A Memoir by Pastor Joel Tetreau
New Relationships—The Growing Stage (2005-Present)
Numerical growth has been a blessing. On a few Sundays we’ve been close to 250. For the future we have just recently purchased a 1.5-acre lot to the east of us. That gives us a total of four acres we can develop. We are looking and praying about the future. If the Lord tarries and provides, we see the addition of an auditorium, an additional education building, a large outdoor basketball court (you can do that in Arizona), an additional child ministry facility, as well as other plant features that will allow us to max out as a congregation around 400. Frankly after that, unless the Lord radically changes our approach and philosophy of ministry, we plan to start new churches and plant them strategically here in the metro Phoenix area.
Here are a few ministry priorities:
Expository Preaching and Teaching
There is a misconception in some circles of ministry that if one is committed to expository preaching that you can’t present material on a thematic basis. While we have been committed to preaching and teaching expository-styled sermons from Thessalonians, Corinthians, Philippians, Romans (Pastor Gary) and now Luke, we have also taken time over the last few years to preach over the main themes of the Old Testament. In addition to our pulpit ministry, we work hard (in the main) to include a careful Bible-based teaching ministry from the children’s ministry all the way up to our Senior Saints ministry. We believe it is the Word of God presented that God has promised to use to build up the saints.
We are a congregation that believes personal evangelism ought to be paramount on our priority list. Salvation is all of God. Man responds but only as he is moved, called, brought and converted by the power of the Holy Spirit in the effectual call of the gospel. That being the case we are a congregation that understands there is no more important part of glorifying God than sharing of the hope that resides within us to those that are dying and without hope apart from the gospel. Our congregation has a wide variety of views concerning election. Three pointers worship together and minister together with five pointers. We don’t hold back in believing what we believe, but the fine points of TULIP are not issues of contention (energetic discussion sure, but not contention). We are praying and working to reach out to essentially three groups of the needy: 1) Non-churched believers; 2) Religious non-believers; 3) Secular non-believers. We are wanting to take the Scriptures and reach out to anyone who will come our way. Our church motto is ‘Worshipping our God; Loving our Neighbor.” We want to know and love our neighbor. Our congregation reaches out to all types: youth, children, seniors, shut-in’s, the hurting, the married, the single, the rich, the poor, the tall and of course my favorite group, ‘the short!”
Commitment to Foreign Missions
SVBC understands that there is no closer passion to the heart of Christ concerning what a church does than its commitment to the Great Commission. The Lord left a powerful imperative when He instructed each successive generation of the church to ‘Go into all the world, make disciples and baptize them…teaching them all things.” In the book of Acts (1:8) we read of the early church’s taking the gospel first of all locally (Jerusalem), then regionally (Judea), followed by cross-culturally (Samaria) and finally to the ends of the world (the end of the earth). The congregation here plows just under 20% of its ministry resources into missions and outreach of one kind or another. The members and leaders of our congregation have ministered literally around the world including Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, Mexico, and the Caribbean just to name a few. In addition to the spread of the gospel we are partnering with a few sister ministries to aid in the training of national leadership in places around the globe. The congregation has been kind to me in allowing me to take an annual international trip to encourage missionaries as well as help train national leaders on the foreign field. My last trip was to India. We are especially privileged to be apart of Pastor Chandrashekar’s ministry in New Mumbai, Suresh Purra in Hyderabad as well as Matthew Thomas and Santosh George in Kochi. We as a congregation are sending out Tom and Denise Canfild to Kenya, Africa. They will be leaving in the month of June for Africa. The congregation, both corporately and individually, are significantly partnering with the Canfields ministry in Kenya. We also have significant ministry investments in both India and Romania.
Discipleship and Life Groups
From the very beginning of our congregation, we have placed an emphasis on the ‘one-another” principles of ministry. While we are not saying that ministries without a small group approach can’t have a one-another atmosphere, our concern here is that if a congregation simply has three or four services where one person does all the teaching, the amount of ‘body-life” ends at the back of the person’s head in front of you. Instead we have tried to implement a wide variety of discipleship and fellowship groups that emphasize a body-life emphasis that will prepare each one for the work of their ministry. This will be one of our main emphasis that we will continue to reemphasize over the next few years. As I write, we are in the middle of launching two new groups. A group that will focus on discipleship for new believers and a second group that will be located near Higley and the Superstition Springs Mall.
Vibrant in Worship
We are striving to be vibrant in worship. Typically when one mentions worship, they automatically think of music. While we attempt to honor God with hymns, psalms and spiritual songs, worship is only partially reflected in the ministry of music. Equally important would be the corporate reading of God’s word, the practice of prayer, and the service we give to God and each other. In that sense we strive to have a vibrancy in worship. There are at least two major Biblical concepts in worship. One carries with it the idea of homage or respect. It is captured well in the OT by those who when found to be in the presence of Jehovah would bow. There is a second element to Biblical worship that comes out in the sense of celebration. This is captured by David’s dancing before God, the use of instruments and choirs that lifted up the hearts of God’s children before, during or after seasons of captivity. The Lord has blessed our congregation with great musicians. We are blessed immensely by our choirs, ensembles, instrumentalists, soloists as well as with great congregational singing. Our prayer is that God will continue to grant great balance in our worship. We don’t want to reflect a type of dead worship that is too often found in many fundamentalist churches. Neither do we want to have an irreverent entertainment-oriented service that is found too often within evangelical assemblies. The balance is at times a challenge. By God’s grace we strive to have corporate worship that is both honoring towards His character and celebratory about His mercy!
Vocational Ministry Leadership
These relationships are growing both internally and externally. First the Lord is doing something special internally here. The Lord is bringing into our congregation a variety of men and women who have faithfully served the Lord in a variety of different ministries. We also have a group of believers who are headed for vocational ministry. Twice a month, we get together in a vocational ministry discussion group to kick around and think through the practical implications of theological, biblical and philosophical challenges that face those in ministry today. Many times Bible colleges and seminaries that do a good job in giving theoretical and/or theological information do an inadequate job of helping leaders understand how certain principles practically get applied into a “real-life” ministry. In addition, we are trying to keep those servants sharp by occasional opportunities for teaching, preaching, counseling, leading small groups, and so on. To date six different families who were part of the body here at SVBC have gone on to active vocational ministry “out there.” Sometimes we’ve had to give spiritual CPR to brothers or sisters who have been wounded in ministry. It’s been a blessing to see the congregation surround them with Christ’s love. These are some of God’s choice servants.
Working with Our Best Friends!
I’ve never looked at the brothers and sisters of the congregation here as “parishioners!” They are my friends. Additionally, I’ve never looked at the elders, deacons, ministry heads, and others in ministry with me as “underlings.” They are my co-ministers. The table is round! We are equal. Yes, I may be a bit more equal, but we are still equal. At any given time they will have more wisdom about an issue that I will. We are committed to unity and consensus in decision making and ministry because it is the New Testament pattern (note the Jerusalem council and Acts 15). That’s not to say that I’m not a strong leader. I ought to be willing to direct and lead consistently with the title Bishop (episkopos, overseer). But I’m not to do that by “lording it over” God’s congregation.
As a result, the Lord continues to bring solid leadership into our congregation. We have not only five pastors connected to our elder team and seven deacons to the deacon team, but also two military chaplains, a hospice chaplain, two missionary families, and seven brothers who have either served in the ministry or are headed for some kind of vocational service. I’m thrilled that we have enough leadership to staff a few churches our size. First, it means that the congregation is blessed by these servants. Second, it means that when we are able to start a sister congregation, Lord willing we should have enough leadership to “share.” The thrill about co-ministry is that I get to work with my friends in the areas where they are gifted. We believe that every believer (including leaders) have been given a SHAPE (S-spiritual gifts, H–heart [or that which you are passionate about], A–abilities, P–personality, E-experiences [including family, vocational, educational, faith and even painful experiences]). We believe that God has ordained 100 percent of that shape. To the degree a congregation is ministering based on their SHAPE is he degree of the congregation’s effectiveness (at least in part).
The Lord has blessed the last several years in a variety of ways. Perhaps most special to me outside the growing family of friends, which is the membership of SVBC, has been the growing development of a network of likeminded ministries and co-laborers who are in co-ministry alongside us. I would be remiss not to say how we are grateful for those who have been our friends over the years.
Over the years we’ve been blessed to have a variety of dear brothers minister the Word to us. Two of them are Dr. James Singleton (before he passed on in 2001) and my favorite leader in the world, my dad, Dr. Jerry Tetreau. Dad presently serves as chancellor of International Baptist College (IBC). We are grateful for IBC and consider many within the college ministry there to be our friends. Many IBC graduates and former students are members of our congregation and help serve in all levels of leadership. Both my B.A. and M.A.B.S. came from IBC. Next to Tri-City Baptist Church, our church probably has the second-highest number of IBC graduates of any church in the Southwest. We are grateful for the wonderful job IBC has done in preparing our leaders for ministry here at SVBC. In the past I’ve enjoyed teaching on the adjunct faculty at IBC. While our approach to ministry is somewhat different and I no longer teach as adjunct faculty, we continue to be grateful for the wonderful young men and women who are preparing themselves for the call of ministry there in Tempe.
One of our favorite seminaries in relationship to a theological position would be Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary (DBTS). As such several of their professors have spoken to our congregation. Included Dr. Rolland McCune, (my theological mentor from DBTS). We’ve also had Dr. Gerald Priest (church history) and Dr. Bob McCabe (Hebrew and Old Testament scholar) from DBTS.
From Central Baptist Theological Seminary we have had Dr. Keven Bauder (premier expert in biblical scholarship). Other special speakers have included Dr. Ben Strohbehn; Dr. Russ Lloyd (of Institute of Biblical Leadership); Pastor David Parker (Prescott); Dr. Bob Jones III and his wife, Benneth; Dr. Stephen Jones and his wife, Erin; Pastor Bob Bixby; Pastor Jason Janz; Pastor Thomas Pryde; Dr. Hans Finzell (who authored my all-time favorite book on leadership, Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make); Evangelist Monty Leveal; Pastor Tony Bartolucci (a gifted expositor who was a member at SVBC years ago and now pastors in New York); Dr. Earl Barnett (a dear pastor friend of Dr. Singleton); Dr. Charles Britt (my boyhood pastor when I lived in Memphis, Tennessee); Dr. George Motoc (who has pastored Romanian Baptist churches in both Romania and the US); Pastor Randy Wilson (Camp On Wheels); Missionary/Pastor Rob Krause (Sarenissima Bible Church and Mission); Missionary/Pastor Matthew Thomas (BWM Missionary to Kochi, India); Missionary/Pastor Santosh George (BWM Missionary to Kochi, India); Missionary/Pastor Dave Deets (BWM Missionary who also will be in Italy); Missionary/Pastor Shaker from Bombay India; and Missionary/Pastor Larry Carlisle (IBM Missionary to Rota, Spain).
|Joel Tetreau is senior pastor of Southeast Valley Baptist Church (Gilbert, AZ). He has B.A and M.A. degrees from International Baptist College (Tempe, AZ), an M.Div. (and some Th.M work) from Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary (Allen Park, MI), and a D.Min from Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). He has also studied at Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary (Lansdale, PA) and Jerusalem Center of Biblical Studies. He blogs at Straight Ahead.|