Thursday, May 01, 2008

Presbyterians Seeking Purpose Driven Ministry Conference Intersects With The Present Future—Part 2.

How do you get Presbyterians to begin thinking outside of the “normal” Presbyterian box? The PCUSA, as a denomination, has done a good job of trying to be involved in “justice” issues—although, I am perplexed by why they only tackle projects on one side of the political isle. Do we need to help the poor? Yes, we do. Do we need to work toward better race relations? Yes, we do. Do we need to try to lead people to Christ so that they can experience eternal life? Yes, we do. Do we need to encourage people to live moral, biblical lives? Yes, we do. Do we need to encourage Christians to grow in their faith, yielding more and more of their lives to Christ? Yes, we do. Do we need to encourage people to store God’s Word in their hearts (Psalm 119)? Yes, we do.

I have come to the conclusion (and I don’t like the conclusion) that denominations will have little impact on assisting local congregations to carry out these tasks. It seems (at least by their actions) that most denominations care more about the survival of the “denomination” than they do about the Kingdom of God. I cannot think of anything that the PCUSA has done to aid my congregation in its ministry in the past ten years. The closest is the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance’s camps in the New Orleans area and our Presbytery’s work in the flooded areas of southwest Washington. Still, as important as these two things are, they have had very little impact on the ministry of Evergreen Presbyterian Church.

The world has changed and “higher headquarters” is doing nothing to assist our churches face this new landscape. Oh, they say that the proposed revisions to the Book of Order will help us. Bull!! I have read the proposed changes—several times—and there is nothing that will help Evergreen face the changing religious landscape of today. I read the stuff coming out of Louisville and wonder, “Do these people even recognize that the world is changing?” All I see is more of the same old stuff.

So, what is a pastor or a church to do?

The other day I was watching an episode of The Deadliest Catch. Captain Phil, captain of the Cornelia Marie, wall pulling up empty pots. He would set his pots and they would come up empty. At wits end, he got on the radio and called some of his sister ships. He called—they didn’t answer. They were on the crabs and did not want the entire fleet to know about it. Plus, some felt that all Phil did was follow other boats and set his crab pots where other boats were setting pots. Phil felt all alone—responsible for the financial success of the boat and its crew.

Pastors in the Presbyterian Church (and most other denominations) are a lot like Captain Phil. The denomination is not equipped (I would hate to think that they are unwilling) to help the local congregation fulfill its ministry. So what are we to do?

Here are a few things I have come up with:

  • Spend a LOT of time in prayer and fasting. God has to show us what he wants us to do. We have to connect to his will because he is not going to connect to our will.
  • Wait on the Lord. Most of us do not like to wait on anything. In the past two days I have watched three cars just blow through red traffic signals—the drivers couldn’t be bothered with having to stop and wait.
  • Learn all we can about the changing religious/spiritual climate of the United States and the rest of the world. It is the same God who is active around this world. God is doing great things in many parts of the world; we need to see what he is doing and catch the movement of God’s Spirit.
  • Learn from the past. “Learning from the past” does not mean “repeating” the past. I have been teaching a church history class for the past 14 weeks—only two or three more weeks to go. The class has been anything but boring. We have seen how God has moved in powerful ways. We have seen how the Presbyterian Church missed out on several of those powerful movements because of “fear,” being uncomfortable with the supernatural expressions of the Holy Spirit and just plain old institutional stubbornness.
  • Keep putting down your pots. Crab pots that are on the deck of a ship are guaranteed to not catch any crab.
  • Target your ministries. A crab boat targets male king (you can only keep the males) crabs during king crab season. Male king crabs hang out with male king crabs, and they are located in different areas than Opelio crabs. During Opelio crab season you target male Opelio crabs. Failing to target our ministries will yield poor results.
  • Learn from those who are reaching people with the gospel—even if they aren’t Presbyterian.
  • Don’t be afraid of failure.
  • Be prepared for those steeped in the denomination to be resistant and even upset with you and your church. The loudest critics of Rick Warren, Bill Hybels and Joel Osteen are Christians—there are very few critics from outside the church.

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