Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

4/4 2016

Thank You for Sending Me

World Mission Initiative at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

WMI Staff, 2008: Don Dawson, Jen Haddox, Scott Sunquist, Jim Caldwell, Glendora Paul, Lois Caldwell

I came to study at Pittsburgh Seminary with a strong commitment to world mission already, and was eager to get involved with World Mission Initiative. My three WMI trips sharpened my theology and biblical course work and clarified my sense of call in ministry. When I graduated with my MDiv from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 2006, I remember telling Glendora Paul that I would love to have a job like Don Dawson, the program’s director! She smiled, patted my arm, and said, “I’ll pray for that.” So when I was invited to join the staff of WMI later that year, I was confident that God was sending me into this ministry. I am so thankful that WMI sent me as a student, and grateful to have participated in sending many other students into God’s mission in these past 10 years!

I am just one testimony out of so many who have been shaped by a WMI trip. WMI is celebrating 20 years of transformational ministry at Pittsburgh Seminary. It was April 15, 1996, that the first mission consultation took place here which established the vision, network, and funding for World Mission Initiative. Mission leaders from the Seminary, local congregations, and the Presbyterian Worldwide Ministries Division gathered to discuss how to ignite participation and commitment to God’s global mission from the church. The way became clear to host this innovative program at Pittsburgh Seminary where it could influence future pastors and leaders for the church. This initial meeting planted seeds which grew into WMI’s commitments to develop mission vision, nurture missionary vocations, and cultivate missional congregations.

Reflecting on this commitment, Don Dawson says, “World Mission Initiative has had the privilege of introducing seminarians and church leaders to brothers and sisters in Christ around the world as a means of equipping them to lead missionally in the places they serve. WMI’s purpose is not only to participate in God’s mission and encourage global partners, but also to help our churches better live their missional vocation as the sent people of God.”

Over the years World Mission Initiative has sent more than 300 Seminary students into faith-stretching and ministry-shaping global mission experiences with more than $350,000 of scholarship support! Initially, WMI sent one or two students on occasion. And now, in partnership with local congregations we are regularly planning four to six different group mission experiences, with more than 50 participants annually. The majority of the students have gone on to lead congregations with a greater global mission vision and commitment. And a significant number of those students have gone into missionary vocations, serving in diverse regions and ministries with long-term commitment.

Each one of those 300+ students would gladly say, “Thank you for sending me!”

I invite you to celebrate this milestone year of ministry for WMI by giving a gift to our “Send Me” campaign to raise funds for student travel scholarships. Please consider giving “$20-for-20-years” or whatever amount you are able to contribute towards our $5,000 goal.  Your gift is to support Seminary students, who each receive scholarship support up to $1,000 when they are sent on a WMI trip.

I am grateful for the strong financial support WMI has received through these 20 years that have made my mission trip experiences and many others possible!    I trust that God will continue to bless us as we develop mission vision, nurture missionary vocations, and cultivate missional congregations.

The Rev. Jennifer Haddox ’06 is associate director of the Seminary’s World Mission Initiative.

P.S. It’s not too late to participate in the WMI Conference, April 8-9, 2016.  “Recalibrating the Church for the 21st Century” features Alan Hirsch, a well-respected voice in the missional church conversation. In this anniversary year, we will also include a celebration at the concluding dinner Sat., April 9 at 5:00 p.m. Information and registration is available on our website, www.worldmissioninitiatve.org, or by phone, 412-924-1449. Please come and join us!

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2/8 2016

The Mission has a Church

Pittsburgh mission conference with Alan Hirsch April 8-9“Our task as his people is to discern what God is doing and join with him. It is not so much that the church has a mission but that the mission has a church.” As I read those words from Alan Hirsch’s book, The Permanent Revolutionthey stopped me in my tracks. As the senior pastor of Meridian United Presbyterian Church, I have led my leaders through numerous periods of discernment. Our goals were always to discern what the church should do or where the church should go next. Of course we believed that we were following the Holy Spirit, and I like to think we were. However, when I read those words from Hirsch I started to wonder, “Have we failed to discern what God is up to in the world and join him in that mission?”

We tend to personalize mission as if it belongs to us and it is ours to accomplish. There is a problem with this way of thinking. The church becomes the ultimate solution to the issues we face in the world. The church becomes the goal. However, the church is not the end game in the story of God’s redemption. We spend so much time trying to keep the ship running that we can easily lose sight of who we are and the very reason God has called us into being. As a pastor I often feel like I’m more of a program manager than anything else. I have to make sure the budgets balance, plan and prep Sunday school, write a sermon, and go to meetings that happen far too often. Through all of it I often wonder what difference I’m making in the Kingdom of God.

Maybe it is time to rethink how we go about being the church. I understand that meetings are necessary and that someone has to preach. I love the church and I love the calling I have been given. But it is time for us to move from program runners to the permanent revolution Jesus intended us to be when he established his church. Jesus did not tell his disciples in the Great Commission to stay there and wait for people to show up. Jesus commanded his disciples to go, to move, and to proclaim. There was not a program started on that mountain in Galilee, but a movement of God’s people dedicated to the good news that Christ has risen.

Throughout the Bible we see the movement of the Spirit in the work of restoration. Scripture begins with creation and ends with new creation. God is in the business of bringing about new creation and he is calling us to participate in that work. The church was established as God’s mission to the world. It doesn’t belong to us, we simply share in it. We do not have a mission. The mission has us. The Holy Spirit is at work in every corner of the earth. It is time for us to discern where God is at work and to join in. We do not need to craft beautiful mission statements to know what we are about. We simply need to know the risen Lord and to participate in God’s restoration of creation.

Alan Hirsch will be joining us at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary during the World Mission Initiative conference April 8-9, 2016, when he’ll address “Recalibrating the Church for the 21st Century.” Do not miss this opportunity to learn what it means to join in the mission of God in the world. Jesus established the church to be his mission to the world. Let us join in!

The Rev. Stephen M. Franklin ’09 is pastor of Meridian United Presbyterian Church in Butler, Pa. He received his bachelor’s from Westminster College, master of divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and is currently working on his doctorate in congregational transformation. If Steve isn’t working or playing with his son, you can find him on the golf course or at a baseball stadium.

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6/12 2015

Getting a Global Perspective

World-Mission“We need to become global Christians with a global vision, for we have a global God.” John R. W. Stott

In seasons of discernment students might ask, “What is God’s will for my life?” Not a bad question. I asked this question myself at one point in my journey. But at some point in my discernment process I discovered that while God does have plans for me, I am only one person in a much larger plan that God has for the world. I don’t just worship and pray to a personal God. I worship and pray to a global God, who created it all, loves it all, and plans to redeem every bit of it. A better question that I have learned to ask is, “What is God doing in the world, and how can I be a part of it?”

Discovering what God is doing in the world is a life-long pursuit, a pursuit that keeps me seeking out how to be faithful in a way that expands my vision far beyond my own small corner of the world and into the larger world that God loves. I discovered that God is bringing hope and a future through Christian community and reforestation in Haiti. I witnessed the power of the gospel to fill the persecuted church in Southeast Asia with so much joy that they have an abundance to share. I have heard the message of profound grace found in Jesus shared by a sister from a Muslim background. In all of these discoveries, I am moved to make different choices about how I use natural resources, how I come near to the persecuted in my prayers, and how I can also share the abundance of joy and grace found in Jesus. My growing global perspective shapes my sense of vocation every day.

Looking for ways to pursue what God is doing in the world? Here are three ways you can explore.

The Rev. Jen Haddox ‘06, associate director of  the World Mission Initiative at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, has lead groups of students around the world to see first hand what God is doing at the far corners of the earth.

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