I’ve been thinking a lot lately about being Presbyterian.
When I went to Mizzou for college, I started hanging out with the BSU and The Navigators. I ended up connecting most with The Navs, and spent four years with them learning so much, memorizing Scripture, taking trips and leading. Through that time, I became Baptist in some of its various stripes. Evangelical Free, independent Baptist and Southern Baptist. It was a great time of growth for me. We moved to Stillwater to work with the OSU Navs and joined Countryside Baptist Church and made even more great friends. I didn’t grow up Presbyterian. I grew up in a really great Methodist church in Springfield, Missouri. I’m thankful for my upbringing, my pastors, my youth ministers and the friends I had. They were so important to me. I loved youth choir, summer camps, crazy lock-ins and all I learned.
My first Presbyterian church was what is now Zion Pres in Lincoln, Nebraska. We had a brief ten months in Lincoln before we went to Covenant Seminary, and we needed a landing place. I’d become convinced of Reformed Theology, but was reluctant to baptize my kids and had a ton to work through. Stu Kerns and so many people loved us and welcomed us, and we joined in that short time period. We became Presbyterians. Yikes.
I’m recounting this not because my church history is so fascinating. It’s not. I’m writing it out so you can realize that I didn’t grow up this way. My initial story is Methodist, which isn’t that far off from Presbyterian, but it is significantly different. Then I grew most in the Lord in Baptist parachurch circles. Those were formative years. I’ve had to learn to be Presbyterian.
Honestly, I’m often pretty bad at it. I’m committed. I have taken vows to this church. I totally believe in our standards and the Book of Church Order. I don’t always understand them! I spent 10 years as an RUF Campus Minister and the Book of Church Order didn’t come up nearly as often as it does now. I would sit in presbytery and get quickly frustrated with the slowness of process, the parliamentary procedures, the Robert’s Rules of Orders. I’d quickly comment about how we needed less structure, more community and a more speedy maneuverability.
But – I’m so thankful. I’m so thankful that I didn’t get what I wanted. I’m so thankful for those who have walked before us and shown us this great way, this great structure and this biblical way of doing things. I’m thankful to be forced into a real, substantiate-able community where we are actually partnering together and working together as the church. I’m thankful that it’s not just what I would have made in so so limited knowledge and experience and foolishness.
I’m thankful there is an order that tells us a good order to do things. That order isn’t perfect by any means. It doesn’t eliminate wrong-doing or sin, but it for sure mitigates against it and even accounts for it. It provides confidence and even safety in policies and procedures. It has stood the test of time, and can be attested to with documents and votes. It handles a representative government well, though not perfectly.
As I learn more about it and move through many steps in this most personal way for the first time (as we elect our first class of elders and therefore become what we call a “particularized” church (instead of a mission church)), I’m grateful for leaders and mentors.
I’m Presbyterian. One great thing about being Presbyterian is don’t even have to be Presbyterian to be Presbyterian. But I’m learning.