Comings and Goings is a blog written by Theology, Worship and Education Director Charles B. "Chip" Hardwick as he travels throughout the church. God is on the move out and about in the world, working to redeem all things in Jesus Christ. As we join this mission, by the power of the Spirit we see God on the move. This blog contains glimpses of how Chip finds this to be true in his comings and goings.
You can follow Chip on twitter (@chiphardwick) or find him on Facebook (Chip Hardwick).
Last week I had the chance to visit the annual conference for the Fellowship of Presbyterians in San Diego. During this gathering I was reminded that Philippians 1:6 is no doubt true: “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” This passage has meant a lot to me since my youth pastor, Greg Anderson, wrote it in my 9th grade yearbook the spring after I had put my faith in Christ.
The reason that this scripture came up was because not only was Greg at the conference, but so was Doug Nason (pictured left), the pastor who preached at the Jr. High retreat back in March of 1981, when I became a Christian. The truths he preached all the way back then—that we can receive joy by loving yourself, loving others, and loving Jesus—still hold true today. I praise God that life has changed so much since ninth grade—and my faith has been challenged and stretched and nurtured all along the way. Jesus began a good work in me back then, and he is still working to bring it to completion.
The scripture also came to mind because another fantastic mentor of mine was also at the conference, Scott Weimer. Scott is the pastor of North Avenue Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, where I served from 1999-2003. I was right out of seminary and had so much to learn about ministry. Scott didn’t yell when I dropped an entire tray of communion bread on the ground. Not only did he help me fall in love with being a pastor, but he encouraged me to pursue my dream of a Ph.D. in homiletics. More than anything else, he was Jesus’ instrument, helping to bring my faith and my calling some more steps closer to completion.
I’m old enough now where I get to see others moving along this path. It was so thrilling to me to see another North Avenue pastor, Jeff Meyers, preach a tour de force of the Gospel at the conference. He exhorted us to put loving others ahead of being right, and both theologically and rhetorically it was the best sermon I’ve heard in years. What I especially loved about it is that I heard echoes of Scott’s preaching in it as well—meaning that Jesus has also been using Scott to bring Jeff closer and closer to completion in his journey of faith and vocation.
I also got to see one of my favorite students and friends from Princeton Seminary, Jourdan Turner. She was in an introduction to preaching class, and her gifts for teaching and ministry were so evident. At that time, however, she was in a denomination which does not affirm the gifts of women in ministry. I finally told her that we Presbyterians needed her, because her preaching was so strong that it demanded to be heard. Years later, Jourdan is now in the ordination process for the Presbyterian Church (USA), and is serving faithfully at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. I’m grateful to see that in some very small way, Jesus might have used my encouragement to move her one baby step closer to completion in her vocational journey.
Needless to say, you don’t need to be in full-time ministry in order to help start someone’s spiritual journey, or to be used by Christ to move them another step toward completion. Who has helped you along the way? More importantly, whom can you reach out to, to begin or move further along their journey?
I don’t think I’ve ever been as inspired at a conference than I was earlier this week at the 1001 New Worshiping Communities conference in St. Petersburg Beach, FL. Almost three hundred church leaders gathered for mutual encouragement, teaching, and worship. One of the impressive teachers was Elizabeth Conde-Frazier, dean of Esperanza College at Eastern University. She challenged us to remember that millennials are often convinced of the authority of scripture based on the difference that Jesus’ words make in Christians’ lives. In this blog post I want to highlight a few people I met who are living out these words powerfully.
Yesterday morning’s Bible study was on the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16). This passage is one of my favorites, and I opened the study the same way I have before: share your name and a time that you have been treated unfairly.
As soon as the first one or two people began to share, I realized that this would be going in a very different direction than my earlier studies, where all of the participants have been upper-middle class whites. Here, God brought together an amazing array of people: immigrants from Haiti and several African countries, a Latina pastor from the northeast, a couple of African Americans, and less than a handful of whites.
My colleague Michelle wanted to encourage the women at the Presbyterian Women's Conference to do some theology—that is, to write something they like about God on a beach ball, with a sharpie. The globe was getting filled up with statements like “God keeps me SANE!” to “God loves the whole world, even me,” from “God sees everyone as equals” to “God sent Jesus to save us.” It was really inspiring to see what these dedicated churchwomen appreciated about God’s love for us. One woman, however, had nothing to write.
During last week's visit to the University of Tennessee to plan for the Big Tent conference, I had the chance to remember. It started with one of the conference planners, a young man who mentioned in passing that God is sovereign! If that isn’t an invitation for a Presbyterian to start asking questions, I don’t know what else would be! As we talked he told me about his Baptist church and youth pastor, and soon his story merged with my own high school experience.