My Outlook and Assessment of Our Denomination

[Please pardon a little bit of insider talk on this blog.]

I first joined a Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) church in 1996 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Julie and I only spent a few months in Lincoln, but we were welcomed, mentored and loved by Stu Kerns and Covenant Presbyterian Church. We joined, and they supported us through seminary. We attended two other fantastic (and completely different) churches in St Louis, and then I was called to start the RUF ministry in Norman at OU. We spent ten years there. I was ordained in the PCA on Sept 16, 2001. Since then my call changed to be a pastor at City Pres in OKC (June 2011). I’m glad and proud to get to pastor this amazing church!

I grew up Methodist in southwest Missouri. In college I came to Christ through the ministry of the Navigators. Throughout the years, I’ve been various types of Baptist (Southern Baptist, Evangelical Free, Independent Baptist).

The PCA is a tiny denomination (see Thesis #4). I’m thankful to be in it. There are some who think we’re in big trouble and we’d better watch out. Things are “going liberal.” Standards are slipping, etc. I don’t see it. I do see that there are some who don’t like the tiny tent of the PCA to be as big as it is. There are some in a narrow band who will see anything as a move by “the left” to wrestle control. Evidence can be found nearly everywhere for a Paul Revere social media ride: podcasts, Covenant College students taking a knee, an interview, a conference, a presbytery or GA vote…

I love the weird little PCA. We’re two months away from our next General Assembly, and I look forward to it (which I never thought I’d say). We’ve got our problems and issues, of course. We’re sinful pastors and elders who pastor and lead sinful people. Let’s rejoice in Jesus’s work!

Thesis #1 – The PCA is one of the most conservative denominations in the world. When with in the PCA we talk about progressives, liberals and conservatives, we’re talking about people who are 9.0 to 10.0 on the conservative spectrum. We are about as tightly bound and knit as anyone. To think otherwise is disingenuous and divisive.

#1 Appendix – since we are super duper conservative, we do well if we can be warm and winsome, if we can take the side of the other, if we can try to listen more than we talk, if we expand our outreach and outlook into all the ways the gospel applies, not the few ways we’re already doing really well.

Thesis #2 – The PCA is healthy. We have growing pains of course, and there are issues we need to deal with. We fight with each other. However, on the whole, we are planting churches, starting RUFs, seeing growth, baptisms, conversions and spiritual vitality when other denominations aren’t. This is something to celebrate.

#2 Appendix – RUF, MTW, MNA, Covenant Seminary and Covenant College are super healthy places to be, do ministry at, get training and support. We should be thankful for these agencies.

Thesis #3 – There is no slippery slope and the sky is not falling. Alarm bells don’t need to be sounded. We can have healthy debate and respect each other. The tent is big and wide enough for us to not only begrudgingly live together, but to minister alongside each other with respect, dignity, and even joy.

Thesis #3 Appendix – There is no left wing conspiracy.

Thesis #4 – We’re a teeny tiny denomination that takes itself way to seriously. We’re doing good work in our little sliver of Christianity. Let’s keep it up and expand, but let’s also be realistic and not try to pare down even further.

#4 Appendix – I for one am super thankful to be here. I’d like to walk together with others who are realistic and optimistic, but also take seriously those who think we have problems we need to address. I can relate. I do too!

Thesis #5 – The gospel of Jesus Christ is our only hope. Reformed Theology is our best expression of that fullest, best gospel message. Presbyterian and the PCA is an even further clarification of the way we see this best worked out in peoples’ lives and churches working together. However, we preach Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Thesis #6 – The Bible is filled with love for people, and it’s often especially concerned with people who are unloved, marginalized, lonely, sick, mourning, outcasts, treated poorly, not in the majority, poor and many other descriptors. Theirs is the kingdom. We would do well to admit that we often do not see them as Christ does. We have used various methods to describe, enact and justify this behavior. We will lose traction if we seek to continue that behavior, which was often (not always!) seen in our forefathers. When we repent of those sins, we are closer to the heart of Jesus. When we continue in those sins we are further from his heart, and yet he is patient with us. Calling PCA pastors Marxist or liberal or things like that take us further from our calls and do not rightly use words for us to understand.

#6 Appendix – we haven’t done well with how many black and hispanic pastors we have. We should take note of this, think and pray and discuss it, and ask Jesus to help us as we walk forward together. This will make us better and stronger.

Thesis #7 – Like him or not, Rev. Tim Keller is one of the best things about the PCA.