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A Letter from the Pastor to Presbytery

A New Presbytery Mission Statement
April 26, 2012

At our presbytery meeting last week, Pittsburgh Presbytery overwhelmingly adopted a new Mission Statement. Developed by a Mission Study Team that has been meeting for the past year, and enthusiastically endorsed by our Executive Committee, it highlights particular commitments that we believe God is calling us to make at this time.

Of course, the church’s core mission statement is the same as it has always been. As he prepared to leave his disciples, Jesus specified the mission to which all his followers are called: “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) Luke records another version of Jesus’ final commission to his disciples: “Be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) In John, Jesus puts it this way: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21) Each of these statements points to the same core mission – to continue the work that Jesus began. Every mission statement of the church ought to build on this.

In 1996, a comprehensive Mission Study was undertaken by Pittsburgh Presbytery, resulting in presbytery adopting a new Mission Statement in 1997. For the past fifteen years, this statement has shaped our strategy:

The mission of Pittsburgh Presbytery is to serve its congregations so that they are healthy and vital as evidenced by their success in bringing others to Christ, by their vibrant worship, and by their active participation in the mission of Christ’s Church.

What made this statement distinctive is that it focused the energy of our work as a regional body on equipping each constituent congregation to fulfill Christ’s mission in its particular place.

This was a bold inversion of the earlier presbytery mission pattern, in which presbytery called congregations to participate in our corporate mission, as defined and conducted by presbytery. In practice, it meant that presbytery had previously asked congregations to send money and people to our central operations, where they would be distributed as was most needed. With the new statement, we “flipped” our thinking, so that central operations became a resource to help each congregation fulfill its particular mission. The underlying conviction that drove this new mission statement was that the congregation – not the regional judicatory – is the church’s primary missionary agency.

As our 2011-2012 Mission Study Team prayerfully considered the question of what God’s mission might be for Pittsburgh Presbytery in 2012 and beyond, it became convinced that we need a new core mission statement. The 1997 statement has served us well, and we continue to believe that the congregation is the primary mission arm of Christ’s church. What we need now to emphasize is that for congregations to conduct Christ’s mission most faithfully and fruitfully, they need to do so together rather than separately. The core question became this: How does God bind us together as congregations and church leaders so that we may most fully participate in Christ’s mission?

What emerged is a new Mission Statement that builds forward from our 1997 statement, and provides the focus for how we as a presbytery will invest our time, treasure, and talents in the years ahead. Over the coming weeks I will unpack in this space the significance of this statement, word by word and line by line:

Pittsburgh Presbytery is a covenant community formed by the triune God, called to share together in the ongoing life and ministry of Jesus Christ, proclaiming and demonstrating the Gospel publicly in word and deed in the power of the Holy Spirit.

For the sake of Christ’s mission,

The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, Pastor to Pittsburgh Presbytery

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