The Mission to North America (MNA) Committee will present the Rev. Paul Hahn to the 2016 General Assembly as its recommendation to be the next MNA coordinator. Hahn will replace Jim Bland, who retires in June.
For Hahn, it feels as though all his work, experience, and training are now coming together. “Everything I’ve done over 25 years of ministry,” he says, “has been tied to MNA.”
“Anytime the Lord calls you to something new,” he says, “you should have some sense of that.” For Paul Hahn, it’s clear: This job is the junction point of a lifetime in ministry.
While in seminary and working as an intern for Don Graham, one of the PCA’s founders, at the First Presbyterian Church of Gulfport, Mississippi, Hahn found himself at a Sunday-night service with his wife, Fran. Terry Geiger, then MNA’s new coordinator, was the guest speaker. “When he finished his sermon,” Hahn says, “I looked at Fran. ‘That’s what I want to do,’ I told her. She smiled and said she did, too. That’s when I knew that I wanted to encourage people in the Gospel, that I wanted to plant churches.”
The new calling stirred Hahn to join the staff of Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), then a part of MNA, as the campus minister at Auburn University. “Mark Lowrey, RUF coordinator, sold me on RUF as the best training for a church planter. I was the second guy there,” Hahn says, “and was more or less replanting the ministry.”
After four fruitful years, the Hahns moved to Texas, where Paul planted Redeemer Presbyterian in Austin. Redeemer, in turn, birthed three more congregations. The church was also the flagship for a pair of RUF startups in Austin and another at Baylor University.
“Every job, every experience — they were all steps that led to this job at this exact time.”
While he was in Texas, Hahn’s MNA ties grew stronger. He became a founding member of the Southwest Church Planting Network and chaired both the South Texas Presbytery’s MNA committee and the RUF regional joint committee in the Southwest.
His bond with MNA deepened again in 2003, when God called him to plant Redeemer Church of Knoxville, Tennessee. “Right away,” Hahn says, “I got on Tennessee Valley Presbytery’s MNA committee. I’ve been involved that way throughout my career.
“You get into your 50s, and you see how God brings it all together,” Hahn says. “Every job, every experience — they were all steps that led to this job at this exact time.”
Two Rails: Church Planting and Mission Partnerships
MNA is a catalyst to so many good things, Hahn believes. He points out how the ministry cultivates, connects, and equips church planters. It comes alongside presbyteries to provide encouragement, direction, and mentoring — the things, he says, that create church-planting movements, which mature into church-planting ecosystems.
Hahn is also eager to see MNA’s missional partnerships come to greater flourishing. “MNA’s Second Career, for example, gives retirees and those in transition an opportunity to use their experience for the sake of Christ’s kingdom. Disaster Response empowers members to rush to the aid of hurricane, tornado, and flood victims. The Refugee and Immigrant work is where the PCA ministers to the ‘aliens and strangers’ among us. And MNA’s Special Needs Ministry allows us to share God’s perspectives on value and personhood.”
Adding a Third Rail — Renewal
MNA has two “rails on the ground,” Hahn says, “church planting and missional partnerships. But we need a third rail — church renewal.”
Hahn likens our churches to a lawn: “If you want a beautiful lawn you’ve got to sod or seed it; you’ve got to establish it in places that are bare. But you don’t plant grass and then leave it alone. You’ve got to water and fertilize it.” It’s the maintenance, Hahn says, “that keeps the yard beautiful.”
We’ve talked about this, Hahn explains, but as a denomination we haven’t done much about it. The one exception, he points out, is Harry Reeder, senior pastor at Briarwood Presbyterian in Birmingham, Alabama.
Hahn shifts to a baseball metaphor. Embers to a Flame — the Briarwood renewal program — is a great fastball. But to meet the challenge, he says, we need a “curveball and a changeup. A lot of sessions will look at Embers and think it’s perfect. Others may think ‘I can’t do that.’ So we need more pitches.
“Many of our smaller churches,” Hahn says, “are wondering if they’re going to make it to the next generation.” For a denomination that’s in its 40s, “renewal is the need of the hour.”
For Such a Time?
When Jim Bland announced his retirement, people approached Hahn, wondering if he was interested. “We were studying Esther at the time,” Hahn recalls. “When something like this comes up, you think about Mordecai and Esther. You’re more or less forced to wonder ‘… if you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this’ (Esther 4:14).