what it is, and we need to step out of our context perhaps in order to minister to our context and learn from the past and minister to the present."

The other danger is applying the past, but transforming it, Dr. McGraw said. 

"We need to learn to benefit from classic biblical doctrine expressed through the Reformed faith and to communicate with people that don't have a Latin theological vocabulary and that aren't reading Charles Hodge, let alone Gisbertus Voetius. But at the same time, we need to learn to apply, sometimes expand, our description of biblical teaching without transforming it. That's a problem. That's what we often see. ... And there is a danger sometimes to think that we've solved the present problems and applied the past while we're really transforming it into something else."

"The other thing is that we need to apply these things with fresh affection in a new generation," he said. "We need to love the truths of God's word. We need to humble ourselves and lay aside our arrogance in acting as though the truth began with us and people do this in presbyteries all the time. ...

"Do we believe that Jesus Christ has spoken to the church and through the church? We don't believe the church is infallible. We don't place our faith in the church, but we also dishonor Christ if we ignore what the church has to say. But it also means, especially in men preparing for the ministry and my brothers in the ministry, that we need to learn these truths with fresh affection."

"What is missing at the present time?" Dr. McGraw asked in conclusion. "Do we not desperately need men in the seminary, in the pulpit, in the pew, who approach the knowledge of God as the truth that accords with godliness? Do we not need men who are well educated, not for the sake of being well educated, but to be well informed, to be discerning and to have the tools they need to be more fervent lovers of Christ and preachers of him, and who know how to take these things and then to translate them and apply them and to preach them to people today? 

"My dear friends, that is what I'm praying for for myself as a professor here at Greenville Seminary, what I'm studying to do; that's what I'm praying for for all of you students who are here and those who are not, for my brothers on the faculty, for every board member we have, for all the pastors here and for every church member in every church that I've ever been in. May the Lord grant that he would send such men through this institution and not only through us, but through others, even until Jesus Christ returns in glory."


Stewardship Report for August 2016

A Special Stewardship Message from President Pipa:

Greenville Seminary is richly blessed with a highly committed group of faithful supporters who have manifested their interest in our work by their gifts and have made a difference in the life of this institution. With this in mind, I want to let you know that as we began our new fiscal year in July, we were facing financial pressures which initially left our Fiscal Year 2016-17 budget out of balance by $126,000.

However, during August and the first week in September, as we reached out to a number of key supporters, we received special gifts, above our usual level of support, totaling more than what was needed to close the budget gap cited above. In all, non-earmarked gifts from Aug. 1 through Sept. 7 totaled $168,064. Our budgeted income estimates have therefore been adjusted to bring the 2016-17 budget into balance. For these gifts and these givers, we are most grateful.

We need approximately $80,000 per month in donations from individuals and churches to cover our budgeted operating expenses. We depend on donation income for 70-80 per cent of our operating costs. We earnestly seek to be good stewards of the funds entrusted to us. Although we have raised tuition in small increments over the past few years, we have a long-standing policy of keeping costs low for men called to the ministry so that they do not finish seminary in debt. Moreover, our church-subsidized tuition-waiver program enables men to study tuition free, but this does not provide the equivalence of the full-time tuition ($3,000-$3,800 per student per semester). More than half of our students are participating in this waiver program this semester.

As typically happens, we had a decrease in regular donations this past summer and used a portion of the special appeal gifts to pay budgeted expenses. We continue to need a strong showing of support as we move through September and the Fall Semester. We believe also it will now be wise, indeed necessary, to build a reserve of $200,000 from which we may draw when needed to cover ordinary monthly cash flow fluctuations typical of charitable organizations that rely heavily on donations.

Each person has a different capacity to give, and I hope no one will feel burdened or pressured by this report. Primarily, I want to keep our partners informed and ask you to please make this a matter of prayer. If you are able to make a gift over and above your regular giving, it will be a significant help in meeting the needs of the seminary. 

Dr. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr.

The tables below indicate our general operating fund financial situation as of the end of August 2016 and the first two months of the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Budget Performance:

Unrestricted general fund donations from churches ($19,504) and individuals ($133,373) during August totaled $152,877, which was $74,877 above the $78,000 budgeted for such income. Expenses of $132,579 in August were $33,727 above the $98,852 budgeted for expenses.

Actual Income and Expenses:

Donation Income (Unrestricted)
Other Income
Total Income
Net Income

Donation Income (Unrestricted)
Other Income
Net Income

 Capital Campaign Goal
 Long-term Pledges Outstanding
 Total Received and Pledged
 Outstanding Obligations
 Monthly Payment (Interest Only)
 Remaining Mortgage

Donate to GPTS through the PayPal Giving Fund. Giving through this Fund means 100% of your gift will reach GPTS, without the usual processing fees deducted. You can also support the seminary by buying and selling through the eBay for Charity system.
Gifts may also be mailed to: Greenville Seminary, PO Box 690, Taylors SC 29687.

And don't forget to do your online shopping at AmazonSmile. Log on to and select Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary as your charity. Or click on the AmazonSmile banner at the very bottom of this e-newsletter. 

Fidelity Charitable and Schwab Charitable clients: Click here for Donor-Advised Fund direct deposit. Wells Fargo employees: check with your company about matching gifts to GPTS.
Do you work for a company that offers matching gifts when you contribute to a charity? Why not ask your employer about whether your gifts to GPTS can be matched. Here is a list of some of the top companies that offer matching gifts or reward your volunteer work for your charity. Many other companies do as well, to support employee charitable giving and extend corporate philanthropy.

Most of all, be fervent in prayer that God would provide all that is needed for us to do what He has called us to do in this ministry which the church so badly needs in these uncommon times.

Remember, gifts to GPTS are tax-deductible and may include cash, securities, property or a variety of planned giving instruments. (The tax deduction is reduced by the fair market value of any premium received in return for a donation.) See here for information about planning your last will and testament with the Kingdom of God in mind.

Whether or not you can contribute financially, here is another way you can help the seminary: Spread the Word! Do you know someone that would be interested in learning more about our organization or supporting us? If so, share a link to this newsletter. (Click the tiny "M" e-mail icon at the bottom of this post.) Thank you for your continued support for Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary

Piety, Biblical Scholarship and the Family of God

Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary has as one of its foundational purposes the melding of theological scholarship with personal piety in the lives of its students.

To that end, the seminary strongly encourages its students to be deeply committed to extensive personal time in the Word of God and prayer, active participation in the life of a local church, and spiritual and devotional leadership within their families. Active membership in a local church "provides good opportunities for our ... students to worship, serve, and be involved. These local churches provide a vital backbone to support our students during their time of study at Greenville Seminary," according to the GPTS Academic Catalog.

Students also spend regular time with their academic advisers in small-group prayer sessions. In addition, attendance at the seminary's thrice-weekly chapel services is required. All of these are designed to fulfill a key element of the seminary's officially stated purposes.

As stated in the Academic Catalog, one of the purposes of the seminary's program is "to unite, in those who shall occupy the ministerial office, that piety that is the fruit only of the renewing and sanctifying grace of God, and that love of learning which comes only from the desire for the deeper knowledge of God: believing that either piety without learning, or learning without piety, in ministers of the Gospel, is ultimately injurious to the Church."

The Ketcham family (circled) and Michael Grasso, left
foreground, in a recent chapel service
One of the most heart-warming evidences of the effectiveness of this emphasis is its manifestation in the lives of the families and children of our students.

In a recent chapel service when prayer requests were solicited from those in attendance, Seaborn, the small son of student Sam Ketcham and his wife Dorsey, demonstrated his childlike understanding of God's care for every aspect of life when he requested God's blessing on his upcoming soccer team's season.

Sunday School teacher Elizabeth Hill from Fellowship Presbyterian Church in suburban Greenville relates a delightful story involving toddler Luke Grasso, son of GPTS student Michael Grasso and his wife Erica. On a recent Lord's Day, Miss Hill was teaching from Daniel 3, the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego.

"It is my practice to ask the children to repeat with me unusual names from our Bible story. Luke Grasso was my only student. He dutifully repeated Shadrach, then Meshach and, before I could say it, he supplied Abed-Nego. I asked him if he had heard this story. 'Yes,' he replied.

"As I started to tell him the story about the king building the golden statue and how he wanted people to bow down and worship the statue, Luke became animated and very emphatic: 'We do not worship any statues, we worship the one God!' His little fist came down on the table. His eyes were intense, he would shake his head from side to side. He repeated the sentence several times. As the story progressed he would repeat firmly, 'We worship the one God, we do not worship statues,' accompanied by the same hand actions. As part of the lesson we had already reviewed some catechism questions which he answered without hesitation. He didn’t have any trouble believing that God would indeed protect Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego because they were doing what was right….trusting God."

Ava Mai, Erica, Luke and Michael
Grasso at Ava's baptism.
Miss Hill related that when she told this story to Luke's mother, Erica said that Michael had led the family in devotions on this passage from Daniel during the previous week.

"How wonderful in God’s providence that was our lesson today!" she said. "How wonderful that I was given the opportunity to reinforce what he had already been taught at home. It thrills my heart to see how the little ones are ready to learn about God, three in one, as Luke kept reminding me today. How wonderful it is to be able to reinforce what is being taught in the home."

As she told the elders at FPC, "This impressed upon my heart that what we do on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings is all part of a team effort to support the parents in the growth of these covenant children. It is not our job alone to instruct, we have them for a short period of time … the real work is done in the home."

Seaborn Ketcham, lower left, with his family
As seminary students learn to lead their families in piety and spiritual development, they are laying the groundwork for their later pastoral leadership in the churches they will serve, instilling in the families of their flocks the importance of a personal knowledge of, relationship with, and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflections on a Pastor and His Congregation

Editor's Note: When a seminary sends its graduates into the fields and vineyards of the Lord, a unique relationship is created between pastor and congregation. The following was adapted from two articles written by Rev. Joel Smit, a 2008 Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary graduate, on the occasion of his call and installation as senior pastor at Smyrna Presbyterian Church (PCA), in Smyrna, Ga. He previously served at Midway Presbyterian (Powder Springs, Ga.) for eight years as pastor of families & outreach (2008-2016). Pastor Smit also currently serves as a volunteer police chaplain for the Cobb County Police Department. He graduated from Simpson University (Redding, Calif.) in 2002 with a B.A. in Biblical Studies. He attended Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, receiving his Master of Divinity degree in 2008. He and his wife Stefanie originate from California, and they have four children. 

By Joel Smit

The Call, Purpose & Duty of the Pastor to the Congregation

In April 2016, I had the privilege of being installed as the pastor at Smyrna Presbyterian Church. The installation service was a joyous one for me – surrounded by the church family that I have been called to serve, as well as many friends and mentors that have been an encouragement and help to me along the way. The night included a robust worship service, a wonderful anthem from our choir, and a stirring message from the Rev. Carl Robbins of Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church in Simpsonville, South Carolina. Included in the service were questions that were asked to me as I took this charge to this particular congregation. 

Here are the installation questions:
  1. Are you now willing to take charge of this congregation as their pastor, agreeable to your declaration in accepting its call?
  2. Do you conscientiously believe and declare, as far as you know your own heart, that, in taking upon you this charge, you are influenced by a sincere desire to promote the glory of God and the good of the Church?
  3. Do you solemnly promise that, by the assistance of the grace of God, you will endeavor faithfully to discharge all the duties of a pastor to this congregation, and will be careful to maintain a deportment in all respects becoming a minister of the Gospel of Christ, agreeable to your ordination engagements?

The first thing that you might think when reading those questions is, “Is that it?” It is true that they are rather brief, and they may not be all-encompassing of the duties and responsibilities of the pastorate. However, when you examine them they are much more complete than upon first observation. These questions lay out the call, purpose, and duty of a pastor to a congregation.


The call of a minister is much more than agreeing upon the terms of the hire. Calling is a spiritual term with a spiritual function. The Scriptures are very clear that a man should not take the office of teaching elder unless he is called by the Lord to do so (James 3:1). There is the strict Scriptural standard for being an elder (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1), along with a seminary degree and a theological and doctrinal requirement laid out by our denomination. But even when all of those are met, the most important requirement is that the Lord is calling one to do so and that call has been tested and proven by the Church. So this question of installation is asking: "Are you willing to take this position (this charge) because you believe that the Lord is calling you to do so?" Without that specific calling of the Lord to a specific congregation, one should not be installed to that position.


We cannot know the intentions of one another’s heart, but we should examine the intentions of our own hearts. The second question asks about the intention of the pastor being installed – is he taking this charge out of the right motivation and purpose so as to make sure there are no alternative motives other than promoting the glory of God and the good of the Church. For this simple, yet overarching purpose, is indeed the great purpose of the pastorate – indeed of all Christians. The pastor should be leading the other officers and the congregation in this grand purpose.


The third question is the one that probably comes to mind when thinking about what a pastor should agree to when he becomes a pastor – that of duty. The question seemingly leaves it open-ended when it says “all the duties of a pastor,” but we know from the rest of the Book of Church Order (from which these questions come), as well as our doctrinal standards of the Westminster Confession, these duties are to be the ones laid out in Scripture. The pastor has a Scriptural duty and mandate to care for, shepherd, lead, and feed the flock of Christ Jesus that has been given to his charge. Whereas many within the church would like to add to these duties, this is the mandate that should not be neglected. It is why a part of the question asks whether one will do it faithfully. Also the last part of the question asks the pastor being installed whether he will be a model of faith and faithfulness, demonstrating by one’s example what a disciple of Christ should look.

When we examine these questions, we see them to be a very full picture of what one is called to when he is called to the pastorate. Like the Apostle Paul one can only say, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:16). Thankfully in the same book the Lord gives the answer, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). May God be pleased and glorified to raise up good and faithful pastors for His Church.

A Congregation's Call to Receive, Encourage & Provide for Their Pastor

The relationship between a pastor and a congregation is a God-ordained relationship. The Apostle Paul sent Timothy to Ephesus and Titus to Crete to minister the Gospel and “put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you” (Titus 1:5). This relationship of a pastor and elders to a congregation is a special one. We have already looked at a pastor’s call, purpose, and duty. We now are going to look at the congregation’s relationship to their pastor. A part of the pastor's installation service included vows taken by the pastor to the congregation (see above), and also vows the congregation takes in regard to their relationship with their pastor.

Here are the questions asked of the congregation:
  1. Do you, the people of this congregation, continue to profess your readiness to receive your pastor, whom you have called?
  2. Do you promise to receive the word of truth from his mouth with meekness and love, and to submit to him in the due exercise of discipline?
  3. Do you promise to encourage him in his labors, and to assist his endeavors for your instruction and spiritual edification?
  4. Do you engage to continue to him while he is your pastor that competent worldly maintenance which you have promised, and to furnish him with whatever you may see needful for the honor of religion and for his comfort among you?

These questions lay out how a congregation should receive, encourage, and provide for their pastor. Let’s take a look at each one.


The first question that is asked of the congregation is similar to the first question asked of the pastor. The pastor is asked if he accepts this call to this particular congregation. Calling is a spiritual term with a spiritual function. Believing that God has called him particularly to the pastorate and specifically to this congregation. The congregation in turn is asked to receive this man believing that this calling and relationship is of the Lord. Having already voted to accept him, the congregation is now asked to keep that spirit of acceptance and readiness throughout his ministry. It is easy to receive a pastor when the pastor and the congregation are in the “honeymoon phase.” But as with all new things, the newness eventually wears off. However, since this relationship is ordained of the Lord, the congregation must have a continual receiving of their pastor if the ministry is going to continue forward.

The second question is very much tied to the first: Do you receive the word of God from your pastor? Notice that if there is bitterness or despising in the heart of the congregation toward their pastor (no longer “receiving your pastor” as it states in question one), then the result is that they will not receive what he has to say. Even if it is true, if there is not respect for the pastor, then the member’s heart is not in a place to readily receive the word of God “with meekness and love” and will not “submit” to it. The message and the messenger are very much tied together. The congregation must continue to respect their pastor so that they may receive the Word of God from him for their own edification. Likewise the pastor must remain respectable in his godliness and character.


Most professions can be performed with competency regardless of one’s spiritual life. Not so with the pastorate. A pastor’s calling/vocation is directly tied with their spiritual health. This makes it a very challenging calling because pastors are mere men – prone to fatigue, discouragement, and temptation in their spiritual walk just like everyone else; yet they are called to minister week in and week out. That is why question three is so helpful and my favorite question asked of the congregation — Do you promise to encourage him in his labors? Encouragement is such a needful gift in the church. Joseph was called Barnabas which means “son of encouragement” (Acts. 4:36) no doubt because he was an encourager. Pastors need encouragers – both with their words and also with their actions. Through their thoughtful words, along with their faithful attendance and participation in the church and its ministry, the congregation very much encourages its pastor; and he is thus strengthened for the work ahead.


Since the pastor is called to this congregation, he will not be able to have other worldly employment to make an income for himself and his family. Thus the congregation is asked to provide for him so that he is able to give himself to this work fully. Paul was a “tentmaker” (had a second profession) for a time while in Corinth, but this was only temporary; and he tells Timothy that “a worker is worthy of his hire” (1 Tim.5:18) and that a pastor should be given “double honor” (respect and pay). Just and equitable compensation for work performed in ministry is a part of a congregation’s provision for their pastor.

The relationship between a congregation and its pastor is a unique one. But as in a good marriage – when both are doing their duties, there will be good harmony and blessing of the Lord. May this be true among all of God's people and their shepherds.

Save the Date: The 2017 GPTS Spring Conference

Plan Now to Celebrate the Reformation's 500th Anniversary With Us — March 14-16, 2017 • Mark Your Calendar!

Mark your calendar now for the 2017 Greenville Seminary Spring Theology Conference. The conference will commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation under the theme “Trumpet Call: 500 years of Gospel Freedom.” Planned lectures include:
  • Luther’s Providential God (Dr. Robert Kolb)
  • Luther’s Preaching on the Parables (Dr. Robert Kolb)
  • The Law as Friend and Foe in the Theology of Luther (Dr, Michael Whiting)
  • Luther on Life without Dichotomy (Dr. James McGoldrick)
  • The “Solas” of the Reformation (Dr. Michael Morales, Rev. Cliff Blair, Dr. Joseph Pipa, Dr. Joel Beeke, et al)

Watch this newsletter and the GPTS web site for more details and registration opportunities in the coming months.

Moes Named Communications Director

Garry Moes
Garry Moes, who has served as Greenville Seminary's director of development and recruiting since 2010, has been named part-time director of communications, beginning in January 2017. An announcement is expected in November concerning a replacement for Mr. Moes in the development director position.

The staffing changes represent a bifurcation of the development officer's duties as the new appointee will retain the focused role of chief fund-raising officer and student recruiter. Mr. Moes will continue to serve as the seminary's public information officer, which has been a major portion of his present duties. He will be responsible for creating and editing of the seminary's print and online publications. These include the monthly e-newsletter GPTS Online; the seminary's online scholarly journal Katekōmen; the printed newsletter Foundations Update; and alumni newsletter Quo Vadis. In addition, Mr. Moes will continue to supervise the GPTS web site. He will also provide editorial consulting services to the faculty and staff and coordinate with the development office and administration on communications.

Mr. Moes has been a professional writer for more than 50 years, including 21 years as a political writer/editor for The Associated Press. He and his wife Karlinda plan to relocate to the West Coast where their five children and 26 grandchildren live. A West Coast office for GPTS will provide the seminary with a greater presence in that area of the country.

"It has been a pleasure to work with Mr. Moes," said GPTS President Joseph Pipa, Jr. "He has served the seminary faithfully for nearly seven years. His wife Karlinda also has been a wonderful asset in our community, doing many different volunteer activities. We will miss them but are glad they will continue to be part of our family."

With the appointment of the new development director, the seminary is returning to a model used prior to the employment of Mr. Moes as first full-time development director — namely, use of a student in that position. Mr. Moes's predecessor was Lou Veiga, a former student and now pastor of a church in Houston, Tex.

The Development Office also includes Development Associate Brenda Benson, the seminary's full-time expert database manager and circulation manager for GPTS Online.

Podcast News: Faith & Practice, the Trinity, and Biblical Languages

New broadcasts have been aired and posted at Greenville Seminary's Confessing Our Hope podcast.

GPTS President Joseph Pipa Jr. answers more listener questions in this 27th edition of "Faith and Practice." Topics covered in this broadcast include the vitals of religion, the correct interpretation of Jude 1:9, excommunication, and more. Listen here.

"Faith and Practice" No. 28 has also aired. Topics include more on the vitals of religion, the Lord’s Supper, preaching, God’s leading, the Sabbath Day, and more. Listen here.

Dr. Ryan McGraw, GPTS professor of systematic theology, discusses his booklet Is the Trinity Practical. The Trinity is an important doctrine, yet many Christians perceive it as difficult to understand and irrelevant to their Christian lives. Dr. McGraw explains that the Trinity is the foundation of the gospel, which we must come to understand as the work of all three divine persons—Father, Son, and Spirit. He shows us, in practical application, the ways that we grow in grace and piety as we learn to apply the truths of the Trinity to our daily walk with God. Listen here.

Greenville Seminary Professors Dr. Ben Shaw and Dr. Sid Dyer were guests on the program to discuss the importance and value of learning the biblical languages. This program will help students who are entering seminary to prepare for the hard work of learning Hebrew and Greek and offer some practical guidance to those who are currently learning the languages. Dr. Shaw is professor of Old Testament and Hebrew and Dr. Dyer is professor New Testament and Greek at the seminary. Listen here.