As I sit in my office each week, working on all that pastoral ministry demands of us, I realize how easy it would be to give little attention to what took place at our Charis Alliance conference in Kenya a few months ago. After all, we have sermons to write, people to visit, meetings to prepare for. What does the Charis Alliance have to offer that has any impact on our local church ministries?
As one of three representatives from North America, representing not only our Charis Fellowship churches, but representing our network of pastors, I believe that our interdependence with our global family of churches and pastors has the potential to enrich our ministries and bless our souls.
As far as worshiping with Christ-loving brothers from around the world, of course the conference was spiritually incredible. How could your soul not long for heaven when you are singing praise to Jesus in three languages? In the words of Bart Millard, “I Can Only Imagine” what the worship of heaven will be like as the nations who have trusted Jesus as Savior and Lord sing songs of worship in the harmony of heaven!
But I was also encouraged by our continuing commitment to an old standard phrase, “The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible.” The world is changing so fast, but I can assure you what I saw in Kenya is that the Charis Fellowship around the world remains committed to our founding ethos of discovering what the Bible teaches in its original context and how it can be rightly applied in our current context.
Profound evidence of our commitment to biblical truth could be seen in the unity and humility demonstrated in affirming our global conviction of male-only, biblically qualified elders. That’s what Scripture teaches and what every Charis association from around the world unanimously affirmed. Despite the various tensions we feel in our own North American culture, we are a movement committed to the biblical principles of complementarianism. We don’t have to be embarrassed by our position on this or any other position that runs counter to our culture because it’s who we are. We are free to be a movement of “YES” regarding women serving in local churches, because we’ve clearly stated that of all the wonderful ministry opportunities in the local church there is one ministry role God has reserved for men. So, we are free to explore the rest of the garden God has planted for us to enjoy and care for together. There is no doubt in my mind that our Charis Alliance is committed to biblical truth!
So, why does any of that matter, week in and week out, as we sit in our offices working on all that pastoral ministry demands of us? After spending a week learning about ministry opportunities and challenges from our Charis Alliance churches and pastors, I can report to you that we have so much to learn from our brothers and sisters in other countries.
What if my resource of wisdom extended beyond my local church, my district, or our national borders? What if my exploration of illustrations to help people understand theology in my local context could be enhanced by understanding the practical application of Scripture in another cultural context? What if I had access to a church who would be willing to gather for hours just to pray for a desperate need in my church? What if I could leverage technology to bring a church family from another continent into a special time of prayer with the church family God has entrusted me to lead in the living out the Great Commission?
I believe the Charis Alliance has the potential to benefit our ministries and give our ministries greater opportunity to be a blessing than we can even imagine. Yes, we are connected by a common history and a commitment to biblical truth, but also through biblical relationships. But like any other relationship in our lives, it only grows stronger if we do more than what pastoral ministry demands of us week after week. Relationships grow when I step out of my office and into my Grace Group, my district ministerium meetings, my regional Focus Retreat, and maybe even some future online opportunity with another Charis Alliance church or pastor. That requires effort and humility, but I have experienced the pay off and I assure you it’s worth it.
Thanks so much to those who entrusted me with the opportunity to be a part of the Charis Alliance conference in Kenya. It blessed my life and I pray that blessing will flow out of my life and ministry back into our Fellowship in North America.
Written by Mark Lingenfelter, president of Inspire Charis Pastors Network, for the Inspire newsletter. Find out more about Inspire on their website here.