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A Letter from the Pastor to Presbytery

Pittsburgh Presbytery is a covenant community formed by the triune God, called to share together in the ongoing life and ministry of Jesus Christ....

~ Pittsburgh Presbytery Mission statement

Two weeks ago we began looking at what it means theologically that we are “called to share together in the ongoing life and ministry of Jesus Christ.” This week I’d like to unpack the significance of this phrase for shaping our new mission plan.

In 2007 we commissioned Russ Crabtree of “Holy Cow! Consulting” to undertake a comprehensive study of Pittsburgh Presbytery, to assess our strengths and weaknesses for the purpose of helping us chart our way forward in discerning God’s mission for us at this place and time. After interviewing more than 1,000 members of our congregations, and looking carefully at congregational data from more than 100 of our congregations, Crabtree concluded that Pittsburgh Presbytery’s greatest need is to strengthen relationships between congregations and congregational leaders so that we can better fulfill our mission of making disciples for Jesus Christ. Crabtree discovered that presbytery members give high marks to central staff and committees for their provision of resources for ministry to constituent congregations, but our congregations remain isolated from each other in carrying out our ministries.

The Mission Study Team became convinced that God is calling us to be more attentive to how we work together as congregations. Yet what matters is not just that we work together, but that we recognize our call to worktogether is rooted in the reality that we already share together in the ongoing life ministry of Jesus. We are organically related to one another in Christ, and cannot fulfill Christ’s ministry rightly if we are living independently from each other.

This directed the Mission Study Team to propose a model for presbytery staff that focuses less on providing resources for individual congregations, and more on nurturing relationships between congregations and their leaders, so all can contribute to one another that which is most needful for fulfilling our mission to proclaim the Gospel.

Crabtree discovered that Pittsburgh Presbytery staff and programs to assist congregations in their ministries have been highly valued across presbytery. To lose staff members that provide us excellent services will be a hard pill to swallow, both because their work is highly valued and because they are much beloved.

These staff losses will force us to look to one another for many resources for which we have long turned to central operations. Grievous as our staff losses are, we have before us now a fresh opportunity more fully to “share in the ongoing life and ministry of Jesus Christ.” By sharing with one another the wonderful gifts the Spirit has raised up in each of our congregations, we will be in a position to provide a more vital shared proclamation of the Gospel than any of us could manage as individual congregations.

Soon we will begin the search process for two new ministers who will serve as “gatherers” of ministry in Pittsburgh Presbytery – gathering church leaders and congregations together in various configurations to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” (Ephesians 4:11-13) They will also assist congregations and pastors in times of transition, mobilize congregations for mission both near and far, and encourage the development of a new generation of church leaders. Our hope and prayer is that as we invest intentional efforts in gathering together the gifts already present among our congregations and church leaders, the Spirit will align the many gifts in our churches with our many needs for help in the Lord’s work, to the end that we become ever more effective in proclaiming the Gospel.

That we may proclaim the Gospel of our Lord in the power of the Spirit,

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

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