EPC General Assembly
Greetings from Knoxville:
It is early morning and I am writing this as I prepare to leave for the opening of our first morning of business at the 34th General Assembly of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, our annual “family reunion.”
I ate lunch and caught up with Jeremy Vaccaro yesterday. I chatted with Moderator Bill Dudley as well. Again and again I was greeted by brothers and sisters whose affection and encouragement is such a blessing. It is such a stark difference from other denominational gatherings I’ve been a part of and, frankly, it brings a deep sense of delight I never expected to experience at church “business” meetings.
Yesterday was all about training. We heard from Bob Roberts whose church has planted 187 churches. As you can imagine, it was very provocative. And last night, Tim Keller, speaking from I Peter, asked if we are “Christian enough” to be both repulsive and attractive. Part of our world finds our deeply held values and beliefs repugnant while another part is irresistibly drawn to those who truly live life empowered by the Holy Spirit. Is our church both offensive and attractive?
In addition to Pastors Megan and Larry, three elders are here: Gregg Colbo, JoEllen McGrath and Art Moore. I’ve asked them to share their own brief reports.
I must confess that I was taken aback by the General Assembly today. Quite frankly, I was expecting the atmosphere to be more cold and businesslike. Boy was I wrong! From the very beginning it felt warm and homey; a lot like our sweetheart church family reunion does every Sunday. For some reason I was surprised that these folks love Jesus a lot and love each other a lot too. Just like we do.
It’s comforting and a source of encouragement to know that we are part of a denominational family that genuinely cares for each other, cares for our world and cares a lot about putting Jesus squarely at the center of it all.
Being at General Assembly offers a glimpse of the unity of our denominational community and it is a sweet view. My friends, we are part of a sweetheart denomination!
The hospitality here is outstanding… people from Knoxville and Cedar Springs PC are so friendly & helpful, with true southern charm. Also, it is great to be with our CHPC team, listening & learning together as well as meeting our denominational brothers and sisters from all over the country.
Today’s workshop with Bob Roberts on church multiplying was amazing and mind-stretching, turning upside down some common patterns of thinking about church, and I have even more excitement about directions of our own CHPC. I look forward to more inspiration as GA continues.
“Y’all” should feel great about our EPC denomination. God has placed us right where we belong.
Day 1 here at Knoxville affirmed to us that God is saying the same thing to many churches and leaders far beyond Chapel Hill. I heard a lot of amens, mixed with a bit of wonder, from our Gig Harbor gang as Bob Roberts—a Dallas pastor with a Baptist heritage, who has planted 185 churches—talked about cultivating a kingdom-focused, mission-driven, transformational body of disciple-makers who practice, in his words, “up, in and out.” We capped the day with one of my favorite preachers, Tim Keller, reminding us that this world is not our home and that our life is a journey to our eternal home, with God. But we also are not “tourists” here. God has put us here as “resident aliens,” inviting us to participate in his grand purpose.
Let me sum up by repeating myself: our move into the Evangelical Presbyterian Church will go down as one of the single most important decisions we ever made. We are in such a good place… and God is at work in our extended EPC family. We’ll see you Sunday!
p.s. This Sunday I will be preaching on “Sidelined,” speaking to those who long to work but cannot, for some reason. Boy, has that topic struck a nerve! And by the way, we have received 60 “Great Work” cards, nominating local workers for recognition on June 29. It is not too late for you to make your own nomination.