Stated Clerk's Report to the 34th General Assembly

I have spent a lot of time the past few months in 1 and 2 Peter and 2 Timothy—letters written to churches and to a leader confronted by difficulty, opposition, suffering, and persecution. And with it, ample opportunity for discouragement and despair.

Richard Alberta spoke Tuesday night of a “tidal wave of darkness” descending on our country. Certainly, we face difficulties trying to walk with Christ in 21st century America.

I think we can all agree that there’s a trio of powerful forces at work against us. But they are not just opposing us—their goal is to destroy biblical Christianity. There are those promoting the atheist agenda, there are those promoting the homosexual agenda, and there is a continually over-reaching secular government. But should we be surprised? In a message delivered about 12 years ago, John Wood asked that question. We replied that we should not be surprised when a fallen, sinful world under the control of the evil one acts in a way that is consistent with being fallen, sinful and evil—there’s a good dose of realism there.

However, the enemy is not agendas and governments, but principalities and powers. The polite way to say it is that we are “in a spiritual conflict.” But what we’re really talking about is a war.

A further difficulty can be summed up in three words: “Denominations are dead.” There are those who believe that to survive and thrive in the 21st century, you need to do your own thing, because denominations are dead.

As I’ve meditated on God’s Word and reflected on these difficulties, the Lord has given me at least three reasons for hope.

First, there’s you. You are a source of hope—of great hope—for me. We’re a denomination with our weaknesses and problems. We blunder, fall, and make mistakes, but we are not dead. We are under the conviction that our Lord and Savior has called us into a connection with Him and with each other as His church. In that connection is life and love, salvation and forgiveness, and a bond of unity and fellowship that is unique. And Jesus has, for us together, a mission and a call and a future. When we talk about that future—about transformation and movement—we’re not kidding ourselves. We know that if God the Holy Spirit doesn’t show up in power, transformation and movement are not going to happen. That’s work that only He can do. But, believing this is what He’s called us to, we can commit to these expecting He’ll come and empower and bless and use us for His glory.

Another source of hope is our under-40-year-olds, our “Next Generation Leaders.” Their enthusiasm and energy is infectious. They are knowledgeable and savvy about the culture in which they grew up. They’re committed to being effective and fruitful in the 21st century for Christ.

And listen to this, Baby Boomers: they want our help; to be mentored, to be coached, to be counseled, to be encouraged. My question: Boomer, what will you do to help those who come behind you to be the most faithful, fruitful servants and leaders in the church? It’s gratifying to know a lot of leaders in their 60s are thinking about their legacy—about how they can invest in the generations coming behind them as they move toward the conclusion of their full-time ministry.

A third reason for hope is something I’ve known for a long time, but I rediscovered it at Easter this year. In worship on Easter Sunday, the Lord asked me, “Why do you celebrate my resurrection one day a year? Isn’t my victory over sin and death and hell and suffering and difficulty and opposition and persecution something you should celebrate and live into every day?”

You all are great, the under-40 “Next Generation Leaders” are great, but our hope is the risen Christ. So as my eighth year in this position turns to my ninth, I’m committed to living each day with the reality that He is risen! He is the alive, victorious, sovereign King of kings and Lord of lords!

To close, I confess that you do not always make me happy, but I love you, praise God for you, and thank you for the opportunity to serve my Savior and you as your Stated Clerk. He is risen!