How the 2018 National Gathering will help ‘strengthen the Church.’
By Rev. Ralph Hawkins, Executive Presbyter, The Presbytery of Shenango
Months ago, hurrying through a local shopping mall, I came upon two elderly women making their slower way through the moving crowd. As I approached, it was clear by their lateral embrace that one was helping the other move along. Upon passing them, I heard the (relatively) stronger friend say to her (relatively) weaker partner: “Now come on, Girdie. You’re gonna make it, girl. You got resurrection power in you!”
I had a bit more snap in my own step in the days that followed.
These are tiresome days for the American church. If not our own internal narratives about decline and irrelevance, how about all those external data points hinting at the rending of the world all around us? Even good gospel-shaped ministry can feel like one step forward in victory, then two steps back into entropy. So sang Mark Schultz, years ago:
He’s been a pastor twenty years
But tonight he sits alone and broken hearted
in the corner of the church
He tried to change a fallen world
With his words and with his wisdom
but it seems like it is only getting worse
~ I Have Been There
You would not be faulted — pastors, elders, deacons, missionaries, servants, leaders — for feeling the temptation to pull over, park yourself on a bench called Tired, and sit out the next few rounds.
Even so, O church of Jesus, servants of the Servant, hear the good news: You have resurrection power loose in you. That same eternal summons that raised our Teacher from a tired tomb is these days still on the move both within and without — “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” But sometimes it takes a shoulder to shoulder embrace, a deeply encouraging word, a singing voice in your ear, a power-filled timely prayer, or the company of sinner-saints to unmask the resurrection promise and get us moving again in Jesus’ direction.
Those are a few of the reasons to add one more matter to your already full calendar and to book a flight to Atlanta for February: to stand with sisters and brothers who get it, to hear again the good news of the resurrection from the dead, and to consider what it all might mean (again) for the broken, bored, and beleaguered world (and sometimes church) we leave at home for just a few days apart. Come for the preaching. Come for the praying. Come for the singing. Stay for the thinking. Stay for the friendships. Stay for the serenity of time away.
We in the Fellowship Community feel a deep sense of call to strengthen your soul along these lines, so that you can strengthen your church, so that it can strengthen its neighbors — all in the name of the one whose strength we share, risen as he is from our fatigue.
Until then, until February, keep on moving in ministry and mission.
Remember, Church, you’ve got the power of the Resurrection in you.