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A Letter from the General Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery

Praying for Our Spiritual Leaders
March 10, 2016

Each year our Executive Committee holds a weekend retreat at Crestfield for the purpose of community building, spiritual renewal, and clarifying the scope and priorities of its responsibilities. Our presbytery as a whole cannot be healthy if its leadership is weak, divided, or disengaged from what’s happening across the reaches of our ministry. The retreat included elected members of the Executive Committee, presbytery leadership staff, the past Moderator, current Moderator, and Senior Vice-Moderator of the presbytery.

Our theme was “Hanging on and Letting Go” – what is the Lord calling us to hang on to, and what are we being called to let go of? We acknowledged that all too often we tend to hang on to things we should let go, and to let go of things we ought to hold fast. It is a critically important question for presbytery leadership.

To lead God’s people well requires courage and humility, openness and resolve. It requires a tender heart and thick skin, persistence and resilience. The weight of leadership is sometimes palpable and visible – just look at pictures of presidents at the beginning and at the end of their eight-year tenure. The accumulated effect of carrying the weight of leadership is evident in the lines etching their face, the stoop of their shoulders, the graying of their hair.

This month, as part of our presbytery’s year of prayer, we are called to pray for our presbytery leaders. A complete listing of our core committee leaders and moderators is published here , and I urge us to pray for these folk by name, as they seek to lead us into faithful and fruitful ministry in Jesus’ name. Please pray for your presbytery staff also, that we may be abundantly filled with the Spirit for the work to which God has called us.

Additionally, I urge us to pray for the search committee that is charged to bring presbytery a nomination for our vacant Associate Minister position. The presbytery staff is eager to be back at full strength, as many of us have carried a heavier load during this interim period. But more significantly, there is good and necessary work to be done to equip congregations and their leaders for fruitful Gospel ministry, for which our new Associate Minister will be tasked. The search committee has received applications from many excellent candidates, and will continue to receive dossiers until March 19. The position profile and application materials are published here.

Presbytery leadership is rewarding, but demanding work. I sometimes refer in jest to the presbytery as the church’s “sanitary landfill” – it is where members or leaders of congregations spill out problems that have been unable to resolve. A trouble-free congregation rarely calls upon presbytery for support.

Yet presbytery leadership is about far more than cleaning up messes or putting out fires. Consider the role of Moses with the people of Israel in the Exodus. Certainly he heard about it whenever things went badly for anyone in the camp. But his most important work went beyond problem-solving, to leading God’s people forward according to the word of the Lord, so they would be able to fulfill their holy calling as God’s people.

This required Moses periodically to ascend the mountain with his associates, to hear a fresh word from God for the direction of God’s people, and to experience new empowerment for the hard work of leadership. The story of Moses, Joshua, Aaron, and Hur collaborating on the mountain in order to help Israel defeat Amalek in the valley is an instructive model for corporate church leadership. (Exodus 17:8-16) By themselves, none of them could have done it.

The Executive Committee met not on a mountain, but at Crestfield. There they considered where God may be leading our beloved presbytery in the days ahead. There were hard and honest conversations. There was much laughter and prayer. Perhaps as important as anything, leadership team members got to know one another more fully. Now they have come down from the mountain, and need our prayers more than ever.

Our staff prays for you regularly – for each of our minister members, for each of our congregations, for mission agencies we support, and for those who lead our synod and its presbyteries. We know that many of you pray for us too. Please keep doing so. And consider making this month a season of special prayer for us. We need it, believe me!

Dependent on your prayers,

The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, General Minister

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