A Successful Assembly?

Today begins a series of posts from guest bloggers on their post-General Assembly reflections. Today’s blog is by my friend, Stan Gale. Stan serves as a pastor in the Philadelphia Metro West Presbytery.

Stanley D. Gale (M.Div., Westminster Theological Seminary; D.Min. Covenant Theological Seminary) has served as a pastor for 25 years.  He and his wife, Linda, live in West Chester, Pennsylvania.  He is the author of several books, including The Prayer of Jehoshaphat: Seeing Beyond Life’s StormsWhat is Spiritual Warfare? (Basics of the Faith Series) and most recently, Making Sanity Out of Vanity: Christian Realism in the Book of Ecclesiastes. He can be reached at sdgale@CHOPministry.net.

What makes a “successful” General Assembly?  I guess it depends on whom you ask.  James River Presbytery, who hosted this year’s GA in Virginia Beach, might answer “an assembly that runs without problems.”  Tim Schirm, manager of the PCA Bookstore, might be happy with good sales and less inventory to cart back to Atlanta.  Sponsors of the various overtures would likely delight in an affirmative answer.  Exhibitors might well revel in contacts made and seed sown to further the cause of their respective ministries or offerings.

For me, success can be described in three F’s.

The first F is faithfulness.  My church paid for my travel and time.  I was present as a commissioner.  My job in service to Christ was to be engaged in the business of the Assembly—digesting reports, processing debate and voting intelligently.

That meant long hours and a worn out body.  We finished up about 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, having to reconvene after the worship service to deal with backed up business.  I am not one accustomed to late nights.  That plus an aggregate weariness from the travel and meeting demands meant fatigue.  That late night was greeted with an early Friday start. But that’s just part of the cost of diligence in my role as a commissioner.

The second F is fulfilling.  Sometimes at GA I am able to enjoy the area attractions. Not this year.  Holding the Assembly at Virginia Beach was a big tease, promising fun in the sun but at arm’s length because of the weight of responsibilities.  The extent of my tourist activity was noticing the statue of Neptune at 31st Street as I drove by on my way home.  However, refreshment was to be found in other ways.

General Assembly offers far more than a business meeting for the work of the church.  It provides an opportunity for replenishment.  The worship, the fellowship, reconnecting with people I only see once a year, the change of pace from regular pastoral responsibilities, the wealth of resources from the exhibitors, the seminars covering a wide range of topics—all contribute to sending me back to my local church with renewed enthusiasm for Christ and his church.

I confess that I did go with an agenda of my own, which I shamelessly promote here.  I suppose the appropriate F here would be fruitfulness.  For me, GA is an opportunity to promote ministries and tools I have developed for the work of the church, what might be called networking.  A book I had just written was released at GA.  In fact, I saw it in the PCA bookstore before I had seen it myself and had to buy a copy.  (The PCA bookstore is offering my book, Making Sanity Out of Vanity, at the GA 50% discount while supplies last.)

I held a seminar on “Reformed Evangelism,” in part to let the larger church know of a resource for evangelism I had developed for resourcing/equipping Christ’s disciples in their witness for the gospel of the kingdom.  (The bookstore also carries my booklet, How Can I Know Eternal Life?) Two articles of interest I referenced in my seminar are “Goldilocks and the Gospel,” a description of the booklet  and “A ‘Reformed’ Presentation of the Gospel,” currently posted on the byFaithonline website.

Was the Assembly a success for me?  Unequivocally yes.  In this case, three solid F’s means passing with flying colors.  Each one represents an answer to prayer in which God allowed me to faithfully serve him, to find renewed fulfillment for his service and the encouragement of fruitfulness as evidenced by contacts made and strong interest expressed in my ministry efforts.


One Response to “A Successful Assembly?”

  1. Stan Gale says:

    An addendum to my third “F” – fruitfulness. I think all the men and women who attend GA should pray and purpose to bless others. That may through giving a seminar or simply by providing a listening ear or an apt word timely spoken. So many come to the Assembly with challenges that weigh them down–a rebellious child, a lost job, a difficult church situation, struggles with temptations.