The opening plenary/worship has concluded, and I've been spending lots of time connecting with friends across the country. There's a magnificent spirit about this place, for most of the folks are on the same page. We know what we mean when we talk about Jesus as our saviour.
The sticking memory from opening worship was Vic Pentz' vision casting for the PGF -- he reminded us that the denominational structure is stuck in the 1950's and we're in the 21st century. It was a "Who moved my cheese" kind of message. But the critical point was his assertion that we need to view ourselves like Elijah on Mt. Carmel -- not in the sense that we're burning up the prophets of Ba'al -- but rather in the sense that we're surrounded by people watching and waiting for us to show that God is in our midst....
And the way to do it, Vic said, is for us to crawl on the altar and become living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). We let the fire fall and consume us. We need to sacrifice our lethargy, our empire building, and our little games. We need to be people lit on fire with the excitement and the passion for the mission of the living God rather than people gnashing our teeth over why our church is dying.
Then we heard two testimonies from Chinese students who became Christians through North Avenue church's Literacy and evangelism outreach -- and those two students were on fire for reaching out beyond themselves.
Finally Steve Hayner led us through a 2000 year tour of history, showing us how the western church became concerned with preserving an institution that waited for people to show -- and we lost out that our God has called us to be on mission. He reminded us that global churches see the church as focusing on God's mission out there in the world rather than care and maintenance of the clubhouse. Growing churches see their pastors as equippers and trainers rather than as chaplains (and pastors realize it's not about their little empire building, but about helping the people discern their calling and get equipped for that calling).
The spirit of the conversation is hopeful and positive. I believe something new might be birthed here -- a new way of being presbyterian and connectional that may well reform the denomination from within.
I have heard it said that families of cancer patients need to establish a "cancer free" zone -- a time when the family can be a family without talking about the disease. The danger is that the family will let the disease define them -- and they need to be reminded that they are so much more than that which is challenging them. That has been the case in our denomination. This PGF will allow evangelicals to no longer be defined by againstness -- we won't be defined by the disease in our denomination -- we will be defined by our relationship with the Living God who calls us and sends us.
Hallelujah! More to come tomorrow afternoon.
Soli Deo Gloria