In the years of 2013 and 2014 a major transition took place at The Bridge in Newbury Park, California in the EFCA West. The founding pastor Steve Larson left and in his place eventually came Tim Sherreitt. This post asks the question…was The Bridge at Newberry Park theologically hijacked by Tim Sherreitt?
“You define a good flight by negatives: you don’t get hijacked, you didn’t crash, you didn’t throw up, you weren’t late and you weren’t nauseated by the food. So you are grateful.”
“Reformed Theology has its roots in the Protestant Reformation which fought to bring the Church back to the sole authority of the sixty-six books of the Bible alone (sola scriptura), and faith in Christ alone as being the sole means of relationship and favor with God (sola fide). This being the case I am proud to say I subscribe to Reformed Theology.”
Tim Sherreitt, the Senior Pastor of The Bridge of Newbury Park
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5:14-16 NIV
Newbury Park is located in the Conejo Valley and bounded on all three sides by Thousand Oaks. Newbury Park is 35 miles away from downtown Los Angeles and the closest costal city is Malibu. In the 1950’s through the 1970’s Newbury Park experienced a population boom with its population going from 3,000 to 30,000 residents. It was during this time that Steve and Connie Larson came to Newbury Park in 1978 convicted of the need to spread the word of God. About a year later a new church was established in this community called Evangelical Free Church of Conejo Valley. In the course of time it grew to about 1,400 members and acquired its own property. Steve led the church for the next three decades and was dedicated to it. This fine pastor poured out his soul into the building of this congregation and serving its members. After 33 years he left the pastor ship and stepped down feeling convicted to travel to China, and later on Uganda and India and train Christian leaders. On Sunday January 27, 2013 the church held a farewell and honored Steve and his wife who were leaving. Some members who showed up were involved in the church for the duration of that time. John Davidson spoke of his involvement in the church and attending his first service years prior. “We actually cried through the entire service because it touched our hearts so much. We knew this was the place where we could really grow in our relationship with God.” At that ceremony Steve Larson was presented with a certificate from the California Assembly honoring and thanking him for the work he did in the community of Newbury Park. Connie Nelson was noted for her work as well and for treating people as equals. When asked Connie stated the following. “We have loved being a part of the community and the church body, and we will always count this as home.”
Matt Larson who is Steve’s son leads the Anthem “Family of Churches” (Quick side note…I hope we’re not seeing a creation of a theological North Korea in Southern California. In other words a “family of churches”
denomination acting more like a personality cult with, people shaving their heads. Plus don’t forget the “Gospel Centered” child sex abuse cover up that C.J. Mahaney allegedly engaged in at Sovereign Grace.) which has churches in Ventura, Thousand Oaks and Camarillo, California wrote a touching and moving post to honor his father at his blog. You can read the entire post here but the last two paragraphs I want to feature here.
At the end of the book of John, John says that if all the things Jesus said and did were written down, the world wouldn’t be big enough to contain all the books. I’m not going to go so far as to compare my dad to Jesus in that way, but there are about a thousand stories like these that have shaped who I am, and I haven’t even started on my mom yet. Steve and Connie Larson have invested their lives into shaping me into the man that I am, the leader that I am, the pastor that I am, the father that I am and the husband that I am. I know that they have ministered to thousands of people over the years and I am truly honored to be one of them.
It is very strange to think about the next era of life. I’ve never known the Conejo Valley without Steve Larson pastoring a church here. It has literally been my entire life. I knew that this day would come eventually, but it is crazy that it’s actually here. I’m praying for them and for what’s next. Dad will be preaching at the Bridge through the end of January. If you’ve been a part of the 34-year history of EvFree Conejo Valley, I’d encourage you to make your way there at some point in the next month to say hi. It is amazing to see my parents’ confidence in Christ and his plan for their lives. I love seeing how much they love the church and want it to grow beyond anything they were ever able to do at the Bridge. They are already praying for its next leadership and for what God will do in the years to come. I love my parents and needed a place to share about their impact on my life. If you’re still reading, I hope you learned something from it!
The Elders of The Bridge which was renamed shortly before Steve Larson left were to choose a new pastor.
A New Senior Pastor and a New Direction?
The person eventually chosen to replace Steve Larson was Tim Sherreitt . Tim has an impressive resume to include the following. He was the Associate Pastor of the Evangelical Free Church of Diamond Bar, plus he was an Adjunct Professor at the Talbot School of Theology at BIOLA University. He also at one time directed Young Adult Ministries at Fullerton Evangelical Free Church and prior to that the Chaplain Intern at BIOLA and the High School Ministry Director of First Baptist Church of Los Altos. Tim Sherreitt became the new Senior Pastor in a special service at The Bridge on April 3, 2014. One other point I wanted to make is that Tim Sherreitt went to California Polytechnic State University in San Louis Obispo. If Tim was involved in Campus Crusade at SLO, and if he went to the Christmas Conference in San Diego we probably could have bumped shoulders during that time as I went to the 2000 Christmas Conference.
Now here’s the catch I do not know the theology of Steve Larson. There have always been a few Reformed Churches in the Evangelical Free, but the history of the denomination is not in Reformed Theology. That is why I am undertaking the project of calculating the growth and rate of Reformed Theology/Neo Calvinism in the denomination. As of today I have worked through 4 districts to include Eastern, EFCA SE, Northern Plains, and EFCA West. I am going to embark on my fifth district in the next week. When I was working through EFCA West and I read the statement below it was what led me to declare The Bridge at Newbury Park being Reformed or Neo-Calvinist. This leads me to my next point which I want to bring you the reader in on. If you read the statement below on a website when you are considering a church, what goes through yoru mind? What are you thinking? What stands out? What questions would you ask? Are there any questions you would email Tim Sherreitt? I am going to let you guys review this below. And after a couple of days I will engage in the comments that are left. I want to go on the record of stating that this post has been emailed to Matt Larson, Tim Sherreitt and the leadership team of The Bridge. As always I love you guys!
Practicing Discernment Quiz
Timothy Sherreitt Views…
I believe God has related to human beings throughout history in the same fashion – salvation by grace through faith. That said I do believe He has related in different ways to those who are His people throughout history. I believe it to be the case in the same fashion as I will relate to my son in different ways over the course of his life. Right now he is very young, and so I relate to him in an age appropriate manner. When he enters adulthood the basis for my love and acceptance for him will not change, but the methods I use to relate to him will. During this stage of his life I have very detailed rules that he is expected to abide by. I tell him when to go to bed, how to dress, what to eat, where he can go, and what words he is allowed to say. But when he becomes an adult I will no longer relate to him in this way. The basis of our relationship will not change, but we will now relate in a mature way. Does this mean my son, when he is older, will no longer obey my rules? Yes and no. He will no longer be under my law, but my law will be written on his heart, and it will still be guiding his life. My goal with the laws of my house in his growing-up years were designed to do two things – point him to Christ and to teach him what it looks like to live as His follower in this world. In Galatians 3:25, Paul indicates that this was the purpose of the God’s law to Israel. Israel, before Christ, was a child, and following the resurrection, ascension, and coronation of Christ, His people have entered into a “mature” relationship with God.
With regard to those outside the reach of God’s law, they have been under God’s law as well, though of a different sort – the law of conscious. Paul tells us in Romans 2:12-16 that all mankind has God’s law written on their hearts. This law isn’t as specific as the one given to Israel, but it is equally effective in revealing their guilt before God, and thus their need for God’s forgiveness.
One of the ongoing conversations related to the topic of dispensationalism has to do with the nation of Israel’s place in God’s economy. Simply put, has the Church replaced Israel? To this, I believe that passages like Isaiah 49:1-7, Romans 11:11-27, Daniel 9:1-24 and others like those found in Isaiah 60-66, point to Israel being an ongoing pivotal component of God’s work of redemption in human history. The Church has not replaced Israel in God’s redemptive work. Each serves a part of His glorious purpose. I believe that God is currently working through the Church in this time, but will one day restore Israel as His focal instrument. We, as the church should be excited for Israel’s full restoration. After all, Paul says, “For if [Israel’s] rejection means the reconciliation of the world (that’s good for us), what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?” (Rom. 11:15). That’s even better for us.
…on the Ecumenical Movement
The ecumenical movement preaches unity apart from Christ, a privatized faith, and the death of absolute truth. As the Church of Christ our absolute Gospel message cannot waiver (Act. 4:12) nor be silenced (4:18-19), and our faith must be publically put on display (Matthew 5:16). The mission Christ our King has commissioned us with is to go and make disciples of Him, teaching them to obey everything He has commanded (Matt. 28:18-20). His Church must stay focused on this. We are not allowed to compromise our message one iota nor are we permitted to change the mission. So in this sense we cannot embrace the ecumenical movement.
This doesn’t mean that Christ’s Church can’t link arms in service with people or organizations that do not follow Him. We can, and many do. I know that Saddleback Church does this and even if they do it in ways I would not do, I know that their number one mission is to make Christ known, so I will not cast stones. Nor does it mean we are unable to affirm the good in particular religious group is doing. For instance, I can affirm the virtuous morals many from other faiths live out.
…on Eternal Security
If by eternal security one means that if someone has ever prayed the “sinners prayer,” or had and emotional spiritual experience or season of life, or was even baptized at some point then they are saved, and no matter what course their life takes their subscription of fire insurance is in hand, then no, I don’t believe in that kind of eternal security. Believe me, there are times when I wish I did, but I can’t find any support for this in the Bible.
People can “come to Christ” for all sorts of reasons – they want to have a better life; their parents want them to; their friends are Christians; they like the idea of having a spiritual component to their life, etc. – but not all responses to Christ bring salvation. There is such a thing as “defective faith.” The classic Biblical example of this is Judas. Judas was a disciple of Jesus and was even identified as one of the key players in Jesus’ ministry, but John 6:70-71 records Jesus as saying this about him – “‘Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!’ 71 (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)” And looking back on the ministry of Jesus, the Apostle John recalls a scene when a woman anoints Jesus with expensive perfume, and Judas says, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages” (Jn. 12:5), to which John adds the following commentary – “He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it” (12:6). Did Judas loose his salvation? No. He was never saved. He “came to Christ” so Christ could fulfill his dreams and when He didn’t Judas stopped following. Sadly, there will be many just like Judas, who associate themselves with Jesus and even believe they are serving Him, but whom Jesus will one day say, “Depart from me, I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matt. 7:23). And John wrote in his first letter, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 Jn. 2:19 ).
If, on the other hand, by eternal security one means that those whose names are written in the “Lamb’s book of life” (Phil. 4:3; Rev. 21:27) do not have to worry about having them erased, then yes, I do. After all Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (Jn. 10:27-29). Those who truly belong to Christ can’t be “snatched” away. This doesn’t mean that we can’t be fooled, and is why we are commanded to look for the “fruit of repentance.” People “in Christ,” through the course of their Christian life, will show evidence of their repentance to God and trust in Christ. I do not mean to imply that they will ever be perfect (1 Jn. 1:8). In fact, there may even be seasons in their life when they keep silent about or do not live out their trust in Christ. But even such they will have the convicting presence of the God’s Spirit so they will not be able to feel at rest in their sin.
Fortunately, it is not ours to judge who is saved and who is not. That is the Lord’s alone. Our job is to share and to show the gospel whenever and with whomever we can, and to be long-suffering and persistent in prayer for those who are living contrary to the Gospel.
…on Same Sex Relationships and Marriage
Homo sex is a sin. The Bible labels it as such and I am not at the liberty to call something virtuous and natural that God has labeled otherwise. That said, the person who is living a homosexual lifestyle still bears the image of God, and as such deserves to be treated with kindness and dignity.
I do agree with those who say that people do not necessarily choose to be attracted to those of the same sex. Romans 1 tell us that the consequence of the rejection of God is that humanity has been given over to distorted passions (1:26) and a debase mind (1:28). And this affects every part of who we are. We inherit this from our parents and so come out of the womb as such. This means that the greed we experience is both a product of nature and has been nurtured by my relationships, experiences, choices, and environment. The rebelliousness inside of me is the product of both nature and nurture. And the same way these two vices feel like they are a part of who I am and that I didn’t choose them, so also same-sex attraction is a product of nature and nurture and so feels to be a natural part of a person. Therefore, in the same way that we may not choose to be greedy or prideful and yet find ourselves to be so, so also same-sex attraction may not be a chosen lifestyle. But this doesn’t negate the fact that is still a sinful one.
This means that I believe sexual relationships between two men or two women is outside the parameters God designed people to live in, and as such is sin. Therefore I do not believe I have the liberty to perform a wedding for a same-sex couple.
With that said, while the church must hold its line of holiness and never condone homosexual activity, we must also seek out ways to love across those lines and engage this growing “community” of our society with the good news (1 Cor. 6:9). It is not the churches place to judge those outside the church (1 Cor. 5:12), but be their servant and priest.
…on Reformed Theology
Reformed Theology has its roots in the Protestant Reformation which fought to bring the Church back to the sole authority of the sixty-six books of the Bible alone (sola scriptura), and faith in Christ alone as being the sole means of relationship and favor with God (sola fide). This being the case I am proud to say I subscribe to Reformed Theology. I believe the sixty-six books of the Bible that we read today to be God’s perfect and inerrant word. I am absolutely convinced that people are transformed when the whole council of God is taught and applied. To avoid any part of the Bible because it is messy, complex, or doesn’t align with the popular trends of the culture is to decide that there are portions of it that our sinful hearts do not need. But nothing could be further from the truth. All Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16), and every single word ‘breathed’ by God is life (Jn. 6:63; 1 Jn. 1:1). To stray from them is to walk in darkness. It is my duty to approach them, not in order to validate my life, but to determine my life. It tells me the way the world works. It alone informs me about God and my standing with Him, which comes solely by faith in the person and work of Christ, apart from any works of my one.
One more thing, it is not uncommon for the topic of election to surface in conversations where Reformed Theology is brought up. So let me very briefly chime in on this. I affirm both God’s sovereign election of those who are His, and man’s responsibility to respond to the teachings of Christ. I recognize the tension this causes, but I hold both of these with all their tension because the Bible unashamedly teaches both, and I cannot throw something out or minimize what God has clearly spoken.
…on Church Discipline
Church discipline is the unpleasant, but at times necessary part of a church life. Necessary enough that Jesus laid out a process for dealing with community damaging sins (Matt. 18:18-19), and which the apostle Paul chastised the leadership of the church in Corinth for failing to do (1 Cor. 5). When someone is living in overt and unrepentant sin (i.e., an affair, abusive activity, slander, stirring up dissension, debase living, etc.), while continuing to profess Christ and associate with the local church, it is important that the leadership of that church is not passive in its response. This, though, must be done with great care. Every step of the process that Jesus laid out in Matthew 18:18-19 needs to be appropriated, and not out of anger or frustration, but out of a spirit of desiring to see the individual(s) living a righteous life and restored to fellowship.
The goal with any act of church discipline is first of foremost the reputation of Christ. The elders must be about obedience to Him. Sin cannot be covered over because of the possibility of fall out. Similarly, the actions of the elder board in this regard must never be driven by money. In the body of Christ no individual is more important than another. The other goal is full restoration, both to Christ and amongst the members involved.
Church discipline is not to be carried out by the senior pastor alone. If something serious is brought to his attention (or the attention of any of the elders), then he (they) need to inform the rest of the elder board immediately. This will do two things. First, it will make sure that one individual’s personal vendetta isn’t carried out against another. And second, it ensures all sides of the discussion are brought to light so an informed and wise plan of action can be carried out.
I was involved in this process several years ago. A married staff member, whom I inherited in my ministry, about a year after I arrived it was found out that they had been having an emotional affair with a 17 year old student in our church and the day after they turned 18 it became physical. I found out about it when the spouse of the staff member called me while I was on my way to church on a Sunday morning. That was probably the hardest Sunday I’ve ever had to deal with. After making sure our info was accurate, I informed the senior pastor, who in tern immediately informed the chairman of the elder board. That same Sunday myself and the senior pastor went to the home of the student to inform their parents of the situation. The elders (rightly) decided to not keep this quiet and made a public statement to the church body that both exposed the sin, but tried to protect the student as much as possible. It was a heart wrenching incident, and I believe it was handled properly.
…on Gender Roles
In the beginning God created humanity in His image as male and female (Gen. 1:27). Together they were given the mandate to fill the earth and have dominion over it. Both were/are needed. This was/is to be a joint effort of equals. But even such, in the garden there was a creation order and a different creation process of man and woman – God made the man first, and then the woman from the man. This creation order is significant to the apostle Paul. After all he uses it to justify why a woman was not to have authority over a man. “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man…For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Tim. 2:12-13). This is reinforced by the fact that in the garden God gave ultimate responsibility for the care and protection of the garden, and all that was in it, to the man. Before God made Eve from Adam’s side we are told, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep (lit. ‘protect’ from hostile forces) it” (Gen. 2:15). In chapter three we see that he failed to protect it. And although Eve sinned first (1 Tim. 2:14), it was Adam who was ultimately held responsible for the entrance of sin into the world (Rom. 5:12-21).
So what does this mean practically? Let me first say that I am a Complimentarian when it comes to the issue of gender roles. From my understanding of Scripture, women are an indispensable and essential part of God’s kingdom agenda. This is the case in the home, the functioning of the local church, and in the world. Like men they possess wisdom and skills in ways that are sorely needed. With respect to the local church, the only area I believe Scripture places limits is in regard to being a senior pastor or on the governing board of elders. I believe women can teach in countless venues, but not from the pulpit. I believe women can be a part of, and even lead, many different ministries or teams. And I believe they should be invested in and developed the same as the men. But I believe the Scripture teaches that by virtue of their gender alone the church-wide governing board of elders and role of senior pastor are roles reserved for men. In no way do I mean to imply that women are incapable or lack the skills needed for this role, but rather that God, in His sovereign council has established an order of things in His creation. I have come across many women with outstanding leadership qualities and who possess incredible gifts in communication. And churches need them to use these. It is the job of the elder board to see to it that the church is able to be edified by their many gifts.
With respect to the home, “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church” (Eph. 5:23), with the primary focus of the head in this passage being to sacrificially give himself for her betterment and beauty. If Christ is our example and we take Him seriously, then while the husband is the head of the wife, he is call to, and will strive to will give more and first to the relationship. The same way the church will never out give Christ, so the husband is to give all of himself in love to his wife.
Now, this isn’t a system of roles as many today think of them. The man doesn’t have to bring in the most money, and the woman doesn’t necessarily have to stay at home. But it is a system with a structure. The question isn’t so much about who brings in the money, but in what way are decisions made. Does he listen and then respond out with her and the relationship’s best interest in mind? And does she affirm his “headship”?
While I believe this to be how God has ordered the two institutions He has specifically established – the home and the Church, I do not believe that those who have come to different convictions do not have the Spirit working through them or their ministry.
 God’s Sovereign election: Eph. 1:3-4; Romans 8:29-30; Romans 9; Daniel 4:. Man’s responsibility to respond: Matthew 12:36; Acts 2:38; Romans 1:21-23. These two are clearly placed side by side in passages like Genesis 50:20, Isaiah 10:5-12ff, Isaiah 53:8-10, Acts 4:24-28, Philippians 2:12-13, and Revelation 17:15-17.