Foundation For Relationships: A Story of a Colorado Mission Affinity Group
By Travis Fletcher, Associate Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Grand Junction, CO.
Focusing on our common mission
Our Mission Affinity Group came together largely because of long-term relationships built on trust, accountability, and mutual respect. One of the things I love about being connected to the Fellowship of Presbyterians is the renewed emphases placed on these critical elements of pastoral ministry. Our MAG’s ability to come together last spring sprouted from similar soil as the Fellowship itself: a devoted, transparent group of pastors who gather together regularly for the sake of Christ.
As we’ve all experienced in adult life, rich relationships rarely fall together organically. The problem of sin in our world includes isolation and fear, and pastors and ministry leaders are not exempt from this reality. Overcoming it means putting Christ first, taking ourselves and our schedules less seriously, and focusing on the importance of our Reformed ecclesiology:
we simply cannot be the people of God all by ourselves.
My senior pastor has been in a covenant group for nearly 10 years with 7-10 other senior pastors here in Colorado. All serve Presbyterian congregations of various sizes, all are committed to the mission of Christ, and all know how important it is to be able to gather with other leaders, let your guard down, and be honest about the struggles and joys of ministry. Because these pastors have met together several times a year for many years, our congregations and ministry leaders know about each other and know that none of us are alone in our journey.
Our Mission Affinity Group met last April at St. James Presbyterian in Littleton, CO for a full Saturday of fellowship, connecting, and worship. We arrived in the morning and were welcomed enthusiastically by our host church. We then split into various sub-groups for the rest of the day. Pastors, staff, elders, and church leaders all met together to discuss their shared areas of ministry: mission, students, children, outreach, and facilities. I was grateful to meet with like-minded associate pastors from a wide variety of ministry settings, all with a shared commitment to Christ-centered mission and ministry. Our groups gathered back together for worship several times during the day. Our final worship session included a very special visitor: Dr. Richard Mouw, former president of Fuller Seminary, who discussed faithfulness to Christ in a rapidly-changing culture, then led us in celebrating the Lord’s Supper together.
Building Mission Affinity Groups on pre-existing relationships of trust is an ideal situation, and I recognize that not every group of Fellowship churches has this trait. Still, our gathering was a success because we focused on the common mission we share together through the Fellowship: to build flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ. Having Dr. Mouw spend time with us was a great gift. Each Session also committed to bringing enough leaders that we could achieve ‘critical mass,’ which was a very important step to take together. Remember as well that we’re in this ‘covenanted order’ for the long haul, and patience will bear fruit.
Our MAG will meet together again this fall, and I think we’re all looking forward to it.