Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Name one thing that our denomination is doing right these days? I have a new answer to this question: CREDO. I was blessed by the opportunity to participate in a weeklong CREDO program from November 12 to 19, 2007. CREDO is sponsored by our Board of Pensions. We met at a retreat and conference center outside Orlando, Florida. Thus my CREDO week was additionally blessed by this marvelous setting and the fabulous Florida sunshine. The week I attended was for Presbytery executives from across the church. Thus the CREDO faculty had to tweak the program a bit for us since it is typically offered to groups of our pastors who are serving churches.
The Bible passage which guided our week together is taken from the wonderful story in Luke 5 about the miraculous catch of fish. Jesus, surrounded by crowds of people, steps into Peter’s fishing boat and floats off from shore a bit in order to teach the people. After his teaching, Jesus asks Peter to take his boat back out into the deep water and cast down his nets again. Peter complains that he is done fishing for the day since there were no fish to catch but he agrees to Jesus’ request to try again. Of course, we know the story. The fishing nets overflow with the large catch of fish. Peter must call his friends to help him gather the burdened nets into their boats. The boats are close to capsizing from the tremendous weight of all the fish. This miraculous catch of fish is a revelatory moment for Peter. Peter falls to his knees in confession and praise. From then on Peter is next to Jesus as one of the leading disciples. Using the idea of “deep” in a spiritual and metaphorical sense, the key verse for our CREDO week was Luke 5: 4. “”Launch out into the deep” (KJV).
CREDO is about the spiritual task of casting out into the deep waters again. CREDO is an opportunity, through a wonderful rhythm of teaching, sharing and worship, to discover again the power of God’s call on our life. CREDO is an effort by our Board of Pensions to contribute to the health, vitality and effectiveness of our clergy by connecting us again with an authentic and deep call to ministry and abundant life. The program and the format which has been created for this effort are excellent.
The CREDO program systematically helps each participant to evaluate and renew their ministry by focusing on four interrelated and vital components: the spiritual, vocational, financial and health aspects of our lives. CREDO requires an enormous amount of preparation at home in advance. This preparation includes a physical examination (provided free by the Board of Pensions for those over 50 years old), an online Mayo Clinic Health Assessment (available to all Board of Pensions members at their website), a comprehensive vocational assessment including input from a group of peers whom you invite, some tools to analyze your financial situation with your spouse, and a list of reflection and writing exercises. With all of this preparation completed leading up to the program week itself, there was already a lot of energy and spiritual investment in CREDO before our week together started.
Through a very nice, relaxed schedule of plenary sessions, individual consultations, quiet time and worship my CREDO week connected me again with the powerful movement of God’s Holy Spirit in my heart, family and work. CREDO helped me bring all the disparate pieces of my life into order again, God’s order. CREDO allowed me to revisit the holy place of my call to ministry with a new freshness and a powerful sense of renewal. My CREDO plan, which is the intended result of the program, is real and concrete. My plan will have a lasting effect on my life and ministry, connecting me God’s purpose and call for my life.
Our Board of Pensions is expecting to expand the CREDO program in our church. Pastors will be randomly selected from across the denomination to participate. If you are a pastor and you receive an invitation to a CREDO program, please participate. I am confident that you will be as richly blessed as I was.
Quoted here is the CREDO mission statement taken from their website:
The mission of CREDO is to provide opportunities for clergy to examine significant areas of their lives and to discern prayerfully the future direction of their vocation as they respond to God’s call in a lifelong process of practice and transformation.

Models of Mission

Models of Mission

Consider these two models of mission. These are actual descriptions of mission work which Presbyterians are doing today in Honduras. Comparing these two models helps us articulate some foundational questions for the church today.

Model A:
A group of six Presbyterian congregations have formed a Foundation for the purpose of building and sustaining a medical clinic in rural Honduras. The leaders of this effort have begun a fundraising campaign to raise $500,000. Thus far they have recruited a Honduran medical doctor who is now employed by their Foundation. The Foundation has also purchased a piece of property in rural Honduras on which they intend to build their medical clinic. When the building is finished and with the medical doctor and medical staff on site, comprehensive medical care will be provided for a large, rural area. This medical mission does not have a relationship with any Honduran churches.

Model B:
A group of about thirty Presbyterian congregations, in three different presbyteries, have formed a partnership with the Presbytery of Honduras. An important purpose behind this mission is to encourage the twenty congregations in the Presbytery of Honduras to function together as a presbytery. In this mission the American Presbyterians only respond to needs in Honduras which are articulated and prioritized by the Presbytery of Honduras. The Presbytery of Honduras has proposed several different avenues of ministry which our American churches can support. These include support for medical clinics which are provided in each of their congregations with a Honduran medical doctor who is employed by the Presbytery of Honduras. This partnership also includes construction projects which are defined and proposed by the Presbytery of Honduras. The construction of church buildings and Sunday school buildings within the Presbytery of Honduras are always carried out with both Americans and Hondurans working together. The Honduran and American Presbyterians are also exploring plans to build a cooperative relationship with Habitat for Humanity Honduras, provide youth conferences for American and Honduran youth together and provide a scholarship program for Presbyterian high school students in Honduras.

In this new era of Christianity in America, the difference between these two models of mission is important. Which model for mission is appropriate for times like these? Of these two models, I am very involved with Model B. I am working to create a partnership between our Presbytery and the Presbytery of Honduras. My hope is to create a mutual relationship between our presbyteries which is beneficial to both. Most of all I hope to create close, personal relationships between American church leaders and Honduran church leaders so that we are both equipped for ministry. Eventually, I hope this partnership will lead to sister-to-sister church relationships within our presbyteries. While I was in Honduras recently, the leaders of the Foundation I described as Model A were also staying in the hotel with us. Thus I learned about their important ministry during informal conversation during our stay at the hotel.

In my mind the difference between these two models of mission is striking. Model A may be described as doing mission by helping others. Model B may be described as doing mission by building relationships. It is vital for us who are called to build mission-shaped and mission-driven churches to ground our work in serious theological reflection. Listed here are some of the questions I have pondered as I respond to the call of Christ to do mission:

Should we be engaged in any mission work which is not boldly and directly evangelical? Are efforts to help people and improve society appropriate expressions of mission if they do not intentionally include the proclamation of Jesus Christ?

Should we be creating expressions of mission service which will always depend on American resources – money and people – for continuation? What are the long term consequences of creating mission projects that are completely dependent on American money?

Should we be engaged in any mission work that is not intentionally connected with local churches in the host country as partners and colleagues?

How do we solve the dilemma of mission as vacation? Many of the American Presbyterians who are actively involved in mission work today do so as expressions of their personal vacation time. Of course, this is a noble contribution of time and money. But what is the difference between tourism and mission work? Should we encourage or discourage mission trips as tourism?