On July 8, 1723, Jonathan Edwards penned his 52nd Resolution: “I frequently hear elderly people express how they would live, if they were to do life over again: [I am] Resolved, that I will live in faithfulness without regret, supposing I live to an old age.”
Throughout seminary, Edwards’ Spiritual Resolutions remained a regular part of my nightstand reading, and it stimulated the prayer that continues to echo in my heart: “Lord, like Abraham of old and the Saints of Hebrews 11, please help the Castaldo family respond to your call with radical faith.” After eight encouraging, faith-stretching years at College Church, Angela and I are receiving a new call to live out this prayer in a ministry we believe is from the Lord.
Last fall, Dr. Lon Allison, director of Wheaton College’s Billy Graham Center (BGC), began a conversation with me about possibly leading a new center within the BGC’s Institute for Strategic Evangelism. We both recognized that my book, Holy Ground, had opened enormous doors of opportunity to serve the global church. This opportunity, though unlooked for, seemed to match both my gifts and passions. I promised Lon that I would pray about it.
Frankly, however, Angela and I resisted it. We couldn’t imagine leaving our position at College Church. We’re so warmly loved, of course, and believed that we had accomplished much in encouraging church outreach, with much more ahead of us under the dynamic leadership of Josh Moody. We also knew that individuals in this capacity at the BGC must raise their own salaries and benefit support. Who in his or her right mind would embark upon support-raising in this economy?
Then I remembered Edwards’ Resolution number 52. Were we ready to take another step of radical faith? In the end it came down to saying yes to God’s very clear call and the passions of our hearts. Once we were honest with God and said, “Here am I, send me,” the Lord instilled in Angela and me a deep burden for this ministry. So we said yes, both with excitement for all that lies ahead and gratitude mingled with longing for stepping away from the congregation of College Church in day-to-day ministry (though of course we will be next door!).
What will I be doing at the BGC? It will involve an exciting concept called Gospel Renewal among the “partially-evangelized.” This refers to men and women who have had exposure to the Christian tradition, but for whom New life in Christ, God’s Word, and Outreach is not central to belief and/or practice. What is now only a trickle of Christian identity, God desires to make a deep river of faith (Ezekiel 47); what is a small cloud, God wishes to develop into a torrential rain (1 Kings 18:44); what is a modest-sized lunch, God will multiply a thousand times over into a feast (John 6). The Institute for Gospel Renewal would exist to encourage this work of God through published resources, teaching, networking, and mentoring.
I want to express heartfelt affection and gratitude to the dear congregation of College Church (imagine mushy pastor typing with a tear in his eye). You are more than a collection of close friends, mentors, and families whom we’ve had the privilege of serving; you are the Body of Christ among whom we have encountered the redemptive love of God. Our sweetest memories have come while sharing life with you; when we’re old and gray, we’ll look back on these memories and smile.
Please visit us here at chriscastaldo.com in the upcoming weeks to learn more about The Ministry of Gospel Renewal!