It is God’s will for you to go to church

By David Prairie

First, let me explain the title of this post. I am not saying that going to church is the only part of God’s will for your life, but I hope to show that it’s an important part. I am also not meaning to oversimplify the often-misunderstood topic of God’s will, but I suggest that it is much simpler than we often realize.

One missions agency I have worked with has said something like, “We believe that it is God’s will not just for the world to go to church, but for the church to go to the world.” I like that statement. It rightly reminds church-goers that attendance at services is not ultimate. Christianity not only says “Come and see” but also “Go and tell.” Believers should continually be great commission-focused. I would only want to add to the conclusion of their statement, “…so that the world can belong to the church.”

God’s Will and our Individual Lives

Paul (the missionary) taught the members at Ephesus (the local church) to be careful how they “walk” and to “not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph 5:15-17). It seems that there is an intentional connection between God’s will and how his people “walk,” that is, what they do in the normal course of life. This idea is prominent throughout the letter. For example,

• “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (4:1).
• “You must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds” (4:17).
• “Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (5:2).
• “Walk as children of light…and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (5:8-10).

Many people who fret over knowing the will of God seem more concerned with the “big decisions” of life (such as career paths, marriage partners, educational choices, children, etc.). Paul is more interested in how the believers walk through the typically mundane things of daily life. It is in those ordinary tasks and decisions that we can demonstrate reliance on the Lord, pursue holiness, and love others as he has loved us. In doing these things, we are accomplishing the will of God for our lives.

God’s Will and the Church

Another way to talk about the will of God is to speak of what God has purposed. The opening paragraphs of Ephesians make three statements about the purpose and will of God. First, God has adopted us as his children “according to the purpose of his will” (1:5). Second, God is “making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ” (1:9). Third, God’s children have “been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (1:11).

“The mystery of his will” (1:9) is the inclusion of Gentiles (that is, all nations) in the body of Christ (the universal Church) along with the Jews through the gospel of Jesus (3:1-6). Paul was a minister of that gospel, sent to declare these mysteries to everyone (3:7-9). He did this, not for his own benefit, but “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (3:10).

Notice the high calling of the church. God makes his wisdom known through the church. God is known and made known through churches. And this is not by accident. “This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” (3:11).
The church is primary in the accomplishment of God’s purposes from eternity past. God has willed to join people to himself through the efforts of the church. Those people then become the church and carry on the mission. Therefore, it is God’s will for people to go to church.

God’s Will and the World

The end of Matthew’s Gospel records the “great commission” given by Jesus for his followers until his return. Jesus has “all authority in heaven and on earth” and thus commands his followers to “make disciples of all nations” by “baptizing them” and “teaching them” to obey Jesus, who promises to be with his people “to the end of the age” (Matt 28:18-20). Where is it that people are most directly taught to obey Jesus? In the local church. Where are people baptized and formally welcomed into the body of Christ? In local churches. Where is the presence of Jesus most observable? In the local church.

The local church is not the end goal. Its purpose is to make God known by making disciples among all nations. Then, as people from all nations become disciples, new local churches will be established so that people can be baptized and taught to obey Jesus. Therefore, it is God’s will for people all over the earth to attend church.


God’s will for your individual life cannot be separated from his purpose for the world. His purpose is centered on gathering people into churches so that those churches can disperse into the nations and gather those people into local churches. Disciple-making doesn’t always take place in the church, but it does seek to guide people into the life of a church. So attend your church every Sunday. Invite others to join you. Use your normal everyday routine to make disciples. Then seek ways to extend your influence to the nations by going or by praying and sending others on their way.

Our family is trying to obey God by getting to Eastern Europe. You can help by sending us. We are in need of monthly financial partners. We’d love to share our vision with you. If interested, please contact me at or visit

Why God’s Sovereignty Matters

By David Prairie

There are at least two ways to become convinced of the sovereignty of God. The first way is to have it shown to you by others. This could be done through Bible reading, as the Scriptural authors teach those who search the Scriptures, or through the gift of sitting under the (written or spoken) teaching of godly shepherds as they expound the glory of God in the pages of the Bible.

The second way to become convinced of God’s sovereignty is to become aware of it experientially. That is to say, God orchestrates the events of your life in such a way that he shows himself to be completely sufficient in all things. His sovereignty becomes the only necessary explanation for all the why’s and what’s in life.

I have become convinced of the reality of God’s sovereignty by both means. I was about 13 when I began reading the Bible for myself and making mental (and occasionally written) observations about the character of God and what that meant for my life and for the entire world. At about age 18, I began to discuss reformed theology (though I wouldn’t have known it by that name at that time) with professors and fellow students in undergrad coursework. At first, the idea of God’s sovereignty, especially regarding salvation, sounded mean and unloving. I was not immediately convinced, though I was not completely dismissive either.

In my early 20’s I read such things as “Desiring God” by John Piper and “The Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan and “Knowing God” by J. I. Packer. These men shaped (or warped) my thinking to the extent that I could never go back. The doctrines of grace became foundational for me. But it wasn’t all theoretical.

I experienced the sovereignty of God at the death of my father when I was 14. It was natural to question God, but God didn’t allow my questioning to turn into hostility against him for something that I didn’t understand. As years have passed, I have seen the deaths of countless other family members and other fellow believers. In all of those trials, God seems to know what he’s doing.

Now I find myself pursuing missionary work across the globe. We are in the process of attempting to raise financial support for this task, and after a little more than a year, we are only about one-third of the way to our goal. It is tempting to become discouraged and restless. But the anchor not only of this process but of our desire to serve the Lord in another culture is the sovereign grace of God himself.

If I did not believe in the sovereignty of God
1. I would see the deaths of believers as illogical.
2. I would view preaching as trying to muster up a weekly motivational speech.
3. I would think of missions and evangelism as man’s attempts to convince the lost of their need for a Savior.
4. I would despise this phase of support-raising (even more than I already do) because I would continually question whether or not I was truly obedient to God.
5. I would seek the comfortable and easy ways for myself and my family to “be Christian.”

But God is sovereign. He does all that he pleases (Ps 115:3; 135:6). He calls the lost to salvation. He calls some to go as missionaries and others to send and support the goers. He uses his word to display his glory and to proclaim the good news of his power and grace toward his people.

PS: We are praying for more meetings with churches and individuals who can partner with us to help us reach our financial goals. If you are able to take us on for monthly support please visit If you have potential connections for us, please email

The Glory of God and the Motive for Missions

By David Prairie

(Note: This article is a lightly edited transcript of a brief message given to the mission teams partnering with Graceworks Ministries in Anchorage, AK on June 5, 2018.)

People participate in short-term mission trips for any number of reasons. Maybe you came specifically to Alaska because you wanted to see the beauty of God’s creation. Perhaps you heard of the needs that are in the city and you felt a sense of desire to help make right some of the wrongs that are there. For some, a church leader may have recruited you to come on a trip or a parent even signed you up and made you come. You may have wanted to participate because a friend was going or even that there is an expectation in your church that you go on such a trip. It’s possible that you came to learn about the Lord and be drawn to him. I pray that some of you are here because you are considering a lifetime of missions, and that this trip is an exploration into that possibility.

There is only one motivation that will sustain you in lifelong service to the Lord. Only one reality can help us to endure the cost of these efforts, and here it is: God is the most glorious being in the universe and his glory should be displayed in all the earth. All other motivations for missions will fail while this one will last.

To show you this, I want to start in Isaiah 12 and to work backward in the text. I will only scratch the surface of what can be said from these passages.

Isaiah 12:5 commands, “Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.” God’s works are glorious. He is worthy of our praise. His works should be told across the globe.

Isaiah 11:9 declares that “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk states more specifically that the planet will be full “of the knowledge of the glory of the LORD” (2:14). The earth will know that Yahweh is glorious.

Isaiah 10 contains the truth that while mighty men may seem glorious for a time, the glory of men is overwhelmed by the glory of God. Of the king of Assyria Isaiah promises that “under his glory a burning will be kindled, like the burning of fire” (10:16) and “The glory of his forest and of his fruitful land the LORD will destroy, both soul and body, and it will be as when a sick man wastes away” (10:18). That is to say, even the strongest of kings will whither like dead men when they oppose Yahweh, because his glory will fill the earth. “For the Lord GOD of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in the midst of all the earth” (10:23).

These statements are built from Isaiah’s original commissioning in chapter 6. In Isaiah’s vision of the Lord on his throne he heard angels crying out that “the whole earth is full of his glory” (6:3). From Isaiah’s response we see that the reality of the glory of God exposes our guilt, atones for our sin, and sends us to the lost (6:4-8).

I skipped a couple of sections that are often quoted around Christmas time. Isaiah 7 urges God’s people to not fear the enemies that surround them because the Lord will give them a sign of a son to be born to them called Immanuel, God with us (7:13-14; 8:5-10). Isaiah 9 proclaims that God “has made glorious the way of the sea” (9:1) by bringing into light those who had been in darkness (9:2) through a child who would be born to inherit David’s throne “with justice and with righteousness” (9:6-7).

C. S. Lewis wrote that in Narnia the white witch had cursed the land such that it was always winter and never Christmas. Because of the oppression from enemies and impending exile for sin, those in Isaiah’s day may have felt the same way. But it’s as if Isaiah is telling them (and us), “Christmas is coming.”

And it came. The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us so that we would see his glory (John 1:14). It is the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:4-6) that fuels us to make him known with our lives. The world wanders in a sort of cursed wintery exile for now. Our task is to say that Christmas is coming. God’s glory will be known in all the earth, and it is the motivation for the task.

The Need for Global Theological Education

By David Prairie

As we prepare to transition into full time missions, we often field many of the same questions from people. “Where are you going?” “What are you going to do?” “Why are you going there?” “What made you decide to do this?” “Can’t you just do that here in America?” “You need how much monthly support?”

Rather than attempt to give many of our answers to these questions here, I want to direct you to a recent post on the Desiring God website by Joost Nixon titled “Who Will Lead the Global Church in 2118?” This is possibly the best succinct explanation for the type of work we will be doing, and why we fell like it’s a desperate need that we can attempt to meet.

In short, the article builds the case for the need of theological education for pastors and church leaders around the world. America’s spiritual shortcomings are numerous, but one great blessing we have enjoyed is the opportunity for robust theological training from many distinguished colleges, universities, and seminaries represented by various denominations. Outside of the states, pastors have limited access to such educational riches.

One of our primary goals in pursuing missions is to fill this void. We want to see current and future pastors educated so that current and future churches and leaders can be strengthened, established, and multiplied. As the article states, trends indicate that the global church will be much less western-centric and much more southern and eastern. That does not mean that all should go. Certainly some (most) should stay and continue to represent and preach Christ in the US. But the need across the seas is too great to be ignored entirely.

We believe that we are being most obedient to the Lord by going to eastern Europe and serving him there by personally training future generations of pastors and missionaries. Your obedience might be in your staying but financially supporting us and our work. We pray that is true.

To begin a financial partnership with us, please visit and search for “Prairie” when prompted. We currently stand at about 30% supported, which means that we need another $5,800/month in commitments before we can be ready to depart. We are also looking to share our vision with more people and churches, so please let us know if we can sit down with you to discuss this ministry. Continue to pray with us for God’s timing and provision in all of this. We are grateful to him, and to each of you for your continued prayers.

The People who are Known by their God

By David Prairie

(Note: This is a lightly edited transcript of the message that I gave on “Senior Night” for our youth ministry on May 23, 2018.)

One phrase has summarized what has been the aim of this youth ministry for nearly the past decade. The phrase is “know God and make him known.” That theme has been emphasized continually, not only as we have studied Scripture and seen the Bible’s emphasis on that subject, but also as we have tried to live it out beyond these walls.

Tonight, as we wrap up another school year, and send off another group of graduates, I want us to notice from Scripture that to know God is to be known by God. When one truly knows God, God truly knows that person as well. In many respects, Christians are not only those who know God, but those who God knows.

This is the theme that I want to trace through Scripture with you tonight. Daniel 11 describes the work of those who “take action against the holy covenant” and “profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering” (v. 31). Those who oppose God will be seduced by these works (v. 32). But there is one category of people who will not be deceived by these evildoers. Daniel says, “the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action” (v. 32). I hope to show you tonight, that the people who know their God are the people who are known by their God.

Paul makes a similar point from 2 Timothy 2. We read about some who speak “irreverent babble” that “lead[s] people into more and more ungodliness” (v. 16) and “spread[s] like gangrene” (v. 17). These people “have swerved from the truth” and “are upsetting the faith of some” (v. 18). Yet Paul makes clear that “God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are his’” (v. 19). That is to say, the Lord makes a distinction between those who really belong to him and those who are only imposters.

In the statement that “The Lord knows those who are his,” Paul is quoting from Numbers 16. So let’s look at that as we begin. A man named Korah assembled 250 well known scoundrels from Israel and “rose up . . . against Moses and against Aaron” (vv. 2-3) who had been appointed by God to lead his people. They accused Moses and Aaron of exalting themselves, when really they had been ordained by God. So to oppose them was to oppose God, and to follow them was to follow God. So Moses’ response to Korah is this: “In the morning the LORD will show who is his, and who is holy, and will bring him near to him. Those one whom he chooses he will bring near to him” (v. 5).

What does this verse teach us about God’s relationship with those who are truly his in Israel?
• God demonstrates who is his because he knows those who are his.
• Those who are the Lord’s are holy.
• Those who are holy are brought near to the Lord.
• Those who are near to the Lord are chosen by him.
These statements are similar to others in the Bible that describe salvation. Believers are holy and near the Lord and chosen by him and brought near to him. And the reason why the Lord marked his people in this way was so that they would not be consumed in the judgment that would come upon Korah and his fellow rebels. Again, throughout the Bible, the Lord identifies his people in those ways so that they will be kept from the judgment that he will pour out on those who remain rebellious to him.

It is often the case that your connections to someone can keep you out of trouble with certain authorities. In May 2005, I was invited to attend a mini-camp for the Indianapolis Colts. I was not invited to participate as a player, but my Uncle Joel was a videographer, and he was invited to film the practice and to film an interview with Coach Tony Dungy, who later that summer was going to conduct a football camp in Jackson, MI, where my Uncle lived. So Uncle Joel asked me if I wanted to be the interviewer. So I drove up to Indianapolis and met Uncle Joel, and we drove to the Indianapolis Colts training facility. And once we arrived at the facility we were given credentials which gave us access to the building and the practice field. So we had nametags, and underneath our names was the title “Guest of Coach Dungy.” For that day, I was authorized to roam meeting rooms and sidelines because I was associated with Tony Dungy. For that day, I knew Coach Dungy, and he knew me. If I had tried to access those places without that nametag, I would have been punished. But on that day, if someone had questioned my belonging, I could have summoned Coach Dungy, and he would have said, “He’s with me.”

You and I don’t have access to God or to the holiness and nearness that he offers unless God himself says of us, “They’re with me.” When God separated his true followers who lined up with Moses and Aaron from the phonies who lined up with Korah, God was demonstrating, “I know them, but I don’t know them. They’re with me, but they’re not.” And those with him would be spared. But those not with him were swallowed up into hell. It is eternally important for us to be known by God.

Before we get too much further into this, we should define what we mean by “knowing.” In one sense, we could say that because God is “all-knowing” that he knows everyone. Yes, the Bible makes clear that God is all-knowing. But the words for “knowing” in Scripture have a wide range of meaning, and we can make sense of this even in English. For example, I know sports statistics and I know that I will be in Heaven one day. Both are things that I know, but there’s a great deal of difference in the two types of knowledge. My ability to quote football scores is based on something in the past that I wasn’t a part of that’s quite insignificant. My knowledge about Heaven is based on my faith in the trustworthiness of the Bible for what will come about in the future that matters infinitely. Both are types of “knowing” but there is a great difference. A better example might be with people. I know Ben Franklin, Donald Trump, Tony Dungy, Jonathan Bergen, and my wife, but all in different ways. I know about Ben Franklin from history books; I’ve missed my chance to know him any better. I know about Donald Trump because of the media and his twitter account. I know Tony Dungy—even have met him—but he wouldn’t recognize me today. I know Jonathan Bergen. He and I are great friends. I know some of his likes and dislikes. He and I can have friendly and intelligent conversations. I know him well. But I also know my wife. With her, I have a connection and a knowledge that I don’t have with anyone else, not even my closest friends, and especially not with someone I only know from a distance.

God’s knowledge is far more vast than ours. He knows everything and everyone from all time. But even God’s knowledge can be something that he knows about more than something he knows intimately. God knows all people and all things, but God knows his people in a much more personal way. God’s knowledge of his people is more like my knowledge of my wife, only perfect. God’s knowledge of other things is perfect and complete—that’s what makes him God—but it’s not intimate. God’s knowledge of other people is great, but it is wrathful, not loving.

So as we survey Scripture to show what we mean when we say that God knows his people, keep in mind that we mean to show that God has a deeper and more loving knowledge of his people than he has of those who are not his people. I think the passages we examine will make that clear.

Let’s start with Exodus 33, the context and content of which can be summarized like this:
• Chaps 25-40: Giving of the Law and instructions for the tabernacle
• Chaps 32-34 The Golden Calf incident
• “You will go into the land but I won’t go with you” (33:1-3).
• This was a disastrous word; his presence would consume them (33:4-6).
• Yahweh spoke to Moses face to face as a man speaks with his friend (33:7-11).
o Moses: “You have not let me know who you will send with me” (12-13).
o Yahweh: “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (14).
o Moses: “How shall I know that I have found favor in your sight?” (15-16)
o Yahweh: “I know you by name” (17).

Starting with Exodus 33 and tracing this theme throughout Scripture, here are eight conclusions showing the significance of God’s knowledge of his people.

1. God’s knowledge of us assures us of his presence with us, which is better than his provisions for us.

From Numbers 16:1-5 (examined earlier)
2. God’s knowledge of us sets us apart from those who receive his wrath and counts us as righteous before him.

3. God’s knowledge of us guarantees that he is aware of and concerned with the affairs of our lives.

Psalm 1:6 “Yahweh knows the way of the righteous”

Psalm 31:7-8 “You have known the distress of my soul”

Psalm 37:18 “Yahweh knows the days of the blameless”

Psalm 144:3 “What is man that you know him?”

4. God’s knowledge of us is based on his grace and kindness toward us, not on our efforts to impress him.

Jeremiah 1:4-5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Nahum 1:6-11 [In the midst of a pronouncement of judgment is v. 7] “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.”

These passages raise questions about what the Bible calls the foreknowledge of God. What does it mean that God has foreknowledge, and that he foreknew certain people and events? Let’s examine the NT to answer these questions.

Acts 2:23 “Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.”

Romans 8:29 “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Romans 11:2 “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.”

Galatians 1:15-16 “He . . . set me apart before I was born, and . . . called me by his grace [and] was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles.”

1 Peter 1:1-2 “To those who are elect exiles . . . according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.”

1 Peter 1:20-21 “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”

So here’s my definition of foreknowledge: God’s intimate knowledge of the objects of his salvation (his people) and the means of his salvation (the death and resurrection of his Son) that existed before creation and endures so that those who are known by God will glorify him by knowing him and making him known.

5. God’s knowledge of us must not be assumed, but will either be affirmed or denied by Jesus at the last day.

Matthew 7:23 “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

Matthew 25:12 “Truly I say to you, I do not know you.”

Luke 12:8-9 “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.”

Luke 13:25, 27 “I do not know where you come from.”

6. God’s knowledge of us is evident if we hear the voice of Jesus and follow him.

John 10:14 “I know my own and my own know me.”

John 10:27 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

7. God’s knowledge of us causes us to love God more than the world from which he saves us.

1 Corinthians 8:3 “If anyone loves God, he is known by God”

Galatians 4:8-9 “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?”

8. God’s knowledge of us urges us to pursue purity in this life in anticipation of eternity with Christ.

Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15 all mention Jesus’ knowledge of his churches. To Sardis (3:1-6), there is this statement that is like Jesus’ statements in the gospels. “Yet you still have a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels” (3:4-5).

And when Christ comes, the distinction between those he knows and those he doesn’t is clear and irreversible (Rev 11:15-18).

Two concluding questions:

First, what if I don’t want God to know me? We tend to think that there are parts of our lives that we can keep secret from God. We hide from God, or at least we think we do. But God’s omniscience means that he will know us in one way or another. He will either know that we do not belong to him or he will know us and welcome us into his presence. He is both Savior and Judge, and he will be one or the other for all people. We need for God to know us so that the salvation of God can rescue us from the wrath of God for the glory of God. To think we can escape God’s knowledge of us is to run from him as Jonah tried to do. God found Jonah, and he will find you. Confess what you are hiding from him. He knows about it anyway, and he’s not ashamed of you.

Second, why does any of this matter for senior night? You have probably heard that to get ahead in life it’s not as much what you know, but who you know. Humanly speaking, your connections matter for your advancement in careers and education and opportunities. You will spend the rest of your lives seeking connections with people, trying to become known by those who will help you to find success. My prayer is that you will not ignore the fact that the most supreme being in the universe wants to know you, and his knowledge of you matters for so much more than our personal advancement in this life. Don’t lose your Christianity for the sake of material flourishing. God knows whether Jesus is truly your Lord or simply a label that you have worn and will discard when it becomes inconvenient. Know God. He has made himself known to you.

What I will miss about being a youth pastor

By David Prairie

I’ve loved youth ministry since I was in high school. After graduation I stayed involved with the youth by serving as a small group leader and later as an intern. My undergraduate concentration was in youth ministry. So, when my home church asked me to fill the role of youth pastor in May of 2011, I was honored. Now I’m nearing the end of what has been a seven-year journey. I have more memories than I can document in a single article. But I feel compelled to share what I will miss about this unique and richly varied aspect of the local church.

I’ll miss coming in to a nearly empty building on Sunday mornings, praying for the students that I would see that day, and asking God to awaken young people to the glories of the Bible. I’ll miss watching students play horrible games of ping-pong while waiting for services to officially begin. I’ll miss helping people pray through Scripture, showing them how the Bible’s words are our words, and that we must petition God with the phrases and sentences and paragraphs he has given to us.

I’ll miss singing with our students. Sometimes the music was loud, and that was fine. But even better was when the music was softer, and the room was filled with voices declaring the praises of the High King of Heaven and the wonders of the gospel.

I’ll miss seeing students grow in their faith in evident ways. We’ve seen to students come to Christ, be baptized, and utilize spiritual gifts for the glory of God and the good of the church. Praise the Lord for visible fruit! And praise him also for what is now only seen and known by him.

I’ll miss watching students participate in the services by playing instruments, singing, advancing slides, setting up chairs, passing out bulletins, reading Scripture, leading in prayer, and sharing testimonies. I’ll miss seeing students advance from small group participants to small group discussion leaders, taking the things that have been passed on to them and equipping others with those things. I’ll miss watching students interact with encouragement, pray with and for each other, and help one another follow Jesus.

I’ll miss preaching and teaching weekly. I’ll miss looking over a crowd of students and leaders, who, even as they listen to me, have their eyes on the Bible and not on the speaker. I’ll miss the rigorous study that goes into being prepared to preach. Many weeks I would sit at my desk with stacks of books around me and pray fervently for God to help me to see the things in his Word that the students needed to see. I was always inadequate for the task, but never hesitant to take it on.

Students sometimes commented that, during my preaching, on occasion my voice would catch, or my expressions would change, or my hands would go up when attempting to articulate the wondrous mysteries of the Scriptures. I didn’t mind that they noticed, and I hope that if I did express excitement, that it was over the text and not over anything trivial. And if it was over the text, I hope the excitement was contagious.

I have spoken long about the preaching ministry, and that is no accident. For me the public teaching was central. There are many things our ministry could have done without, but I would not have survived without the regular attention to the Word that is necessary for the proclamation of the text.

Yet I also am grateful for the way our regular time in the Word shaped our interest in serving others in our community and around the world. I’ll miss service projects where I watched students prepare boxes at the Food Bank, dig gardens at Hope for the Inner City, minister to children at homes, participate in work projects with Habitat for Humanity, clean up after storm damage, rake leaves during the fall, deliver food and gift baskets during the holidays, and pass out church literature on downtown streets and in local parks. I’ll miss watching students give time and money to missionaries and missions projects. I’ll miss listening to them ask serious questions during missions conferences, and hearing from missionaries that our students asked the best questions.

I’ll miss participating in short-term mission trips. I’ll miss the planning and prayer that goes into such trips. I’ll miss long van rides and plane rides with students, often chatting with them about how the Lord might use them to advance the great commission. I’ll miss watching them interact with total strangers, not shying away from opposition, but often tackling it head on. I’ll miss debriefing with mission teams at the end of the day, praising the Lord for the opportunities to serve him with one another and praying for those we had interacted with. I’ll miss laughing together with a joy that is unrivaled.

I’ll miss our retreats. It’s nearly impossible to explain the satisfaction of watching dozens of students just “hanging out” at these events. I’ll miss selecting themes for these events, whether it was discipleship or the Reformation or simply reading through the Scriptures. There are no words to explain the fullness that was ours when we simply went away to read the New Testament over a weekend. Those moments can’t be replicated.

I’ll miss one-on-one meetings with students. Often, I’ll invite young men to lunch and attempt to invest in their lives as much as possible. I’ll miss sharing meals with students, recommending books to them, praying with them and for them, listening to them pray for me, and keeping one another accountable. Other times, students will pull me aside or text me and ask to hang out and talk. I’ll miss their transparency and their candor. I’ll miss them asking me for advice and to pray for them. I’ll miss them asking difficult theological questions, and helping them to wrestle through the implications of a biblical worldview for life.

I’ll miss helping students through difficult situations and being helped by them through my own. During times of loss, stress, and confusion, it was the comfort expressed by young men and women that was the most meaningful. I pray that I was half as much of a blessing to them as they were to me.

I’ll miss working alongside the most phenomenal group of fellow leaders imaginable. I’ll miss watching them disciple students by simply spending time with them, listening, guiding, and loving. I’ll miss having these people volunteer to assist with activities and events, and never having to feel like I was inconveniencing them because of their genuine desire to serve in the ministry. Many of these fellow servants are some of my best friends and greatest supporters. They have sharpened me, helped me to think about things I never would have without them, and challenged me in edifying ways. They have been strong where I have been weak. Veteran leaders have helped to train new leaders, so that ministry might be effective for generations to come.

I’ll miss hearing graduating seniors testify to the work of the Lord during their time in our ministry. I’m glad to have the chance to hear such words one more time this May. And I pray that my future paths will cross with many who have come through the youth ministry at Grace.

As far as I know, I’m not dying yet. Lord willing, I’ll have opportunities to minister in like manner in different places and among different people. I’m hopeful that my service to Christ in this life is only beginning. But whether my time on earth is short or long, I’m honored to have gotten my start as the youth pastor at Grace. To God alone be the glory.

A Video Update!

Brandi and I have a video we’d like to share with you all that explains more about our support needs and how people can partner with us in our journey to Moldova. Please watch this short video, then pray about how you can invest with us. Also, feel free to share this video with others.!AiCckjdnALHxgyhnEKRak5UHbAU0

Thank you all for your continued prayers for us. The past month has been encouraging, as we have seen our support go up since our last update. I submitted a resignation for my role as youth pastor at Grace Baptist. I will continue to work through the summer before backing away from that position at the end of July. Pray for the church as they work through finding a new youth pastor.

Last week I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. I’ll attend graduation ceremonies in May. I am excited to have that behind me.

Our children continue to grow. The boys are still enjoying school as much as ever, and the girls are active as well. Eva just turned four and learned how to ride a bike (without training wheels).

We praise the Lord for you all, and are still hopeful of reaching our previously mentioned goals and deadlines. Pray for the Lord to bring that about. Until next time,

David Prairie (and family)

Will you Take an Envelope for Us?

By David Prairie

(Note: This was originally written to our home church, Grace Baptist in Chattanooga, but we are certainly grateful for others who catch this vision and join us in it.)

Many of you are familiar with a fundraising strategy that our youth ministry has employed for several years now. In anticipation of summer mission trips, we post envelopes numbered 1-100 in hopes of raising support for thosePrairies Support Progress - 1 going on these trips. The idea is that a donor will choose an envelope and contribute the dollar amount corresponding to the number on the envelope toward the trip.

We will once again attempt this strategy as we prepare for trips to Anchorage, AK (June 3-10) and Washington, DC (July 14-20). If every envelope is taken, we will raise $5,050 just from this very simple method. But this strategy could also be applied to our own family as we are seeking support for full-time missions.

The need for our family breaks down to the equivalent of about 130 envelopes per month. (If you’re doing the math, I’m aware that this sounds like an outrageous amount, and I agree. I’m embarrassed to admit that’s our goal. But keep in mind [a] we didn’t come up with this amount; it was assigned to us, and [b] we can legitimize this amount by showing you the breakdown of how these funds will be used.)

Currently, there are approximately 240 family units that make up the membership of Grace Baptist Church. Using the envelope fundraiser analogy, some of you are capable of figuratively taking a larger envelope and supporting us at a higher monthly amount (see the graphic). Others are only able to take an envelope in the single digits. A few of you could even take two or more envelopes. We fully recognize that any amount is a sacrifice, and our thanks is great regardless of the amount. Some of you are already supporting us, and we are grateful.

The point is, there are more than enough family units in our church that we could potentially garner all of our support from this congregation. Our goal is to reach 50 percent of our necessary support by the end of June, 85 percent by the end of October, and to reach 100 percent by the end of December. We will still continue to seek support from other churches and from individuals outside of Grace until our goal is met. In fact, we already have a few supporters from outside this body.

We currently stand at about 15 percent supported. Please pray that God will provide the remaining support in a way that is quicker than we expect. And pray about how he might use you to help us get there. It may be that you can’t give, but that you can connect us to other individuals and churches who might be able to. We would be glad for any help in that way as well.

You are our sending church. And to be quite honest, you are our best hope of being able to move to Moldova as quickly as possible, humanly speaking. Would you please help make these goals a reality for us? You have been faithful to support short-term trips for our youth ministry, and we ask for that again as well. Additionally, we pray that you’ll join our team of partners and share in whatever fruit may come from our ministry.

How can you “take an envelope” for us? One way is to simply visit and set up a commitment form through the website. Once the form is processed, we will be notified. Another way is to receive a paper commitment form from us. Just let us know and we can get you one. Of course, we’d be thrilled to meet with you personally to discuss our ministry, share our plans, and answer your questions.

A Forgotten Aspect of the Gospel: R. C. Sproul on Expiation

By David Prairie

The world lost an evangelical giant with the recent passing of Dr. R. C. Sproul, whose faith became sight on Thursday, December 14, 2017. Dr. Sproul pastored the Saint Andrews Chapel in Sanford, Florida, and was the founder of Ligonier Ministries, which publishes theological literature that is used around the globe. Dr. Sproul was an intellectual phenomenon, the likes of which Christianity needs many more of these days. I didn’t agree with him on everything—in fact, I think it quite likely that his understanding of eschatology has been corrected greatly over the past few weeks—but no one could be more firmly committed to the truth of the gospel than he was.

One aspect of the gospel that I learned from him was one that I had not heard much on from anyone else. It’s not that others don’t believe it, but that he more clearly brought it out than others. It’s the oft-forgotten aspect of expiation.

The Bible speaks a great deal about the concept of atonement. The OT book of Leviticus serves as a guide for the way Israel’s priests were to help God’s people ensure that sinful people could stand in the presence of a holy God, and for how that pure and perfect God could dwell among unclean people. The NT book of Hebrews reveals that Jesus is both the perfect High Priest and the sacrificial Lamb who offered himself to God for the justification of all who would believe in him. That, in a nutshell, is the idea of atonement. It answers that all-important question: How can God (who is completely set apart in his holiness) and people (who are contaminated with sinfulness) dwell together peaceably?
Sproul correctly recognized that there are two things at work in the atonement: propitiation and expiation. In most circles, propitiation seems to get much of attention.

The word is used twice in the NT, both in the apostle John’s first epistle:

“He [Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2 ESV).

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10 ESV).

Propitiation carries with it the idea of an atoning sacrifice to appease God’s wrath. It was used even in pagan cultures to describe how cults would go to great lengths to satisfy their gods and thus avoid judgment. Though the term “propitiation” is only used scarcely in the biblical texts, its concept is prevalent throughout the scope of the Bible. In fact, J. I. Packer has said:

“Were I asked to focus the New Testament message in three words, my proposal would be adoption through propitiation, and I do not expect ever to meet a richer or more pregnant summary of the gospel than that” (Knowing God, 214).

Others who have summarized the message of the whole Bible have done so similarly. Jim Hamilton uses the phrase “Salvation through Judgment,” while Peter Gentry and Steve Wellum describe it as “Kingdom through Covenant,” but the idea is the same. God relates to sinners by justifying them through the willing sacrifice of his own Son, which atones for our sins before him.

But to speak only of propitiation is to only explain half of what atonement accomplishes. I will quote Sproul at length to make this point.

“We may distinguish between the negative and the positive aspects of Christ’s work of satisfaction. In the atonement Christ satisfies the negative side of God’s justice. Here, again, by imputation, Christ pays the penalty due our sins. He receives, for us, the punitive wrath of God that our sin deserves. He takes the consequences of our demerits, our unjustness. He receives the judgment due our guilt. In this regard God’s justice is satisfied” (Faith Alone, 104).

The doctrine of imputation, as Sproul explains, is more than simply being declared righteous, which is the traditional understanding of justification. Imputation means that the righteousness of Christ is imparted by faith to those whom he redeems. The redeemed are not just counted righteous, they are righteous before God. Without the transfer of this righteousness to us, we stand condemned to be punished for our sins. The perfect obedience of Christ in his life and the sacrificial substitute of Christ in his death are both necessary to justify the ungodly. Sproul continues,

“Christ is the sin-bearer for his people, the Lamb of God who takes away (expiates) our sin and satisfies (propitiates) the demands of God’s justice. The cross displays both God’s justice (in that he truly punishes sin) and his grace (because he punishes sin by providing a substitute for us).”

Expiation and propitiation then, are not competing terms, but rather are the two sides of the “atonement” coin. Atonement was the goal of the Levitical sacrificial system, most notably the Day of Atonement (Lev 16) where “both propitiation and expiation” are emphasized (Schreiner, The King in His Beauty, 51n16). Despite the presence of two goats for the Day of Atonement ceremonies, Geerhardus Vos sees “one sacrificial object; the distribution of suffering death and of dismissal into a remote place simply serving the purpose of clearer expression, in visible form, of removal of sin after expiation had been made, something which the ordinary sacrificial animal could not well express, since it died in the process of expiation” (Biblical Theology, 163).

Of course, these OT procedures served as the shadows of which the substance was the final work of Christ. Sproul concludes,

“The atonement totally expiates the sin of the believer, fully satisfying the demands of God’s punitive justice. The value of Christ’s sacrifice satisfies all the negative judgment of God with respect to our demerits before him. On the positive side, the perfect active obedience of Christ fulfills all righteousness, earning all the merit needed to save the believer. Nothing can be added to Christ’s atonement or to his righteousness to enhance their value or merit” (Faith Alone, 144).

What does all this theology have to do with churches and preaching and missions and discipleship? It should affect the perspective of every believer with respect to how he/she views himself before God. Those who are truly born again stand wholly righteous before God. They are not guilty of sin. Christ has taken away sin by placing on himself and absorbing the justice due it.

Sing passionately the hymns that celebrate these truths. Preach boldly the Scriptures which articulate them. Read the Bible with others and pray to be informed by its words. Make this gospel known to people and in places where it is not yet believed.

Praise God for men like R. C. Sproul, who lived and died standing for the truths of justification by faith alone, imputed righteousness, atonement, propitiation, and expiation. Praise God that, because of Sproul and many others like him, these truths continue to be passed on to others.

Survey Says…

By David Prairie


Opportunities to travel across oceans and visit various nations are remarkably rare and precious. There are good reasons why many Americans are globally sheltered and relatively few ever step away from stateside soil. The United States is large. North America is large. From where we live in Chattanooga, a flight to Anchorage, AK is as long as a flight to London. International travel is difficult and expensive. There are language barriers to consider. Currency is different. The list goes on.

As one who has visited Europe a few times now, I am humbled that God has allowed me to see different parts of the world and to interact with people in cultures foreign to my own. As one who intends to eventually live in eastern Europe, I am becoming increasingly aware of the sacrifices on behalf of many people that are required to pull of such a humanly outlandish possibility. For Brandi and me, our recent survey trip to Moldova was an answer to so many prayers and huge step for our family that will make future steps seem much smaller.

We should first acknowledge the sacrifices of many who cared for our four children while we were away. Their contributions helped to put our minds at ease as we travelled for ten days. My sister Stephanie was especially generous, spending each night with them and making sure the boys got to school on time.

We were met in Chisinau on Friday evening, November 10 by Steve and Cheryl Winget, as well as Mihai Chisari and Sergiu Fomiciov, two former students of Steve’s. That night we enjoyed meeting Mihai’s wife, Irina and their daughter, Delia, and Sergiu’s wife Svetlana over dinner. We were then taken to the campus of the Universitatea Divitia Gratiea (UDG) where we would lodge for the week. Joel and Debbie Dicks, as well as a host of other ABWE workers, greeted us upon arrival.

Many of our days were spent becoming as familiar with the city of Chisinau as possible. Mihai served us by driving us through the city each day and translating for us where our English would not suffice. We observed outdoor markets, enjoyed restaurants and coffee shops, travelled on public transportation, toured a hospital, visited local schools, shopped at malls, evaluated housing options, and learned a great deal of history as we saw landmarks and monuments.

Of course, we also wanted to meet as many people as we could to learn from them. We were fortunate to spend one morning meeting with one of the Deans of UDG to hear about the history of the school, its many programs, and his goals for the future of the school. We also were able to share meals with other American missionaries in Chisinau and hear about their transitions from the states to eastern Europe.

There were ministry opportunities as well. We visited three different churches, two of which I was able to preach in (with Mihai translating for me) and the third I gave a short greeting. Steve and I were also able to lead a discussion on manhood with about 20 young men whom Mihai is mentoring. Our final night in Chisinau was spent with an aspiring church plant called Imago Dei, which is led by both Mihai and Sergiu. They asked me to lead the small group discussion for that evening, which I was glad to do.

At the end of our week we were able to spend a day in Vienna, Austria with the Wingets. That evening, we had dinner in Bratislava, Slovakia with ABWE regional directors Kelly and Sherri Fath. We were encouraged once again with the camaraderie that we already sense among those families.

Among the more solidifying answers to prayer we received during the course of our trip was confirmation about how to involve ourselves in a local church. We expect to work alongside Mihai and Sergiu in the development of Imago Dei, hoping to lay a firm foundation for healthy church. Please pray for those two young men as they seek the Lord throughout this process.

There is much more that could be said. Yet I will sign off by saying thank you to all who contributed your prayer and other resources so that this trip could become a reality. We are greatly anticipating the day when we can move to Moldova and serve alongside the believers there in order to make disciples in that part of the world. To that end, would you consider becoming a monthly financial partner with us? If so, please visit We are hoping that 2018 will be the year in which we see all of our financial support raised. Your prayers with us in that regard may help us to do just that.