New Covenant OPC is a church plant of First OPC in San Francisco. In the 1950s Edwards Elliott, the pastor of First OPC San Francisco at that time, labored to gather enough people to form a mission work in the South San Francisco area. On September 26, 1954, the first worship service was held with fifteen people in attendance. This small work initially rented space at a local storefront close to our current location. On September 25, 1957 the church, called Brentwood Orthodox Presbyterian Church at the time, became a particular church. A year later the church called its first pastor: Arthur Riffel who pastored the church from 1958 to 1962. He was followed by Edwin Urban, a missionary to Taiwan who was on a health furlough. He pastored the church from 1963 to 1965.
After him the church called Carl Erickson, a graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary. Most of the history of the church has come under Pastor Erickson. He served Christ’s Church faithfully for 50 years from 1967 to 2017, faithfully preaching the Word of God in accordance with the historic Reformed faith. Carl Erickson’s ministry is the epitome of faithful commitment to a particular work.
In 2019, the church called its fourth pastor: Michael Grasso, a graduate of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He is currently serving as the pastor of New Covenant OPC.
New Covenant Church is a congregation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, a conservative Presbyterian denomination that holds to the Westminster Standards. Our commitment to Presbyterianism entails a commitment to carrying on the tradition of the Reformation as we hold to the truths of Scripture rediscovered at that time.
The word “Presbyterian” means “council of elders”, and this describes the organization of our church and denomination. In this system every church is governed, not by a single pastor who makes all the decisions, but rather by a plurality of elders (Tit. 1:5, Acts 20:17, 1 Tim. 5:17). This provides accountability for leadership and enables the church to draw on the wisdom of more than one man.
Another implication of Presbyterianism is that all of the churches in a presbyterian denomination are united in a common form of government. In the OPC the regional church is called a “presbytery” and the annual gathering of the entire denomination the “General Assembly”. These courts of the church are composed, like the local church, of a council of elders. Such is the pattern we find in Scripture, particularly in Acts 15 when the Church met together at the first council in Jerusalem. Here Apostles (an office that no longer exists) and elders met together to discuss certain issues facing the Church. It is this model that Presbyterianism is based on. Such a model provides greater unity among the churches (John 17:21) along with a higher amount of accountability for all of the churches. The local presbytery is the ordaining body for all preachers within the presbytery. This means that men who enter the ministry have been examined and found to possess the necessary gifts and calling for the ministry. This also means that members have recourse to the courts of the church if a pastor or elder begins to go astray as complaints can be brought to the presbytery and even the General Assembly. Such is the wisdom of the system of government instituted by Christ in the Scriptures.
Committed to preaching
In line with the Reformed tradition, New Covenant OPC is committed to the preaching of the Word. Pastor Grasso practices expository, consecutive preaching with the goal of putting before the congregation the entire counsel of God (Acts 20:27).
The goal of preaching is to communicate the message of the Scriptures to the people of God and to apply this message to today’s world. As such, the preacher is not to proclaim his own message. He has no authority to do this. He is like a royal messenger sent by the King to proclaim the message of victory over all the enemies of the Kingdom. The messenger has no authority to alter the message delivered to him. His task is simply to publish the message as he has received it. So too, with preaching, the task of the preacher is to put before the people the message of the Scriptures.
We believe that this is the most needed thing in today’s world. Some will say that the Bible is no longer relevant and that the Church needs to adapt her message to the world in order to retain influence with the world, but we believe that the Bible, being itself the Word of God, must be relevant in all ages since God is its author. Not only that, but because the Bible is God’s Word, we believe that it is sufficient to address the problems faced in every age. The Bible contains the unerring wisdom of God communicated to His people to build them up. This is even what Christ prayed for His people: that God would sanctify them in the truth, the Word of God (John 17:17).
Committed to worship
John Calvin once said that there are two primary reasons the Church needs to be Reformed: so that people can know the right way to worship and so that they can know the true way of salvation (from The Necessity of Reforming the Church). The necessity for reforming the Church was based on these two principles and in that order. The right method for worshipping God, for Calvin, was the most important reason to reform the Church.
At New Covenant OPC we are committed to the historic Reformed view of worship. This is something that has been challenged in recent decades. Modern worship more and more has brought in elements of entertainment found in the world. The modern worship service is “seeker friendly” meaning it focuses on the unbeliever. In the Reformed view, however, worship is focused on God Himself. He is the one who receives the worship. We gather to give Him the praise which is due to His name. In fact the greatest strategy for having an evangelical worship service is to focus on God, since God is the one who draws people to Himself through the Word.
One of the implications of this is that God gets to decide how He wants to be worshipped. We believe that this has been revealed in the Scriptures. Our worship, therefore, is God-centered and based upon the teaching of Scripture. We read Scripture (1 Tim. 4:13), sing (Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16), pray (1 Tim. 2:8), partake of the sacraments (1 Cor. 11:17-34, 1 Cor. 1:14-16), and above all are committed to the preaching of the Word (2 Tim. 4:1-2).
The order of worship itself is patterned off of the gospel, moving from a call to worship and Apostolic greeting (the pattern and logic of worship in the Psalms and Epistles) with a song of praise to the gospel movements of confessing our faith and sins and receiving an assurance of pardon. From here the ministry of the Word begins with the public reading of Scripture, pastoral prayer, and the preaching of the Word (with hymns throughout). This is followed by partaking of the Lord’s Supper (which we do every week in the morning service at New Covenant) and the doxology and benediction (the pattern of ending the Epistles).
In our worship, we are committed to being God-centered and Word-centered such that the worship service itself is patterned off of the gospel and informed, at every part, by the Scriptures themselves.
This summary of our worship implies that our worship is traditional. We believe that the Church is called to worship God as she always has. Our instructions for worship have not changed in 2,000 years, and therefore, our practice should be fundamentally the same as the Church in all ages.
In accordance with our high view of worship, we also have morning and evening services. These are not meant to be two options for worship on the Lord’s Day but rather an opportunity to begin and end the day in worship. We believe that the Christian Sabbath is the Lord’s Day (Sunday) where we celebrate that God raised His Son from the dead thereby delivering His people from death and inaugurating the new creation. Every Lord’s Day we begin and end the day in worship to celebrate this glorious salvation we have in Christ.
At New Covenant we are committed to the communion of the saints. God has gifted His Church so that we all rely on one another in the Christian life (1 Cor. 12). This means we strive to build a family environment in the Church where everyone in the Church knows one another so that we can care for each other, serve one another, and carry one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). We believe that the Church is not a group of individuals but a united body. Everyone in the body has been gifted to serve the Church and to advance the Kingdom. The purpose of those formally set aside in Church office (elders and deacons) is to labor to prepare the saints for the work of ministry (Eph. 4:12). The Church is not a group that receives everything from the professionals. We are a family, all striving for the advancement of the Kingdom of God.