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 have been highlighting the committees and agencies to learn more about what they do and how we can pray for them. I recently interviewed Paul Hahn, coordinator of Mission to North America (MNA).
Christina: Can you explain the origins of MNA and its role in the PCA?
Paul: Mission to North America (MNA) was established at the very beginning of our life together as the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), as a permanent committee of the PCA to coordinate the extension of the church in North America. From the very beginning, church planting (at that time usually referred to as organizing churches) has been core to MNA’s task of pursuing the flourishing of the gospel throughout the United States and Canada. And from early on, other ministries of word and deed which would serve to advance the gospel were given birth inside the MNA family: disaster response, chaplain ministries, networks promoting justice and mercy, and gospel outreach to college campuses (RUF was originally part of MNA).
Initially, most new churches were formed in the PCA through transfers or splits from existing denominations who were drifting from their theological moorings. In the next phase, MNA staff directly recruited and launched most of the new churches. Since 2000, MNA has focused on providing services, resources, and hands-on leadership and training, so that churches and presbyteries can take full ownership of launching new churches. MNA has also been on the cutting edge of enabling the PCA to become a more diverse church in a gospel sense — with our various minority movements, as well as the New City Church Planting Network and our Justice and Mercy initiatives. In this most recent period, many more MNA Missional Partnership ministries have been added to serve established churches in their word and deed outreach to their communities: Metanoia Prison Ministries, Engaging Disabilities, ESL, Immigrant and Refugee, and Ministry to State, among others.
Christina: What is your role at MNA? How have you seen it change during your tenure?
Paul: When I began my tenure as MNA Coordinator in the summer of 2016, it was really all about seeing what was, and what wasn’t, happening in the field, to make handshakes with all our various ministry groups and the churches and presbyteries being served by them.
As these first three years have rolled by, my time has been spent in three key ways: 1) To give gospel vision, hope, and encouragement through a personal ministry of presence and proclamation (This has meant being in a lot of places and preaching and speaking a lot of times across the US and Canada!). 2) To recast MNA’s vision — MNA exists to be a catalyst for gospel flourishing throughout the United States and Canada via church planting, church renewal, and missional engagement; MNA is here for more and better churches; MNA exists for the vitality of the church. And to restructure MNA’s systems, virtual platforms, and personnel around this renewed vision. 3) To create and execute immediate and long-term funding strategies to undergird this huge amount of catalytic ministry.
Christina: When I think of MNA, I often think of its role in planting churches. MNA does a lot more than that. Can you tell us about some of the ministries we may not be familiar with?
Paul: In addition to services that support church planting and church renewal, MNA offers opportunities for ministry or assistance to churches in launching these ministries: Chaplain Ministries, Engaging Disability with the Gospel, English as a Second Language, Prison Ministries, Ministry to State, Disaster Response, Second Career, Short Term, and Ministry among Refugees and Immigrants. Additionally, MNA knows the great need of the hour, and often the unspoken and forgotten one, is for the renewal of our existing churches, many of which are plateaued or in decline. MNA is stepping into this space fully in 2020, as we have received a major gift toward the renewal of our existing congregations.
Christina: There are many ways that women can be involved with the work of MNA. Can you share some of those opportunities? (such as Disaster Response, ESL, Parakaleo, etc.).
Paul: Women are essential to supporting and encouraging the wives of pastors in Church Planting, Church Renewal, and Chaplain Ministries (via Parakaleo); all of the Missional Partnerships mentioned above include a wide variety of opportunities for leadership and service for women. Simply put, women make up the majority of the great wealth of gifted lay servant-leaders in the church, who need to be encouraged and challenged by the large scope and great power of the gospel, and be unleashed and empowered for evangelism and mission through word and deed in their communities. MNA is here to promote and catalyze this unleashing of the church in every way.
Christina: What are some practical ways women’s ministries in local churches can support the work of MNA?
Paul: In addition to prayer support and encouragement to those engaged in ministry and with whom there is a personal connection, participation in any of the ways mentioned previously is a great opportunity for women. It is important to realize that not only do these ministries need support and prayer from women; in most cases, church planting and church renewal movements, and all the mission that flows from our missional partnerships happen in a robust way only if women are involved in major roles and in significant numbers.
Christina: How can we be in prayer for MNA?
Paul: We lost a dear teammate just weeks ago on our MNA executive staff team — Ted Strawbridge, who gave key leadership in training events for church planting and church renewal and in our financial development efforts. Pray that God would comfort and encourage his wife, Mary Lu, and their children and grandchildren, as well as Ted’s many friends and ministry partners. (You can read about Ted’s life and ministry here.
Pray for our year-end fundraising efforts, for MNA’s General Fund, as well as for our Unity Fund that promotes educational and ministry opportunities for minority peoples in the PCA, and for the many, many wonderful ministry arms of MNA. You can find out more about giving to MNA here.
Pray for the multiplication and fruitfulness of our regional church planting and church renewal training events. Our next event is in Milwaukee, Nov. 12-14. You can find out more about it here.
About the Author:
Christina received her undergraduate degree from Covenant College and her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She writes for a number of Christian ministries and publications including TGC, Revive Our Hearts, Desiring God, Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Ligonier Ministries. She is the content editor for enCourage and the author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament , Closer Than a Sister: How Union with Christ Helps Friendships to Flourish, Idols of a Mother’s Heart and Sufficient Hope: Gospel Meditations and Prayers for Moms. Christina serves on the advisory board at Covenant College and is on the national women’s ministry team as Regional Adviser of the Southeast. She prefers her coffee black and from a French press, enjoys antiquing, hiking, traveling, and reading. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two boys. You can find her at www.christinafox.com, @christinarfox and on Facebook.