Faithful Mission: Go Disciple Live
A bimonthly online column by Linda Valentine
At this year’s General Assembly, we were called to “abound in hope.” I do.
Every day I am inspired and encouraged by the transformational leaders whom God is raising up for Christ’s mission. I am especially hopeful—and grateful—for those men and women with a heart for the local church. Bold, risk-taking pastors like Rev. Edwin Gonzalez-Gertz, who says that his midlife crisis was a gift to the church.
In fact, you might say it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
At the age of 40, Edwin sensed that God was calling him to the pulpit from a ministry of counseling, so he enrolled in seminary. After earning his MDiv, he was ordained as a teaching elder in 2005 to serve the Cypress Presbyterian Church in Pompano Beach, Florida.
“I was having my midlife crisis,” he says, “but I channeled it productively.”
In his next call, Edwin served for two and a half years as regional executive for the Presbytery of Tropical Florida, but he soon found that he missed serving a congregation. “I had paradise,” he says, “but my passion was the local church.”
In January 2013, Edwin became the first pastor of Light of Hope Presbyterian Church in Marietta, Georgia, a new community born of three churches on the brink of closure that—after three years of discernment—decided to put all of their resources into one new congregation with a multicultural, multiethnic emphasis.
This was a church at the threshold of creating its own traditions and practices. Edwin was happy to share with the community the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Evangelism and Church Growth Conference. As a seven-year veteran of the annual conference, Edwin was eager to introduce the leadership of Light of Hope to the evangelism and discipling practices that he had learned there.
“When I came here to Georgia, the leadership was convinced that something needed to happen,” he says. “They knew they were going into transformation. They knew they were going into changes, but they did not know what kind of changes they were.”
As he started to explore what those changes might be, he decided to take 10 of the church’s leaders to the 2013 conference. “They were so excited about what they experienced, what they heard, that they began to hear my language.”
That’s when Edwin and the church’s leadership guaranteed that the gift of the conference would keep on giving.
Not only will 10 members of Light of Hope attend the conference again in 2014, but, thanks to the generosity of the congregation, which tithed the proceeds of the sale of one of its former properties, members of other congregations in Cherokee Presbytery will also experience ECG 2014: Go Disciple Live and benefit from one of the nine specialized tracks it offers.
At the May 20 presbytery meeting, ruling elder Joyce McMurrain from Light of Hope extended the congregation’s invitation to pay the $200 registration fee for up to three members of every church in the presbytery. To date, five churches have accepted their invitation.
Thanks to congregations like Light of Hope, I abound in hope. I celebrate the health, vibrancy, and vitality of the local church as well as our Evangelism and Church Growth ministry area, whose creative initiatives such as Go Disciple Live equip these congregations for their vital ministry. We believe that through partnering with mid councils—and calling upon every congregation to pray daily that God send more workers into the harvest field (Luke 10:2)—we can be and already are part of a denominational turnaround in growing disciples for Christ’s mission.
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ECG 2014: Go Disciple Live was held at the TradeWinds Island Grand Resort in St. Pete Beach, August 11–14.
Read the Presbyterian News Service's coverage of the conference—stories such as 'Marginal Christianity,' 'Humble Modesty,' and others—by visiting the Presbyterian Mission Agency's News & Announcements site.
Joining because of the Multicultural conversation.
James and New Covenant are most definitely about ushering in the reign of God. May their tribe increase!
When I was serving churches, before I retired, we often used the Belhar Confession as part of our worship service on Sunday. Members of the church often requested it.