Editor’s Note: From its inception, the women in the PCA have loved on and supported the denomination in practical ways. One way has been through the annual women’s ministry love gift. This year, the women’s ministry of the PCA is praying for and partnering with the different agencies and committees of the denomination regionally. Throughout the year, we will highlight the committees and agencies to learn more about what they do and how we can pray for them.
Below is an interview I did with Randy Stair, current president of the PCA Foundation.
Christina: Randy, can you tell us about the PCA Foundation and its role in the PCA?
Randy: The PCA Foundation is an agency of the PCA. Our motto is “Facilitating Generosity to Advance God’s Kingdom.” Our mission statement is “The Mission of the PCA Foundation is to provide charitable financial services to Christians, enabling them to carry out their stewardship responsibilities and charitable desires to financially support the Kingdom of Jesus Christ through the Presbyterian Church in America and other Christian Ministries.” The charitable financial services include our Advise & Consult Fund (a donor-advised fund), Endowments, Charitable Remainder, and Lead Trusts and Bequest Processing.
I first discovered the reformed faith in my mid-twenties. I went on a journey of discovery, learning from pastors and friends over coffee and dinner. I read and researched with the time I had, and I gained a strong foundation in theology through the discipleship of my local church. When I did have kids, I taught part time at a local community college. My classes were online, and I had great flexibility around them. When the kids were asleep or watching Thomas the Train, I could read, research and write. For years, I was able to slowly but surely add to my theological foundation. I had margin in my life to do so, and I worked to keep that margin, knowing that I would be better at everything else I did if I was growing daily in my understanding of the deep things of the Word of God.
Fast forward a few years. My boys are now 12 and 14. Though they don’t need me in the same way they did as toddlers, they still need me as an engaged parent as much as ever. But life circumstances have also funneled me down to taking a full-time teaching job. I love my job, but it, along with parenting my children and participating in our presbytery’s new church plant, has officially taken all the flexibility and margin out of my life.
I no longer have time or mental energy to research the types of commentaries or online theological discussions I used to find intriguing and informative. Yet, my need to live in light of the deep truths of the Word of God is as strong as ever.
I recently joined the choir at church. I love to sing—in the car, in the shower, as I’m going about my tasks at home, on Sundays in church—but I have never been part of a choir. My first obstacle is that I don’t read music, but they assured me that wouldn’t be a problem. My second obstacle was that I normally teach Bible study during the same time the choir practices, but our study has ended for the year and that time is now free.
So, I joined the choir. And, oh dear, is it ever different from singing in the car! The sheet music holds a slight resemblance to the pages of the hymnals in the pews—but only barely. During the entire first practice I felt so lost. Being an alto means that I can’t just sing along with the melody, but must learn to harmonize, which sounds so lovely when it’s done well, and not so lovely when it’s not. Fortunately, I sat next to a sweet friend who also sings alto, and I followed her like an imprinting duckling.
I’m certain that if I stick it out and learn to sing with the choir it will be worth it, because I do love to sing. I particularly love hymns. Filled with scripture and sound doctrine and written to lift the heart, mind, and soul to God, the hymns of our faith are a means of reminding us of truth and encouraging us in our walk with Christ. But singing is not the only way to enjoy them.
When my oldest daughter was six, my husband and I left the country for two weeks. Two weeks. It’s really not that long, but, from the perspective of my six-year-old, it seemed like an eternity. She was afraid to be left without us, she was sad because she was going to miss us, and she was worried about what it would be like with us gone.
Knowing phone calls would be difficult at best, I left her with several things to comfort her when she was sad and strengthen her when she was afraid—a photo of us, some notes to read, and the reminder we would be praying for her. I also tried to reassure her by telling her, “We’ll be back before you know it.” After all, we were only going to be gone a little while.
A little while. The phrase is used seven times in John 16. Jesus, preparing his disciples for his death, said, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me” (John 16:16). At the thought of Jesus leaving, the eleven disciples were like my daughter: they were afraid, sad, and worried. Not only did Jesus reassure them with the certainty they would see him again, he also promised them he would leave them three things: his Spirit, his joy, and his peace.
On New Year’s Day, my children were splashing in the ocean while my toes were curled in the sand. It was a gift of a beach trip after weeks of gray skies and rain clouds at home. My daughter enjoyed staying an extra few days at the beach with my Mama, her Gramma, after the rest of our family headed home. Upon picking her up, the joy on both of their faces told me they had thoroughly enjoyed their time together. They recounted how they talked and played music and laughed all the way home.
I remarked to my daughter that road trips with Mama were one of my favorite childhood memories. Mama is all about a road trip. I remember the sunroof open, The Judds playing on repeat, and stopping for TCBY— back when frozen yogurt was a novelty. The destination could have been the beach, a visit to my brother in Virginia, a shopping day in Atlanta, or a whirlwind weekend in New York City. It saddens me to even consider all that I would have forsaken had I responded to her fun-loving invitations with questions or stalling. In those tender years, she was my faithful guide and my willingness to follow her has led me to find some of my favorite people, places, and possibilities.
The Road Trip of a Lifetime
In chapter 12 of Genesis, Abram received an invitation by the Lord God to “go from your country.” The God of all creation spoke into the life of this seventy-five-year-old man and invited him on a road trip.
“Stay, Paula, stay!” This is what my Savior calls me and all of us as Christians to do in John 15 as He urges us to abide in Him. “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The Greek word for abide means “stay, to remain where you have been placed.” This means we must remain vitally connected to the Vine.
In eternity past, the Father chose us to be united with His Son who redeemed us for His glory and set us apart for His purposes. By abiding in Him, we grow and bear lasting fruit as the Spirit empowers and enables us. Rankin Wilbourne says in his book, Union with Christ, “Like a dog commanded to stay we must exert ourselves not to become distracted or move away from our Master.”
John 15 teaches us a great deal about our Master, Jesus, the One who calls us to abide. We learn that He is the Vine and we are the branches. As His people, we are vitally connected to Him and apart from Him we can’t do anything. Apart from Him, we can’t bear fruit, not lasting fruit that brings glory to God. The fruit that we bear in our life proves that we are His disciples and that we have been united to Him.