I love being an elder! Along with being a husband and father, it’s a calling that’s given my life purpose and definition. This is even more true as I seek to glorify and follow Jesus in this new role of Moderator of the Presbytery of Florida.
It was over eight years ago when a friend from Memorial Presbyterian Church of West Palm Beach invited me to lunch. I expected our usual conversation about family and work, but instead he asked if I would consider becoming an elder. My wife and I were fairly new members of Memorial so this was a surprise. Yet the timing was right, since by this time I’d become convinced that the Presbyterian form of church government was not only wise, but it most closely reflected the model seen in the New Testament. Despite having seen the good, the bad and the ugly of Presbyterianism since, I’m still convinced.
A little about me…I was born in Ft. Wayne, Indiana and spent my early years there. I’m very thankful to have been raised in a Christian home where I was taught that the Bible was God’s word and that I was a sinner in need of the salvation that only Jesus can bring. As a youngster we moved to South Florida and I’ve been here ever since. As happens with many who grow up in the church, I turned away from Christ and his church for much of my early adult life. This was a dark period on many levels, but I’m grateful for a mother who was faithful in prayer, and a God who continued to pursue me even as I served my own agenda. Throughout this period I continued to be an avid reader. A watershed moment was reading “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. This book engaged my head and my heart and started me on a journey of rediscovery that led me back to the church.
My wife Shannon is a native of Scranton, Pennsylvania. We met through the miracle of online dating and were married in 2004. Shortly after that we got involved with a PCA church plant. Serving and worshiping in this context taught us to relate to the local church not as religious consumers, but as covenant members of a family of faith. Also during this time I fell in love with the riches of Reformed theology via the writings of Luther, Calvin and many more.
Flash forward to 2016 and I find myself serving as the third moderator for the Presbytery of Florida. We are twenty congregations from Jacksonville in the north to the Florida Keys in the south, from Boca Raton on the east coast to Punta Gorda on the west coast. As one who’s been involved in this presbytery from the beginning, it’s been neat to watch God knit together a diverse group of churches, not simply as an organization, but as a ministry partnership. MAG groups are formed, church planting networks are springing up, and initiatives to train cadres of commissioned lay pastors are in the planning stage. Undergirding it all is a grass-roots movement of presbytery prayer teams in keeping with the great quote from Oswald Chambers: “Prayer does not equip us for greater works – prayer is the greater work.”
At our January national gathering, Dana Allin challenged us to become a gospel movement, not merely a denomination. This is my desire as moderator and our desire as a presbytery. We long to see great numbers of our “unchurched” and “de-churched” neighbors experiencing new life in Christ. We long to see – in Tim Keller’s words – “sleepy Christians waking up” and “nominal Christians getting converted.” We long to see barriers of race and ethnicity broken down as believers rediscover the gospel in all its fullness. We long to see congregations preoccupied with multiplication instead of maintenance. We long to see pastors and laypeople setting aside denominational differences to form partnerships that bless our communities. These are audacious desires, but if you look closely you can see these things happening already. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.