This purpose of Pressing Onword is to keep you ‘in the loop’ with the Earl Family. We will use this both as a ministry blog and a family blog, so that our friends and family who live so far away still feel as though they are a special part of our lives.
And, because the message of the Gospel is what has changed us, we’ll talk about Jesus. We want to encourage you, and see you be changed by the Gospel too!
Blessings for the journey,
Joshua and Michelle Earl
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” -Philippians 3:12
Joshua began to sense the Lord’s calling to vocational ministry in his early 20’s. In 2006, after having worked in the optical field and becoming a North Carolina licensed optician, he and Michelle began serving within the local church. After prayer and consideration, Joshua began seeking his ordination as a minister. He was ordained in 2009 with the Church of God (Cleveland, TN), and was the pastor of Higher Ground Church of God (Newland, NC) from 2011 to 2016. Michelle is a busy mother at home with her kids, and is daily teaching them and training them in the admonition of the Lord. Michelle has a desire to counsel women, and hopes to pursue an education in Christian counseling some day.
Church Planter Candidates
Jesus says that whoever desires to follow Him must take up his own cross and deny himself daily (Luke 9:23). We take this to mean that the life of a Christian is to be one of self-denying, yet joyful, obedience. In this context, we feel as though God is leading us to plant a new church.
There was a time when we believed church planting to be a “silly” idea–simply because there is a church on every corner of every city in America. However as we began to better understand the gospel, and as we began to see the impact it was having on our lives, we started to realize that there are many communities in our nation’s cities that do not have a faithful gospel witness. Many Americans have heard about a version of Jesus that looks very little like the real Jesus. We believe this needs to change. In addition, it seems as though God is stirring the Earl family to launch this gospel-centered church in the greater Chicago area. That’s a long story, but we are now seeking to be obedient to the Lord in following His will for us. We’ll update this section as the future unfolds.
When researching church planting groups, we were very careful to align ourselves with a denomination whose desire is to reach the unreached with the love of Christ– but also one that plants their churches in a thoughtful, prayerful, Spirit-led manner. Thus, we feel it was in God’s kindness that He led us to Sovereign Grace Churches. In October 2015, they agreed to take Joshua on as a church planter candidate. In addition, Joshua has long had a desire to be led spiritually by men who have “gone before” him, instructing him in the art and craft of shepherding and Spirit-filled preaching. In this regard, the Lord has provided an opportunity for Joshua to enter into SGC’s pastoral training program called the Pastor’s College in September 2016, located in Louisville, KY. There Joshua will be instructed in many areas of pastoral ministry, while at the same time the entire Earl family will receive the love and care of fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Upon graduation from the PC, Joshua will begin a church planting residency, where our family will set our face toward Chicago, Lord willing.
We’re hoping that we will be able to launch the church sometime in 2018.
What We Believe:
When reading through the thousands of Christian blogs available online, it is important that we read material that is biblically truthful and personally edifying. Our hope is that Pressing OnWord will be a source of both truth and encouragement. While we don’t pretend that we will write articles that are theological masterpieces, our hope is to be faithful to the Word of God, leading the reader into God’s truth. In this light, we do want our readers to know what it is that we believe about God and why.
The following is a statement of faith that we have adopted for ourselves. It is adapted from the Gospel Coalition’s Foundation Documents, and from Sovereign Grace Churches Statement of Faith. We believe that these organizations’ belief systems most closely align with ours. If pressed on giving a short confessional statement, we would say that we are reformed and evangelical in our theology and charismatic in practice.
We believe in one, and only one, true God, eternally existing in three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This God is infinitely perfect both in His love and in His holiness. He is the Creator of all things and is therefore alone worthy to receive man’s highest worship, his full allegiance, and his whole-hearted love. God perfectly and exhaustively knows the end from the beginning, sustains and sovereignly rules over all things, and providentially brings about His eternal good purposes to redeem a people for Himself and restore His fallen creation, to the praise of His own glorious grace. While the three persons of the Godhead are equal in every divine perfection, they execute distinct but harmonious offices in the work of creation and redemption.
We believe that God is the originating author of the words preserved in the Scriptures, the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, which are both record and means of His saving work in the world. These writings alone constitute the verbally inspired Word of God, without error in the original writings, complete in its revelation of His will for salvation, sufficient for all that God requires us to believe and do, and final in its authority over everything to which it speaks. We admit that both our finiteness and our sinfulness preclude the possibility of knowing God’s truth perfectly, but we affirm that, enlightened by the Spirit of God, we can know God’s revealed truth truly. The Bible is to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it teaches; obeyed, as God’s command, in all that it requires; and trusted, as God’s pledge, in all that it promises. As God’s people hear, believe, and obey the Word, they are nurtured in their faith and equipped as disciples of Christ and as witnesses to the transforming power of the gospel.
The Creation of Mankind and its Fallen Condition
We believe that God created man—male and female—in His own image. Adam and Eve belonged to the created order that God Himself declared to be very good, serving as God’s stewards to care for and govern creation, living in holy and happy fellowship with their Maker. Adam and Eve were made to complement each other in a one-flesh union that establishes the only right pattern for sexual relations for human beings. In God’s wise purposes, men and women are not simply interchangeable, but rather they complement each other in mutually enriching ways. In marriage, God ordains that they assume distinctive roles which reflect the loving relationship between Christ and the church, the husband exercising headship in a way that displays the caring, sacrificial love of Christ, and the wife submitting to her husband in a way that models the love of the church for her Lord. In the ministry of the church, both men and women are encouraged to serve Christ and to be developed to their full potential in the manifold ministries of the people of God. The distinctive leadership role within the church given to qualified men is grounded in creation, fall, and redemption.
We believe that Adam, by disobeying God and falling into sin through Satan’s temptation, forfeited his original blessedness, both for himself and all his descendants. As a result, all human beings are born into sin, alienated from God, corrupted in every aspect of their being (physically, mentally, volitionally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually), personally opposed to God, and condemned finally and irrevocably to death—apart from God’s own gracious intervention. The one great and universal need of all human beings is to be reconciled to God, under whose just judgment we stand; the only hope of all human beings is the undeserved love of this same God, who alone can rescue us and bring us back into a life-giving relationship with Himself.
The Plan of God: The Redemption of Sinners through the Gospel
We believe that from eternity past God determined in grace to save a great multitude of guilty sinners from every tribe and language and people and nation. We believe that God will perfectly accomplish this purpose through the incarnation, sinless life, substitutionary death, resurrection, and victorious return of Jesus Christ. We believe that Jesus Christ, being fully God from all eternity, became flesh, being born of the virgin Mary, and thus became fully human without relinquishing His full deity in the least. He lived a sinless life, thus perfectly fulfilling, as a human, all the requirements of God’s law. Moved by love, He voluntarily offered His life on the Cross. Christ bore in our place the punishment due us for our sins, to bring us to God. This is the heart of the gospel. By dying on the Cross for our sins, Christ satisfied God’s justice and reconciled to God all those who believe. In His resurrection, Christ was vindicated by the Father, broke the power of death and defeated Satan who once had power over us in death, and brought eternal life to all His people. We believe that salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved.
We believe that the gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ—God’s very wisdom. Utter folly to the world, even though it is the power of God to those who are being saved, this good news is Christological, centering on the cross and resurrection: the gospel is not proclaimed if Christ is not proclaimed, and the authentic Christ has not been proclaimed if His death and resurrection are not central (the message is “Christ died for our sins . . . [and] was raised”). This good news is biblical (His death and resurrection are according to the Scriptures); theological and salvific (Christ died for our sins, to reconcile us to God); historical (if the saving events did not happen, our faith is worthless, we are still in our sins, and we are to be pitied more than all others); apostolic (the message was entrusted to and transmitted by the apostles, who were witnesses of these saving events); and intensely personal (where it is received, believed, and held firmly, individual persons are saved).
Man’s Response to the Gospel: Repentance and Faith
We believe man’s fall into sin rendered him spiritually dead and therefore completely unable to initiate any reconciliation with God and completely unable to contribute anything to his own salvation. However, God graciously initiates by regenerating human hearts, enabling man to respond to God’s call to salvation with repentance and faith. In repentance we turn away from both our sin and any confidence we might have in our own goodness, and in faith we entrust ourselves completely to Jesus Christ and what He has done on our behalf.
The Christian Life: Justification
We believe that Christ, by his obedience and death, fully discharged the debt of all those who are justified. By his sacrifice, he bore in our stead the punishment due us for our sins, making a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice on our behalf. By his perfect obedience he satisfied the just demands of God on our behalf, since by faith alone that perfect obedience is credited to all who trust in Christ alone for their acceptance with God. Inasmuch as Christ was given by the Father for us, and his obedience and punishment were accepted in place of our own, freely and not for anything in us, this justification is solely of free grace, in order that both the exact justice and the rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners. We believe that a zeal for personal and public obedience flows from this free justification.
The Christian Life: Sanctification
The Holy Spirit is the active agent in our sanctification and seeks to produce his fruit in us as our minds are renewed and we are conformed to the image of Christ. Though indwelling sin remains a reality, as we are led by the Spirit we grow in the knowledge of the Lord, freely keeping his commandments and endeavoring to so live in the world that all people may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven. All believers are exhorted to persevere in the faith, knowing they will have to give an account to God for their every thought, word, and deed. The spiritual disciplines, especially Bible study, prayer, worship and confession, are a vital means of grace in this regard. Nevertheless, the believer’s ultimate confidence to persevere is based in the sure promise of God to preserve his people until the end, which is most certain.
The Christian Life: Empowered by the Spirit
In addition to effecting regeneration and sanctification, the Holy Spirit also empowers believers for Christian witness and service. While all genuine believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit at conversion, the New Testament indicates the importance of an ongoing, empowering work of the Spirit subsequent to conversion as well. Being indwelt by the Spirit and being filled with the Spirit are theologically distinct experiences. The Holy Spirit desires to fill each believer continually with increased power for Christian life and witness, and imparts his supernatural gifts for the edification of the Body and for various works of ministry in the world. All the gifts of the Holy Spirit at work in the church of the first century are available today, are vital for the mission of the church, and are to be earnestly desired and practiced.
God’s New People: The Church
We believe the Church is made up of all those who have by faith received the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. This universal church is manifested in local gatherings of believers of which Christ is the only Head. The church is the corporate dwelling place of God’s Spirit and the ongoing witness to Christ in the world. We believe the church should neither hide from the world nor blend in with the world but should be distinctively engaged in the world as both “salt” and “light.” The church is distinguished by her faithful gospel preaching, her faithful worship of God, her faithful observance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, her faithful engagement in Christ’s mission, her faithful obedience, and above all, by her love for God and by her members’ love for one another.
Baptism and The Lord’s Supper
We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has committed two ordinances to the local church, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We believe that baptism is the immersion of the believer in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This water baptism is a visual sign of a person’s union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. It signifies that one’s former way of life has been put to death, that one is released from the mastery of sin, and that one has entered into a new life of obedience and faith. The Lord’s Supper is to be observed only by those who have trusted Christ for salvation, and is to be observed regularly throughout the Christian life as a commemoration and proclamation of Christ’s death and as a sign of continued participation in the atoning benefits of that death. In the observance of the Lord’s Supper we anticipate Christ’s return, we are strengthened in our faith, and we also signify our unity with other members of Christ’s body.
The World to Come
We believe in the personal, glorious, and bodily return of the Lord Jesus Christ when He will exercise His role as perfectly righteous Judge and fully establish His perfect kingdom forever. We believe in the bodily resurrection of all people. For those who have not been justified there will be judgment and the eternal punishment of hell. For those who are justified there will be eternal joy in the presence of God in the new heaven and the new earth. All sin will be purged away, and its wretched effects forever banished. On that day the eager longing of all creation will be realized, and the whole earth will proclaim the glory of God who makes all things new.