How the 2018 National Gathering will help us ‘find unity in Christ.’
By Rev. Donna Marsh, National Presbyterian Church
Every time I think Facebook might go back to being a happy place, along comes the latest cultural explosion to dash my hopes of good humored distraction. I’m sometimes amazed by the things “friends”—especially Christian friends–say to each other and about each other. And yet, I keep reading and listening, because in the middle of the cacophony come wise, thoughtful voices that I want to hear. Many of those voices belong to pastors and leaders I’ve met through the Fellowship Community. I can’t wait to come together as a community with them (and with you, I hope!) this coming February.
One reason to come together is that despite my desire to be distracted, there are important things we need to talk about—as a Church and as a society. Behind the stormy debates are people. People in pain, people living in a broken world, people who sin (that would be all of us), people who want to follow Jesus but sometimes struggle to keep their heads above water. In short, people in need of the Gospel.
As pastors and church leaders, we need to hear the Gospel and we need to share the Gospel. We need to delve into what the Gospel means when we are leading congregations and communities in these troubled and divided times. We need to be deeply formed by Scripture and solid theology. We need to come together with Jesus at the center. This is what discipleship in divided times requires.
Finding unity in Christ might sound like an abstract, pat answer to the struggles and questions we face as leaders, but it is as difficult as it is essential. It’s easy to say that we should be reconciled to one another because we are reconciled to God in Jesus Christ. It is much harder to live into that biblical belief. How do we claim our identity first and foremost in Jesus Christ, and yet acknowledge other aspects of identity that truly shape how people experience daily life? How do we show a troubled world what the Kingdom of God looks like? How do we lift up that which honors God, and live with that which does not? How do we stay grounded in Scripture enough to know the difference? How do we teach our people to walk this line?
I don’t know all the answers to those questions. But I do know that I will come closest to them when I pray and worship and study God’s Word in trusted community.
Sure, I’m coming to the Fellowship Community National Gathering to see my friends, to get some support, to hear some new ideas and best practices, and to make fresh contacts and connections. But most of all, I’m coming to be part of a wider trusted community, where I know every question and every answer will be shaped by a unified, unifying commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.