*picture taken from Pittsburgh Presbytery website.
Yesterday I made my way to the Pittsburgh Presbytery office for our 2017 ACT retreat. ACT stands for Administrative Commission for Transformation. It is a commission of the Pittsburgh Presbytery. Which is a fancy way of saying that presbytery tasked us with carrying out the work of transforming under-resourced worshipping communities.
In the past, ACT was mainly a grant basing commission. People asked us for money, and we voted on whether or not to approve their requests. But over the last couple of years, ACT members wondered if God might have more for our commission. At our retreat we met to discern if God might be inviting us to move in the direction of partnerships, instead of just awarding money.
Here are some of the areas we identified as good places to foster partnerships:
1. Media/Worship/Music- We identified that vibrant worship is essential to our life together. The problem is that under-resourced communities frequently lack people who know how to run a sound system, play guitar, or lead the congregation in song. We would like to put together a team of people who can educate pastoral and lay leadership on the best practices of Christian worship.
2. Community Partnerships- We identified that thriving churches invest in mission, particularly mission with their communities. By "communities" we mean people who live in our neighborhoods, no just people who attend our church. How can we be the church for the people living in our communities? What community partnerships would help us live into our missional identity?
3. Church Partnerships- We identified that one concrete way churches can participate in the mission of God is by partnering with each other. Here in Pittsburgh Presbytery we've got the great problem of having a lot of churches in our presbytery. Some are large and thriving. Many are small and struggling. Why not encourage the small and struggling churches to partner with each other, or with large and thriving churches?
I am very excited about the possibility of these partnerships. It changes the narrative from scarcity to abundance. Or from "our church is small and has no money" to "what resources does our church already possess, and how might we creatively use these resources for the glory of God?"
It was good to meet with other pastors in our presbytery who are thinking through the same questions we are here at Mt. Nebo. Who are proposing creative solutions for changing the narrative from scarcity to abundance. Who are actively seeking God's will in the midst of a new (and exciting, and scary) moment in the history of our church.
We closed our time together with Matthew 24:37-40 to remind us what is at stake in the work we do:
Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee? And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'
I am grateful to serve a presbytery that takes its call to serve the least of these seriously. That looks towards the future of our churches with hope. Please keep our presbytery, and specifically the work of ACT in your prayers. As we try to remain faithful to the great task set before us.