When was the last time you read an old book?
C.S. Lewis had an opinion on this: “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.”
Lewis urges Christian readers to step outside of their century to read the “old books.” In fact, he penned these words as part of an introduction to the over 1,600-year-old classic, On the Incarnation by Athanasius. As Christmas nears and we reflect on our Lord Jesus coming in the flesh, let us learn first-hand about the Incarnation from Athanasius, a Christian who suffered greatly to protect the biblical truth that Jesus is both fully God and fully man.
Who Was Athanasius?
Athanasius, an early Church Father, was born sometime during 296-300 A.D. in Alexandria, Egypt. The city of Alexandria played a pivotal role in the Eastern Roman Empire. Athanasius grew up during the reign of Diocletian, emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, and his successor Galerius, both of whom violently persecuted Christians. As a young child, Athanasius saw followers of Christ driven from their homes, tortured, and martyred.
Later, as a young adult, Athanasius studied under Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, and engaged in the great Trinitarian strife—the Arian controversy. Arius, a priest in Alexandria, denied the divinity of Jesus and taught the heresy that since Jesus is the Son of God, as a son, Jesus had to have a beginning and thus was a created being. He confused many in the early Church by falsely teaching that God the Father alone was truly God, and that Jesus his Son was not God, but instead, was the first and greatest creature made by the Father to accomplish man’s salvation. Bishop Alexander opposed Arius and fought to maintain the true deity of the eternal Christ….
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. I recently interviewed Gary Campbell with PCA Retirement and Benefits (RBI).
Christina: Can you tell us what RBI does for the PCA? How did it come into existence?
Gary: Thanks, Christina, for the opportunity to talk about the ministry of PCA Retirement & Benefits (RBI). Put simply, RBI provides employee benefits and support services for PCA church servants. Our mission is to prepare, protect, and nurture PCA servants through investment, insurance, relief, and related services, so they can focus on ministry. RBI was founded at the very beginning of the denomination in 1973. It was known as the Annuity Fund for Ministers and was part of the Administrative Committee. In 1973 the organization was a very small operation, but as it grew there was a need to establish it as a separate denominational agency overseen by a dedicated governing board. This was accomplished in 1982 when our name was changed to Insurance Annuities and Relief (IAR). Today, RBI serves over 7,000 participants with combined assets of $650 million in the PCA Retirement Plan. Group Insurance volume is almost $685 million covering 4,281 ministry partners. And RBI Ministerial Relief has paid $637,726 in awards to 64 beneficiaries in the past four quarters.
Christina: What are the main services pastors seek your assistance with?
Gary: That’s a good question. I believe the leading source of incoming and outgoing calls is related to questions church workers have regarding saving and planning for retirement. These interactions are a result of a retirement readiness survey we conducted in late 2010 with the assistance of Price Waterhouse Coopers. The survey confirmed our worst fears. We found that PCA church leaders were significantly behind in their preparation for retirement and, by implication, the future for widows of PCA teaching elders was dire. We realized that reversing this trend would require effort and prayer by RBI to unify the denomination around a solution to this problem. Since 2010, RBI has transformed the organization to embody a relational/missional culture of service to church workers. We employ a team of teaching elders who are also Certified Financial Planners to proactively meet with church workers throughout the PCA. We also publish a yearly compensation guide called the PCA Call Package Guidelines to assist churches as they seek to understand how to pay pastors fairly and deal with complex issues such as pastoral housing allowance, social security, and other unique facets of pastoral compensation. This has been a monumental effort and I believe the needle is moving, but we have much more work yet to do.
Christina: Are there any groups that are particularly under-served?…