By Rev. Susan Finck Pastor, El Calvario Presbyterian Church: There are two words...
A few weeks ago, I was on a three hour car ride with my sons. One is a junior in high school and one is a sophomore. They both have their driver’s licenses, for which I am thankful, but it was nice to have a little car time with them again. About half way through the trip my older son says he has a couple of faith questions for me. I immediately thought, “Of course! I would love to talk about our faith.” Not to mention I especially love it when they instigate questions. He said to me, “How should I respond when some of my friends ask me why I am pro-life?” and “What do you say to people who think that conservative Christians hate gays?”
Wow! These were not the questions I was expecting! But what ensued was a fantastic ninety minute conversation about all of the different facets of those initial questions he asked. Both of my boys felt that they had a deeper understanding of what they believed as a result of our conversation. They also felt better equipped to have these challenging conversations with their friends – and to do so in a way that could be filled with grace and truth. I look forward to processing more conversations with them that they will no doubt have in the near future.
This conversation, combined with many conversations I have had with ECO leaders, has made me thankful for the grounding we have in ECO’s Essential Tenets. It has also helped me to think that perhaps we should desire more from our leaders than simply “Adhering, receiving, and adopting” the Essential Tenets as stated in different places in our polity. I am not suggesting a polity change or anything like that, but I know when I was a local church pastor, my goal was to make sure my leaders agreed with the core aspects of our Reformed faith. But what I am realizing now, especially with the secularization of our culture, is that our leaders need to do more than simply agree with essentials. Our elders, deacons, small group leaders, and student ministry volunteers (to name a few) need to be able to teach and dialogue with people as they wrestle through the implications of our faith.
For example, say my son had raised this question to an elder or volunteer student ministry leader in one of our churches. To what extent could those leaders help him know the scripture behind our Essentials? To what extent could that leader help my son know how to engage with friends on these controversial issues?
If our leaders are called to shepherd the flock, they need a greater skill level to help congregants develop their understanding in these difficult areas. Simply ensuring that our leaders can sign off on the Essentials is a good first step, but we are not finished with our theological training of leaders at that point. I think it is more important now than ever before to ensure that our leaders are conversant in the application of our Essentials. I encourage you to take advantage of the great resources put together by our Standing Theology Committee or simply take the opportunity in leadership training scenarios to help your leaders not just understand our theology but are able to process our convictions with those whom we lead. It will be well worth our time as we invest in disciples and leaders in our ministries, our lives, and communities. We are so grateful for your faithfulness to the Gospel and pray that as we continue to navigate such challenging times, that we rely on Jesus and seek Him daily for guidance, wisdom, counsel and comfort.