I just returned from ten days of vacation in the Jackson Hole area of Wyoming. I used some of that time to read and think without interruptions from email, Facebook, telephone, or other devices. Nine days without email—I think that is a real Sabbath! I used some of the time to think about how the Foundation for Reformed Theology has impacted or influenced my call.
First, it has intensified my reading of the theologians who have shaped the Reformed faith. I do not write a sermon or Bible study nor plan a session study without reading both John Calvin (Institutes of the Christian Religion and commentaries) and Karl Barth (Church Dogmatics and other writings).
Second, the elders of our church are receiving a strong theological education. We spend the first two hours of the three hour session meeting in worship, table fellowship, and study. Last year we spent a year studying Hughes Oliphant “Scoti” Old’s book, Worship Reformed According to Scripture. This year we are spending a year studying The Book of Confessions. My friends Karl and John are having a profound impact on the thinking of our Ruling Elders, and this thinking is influencing the decisions they are making in the particular congregation and in serving in higher governing bodies. They are beginning to understand that theirs is a calling not a committee assignment. We spend considerable time in searching the Scriptures before making any major decision. We spent an entire year studying Ephesians and Calvin’s Commentary on the epistle before writing a strategic
ministry plan for Forest Hills.
Third, it has informed and strengthened my study. I remember that once Calvin was a “contemporary” theologian, so I do not shun current thinking. However, the benchmark is set by the orthodox Reformed theologians.
Fourth, I serve as the moderator of the Committee on Ministry. Part of my role is to work with sessions in conflict, particularly when they and the pastor are at odds. Unfortunately, there are two points that I am finding to be universal when engaging conflicted sessions: the elders do not understand their sense of call nor are they educated in the tenets of the Reformed faith, and they have no mission beyond their own walls (I define mission as the propagation of the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as opposed to good works). Conversely, I have wonderful stories to tell of congregations who are led by elders grounded in Reformed theology.
In closing, thank you and the board for continuing Dr. Leith’s vision and keeping some of us