One of the pleasant side effects of our unexpected summer in the States is that I was able to attend my denomination’s General Assembly, a yearly gathering of all our pastors and elders. Or, as I like to call it, PCA nerd camp.
GA has it all: Motions. Substitute motions. Points of order. An exhibitors’ hall with swag. If for some reason that doesn’t do it for you, there’s also seeing old friends, singing “A Mighty Fortress” with 1000 other dudes, and good restaurants within walking distance.
There is plenty of boring minutiae. (Did you pick that up in the last paragraph? I was being subtle.) And yes, we Reformed guys do like to debate, on some things others don’t think are worth debating. Of the two hot topics this year, neither vote went the way I wanted. But overall it’s great. Some of my favorite moments from this year.
- I went to a seminar on ministering to people with same-sex attraction (put on by Harvest USA, which is a great org). I sat near the front, and at the end glanced back behind me. There were about 30-50 of us– largely uncool middle-aged pastors and lay leaders, most of whom do not pastor edgy urban churches where you’d expect to hear this topic. Middle-aged suburban conservative evangelicals: This was a crowd of people who, according to everything you hear in the New York Times, should absolutely detest homosexuals and anything having to do with them. And yet there we were, learning how to reach out to them with the love of Jesus.
- Our denomination is overwhelmingly white, but we’re trying to do a better job of reaching all cultures. At one lunch I heard from an African American brother, reporting on our growing number of black and multi-ethnic churches. “After 30 years in this denomination,” he said, “I no longer feel alone.” We also have a growing outreach to Hispanic communities, and 2 churches made up mostly of Native Americans, one of which is led by a Native American pastor. And again, all the upper-middle-class white folks are thrilled with this. Eager for it.
- Lots of little overheard conversations: An older pastor encouraging a younger guy who’s looking for a job. Not giving him political tips, but reminding him to be himself, speak humbly but boldly, and trust that God has a place for him. An Iraq veteran who worked at the convention center talking to one of our Navy chaplains, who went into counseling mode when the guy brought up something personal. Several pastors who saw Prague on my name tag and were excited to hear about the growth of the church there.
My denomination is one small corner of the household of God. We certainly don’t get everything right, and we have our own sinful tendencies. We’re a family with issues, like everyone else. But I was grateful to spend a few days with a thousand other ordinary pastors who love God and his church. Most of us will never be famous or noteworthy, but Jesus sees, and he loves us. May that be enough for us.