An Expansive Gospel: Retooling Congregations for a New Era

by | Aug 22, 2022

September 24th Presbytery Welcomes Rev. Dr. Ray Jones.

Ray Jones is the Director of the Office of Theology, Formation & Evangelism                 of the Presbyterian Mission Agency

Ray Jones is the Director of the Office of Theology, Formation & Evangelism of the Presbyterian Mission Agency

Reflecting on language from one of Ray Jones’ recent articles and the title of his upcoming keynote at our Presbytery Gathering on September 24th, an “expansive gospel” carries us from heartbreak—which we Presbyterians feel on so many levels—to “prophetic imagination.”

When we might be seduced into thinking our community’s story is winding down and there is no hope for making dry bones come to life, God’s expansive gospel calls us to reconsider.

Above all, as Jones asserts, Jesus calls us “to go and make disciples” not in isolation from the world but as healers and hope-givers for all the communities of the world. We do this by the power of the Holy Spirit and by forming communities in the way of Jesus. “Where Jesus goes, we go, and what Jesus does, we do,” Jones reminds us.

Esperanza Viva (NWC) of Norwalk Celebrates “Neighborhood Exegesis”

Esperanza Viva (NWC) of Norwalk Celebrates “Neighborhood Exegesis”

Everything that the Presbyterian Mission Agency offers, and certainly the Office of Theology, Formation, and Evangelism (TFE) creates on behalf of our denomination, is motivated toward that end. “Contraction,” “demise,” and “quitting” are not words easily found in in TFE’s lexicon because Christ’s expansive gospel generates hope and vision in every era.  “Loss,” “sadness,” and “struggle,” will be part of the journey, for sure, but the upward call of Christ continues to cast light on the path ahead and gives us courage to move forward in faith.

Inspired by that call, we share our resources in this wider community known as the Presbyterian Church (USA). “If in Matthew 25 Jesus gives us a clear description of what a growing disciple does in community with others to advance the reign of God, then we are all about that,” Jones proclaims. (For more information about the Matthew 25 Initiative and Invitation to our PCUSA churches, please click on the resource pages listed below.)

He continues, “We care about people who are hungry, thirsty, and sick. We provide food, water, and healing. We welcome strangers and visit people in prison. We provide clothes to people in need. We make our communities better places in which to live, so that all people have the opportunity to flourish in this life.”

Pre-Covid “Fall Fiesta” at East Whittier Presbyterian Church

Pre-Covid “Fall Fiesta” at East Whittier Presbyterian Church

When you come to the Presbytery Gathering on Saturday, September 24th, you will hear about and experience four powerful movements of discipleship formation that congregations can engage to advance the gospel right now, small or large, tired or energized, young or old. Ray Jones, our keynote speaker, is the Director of the Office of Theology, Formation & Evangelism for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, which brings together several ministries that form and transform disciples, leaders, congregations, and new worshiping communities.

September 24th promises a powerful experience of worship, inspiration for your leadership, and plenty of time for dialogue about the themes lifted up throughout the day. Everyone is invited to attend the Gathering for the Keynote Address, Worship, and a Learning Conversation led by Ray Jones. For details about the September Gathering please go to: Registration for this Gathering opens September 1.

If you are not a commissioner representing your congregation, you are welcome to attend all or part of the presbytery gathering. Registration will open September 1st.

May God give us the courage to believe for something more, even an “expansive gospel” that remakes us and our church in this unique time and in every era to come.

With you on the journey,

Tom Cramer
Presbytery Co-Executive for Vision & Mission, Acting Head of Staff