I have just returned from three and a half weeks of ministry in the Southern part of the USA (Georgia and Mississippi, especially). The purpose of the visit was to sow the vision that in 2010, England is a mission field! I particularly worked with the conservative wing of the PCA (Presbyterian Church of America).
Here are three websites of churches that I worked with and there are a number of resources available through the website:
There are many lessons for all of us, not just from the activity in the congregations but from the Christians I met. I experienced perhaps the best hospitality in the world, generosity of spirit, serious-mindedness and warm-hearted fellowship. No matter what your stereotype of American Christians may be, let me tell you that we can all learn lessons from Presbyterians in the Southern part of the USA.
So many people I met with, were quite simply modern Puritans in their sincere approach to take Christ and the gospel seriously. What a role model in an age where superficiality is sadly all-too common in sections of the professing church.
A warm-heartedness was often combined with a serious commitment to biblical doctrine; this left a wonderful fragrance. The two need to go together and I certainly witnessed that in way that was exemplary.
What generous people! It is simply part of them and it was in no way forced: I am sure that these qualities are the fruits of the gospel. Paul writes this to the church in Corinth:
2Corinthians 8:7 ¶ But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also.
8 I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.
And again we see the example of the Lord Jesus Christ:
Acts 20:35 "In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
Hospitality was another mark of God's grace that I observed. Again, the New Testament teaches that this gift is essential to healthy Christianity.
Romans 12:13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
Last but by no means least, I witnessed terrific humility among many saints. I saw very able businessmen and in some cases multimillionaires, welcoming people into the church on Sundays. There was a joy in this service as opposed to people wanting to perform tasks that may appear more grand to some. In Presbyterian churches the only men who lead the public worship of God are ordained ministers and elders and yet these able men were not frustrated because they could not occupy a public or prominent church role. What a testimony!
Again the apostle Paul counsels all of us in Romans 12:3:
For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.
May we all learn from these five lessons and pray for them in our own lives and the church where we are members. These lessons are: Serious-mindedness; warm-heartedness; generosity; hospitality; and humility.