Yesterday I had the privilege of attending and participating in Presbytery for the first time. Going in, I had no intentions of writing about it, but my experience was so encouraging, fulfilling, and refreshing that I feel there are some things worth sharing with you.
- There are many godly men serving the church. Most of us probably assume this, but not until you are in the corporate presence of these men do you realize the weight of God's sovereignty in drawing together elders for His church and His supplying them with the wisdom, character, and humility required for such a position. These men believe and rely on God's working through the power of prayer, and, even in disagreement, their generosity and graciousness is evident. Across age, race, geographic, and many other differences, Christ has unified his servants through the truth of His gospel. In these men, God was glorified yesterday.
- Our form of church government really works. Many churches of all different types are moving towards some type of rule by elders, however there is more to the Presbyterian system than just being “elder ruled.” It also includes the added steps of Presbytery and General Assembly that give the church its greatest protections. That's not to say there aren't problems and faults (it's still being run by sinful and fallible people), but it is the best and, more importantly, most biblical form of church government that we have. Seeing it in action yesterday was an encouragement that the system God has ordained works.
- Presbytery is more than just corporate worship and the docket. At Presbytery, these men get the opportunity to worship together - to sing, to be fed and filled with the gospel, and to take the Lord's Supper. Additionally, they have the privilege of caring for the church through discussion, decisions, and resolutions. While that is the main function of Presbytery, it is also an opportunity for elders to fellowship together, build relationships, forge new ones, and even to challenge and have healthy debate with one another. Presbytery starts the moment you get in the car to travel and fellowship with your Christian brothers and it doesn't end until you arrive back home. It is a fulfilling and refreshing time for those involved.
- Presbytery cares deeply for all of its local churches. The men at Presbytery love Jesus Christ and love His church. This was evident to me because of the care, attention, and prayer they devoted to individual churches and ministries. There was also a special emphasis on new church plants and excitement for seeing the local bodies grow and mature. For those of you in the PCA (and other similar denominations), please know that it is not just your Session, but also your Presbytery, where the church is praying and caring for you.
- I have a newfound sense of honor, respect, and responsibility for the local Session. Our work in the Session is very important. I've known this and have understood the implications of the decisions we make. However, yesterday gave me a fresher and deeper understanding of the responsibility and accountability that we have as a Session. Our decisions don't just impact our local church, but they affect other churches as well. So, while our primary focus is on the specific flock we have been called to shepherd, we also need to take into consideration how our decisions affect other churches and how we are accountable to a larger body. Our accountability doesn't stop at our local church.
All this isn't to say that there aren't tensions, disagreements, or outright conflicts – as I said before, we are sinners, after all – but my observations speak to the bigger picture and purpose of Presbytery that was clearly evident to me yesterday. To you who are local members of a PCA church, be encouraged, strengthened in confidence and assurance, that God is caring for you, not just through your local church, but also on a much larger scale.