Greetings from the Moderator FEBRUARY 2024
I am happy as well as terrified to be the Moderator of the Central Florida Presbytery. During the Constitutional questions in December, I vowed to pray for and seek to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love. I think I can cover numbers 1,3, and 4 okay but I worry about the second one.
I don’t know many of you. So, here’s a bit about myself. I grew up Presbyterian. Of my mother’s four children, one is a Teaching Elder and two are Ruling Elders. My husband, Doug, and I have 18 nieces and nephews (most with spouses) and 13 great nieces and nephews. Doug and I enjoy spending time with them and learn much about their world and the world in general through their eyes. This is an important tidbit to hold for later.
I had been struggling for a topic for this article and then two things happened in less than 24 hours that reminded me of a third that happened about two years ago.
Park Lake Presbyterian conducted the USCVS survey about two years ago which provides members’ perspectives on the 7 Marks of Vital Congregations. In conjunction with this, the presbytery ran a MissionInsite report with demographic information from the area we identified as our “neighborhood.” (Email Cheryl Carson for more information on these tools.)
What the information revealed is that we have a high density of people living in towers near us, but these people are not churched, nor do they plan to be. Some are faithful in their own definition and a good-sized plurality are "none of the above” concerning faith and religion. My goal is to “pierce the towers.”
Fast forward to now. I just read an article on a survey of faith and religion done by Pew Research. Of the group of 3,300 respondents, 28% indicated they were atheist, agnostic, or “none of the above.” (In 2007, the percentage was 17%.) This group is a larger percentage than people who identify as Roman Catholic (23%) or as Evangelical Protestants (24%). Mostly they indicate that they make decisions by determining if their decision would do harm. This aligns with the information from the survey and report and, what I hear from most of the nieces and nephews who fall into this “none of the above” group.
In a conversation recently with one of our nephews, he asked, "Uncle John, I know you are a big Christian; am I going to be thrown into a lake of fire?” I assured him he is not. He told me thanks and began to move on, but I interrupted him to let him know that the “no lake of fire” in his future was not of my doing which led to further conversation.
He hears from friends and acquaintances the horror stories of what parents of others tell particularly young people who have no education on the Bible and the joyful Good News contained therein. He sees the faithful in his extended family going about doing their best to pray for and serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love. But honestly, he sees the non-faithful or unbelieving in his extended family also doing the same.
When he labeled me “a big Christian" I was taken aback. I don’t think he meant it as an insult, and I wonder why I kind of felt like it was. If he had called me simply a Christian, I would have been happy with it. So now I am pondering what “a big Christian" is and intend to inquire what “a big Christian” means to him. I will also try to press home with him the amazing love the Triune God has for us ¾ every one of us.
So, for those people in “the towers” who hear only of God’s Word misapplied and preached wrongly, what can, and should, we do? I know for our nephew, as we promised at his baptism and by extension the folks in “the towers,” I will tell them the good news of the gospel, to help them know all that Christ commands, and, by our fellowship, strengthen their family ties with the household of God.
I look forward to getting to know you all better.