It was my joy to be part of the service of
coronation installation of my friends Meg and Jarrett McLaughlin as co-pastors of Burke Presbyterian Church, where I served for 6 1/2 years as an associate pastor. It was an amazing day---I thought the building was going to levitate off its foundation, the energy was so high.
I was asked to give the "charge to the congregation." For BPC members and friends of Meg and Jarrett who couldn't attend, or anyone who just wants a glimpse of Presbyterian inside baseball, here it is:
Of all the lasting memories of my time at BPC, the overarching theme, the thing I tell other people when describing you all, is that this is a congregation that says Yes.
There is a permission-granting spirit to this congregation, a sense of adventure and a willingness to try something new. It's all-too-rare and it's wonderful.
The tagline of this congregation has long been "for behold, I am doing a new thing." But BPC is not a new church any more.
The tagline may still work for you. Or you may find, with new leadership and a new chapter, that it doesn't fit anymore. But I'm sure you're not interested in getting dull and stodgy either!
So, at the risk of turning this into a long-range planning meeting, I humbly invite you to consider the "spirit of Yes" as an image that might drive you in this new chapter. "Yes" is exciting, it's inviting, and it's biblical: God is constantly defeating the powers of death and gloom with a life-giving Yes. Jesus' life, death and resurrection are the ultimate Yes that is bigger than any No the world may dish out.
And it's this spirit of "Yes" that I charge you to bring to your relationship with Meg and Jarrett, these good friends of mine who have said yes to being your pastors.
Here are three quick ways to think about that spirit of Yes.
1. Make sure you're saying Yes to the right things. A spirit of Yes doesn't mean you do everything. Yes doesn't mean adding more and more to an already overstuffed schedule, or hopping on board with every ministry fad. It's about saying Yes to being the church God has called you to be. Keep your eye on that goal, always.
And help Meg and Jarrett stay focused on the right things, too. Did you know that in scripture, the job description of pastor has only one bullet point? The pastor's job, according to scripture, is to equip the saints for ministry. That's it. Their job is not primarily to serve your needs. Yes, they will love you and care for you. But their job is to give you support, formation and love so you can be Christ's hands, feet and hearts in your community. Help them stay focused on that Yes, and everything else will fall into place.
2. There is a No within Yes. You can't pursue God's Yes without also saying No. Meg and Jarrett need time away from ministry. They will go on vacation. They will need to tend to one another and their family and friends. And as a member of their preaching group---and there are four of us here today---we expect to see them any time they are not gestating babies! (Meg and Jarrett are expecting twins this spring.)
And who knows---there may come a time that the ministry you love needs to be downsized or even eliminated.
Trust that Meg and Jarrett, and any of us in church leadership, whether teaching elders or ruling elders, sometimes have to say No in service to a larger Yes. We don't always do this perfectly, of course. But a spirit of Yes means that the gospel of Jesus Christ is more expansive than any one program or ministry---it's bigger than any of us can imagine.
And 3. A joyful Yes is the only Yes worth saying. Grudging obligation is not in the spirit of Yes. You all excel at joyful Yeses, but it bears repeating anyway. A current favorite quote of mine comes from Howard Thurman and speaks to this joyful Yes:
Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
It will be exciting to see you all come alive together. Congratulations, and may God continue to bless this fine congregation.