07 January 2009


Graying Presbyterian Church in East Overshoe, Pennsylvania, is a fairly typical local congregation. The church dates from the early days of the colony. It has a membership of 273 and worships about 160 on a good Sunday.

Red Painter is a newly elected first-time elder at Graying. He is not your run of the mill elder. He's a bit younger than most--in his early 40s--and conscientious. He takes the Great Commission seriously.

Last Saturday afternoon, he walked into the Gab 'n' Gobble Cafe and spotted Pastor Rex and Elder Earl Regis sitting in a back booth. Pastor Rex waved him over and asked Martha to bring a third cup of coffee.

"Just the man we were talking about," said the Pastor. Earl smiled encouragingly.

"We were talking over elder assignments for the new year. We think you would make a fine evangelism elder. What do you say?"

"Well," said Red, "to tell you the truth, I'm not sure I'm cut out for that. I thought one of the more experienced elders would get the job. You know, someone who really knows their Bible and can share the Good News without having to think about it."

"Oh, if we had someone like that, we'd be sure to ask him," said Earl. "But we don't. Our elders tend to be local businessmen who have been elected to run the church. You're a teacher and a coach. You get up in front of people all the time. It should be a piece of cake."

"You know," added Pastor Rex, "we are starting to see a decrease in membership. A lot of the older folks are headed for the sunny south. And those new folks who are building houses out here tend to be either unchurched or they gravitate to the Bible Fellowship Church out by the Turnpike entrance. No, we need to get hot and build our numbers, or in a few years, Graying will just be a pleasant memory."

"You've sure given me something to pray about. Let me talk it over with Mary and I'll let you know at church tomorrow."

That night at supper, he and his wife, Mary, talked about the conversation. It continued into the evening. As they talked, they spotted a number of red flags:

1. Graying is being run as a "business."

2. The serving ruling elders are elected for their business acumen, not their knowledge of the Word or their call to shepherd a flock.

3. At Graying, evangelism is thought of as recruiting.

4. At least someone in town is thinking Biblically about evangelism--but not Graying.

Red had pretty well decided to decline the position, but as he opened his Bible for his evening devotion, the pages slipped to Isaiah 6:8. "And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' Then I said, 'Here am I! Send me.'"

As he and Mary prayed before bed-time, he prayed for wisdom to discern whether God had a call for him.


Reformed Catholic said...

Hmmmm ... could be a case study for Stodgy Presbyterian.

Reformed Catholic said...

But the dilemma "Red" is having is much like what I went through at Stodgy Presbyterian.

I felt I was led to be on Session, and the evangelism elder, but having to fight the 'old Guard' that guards the 'traditions' is getting on my nerves.

I believe "Red" is heading into that same situation.

Kevin said...

I'm still waiting for the rest of the story. :)

Quotidian Grace said...

Great start to what looks like The Universal Story of so many Presbyterian churches.

Can't wait for the next installment!