This is week 2 with Lowell Ivey. If you didn’t read last week, here is more about Lowell, or skip down for the remainder of our interview.
Lowell Ivey is the pastor of Reformation Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Virginia Beach since 2016. He and his wife, Mae, have 5 children ranging from 8 years to 4 months old. Some of you may know of Lowell’s testimony as it’s one of those you don’t forget and it’s been told in various venues, including Ligonier Ministries and others. Lowell was in prison and joined a white supremacist prison gang. He was converted in solitary confinement and served another 9 years in prison reading and learning from RC Sproul and others. After release, Lowell ended up at Christ the King OPC in Longview, TX where Phil Hodson pastors. Later at seminary in Greenville, SC, Lowell interned under Peter VanDoodewaard at the OPC church in Taylors, SC. In his five years in Virginia Beach, Reformation has planted one church and is working on another plant.
Here are Lowell’s answers to our final 3 questions….
Question: What is a great idea or practice you learned from someone outside the Reformed world (something you learned in pre-Reformed days that you still do or something you’ve picked up from those outside the Reformed world) Doesn’t have to be you personally, could be church practice.
Lowell: When Mae and I were summer assistants at the OPC’s Boardwalk Chapel in New Jersey, we learned the “Way of the Master” approach to evangelism taught by Ray Comfort. The idea is that Jesus would often use the law to awaken a sinner’s conscience to the reality that he or she is guilty before God and deserving of eternal punishment in hell. Once the conscience has been addressed with the law, the next “step” is to present the Gospel in a way that fits the particular situation and needs of the person with whom you are speaking. While I am not a fan of “canned” or “formulaic” approaches to evangelism, I have found this to be an extremely effective approach, particularly in short-term evangelistic “encounters” where the likelihood of ever speaking to the person again is low.
I have at times used this approach in my ministry at a large park in Virginia Beach called Mt. Trashmore, and also at the Oceanfront area, where we have our own boardwalk. We also have a man in our congregation who uses the “Way of the Master” approach in his ministry at local abortion facilities.
Question: What is a great idea or practice you learned from someone within the Reformed world?
Lowell: In seminary, I learned about Thomas Chalmers and the idea of a “parish ministry.” Basically, the idea is that we look around, see where God has sovereignly planted us, or our church, and we begin right where we are. God has given me the neighbors He has given me for a reason. I shouldn’t be satisfied with superficial, arms-length relationships with them if there’s any way for me to invite them into my life and into the life of faith. When our church was located in a residential neighborhood, I would try to take my family door-to-door in the community at least once a week during the summer. We met many people who lived within walking distance of the church in that way, and had many opportunities to minister, even though very few that we met actually came to worship. It was amazing to see how the Lord worked in many of those relationships over a long period of time. I met one man who was an atheist but would often come to the church to talk to me after worship. Sometimes he would ask me parenting questions, and I always was thankful to the Lord for another opportunity to share the Gospel with him.
Now that our church meets in a hotel the situation is quite different. But even there, I find many opportunities to interact with guests and staff. One morning, a member of the congregation called me into the hallway after worship and pointed to a young African-American man. “He wants to talk to you,” she said. I learned that he had been out in the hallway listening to the sermon. His life was a mess and he wanted help. We went together back into our “training room”/ “nursery” (which is a boardroom for meetings), and I was able to talk to him about his need for Christ. He had a 6 month-old daughter with him, and he wept as I spoke to him about her need for Christ, and her mother’s need for Christ. The point is that the fields are ripe for harvest all around us. We just need to be prayerful, observant, and responsive to the spiritual needs we see all around us.
Question: What is the most “successful” outreach thing you’ve done or what has most contributed to your “success?” —not necessarily you personally, could be something you’ve implemented in church life or a collective church practice or approach.
Lowell: What immediately comes to mind that has been especially fruitful, apart from inviting visitors into a home after worship for a meal and fellowship, is our rotation every Lord’s Day of families willing to host singles and college students. This has served the dual purpose of giving young singles a family to spend the Lord’s Day with, but also has brought a number of unbelievers and unchurched people into our homes, where they have seen authentic Christian fellowship, participated in family worship, and had the opportunity to hear the Gospel in an unthreatening way. This single practice has grown the church both numerically and spiritually in ways that I can’t even begin to measure. It is not only a blessing to those who are invited, but those who are hosting these gatherings have also benefited from and been spiritually “stretched” by them.