Stated Clerk oral report to the 37th General Assembly
I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve heard this from leaders and churches who have come to the EPC during my time as Stated Clerk: “Jeff, we are out of Egypt, we have come to the Promised Land!” I heard it again just a couple of weeks ago. Why do newcomers say that? I think there are at least four reasons.
- First, we are Reformed. We are biblical, confessional, and orthodox—but not hard-nosed or litigious.
- Second, we are Evangelical. We have a clear focus on Jesus Christ and the gospel of salvation that is found only in Him.
- Third, we are Missional. We’re committed to being outward-looking. We see our world, our country, and our community as a mission field.
- And then there is this: The way we “do church” in our presbyteries and at our General Assembly meeting. We’ve heard this many, many times: “In the EPC you like each other, you care for each other, you trust each other.”
In the EPC we’re a “relational bunch.” It’s an expression of who we are. It’s an expression of our connectionalism. We aren’t in connection just because it’s convenient, or a good idea, or tradition. We’re committed to connectionalism because its biblical.
When I think of the quality of our connection, I think of the 29 or so “one anothers” of the New Testament: welcome one another, accept one another, be kind to one another, instruct one another, be subject to one another, encourage one another, forgive one another, build up one another, encourage one another, hold one another accountable, and of course, love one another.
Some of those “one anothers” are not easy. My experience of “bearing the burden” with our brother Andrew Brunson has been one of the most painful of my life. I’ve never met Andrew, but across the last eight months I find myself in a connection with him like I’ve never experienced. I wish I was in a position to keep you current on the situation in Turkey, but I can’t. I know many of you—and thousands across the EPC—are bearing the same burden and constantly praying for Andrew and Norine. Keep it up! Do not grow weary in doing good!
It is one thing to be a relational bunch when the bunch is 182 churches. It’s another when we have more than 600. That’s change with a capital “C.” But what has not changed is how we “do church.” Here’s what’s remarkable about that: Experts in the field declare that if an organization experiences as little as 4 to 5 percent growth in a year, its culture changes, its DNA is altered, it becomes a different organization. If that’s the case, according to the experts, the EPC ceased to exist about eight years ago. But that did not happen. There is only one person we can attribute that to: our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I have represented you at the meetings of Presbyterian churches in our country and throughout the world. No one—no one—does church the way the EPC does. That’s Jesus’ gift to us. We do well to take good care—very good care—of this precious gift.
As we launch into the business of this General Assembly, let’s freely debate—even vigorously debate if we have to. Let’s also remember and celebrate the way our Lord Jesus Christ has blessed who we are: Reformed, Evangelical, Missional, and yes, Presbyterian: the way we “do church” together!