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Big Church

By Dan Baumgartner on
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Oct 27 in Musings
October 2017, San Diego, California. Outside of the downtown First Presbyterian Church, much like in Hollywood, the noise of a nearby freeway never wavers and the presence of homeless friends on the nearby streets is noticeable. Inside the church, two dozen Presbyterian pastors sit in a large circle. I am one of them. There are both men and women, the youngest around 30 years old and the most senior 70-something. They represent large, medium and small churches around the country- downtown urban ones like ours, tiny rural congregations near Appalachia, various sizes from Midwest rustbelt towns and large suburban communities.
Some in the group already know each other, but there are many new faces. The common thread is that we all belong to The Fellowship Community.  TFC is a group of evangelical pastors, elders and churches who remain in the PCUSA denomination- like our church.  And when I say “evangelical,” I am not talking political groups. I use the word to reference a theological viewpoint that emphasizes the saving relationship available with God in Jesus Christ, and our call to invite people into that. Historically, evangelical Christians have held to a high view of scripture, the outward focus of Kingdom living and a determination to care for people in need.

Each pastor in the circle takes a few minutes to introduce ourselves and our churches. We talk about families, locales and congregations. We share something exciting going on in ministry, and also something that keeps us awake at night.  Listening to all these stories over an hour and a half is...exhilarating. I am moved. I hear about new church planting initiatives, ministry to immigrants, joining worship styles to deepen community, dealing with opioid addictions, building trust with local schools, partnering with city agencies to serve people- it is all happening. All over the country. People are coming to faith in Christ, engaging culture without being swallowed up by it, partnering across racial boundaries, creating fresh artistic endeavors and launching missional outreach experiments.

There are two take-aways for me. First, these leaders represent congregations deeply rooted in Jesus Christ. The commitment to the gospel is palpable and contagious. It’s why we want to be part of a network of like-minded congregations. Second, I can’t help but think- we in Hollywood are not alone!  Sometimes in a turbulent world we feel isolated and small. The good news, and the news I was reminded of again in San Diego is: the church of Jesus is a big, big church! Thank God.
See you soon,
            Pastor Dan

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