Crossposted from our friends at ECO Synod and our Synod Executive, Dana Allin:
This Sunday is Epiphany, the last day of the Christmas season. On Epiphany, we celebrate the miraculous appearance of Jesus to the Gentiles, who were represented first by the Magi. Throughout the rest of the gospels and New Testament we see Jesus bring peace and joy to both expected and unexpected places.
In Ephesians 2:14, Paul reminds us that, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility”.
As I see news reports about the events on Capitol Hill, I am heartbroken. I am heartbroken to see that even within an hour of news coverage, people have been fighting on social media and making over-generalizations about one another. The country is continuing in the pattern of polarization that could tear us apart. I am saddened and deeply concerned.
I long for the epiphany of the Lord to come again in powerful ways that tear down the dividing wall of hostility that we face in our country, and unfortunately even in our churches. I know that we need to do even more than pray, but we need to start with prayer and fasting. Let’s humble ourselves before our Lord as we pray and ask for healing for our nation.
I encourage our leaders to do the following:
- Call our congregations to prayer and fasting this Friday January 8th. Pray in general for our nation. Even when this standoff ends, we still live in a deeply divided country. Pray for healing. Pray that in the midst of a divided country there would be an openness for a gospel revival that would sweep our country. Pray for specific situations in your local community that need healing.
- I also encourage you to use the document called “For the Health of the Nation”. This is an excellent document created by the National Association of Evangelicals. Oftentimes as evangelicals we assume that engaging in the civic life of our country is something that only the progressive wing of the church does. What I like about what the NAE has put together is that it is solid biblically and addresses the issues from a biblical/evangelical/gospel-centered perspective. The website also provides discussion and reflection questions that can help congregations think about how to engage with topics that they have often ignored.
Situations like today feel full of grief, sadness, and hopelessness. But the Lord continually reminds me of his power, his love for creation, and his ability to shine into the darkness with the promise that the darkness will not overcome. Know that we are praying for you as you lead your local church, trusting that God will work powerfully in and through you as you serve those in your local communities with the transforming love and grace of Jesus.
Our gathering in North Augusta brought many of our congregations leaders together to celebrate the ongoing work of ministry in our different areas. David Bailey (from Arrabon, https://arrabon.com) challenged us to look beyond the norms and expectations of society to be a true reconciling community.
Recommended resource: Episode 33 of the Table Leadership
Our April 2018 gathering of the Presbytery included a special time of worship, fellowship and being challenged together on how to be “flourishing churches.” Rev. Lisa Johnson provided some context in this discussion for us by quoting Neil Hudson who said that a flourishing disciple is “someone who is learning to live the way of Jesus in their context in this moment.” In short, our work is helping the church (and her disciples) carry the “way of Jesus” wherever they go and in whatever they do. Lisa reminded us that 10% of our time, we are the “gathered church”. It’s the purpose of that in-gathering that fuels what happens when we leave.
“We are gathered, to be scattered.”
Each of our congregations is on a journey to learn how to develop flourishing disciples. Our hope is that our times of gathering as a Presbytery will be healthy confidence-building, mission-clarifying, and conviction-deepening. After all (to quote Lisa one last time), “making whole-life missionary disciples is the core vocation of the church.”
Thanks again to the Rock Presbyterian Church in Greenwood, SC, and all her volunteers who made this a special gathering for us all!
18 congregations were represented in our first Presbytery of SC meeting. The agenda’s objective was simply to launch well. And so we have!