The following is an interview with Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee and host of The Reconnect.
What is the goal of The Reconnect?
We want to equip every Christian to bring God into every conversation. Sometimes we relegate God to the “God things” at church on Sundays. The PLC wants to help people reconnect the eternal with the everyday. That starts with thinking about what we’re thinking, cultivating the mind of Christ in the matter of the day, and then serving as ambassadors of God’s perspective to others. It’s our role and responsibility to speak up for God in every context. Awkward? Yes, sometimes, but people want to know God’s perspective and we’re the ones in a position to share it. We’re helping Christians reconnect with the hope they will in turn serve as reconnectors for others.
Why is the PLC doing a radio show?
Good question! The method of delivering the message has changed and the audience has grown but the PLC continues to be on the same mission of informing and equipping Christians. Our context for many years was the PCUSA. As people and congregations left the PCUSA for the PCA, EPC and ECO, we continued in relationship with many of them. And now, the issues we have faced in the PCUSA are issues in the culture at large. So, stay or go, you need to be equipped to engage the issues in a way that honors Jesus. The radio show is a vehicle for the message and it translates into a podcast and other online resources.
Two interviews, which stick out, were both with my friend Gerrit Dawson, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Baton Rouge, La. Baton Rouge became ground zero this summer for the national tensions of racial violence after the high-profile, police involved shooting of Alton Sterling, and the horrifying retaliatory shootings of three police officers. Gerrit shared a gospel vision for what reconciliation could look like in the city. He shared the incredible vision of what only God can do to bring people together across historic divides. Then, only weeks later, Baton Rouge was hit by a 1,000 year flood. Although thousands of families were displaced from their homes and entire parishes affected, it took a while for the media to catch on to the gravity of what was happening. Gerrit shared with us how the Church was stepping in to be the Body and gave us irreplaceable insight into what was happening on the ground. We absolutely want to serve the Church and connect listeners to what is happening around the country.
Another episode that stands out is the interview with Nik and Ruth Ripken. They were missionaries in Somalia. They buried a son in Africa. Their sacrifice for the cause of Christ is real and their love of people deep. They spent several years recording interviews with Christians in places where the Church is thriving in persecution – Russia, China, the Middle East. The stories became a book and then a movie, The Insanity of God. Things they said on the show changed my perception of the global church. If I refer to my brothers and sisters as ‘the persecuted church,” I now stop and prayerfully correct myself. There’s only one Church and I dare not imagine I am not a part of their experience nor take for granted the freedom I have to worship Christ and share Him with others.
There’s no shortage of topics. People ask me if I ever run out of topics for the show. I tell them, more things end up on the floor than what we can talk about in one hour a day. Not only is there so much happening in the headlines, but God cares about all of it, so we always have an entry into the conversation.
We started doing a series on Fridays called Behind the Byline, where we talk with reporters who cover religion for different media outlets. Long time religion reporter Bob Smietana came on the show and he communicated what I was feeling: every story has a “religion” angle. He told us the “God beat” is the best beat to cover in the news world because faith connects to any story. I agree, God is as active in the mundane as He is in the miraculous. It is our call as ambassadors of Christ to make this truth known.
I have also learned 3 p.m. comes every day. Embarking on a daily radio show is just that – daily. It comes with different challenges, but also opportunities. If something happens on Monday, we don’t have to wait until Sunday to talk about it. We get the opportunity to discuss in real time the headlines everyone is also thinking and talking about around the kitchen table or coffee shop.