Christian Union Panel Discussion Focuses on Reconciliation
by catherine elvy, staff writer
Drew Griffin, the managing editor of Providence: A Journal of Christianity & American Foreign Policy, highlighted the critical role believers play in fostering redemption, reconciliation, and transformation within their spheres of influence when he appeared at a Christian Union New York forum this summer.
Griffin moderated a panel of non-profit leaders who took part in an event entitled Mission to the City: Engaging through Volunteering. About 55 people attended the forum, held at the Scandinavia House on Park Avenue in Manhattan.
In addition to Griffin, panelists included: Taylor Becker, Penn ’17 (a volunteer with East Harlem Tutorial Program); Jason Nong, Princeton ’15 (Opportunity Music Project); Hilary Awad (Fellowship of Christians in Universities and Schools); Lauren Culbertson (Restore NYC); and Jonathan Roberts (The Bowery Mission). Following the discussion, Christian Union invited participants to volunteer to help serve breakfast on behalf of The Father’s Heart Ministries on the Lower East Side.
“Christians are supposed to be an aroma of life and light to their communities,” said Griffin.
Among panelists, Becker said young professionals have a responsibility to use their God-given time, talents, and treasure to enrich their surrounding communities and the lives of their neighbors. As such, Becker serves as a junior board member for East Harlem Tutorial Program. “I volunteer because I believe that ensuring equal access to a quality education, in particular getting to and through college, is necessary in order to address social inequality,” said Becker, an analyst for The Blackstone Group.
“We’re called to serve and give to others as we have been served and given,” said Nong, who volunteers with Bowery Mission in addition to the Opportunity Music Project. “Young professionals should experiment with different ways of volunteering and discover what they enjoy. There are so many organizations out there that need people involved in any number of ways.”
Ultimately, the volunteer becomes the receiver. “Volunteering helps you take a step back and develop an appreciation for the gifts that you already have been given,” said Nong.
Griffin pointed to the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:18, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
Believers should be ambassadors of reconciliation, especially across New York’s diverse, populous neighborhoods.
“Restoration should be what motivates us,” said Griffin. “We should see things that are broken and want to fix them. It should drive us to seek opportunities.”
Such insights dovetail with Christian Union’s vision to expand God’s kingdom within influential cities, including New York City.
“As Christians, we are called to transformation,” said Scott Crosby, ministry director of Christian Union New York. “It is rooted in our identity as people made in the image of God and tasked with mediating God’s rule and blessing in a broken world.”
Christian Union offers many leadership development opportunities and other resources to professionals in New York City and Washington, D.C. The ministry aims to provide leaders, especially young professionals, with various forums, lectures, conferences, Bible courses, and networking opportunities.
At the recent forum, Griffin exhorted professionals to engage, both in their vocational spheres and in their neighborhoods. At a practical level, such devotion may mean stepping up to assist with community repairs, maintenance and improvements, Griffin told his audience. For example, believers can help to clean and spruce up neighborhood parks. “Parks are the front yards of the city,” the former pastor said.
As for vocational endeavors, Christ’s followers who labor in finance, education, the arts, and other pivotal enterprises can leave imprints upon such realms. Many such arenas present opportunities for redemption. All of creation cries out to be “restored to its former glory before the fall,” said Griffin.
Indeed, the Bible poignantly reflects God’s desire to reconcile men and women to Himself, to restore relationships, and to foster flourishing communities. In Ephesians 2:22, Paul noted, “In Him, you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
Modern believers should reflect Christ’s ministry of reconciliation as they encounter a spectrum of individuals, whether unabashedly self-assured or downtrodden. “In the city, we encounter people who are hopeless,” said Griffin.
Notably, Jesus made a point of ministering to the downcast and alienated of society. “In the city, we encounter people who are hopeless,” said Griffin. Click to Tweet
God is the initiator of reconciliation, but believers are His representatives to their neighbors. Ultimately, believers should be motivated to “find and celebrate the image of God in others,” Griffin said.