“…But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)
Philippians 3:13-14 was the theme for the 38th General Assembly of the EPC – FORWARD! It was held in the city of Memphis at Hope Church, a large, multi-ethnic, intergenerational church that is on the cutting edge of the missional movement in Memphis. A missional church is one that believes that “every Christian has been sent by Jesus with the gospel together in community to those in the surrounding culture for the sake of the King and His kingdom.” Two of the pastors of Hope Church shared with us how their church is making an impact upon their community. The mayor of Memphis came to give us greetings and to testify that the ministry of Hope is changing Memphis in positive ways. Quite a witness to Christ.
We heard how the EPC is moving forward in the areas of church planting and revitalization. We are seeing new churches being birthed in areas where the gospel witness has not been strong. Many churches in the EPC (including our own) are taking advantage of the GO Center training. One of the many highlights of the assembly was hearing from a church in a small town in Tennessee (population 6000 – sound familiar?) that went from being a small, declining church in 2011 to a church today that is bursting at the seams and seeing new people coming to faith in Christ on a regular basis.
We recognized our chaplains who serve in the military as well as other chaplains who serve our first responders, who serve in hospitals, prisons and other institutions (pictured below).
The World Outreach is definitely moving forward as we saw the stage filled with people young and old who were commissioned to serve as missionaries throughout the globe. Unfortunately, I cannot post a picture, because some of them will be going to very dangerous parts of the world. One couple, in their eighties, heard the ‘Macedonian’ call of God to go. They came out of retirement and will be serving in Southeast Asia. It was quite moving to hear our new missionaries pledge to serve Christ - even to death.
Finally, we were blessed to have Andrew Brunson’s daughter, Jacqueline Brunson Furnari, address our gathering. She began by telling us what God has taught her in these past 20 months since her father was falsely charged and placed in a Turkish prison. She has learned to lean into God’s sovereignty, knowing that God is more powerful than all earthly kingdoms. She is also grateful for her parents’ example of following Christ no matter what the sacrifice may be. She also can see how her father’s imprisonment has awakened Christians all over the world to pray for the people of Turkey, a country that desperately needs to hear the good news of Jesus. She told us that though she can’t always see how God is working through the present trials, the Lord is helping her and her family to trust and persevere. Jacqueline then read from some of the letters her father has written to her. He is asking God to help him persevere through these trials and desires that the Lord would be glorified in everything. He sings the song that God gave to him (Andrew’s Song) every night as a testimony to the victory of Christ. While he is let out each day for a walk around the prison grounds, he dances to the Lord as a visible sign to his captors that Jesus is giving him joy even in prison. In a recent letter, Andrew told his daughter that he wanted those of us in the EPC to know that he is grateful that his EPC family is standing with him in prayer and fasting and that it is a blessing to be a part of the EPC. He asked us to pray that he would be faithful to the end and that he hopes to be with us next year when we gather together in Denver for GA39.
God gave us a very full – and extremely fulfilling - week at General Assembly. We press on to win the prize, and we are moving forward together in Christ.
In God's Grace,