Living in Grace
This Sunday we will continue to unfold God’s gift to us in the resurrection of Christ Jesus. In doing so, we will explore the biblical principle of stewardship. The following week I will be on Lookout Mountain, training counselors at Alpine Camp for Boys. Tim will be in the pulpit as we celebrate Jesus’ ascension.
The Sunday after that (May 31) I will be back, and we will have a special guest in the pulpit, Dr. Paul Kooistra, Coordinator of the largest agency in the PCA, Mission to the World. In order for you to appreciate the privilege we have in hosting Dr. Kooistra, allow me a brief story…
In the Fall of 1991 I drove from Lookout Mountain, Alabama to Creve Couer, Missouri (St. Louis) to begin seminary. I didn’t really know what seminary was all about. I did not know what I wanted to do, vocationally. I did want to learn, and I soon became aware that the one thing I needed to learn more and more about was God’s grace as shown to people like me (fallen, broken people) in Christ Jesus. Perhaps more than anyone else, the person responsible for convincing me of the centrality and ultimacy of God’s grace in Christ Jesus was Paul Kooistra.
Paul Kooistra was President of Covenant Seminary. He presided over a seminary deep in flux in 1991. Since his becoming President in 1985, the core faculty had departed, mainly due to his leadership and emphasis on grace – viewed by some as too “broad” and “pragmatic” (It was Dr. Kooistra who told me he would not promise that there would be a New Testament professor when I arrived. They were searching for one, but he would not agree to hire someone unless he thought they were a “fit” with the seminary, and in particular its emphasis on the biblical doctrine of “grace”). The seminary was left with fewer than two hundred students and a significant question mark regarding its long-term viability.
By the time I left four years later, Covenant had seen four straight years of record enrollment and was on its way to being one of the premiere training centers for pastors in North America - it's influence far outweighing the size of its parent denomination or the star-power of its relatively unknown faculty. The LORD used Dr. Kooistra’s leadership to chart a change in philosophy of education and ministry.
In 1994 the PCA called Paul Kooistra to apply his leadership gifts and grace emphasis to the newest big problem in the denomination, Mission to the World –MTW. When Dr. Kooistra arrived the agency was more than two million dollars in debt and served as a source of denominational strife and skepticism, especially in regard to its philosophy and practices in the areas of recruiting, training, sending and overseeing missionaries.
In just two years, MTW’s deficit was erased and a philosophy of ministry was initiated that did not assume that missionaries in training already understood the reality of God’s grace. Thus, those being prepared for the field were trained as if they were the field. The results were encouraging – if startling. Men and women were converted, renewed, led away from ministry and led into ministry as the gospel of grace in Christ Jesus was affirmed and re-affirmed through gospel preaching and teaching from the Bible. This emphasis continues to this day.
May 29 and 30 Paul Kooistra, along with other MTW staff will be in Austin to promote the grace focus of Mission to the World. The Living in Grace Conference allows “laymen” and supporters of MTW to receive some of the same training that missionaries receive prior to going onto the field. Further, on Sunday the 31st, Dr. Kooistra will be in the All Saints pulpit giving our congregation a dose of the same.
If you would like to attend the MTW conference, please pick up a brochure on the book table this Sunday, or e-mail Mission to the World. If you have friends or family interested in the PCA or in missions, this is a good introduction to both. And if you want a good excuse to invite a friend to church, the 31st will be a fine opportunity.