A Vision worth Celebrating

by | May 20, 2019 | Reflections Blog | 0 comments


Ten Years Ago


It feels like yesterday when my senior pastor burst into my office to announce that a new position had been posted on the presbytery’s website. I was then an associate pastor at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, and he said to me, “Tom, this position looks like it was made for you!”

Well, when your senior pastor tells you that another position outside your church is “made for you,” it piques your attention because it causes you to wonder what he or she is thinking about your job performance! I jest, because in truth, he always had the best in mind for me, and, quite frankly, he was right.


A New Design for Mission


The presbytery was looking for a leader who could put wheels on a new mission design, which was actually an entirely new way of seeing oneself as a presbytery. The design called for a leaner, flatter organization in which “decentralized missional partnerships would become the hallmark of our presbytery,” and where “creativity and innovation would become the norm.”

Indeed, one line in the position description especially caught my eye. It said the new person would be responsible for “aligning, adapting and, as necessary, eliminating structures and systems to achieve the flexibility, collaboration and ability required to adapt to changing circumstances.” I know that is a mouthful, but what captured my imagination was that a presbytery, any presbytery, would commit itself so radically to prepare the Church for the future.


A Long-Held Hope


In a way, it was the fulfillment of a long-held hope of mine. For decades, I had noticed how the church I loved, the church that nurtured me from childhood, was losing its ability to connect with new generations of disciples, chiefly because it was failing to adapt to deep changes in American culture. When I heard that my own presbytery was committing itself to becoming a “learning and missional community,” and taking the lead in our denomination for “creativity and innovation,” I wanted to shout, “Hallelujah!” And then I wanted in!

So ten years later at our May Presbytery Gathering, we will spend time learning how Home Boy Ministries transformed a gang culture into a Christ culture, how 19 of our youth are headed to Indiana to worship and learn with other Presbyterian youth, and how little by little, God is raising up leaders to start multiple new worshipping communities in our presbytery.



Deep-Level Guidance


But what I wish to highlight is that the underlying design of ten years ago still guides us at a very deep level. Yes, we are still putting wheels on it, and are learning all the time which parts of it work and which don’t, but at its core, I believe it continues to paint an inspiring picture of who we plan to be.


Happy Anniversary!


Therefore, on the 10th Anniversary of approving the Vision for Mission Design known as “Odyssey” or “Presbytery 2.0,” allow me to paste below an excerpt that captured my imagination, and our presbytery’s commitment, to preparing our presbytery for the future:

From the Vision for Mission Design, Approved by PLR May 2009, p. 3:

What Will Our Presbytery Look Like if we fulfill our Charge? (Heading modified for this use.)

  • Every aspect of Presbytery life will be shaped by:
    • our shared commitment to the mission of the Kingdom of God,
    • our expressed missional identity and context
    • our shared values.
  • Decentralized missional partnerships will be the hallmark of our Presbytery.
  • The Presbytery will be a stimulating learning environment where creativity and innovation are the norm.
  • We will attract the highest caliber of both lay and pastoral leadership, and future church leaders will experience the Presbytery as a mentoring environment for becoming missional leaders.
  • We will cultivate a deeper sense of fellowship, partnership and trust.
  • We will expect excellence and accountability in all of our churches and partnerships.
  • We will align, adapt and even eliminate structures and systems as necessary to express our values and achieve greater missional effectiveness.

I realize that, depending on the day or the project, we still have much work to do to fulfill our charge, but as your Co-Executive for Vision and Mission, I felt we should at least pause for a moment and celebrate what we hope to become by God’s grace and provision.


Happy 10th Anniversary to us!

With you on the journey,


Tom Cramer

Co-Executive Presbyter for Vision & Mission