Welcome to the first issue of Equip for Ministry 2001. You have been a faithful reader and we thank you. We are committed to being your resource for ideas, products, services, and people that can enhance the ministry of formal and informal local church leaders. We enjoy putting together each issue with that commitment in mind. I hope you will notice the new cover design. We want this magazine to be friendly and helpful for our readers. We really do think of ourselves as teammates with you, networking to strengthen our local churches. “The church grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work,” and we believe that part of CE/P’s challenge in the PCA is to help facilitate resources.
In the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis, God says a most significant thing. “‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.’…So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.” Although building the tower was a sinful act, we should not gloss over God’s point: there is strength in unity and number. We need to realize that our personal or local agendas are not as effective as our corporate and broader one. That is a strength of our Presbyterian system. When it is properly practiced, it brings us together with an intentional connectedness that demonstrates the axiom “the whole is larger than the sum of its parts.” My desire for all of CE/P’s programs, particularly Equip for Ministry, is that our readers would always be reminded of that principle, which I believe has a solid biblical base. We should not only acknowledge it but practice it as well.
In previous issues, you have read articles and book reviews focusing on cultural awareness and the importance of understanding how to communicate God’s Word (truth) in this pluralistic setting. Of course, when we talk about cultural awareness our real point is effectively communicating and applying God’s truth to this culture. The church is facing a great challenge, and the way we respond will determine (humanly speaking) what kind of future lies ahead. As we have said many times, the Church will survive because it is God’s Church and He says that it will. However, the institutional church as we know it may experience great transformation. Some change is essential. We must not change the wrong things; however, we must be willing to change anything that is not effectively reaching those whom Christ has called us to serve.
We have talked much about the church’s challenge to reach the millennial generation. I wish you could read and study the analyses, and interview the many youth with whom we have talked, who remind us of the urgency of this moment. The church must pull out all stops and do whatever needs to be done to reach the next generation with the truths of God. We have to go beyond the call of duty to communicate to our young people that we love and care for them. The church must demonstrate the kind of caring spirit that Bob Palmer wrote about in his article on covenant baptismal vows in the September/October 2000 issue.
The lead article in this issue, “Covenant Stones of Passage” written by our friend in ministry Brad Winsted, offers some interesting and intriguing ways for local churches to carry out those covenant vows. I hope every local church leader and parent will read, ponder, and discuss them. Joining the church, either as a non-communicant or communicant member, should be one of the most special events in a young person’s life. I think about my days as a pastor and confess that such a “receiving event” was often more of a routine than a celebration. Do not gloss over the ideas suggested in Winsted’s article without careful, serious consideration.
If the statistics about huge numbers of young people leaving the church are right, then we should be willing to do whatever we can, humanly speaking, to demonstrate that our covenant children belong and are accepted in the covenant family. Please take the challenge seriously! Several new books reviewed in this issue should help convince you of the urgency of this matter. Four of them speak to the challenges of this generation that is growing up in a morally and spiritually chaotic world. Church leaders and parents should read, study, and discuss the books by John Seele and Os Guinness. I read and scan many books, and these two are as timely and crucial as any I have read recently. The other books elaborate on the challenge and offer materials that can be used effectively to rise to the occasion.
Though the connection may seem less obvious, the books on effective boards also fit into this scenario. As CE/P has worked with church leaders through the years, we have seen that many are so consumed with activities that ministry time is eaten up by busyness. The books on boards are full of helpful ideas on how leaders can use their time more efficiently and minister more productively. It is our joy and delight to help local leaders consider options that will make them more effective in giving direction and spiritual oversight to the church ministry.
The series of articles on stewardship, as well as the other features such as “Equip Tips” and advertisements, are carefully selected for your benefit. Though the advertisements in Equip for Ministry help us offset a portion of the publishing expenses, they also help us carry out our philosophy of making local church leaders aware of available resources.
Pray for us during this new year that we might listen carefully and obediently to God’s Word and be so unified in spirit and purpose that we can do whatever we set out to do. Of course we realize that while “Paul plants and Apollos waters, only God can give the increase.” To Him be the glory and praise.