41 Questions To Ask a Potential Church


Before being called to pastor Ballymoney Baptist Church, I inevitably faced a raft of questions from its eldership.  Beforehand, however, I also asked the elders some questions of my own. Since mentioning this in a prior post, I’ve been emailed several times to forward a copy of those questions to pastor’s in the same situation. Here then is a slightly ammended list of the questions I asked.

A. Theological Questions

1. What is the church’s statement of faith and how did the church devise it?

2. What has been the most vexed theological question the church has faced? Has there ever been a church split over theology or practice? Why?

3. On the wider scene, what theological trends and strands of false teaching would the elders at Ballymoney be particularly concerned about at the moment?

4. What are the key functions/roles of an elder at Ballymoney?

5. What is the elder’s relationship to…

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Year 1 Complete

The Lord has been abundantly gracious to lead us to the completion of our first academic year. He has provided a warm place to live, a lovely new church family, and many new friends. Westminster Theological Seminary now feels more like a home away from home. So far, year one of seminary has been a great experience.

Words can not express what a huge blessing these past months have been. Silas is growing strong and speaking more words and opinions everyday. Natalie is doing well and at her work at the resterant…really well and enjoys the nature of the work. The Lord seems to have given her favor in the eyes of her fellow servers and the management. Our time together has been well spent and we seem to have grown closer together through this academic year. Even though I loved my job as UC Davis the stress compared with the Westminster M.Div program is equally high but not the same. I enjoy the Westminster stress more than the UC Davis stress…I’m not sure if that makes any sense but there it is.

Natalie’s visit to California went well and by God’s grace Natalie’s mother’s surgery went well. And while Natalie was away Silas and I had the chance to make some great father-son memories. Some fun memories and some not so fun.

Natalie is now involved in the music ministry at Trinity and I am participating as a pastoral intern. Thank you all for your prayers and if you wish to serve and encourage us please simply let us know either by text or with a phone call that you are praying for us.

P.S. – Due to a few requests here is where we have been and what we are looking at next semester:

It is almost unreal to think how fast and see how much material has been covered in this past year:

First academic year completed only by God’s grace…thank you for your prayers!

Intro to Apologetics, with William Edger
The Ancient Church, with Carl Trueman
Orientation to Ministerial Formation, with Timothy Witmer
Prolegomena to Theology, with David Garner
Mentored Ministry Integration (case studies), with multiple professors
Gospel Communication (sermon prep and present), with Mark Salade
Church Growth and Church Planting, with Bruce Finn
Doctrine of God, with Scott Oliphant
Counseling in the local Church, with Mike Emlet
Mission of the Church (missiology), with Mark Sarasino
Medieval Church, with Carl Truman

…and here is what we are looking at in the Summer and Fall 2015:
Greek 1, with Brandon Szerlip

The Reformation, with Carl Trueman
Greek 2, with Brandon Szerlip
Intro to the New Testament, with Brandon Crowe
Expository Skills and Evaluation, with Richard Hughes
Church Dynamics and Pastoral Practice, with Tim Witmer

I am looking forward to next semester’s classes!

Finally please pray a praise for God’s provisions through two grants that have been awarded. I am prohibited to talk of them in detail, but I can call you to rejoice with us!

Hollywood’s Russia Conundrum: Time to Find Different Cinematic Villains?

We Minored in Film

You couldn’t have timed this any better (or worse, depending on how you look at it).  Last Thursday, news broke that Russia was getting pretty serious about outlawing foreign movies, most specifically American ones, that “demonize Russia and Russians.”:

“In some films, anti-social and sometimes anti-Russian rhetoric is present, confusing the younger generation,” the chamber’s first deputy secretary Vladislav Grib was quoted as saying on Sept. 24 by the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS. “At the same time, Russian pictures have a hard time reaching the screens and sometimes they are unable to do that at all […] We understand that there is no way for Hollywood to stop portraying us as the bad guys.  We just advise that Hollywood add some balance and introduce some good Russian characters into their stories too. Apart from being fair and politically correct, this approach will also help keep screens open for Hollywood.”


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Pray for ISIS leaders to become Christians

Today is an age of both great peace and great terror. We Christians in America live in great peace compared to the terror our brothers live in other nations – particularity those in ISIS territory. ISIS is an increasingly popular and powerful Islamic terrorist group. Some of you have heard of the butchering of Christians that ISIS broadcasted about a week ago, among other later grotesque broadcasts (murdering of women and children).
America and other nations are predicting that its power is growing as followers from Europe and USA join their cause (to have a pure Islamic country and the death of Christianity). It is also predicted that this war with ISIS will continue for years – not months to come.
Now that we have gotten a splash of cold water in our face and we begin to wake up to the realities most Christians face daily, you might be asking yourself; “What do I do to help?”.
I believe the answer to that question is – first we must pray!
Today Muslim leaders are turning to Christianity. Most of these have encountered God through some miraculous intervention, often in the form of visions or dreams. By the means of prayer and God’s people:
• More than 6,000 new churches have been planted among Muslims in 18 different countries.
• Hundreds of former Sheikhs and Imams, now Jesus followers, are boldly leading great movements of Muslims out of Islam.
• Forty‐five different “unreached” Muslim people groups, who a few years ago had no access to God’s Word, now have over 3,000 new churches among them.

Christians we must believe in the power of prayer and pray for our Muslim neighbors – both in the city and in the world. The organizing of Christians into focused intercessory prayer groups is vital. We must lead others into greater prayer ministry. All‐night prayer meetings, prayer walks through Muslim villages and towns, and even email and text messages should be utilized to organized on behalf of Muslims.

If you take time to take a closer look at some of the Muslim people groups you will see widespread disillusionment and discontentment with Islam. Many Muslims find no assurance of paradise in the Qur’an. They are searching for the God who answers prayer, seeking a personal, loving relationship with God that is absent in Islam. The primary strategy for reaching Muslim seekers is prayer, Bible study and obedience‐based discipleship. Discipleship represents relationships with God, Christ, and other disciples.

Make intercessory prayer the highest priority. When a leader was killed like Ben Laden another arose just as bad, and the cycle continued. Today the leader of ISIS is known to be Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. He reminds us that we are in a spiritual war so let us engage with prayer. Pray for the conversion of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, that he might come to faith in Isa al Masih (the Qur’anic term for Jesus the Messiah) as His God and redeemer. If God could save a sinner like you and me then He can do the same for Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. Let us add him to our prayer list and see what God will do.

isis leaders

Life Together

When the darkness fills your skies,
Call to Christ and he’s surely to arise,
Our Saviour chased from us sin and night,
And He alone brings us joy, and life, and light.

Let us not forget that when trouble comes our way that we be careful not to be lost in this darkness that has come around our way. Because like the earth that spins by God’s own will He allows one side to be covered by the night and the other by the light of day. So much so is our darkness and our mornings. Pain is not our own for Christ has owned yours and mine and all those who would believe. The morning then is not our own either, it belongs to God and to the Christian family, to your brothers and sisters in Christ. When the pain and loneliness of night has come upon you. Dear friend, do not hide it from your Lord, do not hide to be left alone, but seek out your Christian family and see how soon you all will delight in the light. These things are good and true.

Keep up the good fight
with prayer, and song and Scripture,
because there will be another night.

Bring on the Spring


“You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, Your manna You did not withhold from their mouth, And You gave them water for their thirst.” – Nehemiah 9:20

God has been so good to us! These past two months have been exciting. In Fall 2014 I took five classes and I did really well in all but one – New Testament Greek.

I did well on my exams throughout the semester but I guess I just didn’t know it well enough to put it all together on the final exam. My advisor, Brandon Crow, encouraged me to not lose heart as it is not unusual and he even shared that one of his most used New Testament Greek references was written by a guy who failed Greek three times! Hey, who knows maybe I’ll be a Greek scholar after all 😉 …it’s possible but not likely. To make a long story short – I had enough to pass the class but since I didn’t pass the final I will have to retake it in the summer of 2015.

Spring semester is expected to be easier since I will not have to take any language classes. I plan to take:

·      PT123 – Gospel Communication

·      ST113 – Doctrine of God

·      CH223 – Medieval Church

·      PTC 522 – Counseling in the local Church

·      PT343 – Mission of Church

·      PTM163 – Church Growth & Church Planting

·      PT021p – Mentored Ministry case studies

I know that might seem like a lot of classes but the only heavy one is ST113 – tons of reading and heavy reading too. The PT classes tend to be a bit less reading then the ST classes and they tend to be easier reads as well.

But much has happened in January.

1) We moved closer to the seminary and into our own place. Instead of being 57 minutes away we are now 15 minutes away. We had plenty of help with the move from our Trinity Church friends. They showed up ready and eager to help – even though it was snowing.

Moreover the place we were going to move into didn’t work out. We signed the lease in November but the move-in date was January 7th, 2015. When we arrived the house still had all the landlord’s stuff, no working heater, and to make matters worse the pipes froze – so we had no water. In mutual consent the landlord and I cancelled the lease. Twenty-two days later the guy returned us our money…(better late then never).

Three days later (1/10/15) World Evangelist of Christ (WEC) took us in. While at WEC we got to meet a great group of missionaries from all over the world and were cared for like family. Special thanks to Josh Lemons.  We also met a Brazilian family who just moved out of a duplex and helped us move into that place. It has turned out to be a much better fit – cheaper, cleaner, and warmer.

2) Natalie started working as a fitness instructor for one hour a week for two months…..and she’s lovin it. Learning the art of teaching plus getting a good workout for the week is nice when the gym pays you to workout instead of you paying them.

3) I got hired to write articles for http://www.goingtoseminary.com and http://www.best-seminary.com.

4) Not only does Westminster seek to train students with a global worldview but it also seeks to come alongside nationals and missionaries around the world to assist them in their task of theological education. Part of this endeavor involves facilitation – that is, making connections for WTS alumni to serve Christ long term or short term in theological missions. Arguably the greatest need in Russia missions is theological training. Sadly I have not met a single Russian or Ukrainian MDiv student at Westminster. So, I’ve offered to help become a catalyst to serve in this growing need. Dr. Lillback (president of WTS) is in Indonesia with some WTS students now and perhaps we will be able to visit Russia together in the near future. Please be praying as we make plans to come along side the Russian theological institutions and help with theological training of the Russian-speaking people worldwide.

5) And last but not least, Silas said his first sentence! Well sort of. He said; “I know.” I don’t know if he knows what he said but he just might know that he doesn’t know what he said. But any progress is still progress.

Well that’s it for now thanks for reading. Thank you all so much for your prayers and support. May the Lord bless you ten fold.

With love from Philly,
The Bugriyev’s.

P.S. – If you’re ever in the area, come on over!

7 Things We’re Thankful For, At The End of 2014


This year has been a wild ride to say the least, but we are thankful to the Lord for every moment. Here are seven things that we are thankful for as we look back at 2014. I hope you find it encouraging and relating.

  1. The kindness of strangers (…now friends)This year I quit my job to go back to school in a different sate and it was no easy decision to make. So when loving people took us in to live with them, until we find our own place, we knew the Lord was caring for us from the basics to the big. We grew to appreciate having access to clean hot water, food when we’re hungry, a bed when we’re tired, and heat when we’re cold. Seeing the love of the people of both the seminary community and the overall Christian community we saw first hand the beauty of being humbled and vulnerable before others and how God’s people are eager to love on you in every way they can and that is truly something to be thankful for.
  2. The family. I have been exceedingly blessed with a loving wife, obedient and healthy son, a supportive family, and the local church. I know that this is not the case for most people and I know I don’t deserve any of these blessings.
  3. The gift of loveingkindnessIt can be hard to feel gratitude for the people in your life at times when you feel hurt, betrayed, or abandoned by them. People can be hurtful, insensitive and often there is little we can do about it. But by God’s grace we can be kind and loving and should be regardless if we get it in return. With the gift of the Holy Spirit we can choose to treat others with loveingkindness, because Christ loved us while we were still enemies to him. This capacity for lovingkindness is truly a valuable gift.
  4. The ability to study at seminary. There is so much that the God of the universe has revealed about himself and we have been placed in this wonderful opportunity to learn about who God is and how we are to relate to him. Because God has spoken we can now speak about God. Because he has called us to himself we can come near to him.
  5. The strength to get through hard times. Having quit my job, losing healthcare,  moved across country and looking at my grades after the first semester I realized that we are often stronger than we think, and it’s not until we’re really challenged that our true strength becomes apparent. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying “I am awesome.” I am saying God is awesome to answer prayers and provide the strength. It’s not easy but God is bigger than our problems, tribulations, or difficulties.
  6. Good Times both past and future. When we think about the past year, we may forget that things we’ve experienced in the past is rooted in God’s good faithfulness to keep his promises. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. May the good times of the past be a pointing forward to God’s goodness in 2015 and ultimately to Christ’s return.
  7. This moment. The future is uncertain and I am glad it is. The fact that we are alive at this moment, and made it this far, is something to be thankful for.There is so much more I can mention but this will have to do for now. Thank you and happy new year!