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.
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This past weekend I was in Charlotte to preach for my former pastor Shawn Barkley’s installation at Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church north of Charlotte. It was so joyous as the congregation welcomed him, even though it made me miss his ministry back in Louisville. I also had a great opportunity to get a tour of Myers Park Church’s beautiful facilities, and spent time with the pastor of Hopewell Church and members and former staff members of First Pres. All of these conversations were so rich!
The part of my visit which most impacted me, however, was my time at the office of the Presbytery of Charlotte, where Betty Meadows has recently become Transitional General Presbyter. Like many presbyteries, the staff in the office has been reduced sharply in recent months. While not too long ago there were around ten employees, now there are three. Betty’s tour consisted mostly of looking at empty offices and boxes getting filled as they move into cheaper quarters at a local congregation.
After the tour, Betty said words that I’m not likely to forget any time soon: “Here in Charlotte, we hardly have any money, and we hardly have any staff, but we can dream dreams, and we can have great ministry.” It reminded me of Peter’s Pentecost citation of Joel’s prophecy that on the day of the Lord,
‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.”
In a time of declining resources for many churches and presbyteries and the Presbyterian Mission Agency, we often bemoan the lack of staff and finances in order to do the ministry that we once undertook. We forget that Peter does not say that God will pour out money upon all flesh. He does not say that God will pour out extra staff members upon all flesh. Peter reminds us that God will pour out the Spirit upon all flesh, so that people dream dreams and have visions.
Betty’s hopefulness about the rich ministry that can happen in Charlotte despite reductions in staff and money challenged me to stop being a functional atheist in such things—proclaiming God with what I say, but thinking that it is all up to our human efforts and resources to determine whether our ministries thrive or fail. The Spirit blows where it will. “I am who I am,” says the Lord of Hosts. Without a vision, the people perish. Jesus’ work in the world does not depend on our money or staff. For this grace, we act in gratitude, dreaming dreams and joining Christ’s mission.