Having just returned from the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I am offering some reflections on my experience there. I am curating other post-GA commentary over at GA Help. Feel free to look around either site or offer feedback via the comments on posts since GA (moderated, so they won't post immediately).
GA220 Reflection guest post - "Making Disciples"
“Making Disciples” – the Rev. Kate Murphy
Reflections on the 220th General Assembly (2012)
After some soul-searching, I’m going to share this piece I wrote on the second day of GA. I don't write to tear down the PCUSA. This is the place God calls me to be, but I do trust God enough to tell the truth (as I see it)--because I think God is pruning and shaping us into something beautiful.
Yesterday, I worshiped at Mt. Ararat Baptist church with my friend Eustacia—and it was possibly the most powerful and authentic worship service I’ve ever experienced—the fellowship, the music, the dancing, the JOY—and the word. Rev. Curtis is an incredible preacher—but I’ve heard lots of really great preachers. What’s breath-taking is that you realize, the sermon is not the goal for him—it’s the tool, it is the means to the end—and the end is us. He’s preaching to create and deepen disciples, you can look around and see people changing, things breaking down in their hearts—in my heart. That congregation isn’t focused on being a great church (though it certainly is), and that ministry isn’t just making disciples, it’s maturing them. That community of faith teaches believers that life with Christ is not about knowing more or doing more, it’s about being more through the grace of Jesus Christ.
And I wonder, when did we in the PCUSA get the idea that there were more important things to do than make and deepen disciples? And we have—just look at what we gather to do at our big important bi-annual meeting. We don’t gather in committees to talk about evangelism, or spiritual disciplines, or stewardship, or worship—much less patience or forgiveness or love. We don’t want to be more in Christ—we want to do things in the world for God. I did not sit on the Ministry with Immigrants committee—we’re not interested in being church with strangers and ‘aliens’ in our country, we didn’t spend a second talking about that. I sat on the Immigration Affairs committee, because we’re focused on making policy, not disciples. We’re telling the world—and ourselves—what matters in the PCUSA. We’ve got more important things to do than grow deep in the grace of God. We’ve got to fix the world.
Why don’t we get that the most important work we have to do as an institution is to form the people that God sends out into the world? When did raising up and equipping the priesthood of all believers become insignificant to us? Don’t tell me we do it—we don’t even talk about doing it. And don’t tell me God does it for us without any intentionality and effort on our part. Nobody grows deep in God by accident. People whose hearts God lights on fire will go looking for a place to equip them to carry that flame out into a cold and dark world. Mt. Ararat Baptist is doing that work. And it’s not because they’re right and we’re wrong—it’s because God is equipping them to do it, because they’ve made it their primary work. I know God would equip us too—in our own way, in our own style, if only we chose it for our primary work. What if instead of writing policy papers for the US State Department, we tried to nurture and form disciples to go and be the State Department—or if we tried to be the body of Christ with and for the men and women God has already called to do that work?