Mark Prater: Introducing the Sovereign Grace Leadership Team

After being affirmed as the Executive Director of Sovereign Grace in May, one of the first things I set out to do was to work with the Executive Committee to form a Leadership Team. Leading Sovereign Grace is not a one-man job. I need a team of qualified men to serve our churches. After interviewing a number of qualified men and gaining the affirmation of the Executive Committee, a Leadership Team was formed. The overall purpose of the Leadership Team is to serve our pastors and our churches.

According to the Sovereign Grace (SG) Book of Church Order (BCO), the Leadership Team is made up of men that the churches of SG recognize and designate for specialized tasks. In that sense, the Leadership Team is made up of men with very particular giftings who can serve Sovereign Grace in very specific ways. For example, I’ve asked Craig Cabaniss to serve as the Director of Church Development so he can use his specific gifts and experience as a former Regional Leader to develop, equip, train, and encourage teams of elders in our churches. With that goal in view, we formed a larger Leadership Team in order to perform very specific tasks that will serve our group of churches.

Recently, I introduced the Leadership Team to our pastors and said, “Given the limitations in my gifting and wisdom, I’m assembling a larger team so I can benefit from a larger group of wise and gifted men. It’s also my desire to see our pastors and churches served by some of our wisest elders. One of the reasons I’m excited to introduce these men to you is because each of them have a genuine heart and desire to serve the churches in SG as we continue our mission to make Christ known.” The men on the Leadership Team are the real deal. They are men who are passionate about the Lord, passionate about the gospel, and passionate about serving the churches in Sovereign Grace.

Please pray for each of these men as they step into these roles with a heart to serve our pastors and churches. May God use them as we seek together to plant and build churches for the glory of Jesus Christ.

Executive Director

Mark Prater - Executive Director of Sovereign Grace ChurchesMark Prater

Mark has served as an elder at Covenant Fellowship Church (Glen Mills, PA) since 2002. In 1996, he led a church-planting team to Pittsburgh in order to begin Providence Church, where he served as senior pastor until 2002. Mark and his wife, Jill, have three married daughters and a growing number of grandchildren. They make their home in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Mark loves spending time with his wife, Jill, and they love getting as much time as they can with their grandkids, especially at the beach.

The Executive Director is the presiding officer to the Leadership Team, ensuring its successful operation through leadership, strategic planning, support, evaluation, and communication.


Director of Church Development

Craig Cabaniss - Director of Church Development for Sovereign Grace ChurchesCraig Cabaniss

Craig is senior pastor of Grace Church (Frisco, TX). He grew up in the Houston area, going on to study at Baylor University. After graduation, Craig married Ginger, and they moved to Pasadena, California where Craig earned his Master of Divinity from Fuller Seminary. While in seminary, Craig was first introduced to Sovereign Grace Ministries through their member church in Pasadena. He later served on their pastoral staff for five years, and then planted a church in San Diego. Craig pastored Grace Church in San Diego for ten years before returning to Texas to lead a team in planting a new church in Frisco. Craig and Ginger have four children and one grandson.

This position is previously known as the Director of Church Care. I’m changing the name of this role to emphasize that in our new polity, care for churches occurs primarily at a regional level. However, the Director of Church Development will promote and coordinate care for our churches and pastors by equipping, communicating, and working with our Regional Leaders, ensuring that there is a consistent standard of care experienced across our regions. Beyond the care component, the Director of Church Development will help develop and equip local elderships as they mature at a local level. Craig has six years of regional leadership experience that has equipped him for this role, and he possesses a doctrinal depth that is needed for the equipping and development of local elderships. I’m excited for you to benefit from some of the ideas Craig has to develop our local pluralities of elders.


Director of Church Planting and Mission

Ian McConnell - Director of Church Planting and Mission for Sovereign Grace ChurchesIan McConnell

Ian serves as Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Grace Bible Church (Philadelphia, PA). One of Ian’s main shepherding responsibilities at Grace is the proclamation of the Word. He also provides oversight and direction for the pastoral team in carrying out our vision to display God’s glory through the gospel as a community of believers in Northeast Philadelphia. Ian and his wife, Rachel, have three children. Ian writes and blogs at Blue Collar Gospel.

The Director of Church Planting and Mission promotes and coordinates church planting domestically by working with our Regional Leaders and Regional Church Planting Committees as they assess, equip, and deploy church planters. The Director of Church Planting will also lead in a way that he cultivates a mission-minded church planting culture among our union of churches, and thereby allows Sovereign Grace to remain a viable church planting organization. In addition, the Director of Church Planting coordinates the assessment of church adoptions by working with our Regional Leaders and Regional Church Planting Committees. Ian has replanted Grace Bible Church in Northeast Philadelphia, and his church recently planted Grace Bible Church of Wissinoming, also located in Northeast Philadelphia. Ian has served on the Church Planting Group for the last three years, where he brought creativity and innovation that has helped Sovereign Grace grow in the area of church planting. Quite simply, Ian lives and breathes mission, and I look forward to how you will benefit from his heart to make Jesus known.


Director of Theology and Training

Jeff Purswell - Director of Theology and Training for Sovereign Grace ChurchesJeff Purswell

Jeff is the Dean of the Sovereign Grace Pastors College, a role he has filled since 1998. He also serves as an elder at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, Kentucky. He and his wife, Julie, have been married for 25 years, and they have two sons.

The Director of Theology and Training ensures that our future and current pastors receive sufficient, on-going theological training by overseeing the Pastors College and providing theological training in other teaching contexts. He is responsible to see that ordination standards and testing are in place as a means to serve Regional Ordination Committees. He will also work with the Theology Committee in developing our Statement of Faith. In addition, the Director of Theology and Training is responsible to develop resources through writing and publication to equip people both in and outside of Sovereign Grace. Jeff has faithfully served our pastors in this role for years, and there isn’t a better person in Sovereign Grace to develop us theologically!


Director of Music and Worship

Bob Kauflin - Director of Music and Worship for Sovereign Grace ChurchesBob Kauflin

Bob serves as an elder at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, Kentucky. His responsibilities include overseeing the music and helping to provide pastoral care. His full time job is serving as the Director of Sovereign Grace Music. Bob and his wife, Julie, have four daughters, two sons, and an ever growing number of grandchildren.

The Director of Music and Worship works with our Regional Leaders to coordinate the development of our present and future worship leaders and songwriters in SG Churches. He also oversees the development, production, and distribution of SG Music. God has blessed Bob’s labors to write, develop, and produce doctrinally strong, gospel-saturated music for years. And you already know of his ability to develop worship leaders and songwriters. I look forward to how God will use Bob to serve SG and beyond in the years to come as we seek to produce and sing songs that glorify Jesus.


Director of Church Governance

Phil Sasser - Director of Church Governance for Sovereign Grace ChurchesPhil Sasser

Phil is senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church (Apex, NC). He graduated from The Ohio State University in 1972 with a B.S. degree in Pharmacy. Before moving to North Carolina in 1989, he served in pastoral ministry in Ohio for 13 years. Phil has been a member of the church since its inception in 1992 and on staff since 1994. He became the senior pastor in 2001 and teaches regularly at the Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastors College in Louisville, Kentucky. He and his wife, Cassie, have five children and 17 grandchildren.

The Director of Church Governance is a 2–3 year Leadership Team role that is responsible for the development and implementation of our newly ratified polity. In this role, the Director of Church Governance is responsible to develop our polity and Book of Church Order as it is refined over the next 2–3 years. He will also be responsible for the effective and efficient implementation of our polity at both the regional and national level, including the training of regional Judicial Review Committees and the SG Court of Appeals. As a part of the polity implementation, the Director of Church Governance is tasked to be the Roberts Rules of Order expert so that Council of Elders meetings are run more efficiently. Phil chaired our Polity Committee that developed our Book of Church Order while leading his church as the senior pastor in Apex, North Carolina. I’m not aware of anyone who knows our polity and Book of Church Order better than Phil and, therefore, I’m excited to see how God will use him to strengthen our ecclesiastical union.


Director of Finance and Administration

Tommy Hill - Director of Finance and Administration for Sovereign Grace ChurchesTommy Hill, CPA

Tommy is the Director of Finance and Administration for Sovereign Grace Ministries. He has been with SG in this role for over 15 years. Tommy holds a BBA in accounting from Baylor University and a Masters degree in accountancy from University of Tennessee-Knoxville. His background includes experience at a major public accounting firm and consulting with pastors and churches in all areas of administration (including finances, human resources, and tax counsel) for over 30 years. He has been a member of a SG church for over 20 years. Tommy is originally from the great state of Texas and is also a proud Tennessee Vols fan. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have been married 23 years and have nine children ages two to 21. They currently reside in Louisville, Kentucky and attend Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville.

The Director of Finance and Administration ensures that SG finances are used and handled with integrity to help us accomplish our mission and maintain the trust we have with our donors. He also administrates the functions of the Leadership Team and coordinates the successful operations of our centralized functions. In addition, the Director of Finance and Administration acts as the contact person for all legal matters. Tommy has faithfully served our churches in this role for years. Quite simply, we can’t move forward in strength without his ongoing expertise.


Director of Global Missions

Role yet to be filled

In response to the motion created at the previous CoE meeting, I created a Global Missions role so a man can be dedicated to developing our mission globally. Therefore, the Director of Global Missions promotes and coordinates global missions work and church planting through strategic thinking, strategic planning, assessment, equipping, and deployment of SG pastors, church members, and international church planters by working with our international churches and our domestic Regional Leaders. The Director of Global Missions will help refine our missiology and apply it by defining and implementing a global missions structure that will foster church planting and global missions work among our ecclesiastical union. He will also be responsible to help develop the international aspect of our polity. I continue to interview qualified men for this role, so please pray for wisdom as the interview process continues.

Mark Prater is the Executive Director for Sovereign Grace and serves as an elder at Covenant Fellowship Church. He and his wife, Jill, have three married daughters and a growing number of grandchildren.