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‘The one voice who has called us by name’

Among voices of church, society, listen for voice of God, preacher tells NEXT conference

March 8, 2013

CHARLOTTE, N.C.

Like many other pastors’ kids, the Rev. Steve Eason resisted being a Christian.

When he was a freshman in college, Eason saw the play “Life of Galileo.” During the Inquisition scene, Galileo argues that earth is not the center of the universe, and Eason realized that he had been living as if he was the center of God’s universe.

The voice that calls us to ministry has its own agenda and timing, said Eason, now pastor of Myers Park Presbyterian Church here. Other voices try to drown it out, but it never yields. The voice comes from heaven and needs no explanation.

“This voice is sharp, it is brief, it is concise … It is authoritative. We just don’t hear it enough,” said Eason, speaking at NEXT Church March 4. NEXT Church is a network of leaders across the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) who provide space for hopeful conversations about the theology, culture and practice of ministry in a time of adaptive change. The group held its national gathering here March 4-5.

Other voices tell us the American church is in decline. But although we’re in an age of post-Christendom, we will never be post-Christ.

“We’ve tried to kill the church,” Eason said. “You can’t do it.”

Within the church, we hear conflicting voices all the time. We hear the voices of liberals, moderates and conservatives. We hear the voices of the broken, the wounded, the lost. We hear anxious voices and we hear faithful and trusting voices.

“It’s a noisy place, the church is,” Eason said.

But the question is: Do we hear the voice who claimed us at our baptisms?

Eason shared a bit of colloquial wisdom: When a horse dies, it’s an excellent time to dismount.

“There are some dead horses in our church,” he said, adding that some programs or ministries have served their purpose and should be let go.

But instead of dismounting, the church has other ways to deal with a “dead horse,” Eason said:

  • Buying a stronger whip
  • Appointing a task force
  • Put a memorial plaque on it
  • Name it something different
  • Rotate riders
  • Call in a pastor who is a “horse resurrector”
  • Buy cases of air freshener
  • Just ignore it

“There’s no doubt — we need creativity and we need innovation,” Eason said.

The church needs fresh air, healing, teaching and true fellowship.

“Perhaps above all else, we need to listen to the one voice who has called us by name and laid claim to our lives because if you don’t know who you are, how in the world are you gonna know what to do next?” he said.

  1. This bit of colloquial wisdom strikes a chord with me. I very recently rededicated myself to my church and I am feeling like we are trying to change to fill the pews. I hope I can hear God's words to help this happen.

    by Marci Cygan

    March 9, 2013

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