(pictured above: Graduates (from left) Pastor Ricky Pouncey, Amanda Gordon, Tony West, Clayton Douglas, Antonio Fries, and Malcolm Gadson.)
Sovereign Grace Bible Institute graduated its fourth class on Sunday.
The commencement ceremony took place at Sovereign Grace Chapel. The small Bon Air Avenue church has offered classes through the Institute since 2006. The year-and-a-half long course offers students a deeper understanding of the Bible through twice-weekly lecture discussions. Several books of the Bible are probed thoroughly, as are topics like practical theology. Students are tested on what they’ve learned, and those who pass are awarded certificates of completion.
“It was a great learning experience,” said Malcolm Gadson, one of the six who received certificates Sunday.
At 17, Gadson, a home-schooled high school senior, was the youngest graduate. He says the Institute gave him a much greater comprehension of God’s word.
Pastor Ricky Pouncey also graduated. He’s been preaching for 20 years and for the last 13 years has led Judah Praise and Worship Center, a small Pentecostal church that currently worships with Calvary Hill Church of Greater Deliverance. He said the Institute helped him see the gospel in a more “perfect light.”
“It’s terrible to have the truth but not be able to use the truth,” Pouncey said, addressing his fellow graduates and guests. “We have access to it, but we sometimes don’t know how to use it. And we’ve learned how to use the truth.”
Scott Gordon, a Sovereign Grace member who teaches the Institute’s Romans and Systemic Theology classes, praised the graduates for their hard work.
“Whereas salvation is free, this is definitely earned,” he told them.
Non-denominational Sovereign Grace practices reformed theology church, using an expository preaching style where an elder reads directly from the Bible and analyzes the verses. During Sunday services, the Bible is fastidiously dissected, verse-by-verse and book-by-book. Elders collectively lead both the services, and the church itself; there is no pastor. Worshipful hymns are sung, but there are no praise teams, liturgical dancing or other forms of “entertainment” during services.
Reformed theology, which dates back to the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century, attempts to remove non-biblical traditions from services and church doctrine. Though the Institute is taught from this perspective, students come from various churches and denominations to gain a greater compression of the Bible, said Elder Warren Burrell, who says the Institute was founded so that the church could give something worthwhile back to the community.
“God has gifted men to teach, that’s the way we come to understand the word of God,” he said.
Antonio Fries, who attends the church and was one of Sunday’s graduates, said he likes the no-frills style of the church and Institute.
“They taught us the more perfect things,” he said. “They taught us scriptures, not traditions of men.”
Amanda Gordon and her husband Scott have been Sovereign Grace Chapel members for three years. Amanda, who earned an Institute certificate Sunday, said the church’s theology and its people drew her in.
“The congregation is also a very loving group of people,” said Gordon, who runs the Sovereign Grace web site, “and because of the focus of teaching the word without tradition, I really appreciate the genuineness of the congregation.”
Tony West and Clayton Douglas were the other graduates. Elders Stoney Crosby, Harvey L. Smallwood Sr. and Anthony Wright also taught at the institute.
Though small, with a congregation of only 30, Sovereign Grace supports missions in the Caribbean and Indonesia, practices street preaching and door-to-door evangelism and distributes clothes and food to those in need. The church aspires to expand its Institute into a degree program so that those who’ve earned certificates can further their studies.
The next Institute will begin Monday, Sept. 8, 2014 at the church, 2712 Bon Air Ave. Classes are held Mondays and Tuesdays from 7-9 p.m. There is a $25 registration fee. For more information, contact Elder Burrell at 336-924-6001, call the church at 336-727-7506 or go to www.sgchapel.org.