Elizabeth Talbot, M.A.R. ’06 (now Master of Arts (Theological Studies))
OCCUPATION: Senior Pastor, The Grace Place, Alhambra, California
LESSON LEARNED: When God calls you to ministry, He makes a way.
MY STORY: In early 2005, Elizabeth Talbot commenced her new position as senior pastor at The Grace Place Church in Alhambra, California. Upon her installation, Elizabeth made denominational history as the first senior female pastor in the Southern California Seventh Day Adventist Conference, an opportunity that only God could arrange.
"I was immersed in the corporate world as a controller, conflict management trainer, and organizational behavior expert for more than 20 years. I thought I would continue in my well-established career for another 20 years," said Elizabeth. "Yet, God flipped my world upside down and opened doors that I never dreamed possible. I firmly believe that when God puts a vision in your heart, He is faithful to fulfill it. He makes a way when there seems to be an impassible road."
One of the first changes Elizabeth implemented as pastor was creating a central vision around which the entire church could rally and draw inspiration. She launched a Gospel-centered master plan that would serve as the defining characteristic of The Grace Place. "I decided to establish a theological agenda that was not up for discussion," said Talbot. "I wanted our church to be known as a community-driven church solidly grounded in the Gospel."
Within a few months of preaching, church attendance doubled and the congregation exhibited a new enthusiasm and energy for sharing the Good News. "Preaching the message of the Gospel is so powerful because it's not doctrine you're preaching, it's Christ, and the message of the Cross changes lives."
In addition to this preaching focus, Elizabeth also initiated a variety of new innovations. Jesus 101 is one such invention. This teaching program is based on The Gospels' Witness to Christ, a class taught by Elizabeth's mentor and associate professor of New Testament at Azusa Pacific University Lynn Losie, Ph.D. "This class and Dr. Losie's approach to teaching the Gospels revolutionized my way of teaching and preaching, as evidenced by Jesus 101. In the Gospels' Witness to Christ, each Gospel writer writes about Jesus from a different perspective, which makes for a richer portrait of Jesus," said Elizabeth. "I use this same approach and the response has been phenomenal, especially now that we're podcasting."
Another fruit born of Elizabeth's M.A.R. Program (now Master of Arts (Theological Studies)) experience has been the mentor/mentoree relationship between her and Losie, as well as Professor of Old Testament John Hartley, Ph.D. "Both of these men have played a significant role in my spiritual, ministerial, and academic development," said Elizabeth. "They introduced me to the renowned New Testament scholar Andrew Lincoln, which in turn resulted in my studying with him as a doctoral candidate for biblical studies at the University of Gloucestershire, United Kingdom."
While Elizabeth's academic pursuits look as promising as her ministry work, her passion remains spreading the Good News. "The Gospel is fire in my bones. When I preach it, I become invisible and the message of the Gospel dominates."