Comings and Goings is a blog written by Theology, Formation, and Evangelism 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.
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A week and a half ago I attended a portion of the Presbyterian Association of Musicians conference in Montreat, North Carolina. Over the course of two weeks, PAM offers two conferences at that location as well as another dynamic week at Mo Ranch in Texas. My time with the musicians was rich and it made me grateful for the link between PAM and the Office of Theology and Worship, which lies within my mission area.
Perhaps proving the old Presbyterian adage that you can’t get to heaven without crossing through Montreat, I ran into a friend of mine from seminary who happened to be at Montreat at the same time. He pastors a church at a nearby presbytery, and told me about a recent conversation at their presbytery about whether or not the purpose of the “General Assembly” is to help churches to thrive.
The question is a little more challenging than it appears on the surface, because the “General Assembly” might mean the legislative body that meets every two years, or it might mean the Office of the General Assembly (one of the six agencies that operate at a national level, which works to facilitate the polity of the church), or it might mean all six of the national agencies, including the Presbyterian Mission Agency, where I serve.
At the Mission Agency, we spend a lot of time and energy working to figure out how we can best help local churches to thrive. Our mission areas are organized, in fact, similarly to the way that many Sessions are organized. For instance, in my area of theology, worship, and education, we strive to support ministries which might be covered under worship and Christian education committees of a Session. Other mission areas assist with evangelism, world mission, outreach, etc.
Together our mission is to “inspire, equip, and connect the PC(USA) in its many expressions to serve Christ in the world through new and existing communities of faith, hope, love, and witness.” There was a time when the Mission Agency and its previous incarnations (the General Assembly Council or the General Assembly Mission Council) sought to do ministry on behalf of the church. A gross simplification of this model would be that churches supported the Council so that the national staff could do the ministry.
In recent years this way of thinking has been replaced by a much more effective approach. The purpose of the national staff is to “inspire, equip, and connect” churches to thrive in ministry. The reason we exist is to help support local churches to do ministry. (Of course, the Mission Agency joins other players who play critical roles in supporting local churches’ ministries—principal among these are the presbyteries.) Another gross simplification is that the local church is where the action is, and the national staff works to support churches as they join Christ’s mission to the world.
Whether we succeed in reaching our goal is a different question. I would love to hear from you about how we can support local churches’ ministries more effectively—particularly in the area of Theology, Worship, and Education. Feel free to write a comment here or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.