The following is an article by Rev. Mark Stephenson. Mark visited New Life on September 15; he preached an amazing sermon in the prison gym entitled: "Our weakness, God's strength." Below are Mark's reflections after spending a long weekend in Central Iowa.
Evidence of God’s Grace
By Mark Stephenson
When I served in parish ministry, I returned regularly to a section of Eugene Peterson's book, The Contemplative Pastor. I needed to be refreshed by his wisdom when I lost perspective.
In that section, Peterson described a common frustration among pastors—people who don’t do what they should do or say they will do. That frustration can lead the pastor to cajoling, brow beating, and guilt-tripping her flock in feeble attempts to get people to comply. Not helpful!
Peterson argues that pastors should not be surprised that people fall short. That’s what people do; we’re sinners in need of a Savior. Instead, Peterson argues, pastors should be surprised when people DO keep commitments, show care to others, reach out with the gospel, and behave as true Christians. These are evidences of God’s grace and power.
I thought of Peterson’s wisdom after a recent trip to Pella, Iowa. While there, I met a number of people who showed me that God’s grace and power continues to have their way.
(Mark Stephenson is director of Disability Concerns of the Christian Reformed Church)