Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. – Acts 2:46-47
I don’t intend to sound like some Pollyanna pretending we all live in Mayberry (actually, we live in Wake Forest, which is much better than Mayberry…), but I am convinced that the story that is being told about this country, and our world in general, is actually a contrived narrative:
- Exaggerations designed to sell interest in the news;
- distortions and embellishments to prop up ratings;
- and – sometimes – half-truths, untruths, and fabrications cynically constructed, assembled, and distributed to manipulate public opinion and leverage fear for political gain.
Today – in 2016 – we are deep into what was described by John Naisbitt (Megatrends, 1982) as, “The Information Age – or – Information Society.” Today we are resourced, loaded, swamped, and mostly overwhelmed by a tidal wave of information and at a loss much of the time to distinguish what is factual from what is flawed.
We have to pay attention:
So I’d like to help clarify the message, and help dismiss the tall tale that is often used to divide the Christian Church, and is now being used to divide America. Because…:
- The world is not as bad as the news merchants’ footage suggests;
- The social fabric of the USA is not unravelling in the way the talk show hosts and the newsreels make it out to be;
- This country is not so divided and angry as the prime-time seeking politicians want us to believe.
The story that is being told is not the story that is real. I reject the false narrative of shock media and those who seek the limelight and personal power.
One of my favorite stories in the New Testament is that of Peter and John in Acts 4. They are arrested for “disturbing the peace,” thrown in jail overnight, lectured, then released. “One last thing,” the priests tell them, “stop talking about Jesus.” The two disciples look at each other, shrug their shoulders, then say in one voice (at least that’s how I imagine it), “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:18-20).
So I invest myself in this blog, committed – daily – to telling you all exactly what I have seen, and what I have heard.
Yesterday’s meeting of the Presbytery of New Hope serves as a great example. What I saw and heard was the church being the church in unmistakably Christ-centered ways. Which is telling, because you should hear some of the tall tales some people circulate about the Presbyterian Church. But those stories are a false narrative, perpetuated by those who have some kind of an ax to grind.
So, in the same manner that I love to share stories about the life that shines so brightly at WFPC (our vibrant, strong, growing, all-about-Jesus congregation), today I want to share some of the life that’s spilling all over the place at the Presbytery of New Hope.
This is a counter-narrative to the nay-saying; not by argument but by demonstration!
IMAGES AND OBSERVATIONS: One of the many “free-lance” hats I wear is “Official Presbytery Photographer,” so I walk around, I listen, I observe, and I take note. Tuesday I travelled to First Presbyterian Church in Wilson early enough to document the entire day.
And this is what I witnessed: I witnessed a sanctuary full of Presbyterian preachers and elders sharing joy in their faith, expressing commitment to serve Jesus through the work of their individual congregations, coming together to accomplish the business of denominational stuff with passionate engagement, debating courses of action with love, respect, and mutual forbearance, encouraging one another, commissioning new pastors, nurturing pastors in process, demonstrating compassion and action in response to the needs of the world, and speaking prophetically to the sometimes fractured society where we live.
It was a beautiful gathering of God’s people, diverse in every conceivable manner yet united in Christ.
- Perfect? No.
- Redeemed? Certainly.
- Reformed and reforming? Naturally.
- Answering God’s call to be the passion and the presence of Jesus in this world? You’d better believe it?
This is “What I have seen and what I have heard;” I can’t help but tell the story. I wholeheartedly reject the false narrative of gloom, both as it applies to the church and as it pertains to the world!
If you want to see the entire story of the quarterly meeting of the Presbytery of New Hope, my slideshow will be available at the presbytery website in a few days. In the meanwhile, here are enough photographs to catch a glimpse of what I was privileged to document. Click on the first picture then use the arrow to advance. Most of the images have captions below.
In the compelling name of the Good News! – DEREK