We’re committed to investing in the gospel’s advance by investing in men who aspire to serve as vocational preachers and pastors. Remember Paul’s words to Timothy: “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2Tim. 2:2). That’s our biblical strategy for finding and appointing elders here at Heritage, and for propagating the gospel beyond our walls.
With this in mind, meet our spring intern, Timothy Martin. Timothy is involved in a good bit of reading and writing, he’s joining our elders meetings, and he and I are meeting weekly over twelve weeks to discuss what he’s learning. You can read about the shape of the internship here
Our purpose in this internship is to see churches led by pastors who faithfully connect the Bible’s theology of the church to the church’s worship, life, and mission. In other words, to see churches flourish in the gospel and gospel work. Pray that Timothy would be that kind of shepherd for a church in the years ahead.
Before we get to know you a bit, tell us what excited you the most about serving as an intern this spring?
I’ve read a handful of books on what are commonly called “means of grace.” The “means” on the lists that puzzled for the longest time was when authors would mention “fellowship.” I had thought: “I talk and think out loud with fellow believers all the time and I don’t necessarily feel like it has contributed all that much to my growth. Is socializing something God really uses to mature Christians into Christlikeness?” Then I began to get a taste for it at my local church. Likeminded conversations with a single focus: on our Savior and His Word. I knew this internship—which is mostly about watching and listening—would allow me to be the fly on the wall for countless hours of fellowship with good and godly men. Men I could model myself after in every aspect of life. There’s an adage that no one man can ever supplement the work of your father, but the fellowship of many men can. Speaking of the church in Corinth, Paul bemoaned that while there were many teachers there were few fathers. I’m not Paul (I’m Timothy!) but I feel like the same cannot be said of Heritage Bible Church. I have many fathers in the faith here and spending more time with them and “catching” a bit of the grace that God has bestowed upon them has been my favorite part of the internship.
Now, let’s go to the beginning, your new beginning. How did the Lord save you?
That’s an exciting one. Because I’ve learned to view the “ordinary” and “normal” and “boring” process of growing up in a Christian home to be an incredibly exciting blessing. I grew up as a missionary kid. My parents had just concluded 15+ years in the country of Haiti. I was born right before they moved to Ireland. They were directly involved in two different church planting works while I was there. I can never think of a time where I wasn’t aware that there was a God or knew the vocabulary of the gospel as a consequence of that. There are very few Bible stories that I can recall hearing “for the first time” because on any given day of the week my parents were 1) holding family devotions, 2) using the Scripture to share the gospel with a stranger or neighbor, or 3) preaching and teaching in church. What took me a while was to see how this vocabulary of the gospel applied personally to me. I distinctly remember a time when I took the Lord’s name in vain and felt the crushing weight of the law. I didn’t know how to resolve it. I had this sin and this condemnation. And this condemnation had my name on it. Now, at the exact same time, I wanted to be a policeman. A few weeks later when we were on furlough in Florida, a police chaplain was speaking at one of our supporting churches. You better believe I was all ears. He used the judicial system as a metaphor for our condemnation before God and explained the gospel of grace in a way that made perfect sense to me. The Spirit stirred. I was drawn and given new life. I responded in faith.
Now I’m not even sure if I was four at this time. I was definitely younger than five. And this caused a lot of adults to whom I jabbered my testimony to doubt the validity of my faith. So, doubt set in. The church culture that I grew up in put a lot of emphasis on the choice of words and how much you “truly” meant it. And I didn’t really understand if God really accepted me. It got to the point where the doubt and anxiety was all consuming. I prayed for God to save me hundreds of times a day. Assurance came and went. At twelve years old I heard Dr. Steve Pettit—at the time a traveling evangelist—at our local church. He commanded the attention of any young people in the audience who struggled with assurance. He explained how faith was not a work. The work was done on the cross. It was in fact the work of Jesus that accomplished and secured salvation for me and no effort of my own. My salvation had been desired by God in eternity past and purchased at the cross. Faith was the response; God did the work. From that moment forth I felt liberated with confidence before God.
You’re a college student. You’re a member. You’ve made home at Heritage. Encourage our church with the story of how you came here and got involved. We want to be a church that welcomes college students and gives them a taste of heaven on earth, just what church should be.
Coming to Greenville was very disorienting when it came to church life. I knew that I wanted to have full membership in a church here because I would be here nine months out of the year at the minimum. A bunch of cogs all started moving at once to get me to Heritage. I visited the college group a few times my freshman year but had intentions to join another church at the time and eventually stopped attending. That situation didn’t work out. I came to know the Fraley family and they invited me to visit with them. They extended sincere friendship and hospitality to me, and it stuck with me after I left for the summer to work in Philadelphia. I emailed Dan Cruver to inquire more about the church and started attending in the Fall of 2019. Nicole Steinmetz (a fellow college student at the time) handed me the membership packet and told me to look through it and see if I was on the same page with Heritage. If I was, I should consider joining. Jared Jenkins (now a member of Heritage and a previous intern) challenged me to do the same thing. I was thrilled reading the Heritage Confession of Faith to see clear gospel centrality and the presence of Scripture on every page. The Confession was a breath of fresh air. It became clear to me that Heritage lived up the “Bible” in Bible Church. They wanted to be ambassadors of Scripture and not fill a particular niche or artificially uphold a certain church culture. I quickly became friends with Craig Olsen, the Deangs, Caleb Greene, Steve Hall, and a number of others. Long story short: Word-centered doctrinal standards got me in the door and warm fellowship kept me in the church.
And there have been so many good things since. The rhythm of weekly expository preaching has enriched my life deeply. A church atmosphere that is friendly to both purity of doctrine and expression of emotion has also deepened my love for the church. My teenage cynicism died at Heritage and a love for the church was born there. That love has also matured into loving the church back as best as I can. I have since taught in an adult elective class, worked as a sponsor in SIGMA for the past two years, babysat for members in the church, been a part of the preaching cohort, and irregularly filled in for Dan Cruver for the college class. Most recently I am interning. I’d love to continue deepening this fellowship with the church for years to come.
Now, what is the most influential book on your life and what has been the most influential sermon on your life? Tell us a little about both.
I hate choosing favorites so I’m going to cheat on both of these.
I want to give passing reference to Desiring God and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper because those are the two books that kept me in the Word and on the right path during a time of deep depression and confusion in high school. But the most influential book by far has been Roger Scruton’s The Soul of the World. My deepest questions have always been existential and philosophical in nature. I listened to this book soon after its release. I bicycled miles and walked many more miles listening to the audiobook in early high school. Scruton argues very persuasively for how our sacred communion with God is the fountain from which all other things which are true, good, and beautiful derive their meaning. Nothing else can satisfy. Nothing else can create civilizations that last. Either God is at the center or both individual and communal life devolves into meaninglessness. It was this philosophical treatise that “primed the pump” and allowed me to enjoy the deep devotional writings of Piper.
My friend Armen Thomassian is the pastor of Faith Free Presbyterian Church here in Greenville. I try to drop by and visit him a few times a year when I don’t have any evening obligations at Heritage. A sermon he preached entitled “Christ is All-Together Lovely” lit a flame in my imagination that hasn’t died since. I already knew all the ways that Jesus spoke truth. And I already knew all the ways that Jesus was good. But it helped me to see Jesus as beautiful in Who He is and all He does. That sermon changed the way I think and changed the way I feel. A sermon that changed the way I acted was our very own Dan Cruver’s exposition of Hebrews 4:14-16. It helped me figure out a theology of confession and how to ‘deal with’ sins that were already forgiven on the cross but are committed after salvation. Take them to the throne of grace! We have confident access to Jesus.
You’re in the middle of reading twelve books over this internship. What’s been the most insightful book so far and why?
What is the Mission of the Church? by Greg Gilbert and Kevin DeYoung. Why? Because it’s a homerun on every front. Tremendously clear and thorough exegetical work that proves in scenario after scenario how the church doesn’t need a savior complex but instead should spend its resources proclaiming the message of the Savior.
You’ve been in our elders meetings for a few weeks now. What have you observed and learned so far?
Biggest lesson? What an incredible elder team we have. Each personality and each life experience is knit together through prayer and love for the Word. I’ve had the unique blessing of sitting in on three doctrinal examinations for elder candidates. It was really fun to watch the entire room come together to lovingly challenge the candidates and keep them on their toes while also demonstrating great care and love for them. I’ve also learned that having a system for due process and Robert’s Rules of Order are useful for keeping everyone on the same page.
The laughter is loud, serious matters are handled with absolute delicacy and care, and the prayers are sincere. These men really care for and love every member of the church.
What are your desires vocationally for the future and how can we pray for you?
My long term goal (for the time being) is inner-city/urban church planting and pastoral training. I would love to do this either state side or internationally. Mark Vowels sold me on the importance of self-reproducing churches years ago and it has never left me since. So, long-term, I want to put my hand to the plough at helping work to establish churches that plant churches. My dream would be to spend twelve to fifteen years of my life in one such church in America, twelve to fifteen in Europe, and twelve to fifteen in the Middle East. Pray that God would continue to create in me the character and integrity required to serve as an elder in his church. Pray that God would give me the boldness to live out what I learn and that none of the Word’s indicatives would grow dull to me and that none of the Word’s imperatives would go unobeyed. As a vocation of equal importance, I also would really love to be a husband and father one day! I would love have children of my own and also participate in adoption or foster-to-adopt programs. So, pray that God provides a wife for me and that he would kindly grant me that particular wish of mine.
Finally, got any favorite teams or hobbies or special skills we should know about?
I’ve been a loyal F.C. Milan fan for years and years and I am really sad that I miss most of their games at college. I have a forlorn love for Detroit sports.
I’m a soft-sciences/humanities guy through and through. I love linguistics, cartography (I like maps way too much), vexillology (I like flags way too much), literature, sociology, economics philosophy, poetry, and history. I’m the weird dude that finds reading Systematic Theology books and commentaries from cover-to-cover to be compelling reads. I hold a blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do and would like to get back into it after I graduate. Mountain biking and road biking were my two main outlets for exercise in high school.