The Glory of Plodding

by Kevin DeYoung

It’s sexy among young people — my generation — to talk about ditching institutional religion and starting a revolution of real Christ-followers living in real community without the confines of church.

Besides being unbiblical, such notions of churchless Christianity are unrealistic. It’s immaturity actually, like the newly engaged couple who think romance preserves the marriage, when the couple celebrating their golden anniversary know it’s the institution of marriage that preserves the romance. Without the God-given habit of corporate worship and the God-given mandate of corporate accountability, we will not prove faithful over the long haul.

What we need are fewer revolutionaries and a few more plodding visionaries. That’s my dream for the church — a multitude of faithful, risktaking plodders. The best churches are full of gospel-saturated people holding tenaciously to a vision of godly obedience and God’s glory, and pursuing that godliness and glory with relentless, often unnoticed, plodding consistency.

My generation in particular is prone to radicalism without follow-through. We have dreams of changing the world, and the world should take notice accordingly. But we’ve not proved faithful in much of anything yet. We haven’t held a steady job or raised godly kids or done our time in VBS or, in some cases, even moved off the parental dole.

We want global change and expect a few more dollars to the ONE campaign or Habitat for Humanity chapter to just about wrap things up. What the church and the world needs, we imagine, is for us to be another Bono — Christian, but more spiritual than religious and more into social justice than the church.

As great as it is that Bono is using his fame for some noble purpose, I just don’t believe that the happy future of the church, or the world for that matter, rests on our ability to raise up a million more Bonos (as at least one author suggests). With all due respect, what’s harder: to be an idolized rock star who travels around the world touting good causes and chiding governments for their lack of foreign aid, or to be a line worker at GM with four kids and a mortgage, who tithes to his church, sings in the choir every week, serves on the school board, and supports a Christian relief agency and a few missionaries from his disposable income?

Until we are content with being one of the million nameless, faceless church members and not the next globe-trotting rock star, we aren’t ready to be a part of the church. In the grand scheme of things, most of us are going to be more of an Ampliatus (Rom. 16:8) or Phlegon (v. 14) than an apostle Paul.

And maybe that’s why so many Christians are getting tired of the church. We haven’t learned how to be part of the crowd. We haven’t learned to be ordinary. Our jobs are often mundane. Our devotional times often seem like a waste. Church services are often forgettable. That’s life. We drive to the same places, go through the same routines with the kids, buy the same groceries at the store, and share a bed with the same person every night. Church is often the same too — same doctrines, same basic order of worship, same preacher, same people.

But in all the smallness and sameness, God works — like the smallest seed in the garden growing to unbelievable heights, like beloved Tychicus, that faithful minister, delivering the mail and apostolic greetings (Eph. 6:21). Life is usually pretty ordinary, just like following Jesus most days. Daily discipleship is not a new revolution each morning or an agent of global transformation every evening; it’s a long obedience in the same direction.

It’s possible the church needs to change. Certainly in some areas it does. But it’s also possible we’ve changed — and not for the better. It’s possible we no longer find joy in so great a salvation. It’s possible that our boredom has less to do with the church, its doctrines, or its poor leadership and more to do with our unwillingness to tolerate imperfection in others and our own coldness to the same old message about Christ’s death and resurrection. It’s possible we talk a lot about authentic community but we aren’t willing to live in it.

The church is not an incidental part of God’s plan. Jesus didn’t invite people to join an anti-religion, anti-doctrine, anti-institutional bandwagon of love, harmony, and re-integration. He showed people how to live, to be sure. But He also called them to repent, called them to faith, called them out of the world, and called them into the church. The Lord “didn’t add them to the church without saving them, and he didn’t save them without adding them to the church” (John Stott).

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7). If we truly love the church, we will bear with her in her failings, endure her struggles, believe her to be the beloved bride of Christ, and hope for her final glorification.

The church is the hope of the world — not because she gets it all right, but because she is a body with Christ for her Head.

Don’t give up on the church. The New Testament knows nothing of churchless Christianity. The invisible church is for invisible Christians. The visible church is for you and me. Put away the Che Guevara t-shirts, stop the revolution, and join the rest of the plodders. Fifty years from now you’ll be glad you did.

Kevin De Young has been the Senior Pastor at University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, right across the street from Michigan State University, since 2004. 


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Jesus told Mary, “I am Not Yet Ascended” — Didn’t He Already Go to Heaven?

by Reverend Anthony R. Locke

John 17:1-5

1   When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,

2   since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.

3   And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

4   I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.

5   And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.[1]

Jesus met Mary in the Garden on resurrection morning. She didn’t recognize Him. She was seeking Jesus and thought He was the Gardener. Her eyes of faith were opened when ( John 20:16-17) Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!”

Mary then falls down at Jesus’ feet and wraps her arms around Jesus. She was clinging to Jesus.

Like Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration, Mary was ready to set up a permanent worship facility right there in the Garden, with her occupying the front row seat.

But Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”

There appears to be an amazing truth casually revealed by Jesus in this comment, and it seems contradictory to His words on the cross.

Listen to Luke 23:39-43 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.

Jesus clearly understood and shared with us His itinerary. On the cross Jesus would pay the penalty for sin. Jesus would suffer punishment from the Father that would save us from Hell. At the end of the experience, with great dignity and peace, Jesus dismissed His Spirit.

His person, His soul left His body on the cross and Jesus, like any saint, traveled into the presence of God the Father. That was His itinerary. Jesus went back to the Father.

Yet this is not the same as His Ascent. This is mysterious.

There were three days between His death and the resurrection. There is a sermon out in the foyer called “Did Jesus Descend into Hell?” which answers where Jesus was while His body was in the tomb.

He made lots of appearances during the 40 days between the resurrection and the ascension.

Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the other women, to Peter, to the Disciples on the Road to Emmaus, to the Ten Disciples locked in a room, to the Disciples and Thomas, to the Seven Disciples while fishing, to the Eleven Disciples on the Mountain when He gives the Great Commission, to a crowd of about 500, to his brother James according to 1 Corinthians 15:7 and to those who watched Jesus ascend to heaven recorded in Luke 24:44-49 and Acts 1.3-8.

During all of these occurrences Jesus appeared normal. He was supernatural. He was heavenly, but not much different than the average ascended saint. Jesus ate food. Jesus asked Thomas to touch His wounds.

Jesus was still identifying Himself as the resurrected Son of Man.

But the “Ascension” transforms His appearance and His glory to the next level. The next time Jesus is seen it blinds the onlooker.

Who saw Jesus first after the ascension? Saul of Tarsus.

Acts 9:1-8 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.

Paul’s experience was after the ascension of Jesus. Therefore, it was completely different than the earlier ascent of Jesus off the cross into heaven.

Let’s rewind and make sure we are all following the sermon.

Jesus makes two ascents. Take a moment to think this through. There’s two events.

First, after His death on the Cross Jesus immediately ascends into the congregation of the saints in heaven. Jesus told the thief hanging next to Him that they were both going to heaven. That’s where Jesus was during the three days His body was in the grave.

The second ascent is what we call the Ascension. The Bible records this event Acts 1:3-11.

Jesus, verse 3, presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

Then verse 9-11 And . . . as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

When Jesus left the cross and traveled with the thief to heaven, Jesus was identifying with the normal progression of a saint who is separated from their bodies.

2 Corinthians 5:8 To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. When we die we go to be with the Lord. We await the resurrection of our bodies. I am not sure what that looks like, but we exist in some form without a glorified body.

After we die we wait for 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

At that time our souls will be united with our resurrected bodies.

That happened for Jesus on Easter Morning. No other saint has been reunited with their resurrected body.

Lazarus got his old body back. Healed but he would die again. Jesus got His eternal body on Easter Morning.

We can look at the resurrected body of Jesus and know what our body will be like. Jesus is the the tithe of the resurrection. His resurrection is the first fruits. 1 Corinthians 15:20.

But this is not the same event for Jesus as the Ascension. The appearance of Jesus is completely different now and when Saul of Tarsus saw this glorified Jesus it blinded him.

It is not enough that Jesus ascends back into heaven like all the other saints. Jesus has to go further.

When I go for a bike ride I like to go in one direction. I ride until I get tired. Then I turn my bike around and force myself to go all the way back and I don’t stop until I am home.

Jesus took a journey out of heaven. Jesus descended out of His glory.

Jesus stopped using His divine attributes. He didn’t want to be known as a Deity. He wanted to be known as a man. So Jesus put on the flesh and soul of humanity in the incarnation that the Divine nature might be hidden.

Philippians 2:6-11 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

At this point in the descent Jesus turns the bike around. Now He starts to make His way back home. And this ascent doesn’t all happen at once. The descent was in stages and the ascent will be in stages.

But the goal is the next verse of Philippians Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Again, being in heaven after the resurrection is not the same for Jesus as being ascended to the right hand of the throne of God. These are part of His stages back to glory.

Psalm 24:7-11 Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory!

I want you to imagine something. Imagine being one of the Old Testament saints in heaven awaiting the resurrection of your body. There’s all these other people in heaven that you know. Friends, family and worship acquaintances. Everyone’s family now.

You are part of the saints Triumphant in Heaven. And because your death happened before the New testament you get to watch the descent of Jesus from the throne to the Earth. You get to see how people treat Him. You watch His suffering. You see His trial, crucifixion and death.

And the most amazing thing happens after Jesus death. That family of saints in Heaven has someone greater than Abraham join the saints triumphant in Heaven. Someone greater than Moses, greater than Melchizedek. The Son of God, who became the Son of Man has now joined the Saints in Heaven waiting to be rejoined with His body.

And Jesus tells you to just call Him the Elder Brother. The Kinsman Redeemer and your Friend. And Jesus hangs out with the saints, as a normal departed saint, for three days.

And all the saints in heaven are waiting with a bursting enthusiasm to watch on Easter morning as the human and divine person of Jesus is reunited with His resurrected body.

Now these saints know what awaits them.

But His resurrected body is not the full return home. Jesus started His journey in the full form of God.

For the ascension to be complete Jesus had to ascend all the way back to the full glory He had before He left.

And for this Jesus prayed, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”

Jesus was not ready to receive the worship of the whole creation until He was in the place where the whole Creation could see Him and worship Him as Lord.

So He told Mary not to cling to Him and keep Him from getting all the way back into the place the Father purposed to bring Him.

Revelation 5:13-14 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

And now the Father has glorified Jesus with the same glory He had before the world existed. Hallelujah!



[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


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Louisiana College Wins Legal Battle for Inerrancy — Lessons for the ARP Maybe?

Leigh Jones

Louisiana College trustees and administrators at the end of March won what could be the last battle in a long war over the school’s adherence to its biblical foundation.

On March 28, a Louisiana district court judge dismissed a suit brought against the school by four professors who claimed defamation and infliction of emotional distress in a disagreement with school leaders over the inerrancy of scripture.

In what school administrators have billed a landmark decision upholding religious liberty on campus, Judge Mary Doggett ruled that because the disagreement centered on theology, secular courts had no jurisdiction in the matter.

“Under the Establishment Clause, the consideration is whether the issues which the Court will have to resolve will necessarily turn upon competing interpretations of religion, thus resulting in the court becoming ‘entangled’ in an ecclesiastical dispute,” Doggett wrote, referencing the First Amendment. “The ‘Entanglement Doctrine’ provides that a court must decline jurisdiction over a lawsuit when the dispute is so intertwined with matters of religion that a proper resolution cannot be made without interpreting or choosing between competing religious principles or doctrines.”

The case brought by the four professors-Carlton Winbery, Frederick Downing, James Heath and Connie Douglas-clearly arose out of a theological dispute, Doggett concluded.

During depositions, the professors “candidly testified that their errant view of the Bible was in conflict with the inerrant beliefs of the [school] administration,” according to Doggett’s ruling.

The professors filed suit in 2005 against the school amid a growing furor over the school’s movement away from Baptist doctrine. The professors fueled the controversy with statements they made during class, including voicing skepticism over the bodily resurrection of Jesus and Mary’s virginity, school President Joe Aguillard said.

In response to complaints from parents and students about how liberal the small college in Pineville, La., had become, the Louisiana Baptist Convention appointed a new slate of conservative trustees to oversee operations, Aguillard said: “Their goal was to bring the college back to its biblical roots.”

When several faculty members recommended using M. Scott Peck’s “The Road Less Traveled” as the cornerstone text in a course on Christian values, Aguillard and other administrators baulked. The school’s academic freedom policy allowed the book to be used in the course, as long as the professors told students it was written based on Buddhist principles. Any teaching about the book also had to include a juxtaposition of Christian values against the values set forth in the book.

As soon as Aguillard denied the professors’ request to use the book as a cornerstone text, they filed suit.

The resulting court battle, which dragged on for almost seven years, was not the first time a Louisiana court was asked to weigh in on the fight over the theological direction of Louisiana College. When the Board of Trustees in late 2004 promoted Aguillard, then a faculty member, to the school’s top job, a group of donors and alumni concerned about his conservative views filed suit. The state’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the school.

Before the latest case reached court, all four professors retired. While the school won the case in district court, the professors could appeal.

Although the infighting over the school raged for about four years, starting in 2003, disagreements over the school’s stand on the inerrancy of scripture are pretty much over now, Aguillard said. During the last five years, enrollment has grown by 89 percent. The school is building more dormitories and hiring more teachers for its 1,600 students. It just opened a School of Divinity, and next year, Louisiana College will welcome its first class of law students.

Aguillard attributed the school’s recent growth to its willingness to stand up for biblical truth: “God’s Word is true, and Louisiana College will never move from its position on biblical inerrancy, regardless of attacks from any and all directions.”


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The Future of the PCA — Is the Decline of the PCA Different from the ARP?

Marshall C. St. John

The PCA will probably continue to decline in the decade to come. Some of the reasons are sociological and demographic; others are theological. Some are intrinsic to our PCA identity, and cannot be changed.  

I Chronicles 12:32 describes the men of Issachar, who had the ability to understand the times in which they lived. Can we be “Issacharites” with regard to the future of the PCA? Can we see the PCA in the larger context of our times? Some say that the PCA has reached the top of the membership number “S Curve,” and is beginning down the other side.   I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, but my thesis is that we are likely to see a smaller PCA in the coming decade.

 The PCA grew quickly in its first twenty years.   In 1973 we had 260 churches, and 41,428 members. In 2008 we were about eight times larger.

It should be noted that in spite of the fear of decline among the PCA leadership, even now some of our larger churches, and new churches in growing urban areas, are experiencing numerical growth. But I admit that’s not normative for our congregations. Many, perhaps most, of our PCA churches are rural, and have less than 100 members.   As the rural countryside declines, the rural churches will decline, too. This is a fact of life for all American churches, not just the PCA. Thousands of churches close their doors every year. Rural villages are in decline and becoming ghost towns. The jobs are not there, and people are moving to the bigger cities.

Ten years ago, because of congregations leaving Liberal denominations for the PCA, we foolishly boasted that the PCA was growing at a rate of five percent per year. According to statistics from the office of the Stated Clerk of the PCA, our membership in 2002 was 311,817, and our membership in 2006 had increased to 338,873. This increase of 27,056 over a four year span shows a growth rate of 1.1% over four years, or .27% per year.

At our General Assembly in Orlando in June of 2009, it was reported that the PCA had experienced NEGATIVE growth (for the first time) in 2008. As with most other American denominations, PCA Sunday School attendance has been declining for several years. Our growth in our early years was largely due to receiving conservative churches exiting more liberal Presbyterian denominations. That sort of growth came to an end when the Evangelical Presbyterian Church began, because the EPC, while conservative, also admits churches with women elders and deacons.

The PCA has seen some growth through planting new churches; however I suspect most of the growth there has been church transfer growth, not conversion growth. Our church planters no longer speak of “reaching the lost with the gospel,” but of “reaching the unchurched or dechurched.” This is not a particular criticism of our denomination, because most of the evangelical church world has adopted the same methodology and vocabulary. We now shudder to say that anyone is lost and hell-bound, so we speak of being “unchurched” instead. We don’t aim to win the lost to Christ. We aim to gather the unchurched into new congregations.

None of this should surprise anyone. National polling by Barna and others shows that the percentage of Americans attending church has been steadily declining over the past decade. Americans, especially our younger generations, are interested in religion on their own terms.   American Christians are less attached to denominations than ever before. PCA members share these wide-spread attitudes. The era of the baby boomers is coming to an end, and the newer generations (Baby-busters, Mosaics, etc.) of Americans seem to be turning away from the traditional way of “doing church.”   When the tide rises, all the boats rise. But when the tide goes out, all the boats fall. The PCA is just one of the falling denominational boats.

Denominational shrinkage does not sit well with the leading figures in the PCA (or in any denomination). 2009 General Assembly Moderator Brad Bradley challenged each PCA church to plant a new church in the coming year. These were fine sounding words, but hardly feasible. Many PCA churches are small, aging, poor, and struggling to maintain their own membership. The American economy is declining, and churches have less money. His challenge also contradicts the stated goals of the PCA church planting arm, Mission to North America. MNA participated in the planting of 50 new PCA missions this past year (2008-2009). But their stated goal is to reach Hispanics, Blacks and inner city neighborhoods. We tip our hat and wish them well, yet somehow we don’t believe that this effort will do much to change the over all growth picture of the PCA. The era of church growth through planting new churches is coming to an end. More about this later in this article.

I offer TEN REASONS the PCA will probably continue to decline in the decade to come.

Some of these reasons are sociological and demographic; others are theological. Some are intrinsic to our PCA identity, and cannot be changed. I have been a pastor in the PCA for thirty years, and I like our denomination. I would like to see us grow and be strong. But it is important that we get a realistic view of the situation.

Why do I think the PCA will shrink?

1. The PCA will shrink because of who we are.

The PCA is a white, middle-class denomination, and the number (not just the percentage) of whites in America is declining. White people (including PCA church members) in the United States have purposely chosen to have fewer children than in years gone by. White families no longer have four children; they usually have one, and sometimes two.   White America’s birth rate is below the replacement rate. Where women were once giving birth at twenty, they are now waiting until they are thirty or thirty-five. Where couples once got married in their early twenties they are now marrying at 35, or not marrying at all.   As the family becomes simply another possible option in American society, the weakening of the family results in the weakening of churches, which are family-based institutions. With fewer children in our churches, the average church member’s age is going up. Sunday School was created in the nineteenth century when birthrates were high, and gangs of children roamed the streets of our cities. Now society has changed, and our white middle-class neighborhoods are becoming childless. Sunday School MUST decline in such an atmosphere, and it IS in fact declining across our land.

Mission to North America (MNA) is aware of the white racial make-up of the PCA, and has committed to the strategy of starting ethnic churches in larger cities. However, I believe it will be difficult for our white denomination to make numerically significant progress in this endeavor. We have a few more black and Latino pastors than previously, but it is difficult for them to feel at home in the PCA. We are what we are!

A PCA pastor wrote (sarcastically) recently on a blog: ”We are a class-specific denomination… We are a narrow slice of the richest and most influential and most-educated citizens of the most powerful nation in the history of man and it is every PCA pastor’s privilege, having gotten the M.Div. union card and passed his ordination exams, to be granted entry into this stratosphere where privilege abounds…We are lawyers, doctors, authors, professors, engineers, architects, playwrights, artists, players in symphonies, gentleman farmers, entrepreneurs, working mothers with a “career”–not simply a “job.” …On the poorest continent, our missionaries are the cat’s meow and before they’re approved to move onto the field, they’ve raised somewhere close to $100,000 (per year) for their support–that’s close to one tenth of $1,000,000 per year before the PCA’s Mission to the World will release them to ministry, brothers…Who are we? Follow the money.”

Of course, he is painting with a very broad brush, and he is skipping over the many little rural PCA churches. We also have a number of inner-city urban congregations with strong ministries to the poor. All PCA folks are not white and wealthy. But there is a lot of truth to his statements.

2. The PCA will shrink because morally, the PCA aims to be a counter-culture denomination.

Sexual immorality has been redefined in the United States. Our society vigorously defends “a woman’s right to choose.” In the PCA we call abortion “homicide.” We are vocally pro-life. Abortion is just one issue. America has accepted homosexuality as normal. We are about to end our “don’t ask don’t tell” policy in the USA military. Chaplains who call it a sin are likely to be in trouble. Pastors who preach against homosexuality may possibly be charged with hate crimes. The American acceptance of the gay life-style is out-front and celebrated every day on television. In May 2010 I was amazed to see a Fox TV (Bill O’Riley) discussion of morals in America in which the Conservative guests stated that the gay life and abortion were NOT immoral. Furthermore, Americans have accepted pre-marital sex and “shacking up” as not only an option, but as good and wise. America’s young adults, trained in tolerance from childhood, are not comfortable with the old-fashioned morality of the PCA. As American culture has moved further Left, we have become the far-Right, just by standing still. We are perceived by our society as being Fundamentalist extremists. We have been classified as “kooks.” We are compared to the Taliban.

3. The PCA will shrink because our view of the role of women in the church.

Our views are counter-culture  and viewed (especially by the younger generation) as unfair, bigoted, discriminatory and astonishingly outdated. Ask the teens and young adults in your own congregation. To justify our stance by crying out “this is the teaching of the Bible” doesn’t help us gain new members, or hang on to our youth. In America today women earn the majority of college degrees, and have equal rights in every area of life. More and more women are exercising leadership in our society as lawyers, doctors, teachers and politicians. Egalitarianism is in the atmosphere we breathe. The youth already in our churches, and men and women of stature and influence in America, are uncomfortable with our position with regard to women in the church.  The PCA is presently in a not-so-quiet uproar over the role of women in the church. Overtures are brought annually to our General Assembly, pressing for change. Why? Because we have a number of churches and teaching elders who want to stop doing church the old way. This unrest will continue. Every year the PCA loses a few churches which have decided to move to a more Liberal position about ordaining women.

4. The PCA will shrink because we have a number of small, rural congregations that may not survive the next decade for economic reasons.

We also have some aging churches in the larger cities. Dividing our total church membership by the number of churches, gives us an average church membership of about 250. I believe this figure is high, due to non-active members still on church rolls, and the existence of PCA “megachurches” with thousands of members each. The PCA has many hundreds of churches with fewer than 100 in attendance, and these congregations are at risk, even from other churches in their own Presbytery drawing away members.

The “Wal-Mart Syndrome” is at work in the PCA. When the “Big Box” department store comes to town, the “mom and pop” stores lose business and fail. In and near larger cities the bigger PCA churches are attracting members away from the smaller PCA churches. Parents are seeking larger youth groups for their (1.5) children. They are seeking larger worship assemblies, for the “professional production quality” of the worship service.   They sometimes drive past several smaller PCA churches to reach the larger one. This is already happening, and smaller PCA churches are struggling. In America, the community church is already largely a thing of the past, destroyed by the automobile. It is so easy to drive to the other side of town! What is the point of being loyal to a little declining congregation?

5. The PCA will shrink because denominational loyalty is becoming less meaningful in the PCA.

In areas where there is only one smaller PCA church, PCA members will sometimes transfer to larger churches of other denominations. This is partly our own fault, because the PCA wants to be known as Evangelical, as well as Reformed. In fact, the Reformed aspect of the PCA is played down in our larger churches. Calvinism goes un-named. “Presbyterian” is left out of the name of the church, and so on. Our denominational seminary attracts students from many denominations, and it is not really dependent for survival on support from the PCA. It existed before the PCA existed, and it may outlive the PCA.   PCA ministers sometimes joke with each other that the PCA is really Congregational and not Presbyterian. Only a fraction of our PCA congregations send money to support denominational agencies.

6. The PCA will shrink because we favor intellect and scholarship over emotion and experience.

Many churches in other denominations have one page doctrinal statements, but in the PCA we hand out a book: the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. Plus, we have our Book of Church Order (BCO), and our Rules of Assembly Operations (RAO). Americans are increasingly interested in religious experiences, not theology. They are rightly turned off by denominational “politics” (of which we have quite a bit). In such a climate, PCA churches will likely be passed over by church-seeking Americans for livelier and less doctrinal churches.

7. The PCA will shrink because we profess to be Reformed and Calvinistic.

This sets a very high educational and intellectual level for prospective members. According to Dr. Martha N. Ozawa of the U. of Wisconsin, the educational skills of the current generation of children are less than the skills of the previous generation. According to our Mission to North America, our goal is to establish churches among the poor and minorities, which equates to starting church among those who are comparatively less educated.   But a denomination which emphasizes Calvinism is making it difficult for youth, minorities, and the poor to take an interest. Calvinism is certainly out of favor with American Christianity. Even within the PCA, many of our church members resist Calvinism as old-fashioned, or even repugnant, or simply too difficult to understand. Predestination and election and limited atonement are hard pills for even long-time PCA church members to digest!

8. The PCA will shrink because we practice infant baptism.

This is negative as far as church growth is concerned, because we have no simple proof text. We have good biblical reasons, but the proof is long and convoluted. American Christians don’t like complexity in religion. They want quick easy answers. Some of our PCA visitors and prospective members leave for Baptist churches or Bible churches, after they eventually find out about our practicing infant baptism. Some PCA churches give their members choices: you may have your children baptized, or you may simply have a non-water infant dedication. Take your pick. Of course, this leads to more theological conflicts eventually.

9. The PCA will shrink because we are constantly bothered by inner ecclesiastical, doctrinal and worship-related factors that are pulling us in different directions.

The “Broadly Evangelical” side has demonstrated in the General Assembly, by various changes over the last decade, that it is the majority. This is jarring for the “Truly Reformed” faction.   The “Church Growth Movement Pastor as Change Agent” mentality is strong with our PCA leadership. ”Prune away the dead wood, so we can get on with our plans.” This is offensive to many. We are divided in our approach to worship. Some are “seeker-sensitive” and “rock the house down” with contemporary Christian music. Others are more traditional, feature pipe organs, and sing “Blessed Assurance.” Still others favor exclusive Psalm-singing from a Psalter. Every year at General Assembly some of the brothers are intensely offended by the worship services, and they let us know about it. Some of our churches would like to ordain women as deacons, and already have women serving as deaconesses on a male/female diaconate. Some churches won’t even allow a woman to read Scripture out loud in a worship service. Some churches honor the Book of Church Order. Other churches want to change the BCO.

A good question is: “What is the glue that holds us together?” The PCA “motto” is “Faithful to the Scriptures, true to the Reformed faith, and obedient to the Great Commission.” But these three things are broad general statements that are open to a variety of interpretations. We are not on the same page regarding what the Scriptures say about women in ministry. We are not on the same page about the meaning of “Reformed.” Many PCA churches have no annual missions conference, and do little to evangelize at home or overseas. So, what is the glue that holds us together? That’s a difficult question.

10. The PCA will shrink because the institutional Church as a whole in the Western world seems to be declining.

I am not saying that the Church, the Body of Christ as a whole, is declining. Jesus promised, “I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” But the institution made of buildings and organizations and denominations is declining. This is increasingly evident in the younger generations. Baby-boomers carried on, maintained, and built up the organizations created by their parents and preceding generations. Baby-boomers created the “mega churches,” and the Christian radio and TV networks. They started and maintained Christian colleges and seminaries. Baby-boomers made the PCA. But my intuition is that the new generations are less interested in maintaining existing institutions. The philosophy of “individualism” is reigning, and increasing its hold on young people every day. Note these attributes of the new generation:

  • The new generation has 400 cable TV channels, and each person finds the one he likes best.
  • The new generation is on the internet, with millions of links to whatever you can think of.
  • The new generation grew up with cell phones and is constantly in touch with their peers via texting and tweeting.
  • The new generation grew up with divorced parents and step moms and dads, and distrusts the concept of marriage.
  • The new generation doesn’t care if a person is gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or straight. It has no moral meaning, and it is an individual choice.
  • The new generation doesn’t share a common popular music, because the choices are multitudinous, and each person can have exactly what he/she wants.
  • The new generation doesn’t date, they hang out. Commitment to one person for very long is just an option. ”Dating” is meaningless.
  • The new generation has casual sex more than any previous generation. Sex is no big deal. Contraception is easy and expected.
  • The new generation is not concerned about abortion. It’s just another individual choice.
  • The new generation has a prolonged adolescence. Who wants to grow up and take on burdens of responsibility?
  • The new generation doesn’t hope to better than their parents did in life. The economy is in decline. Live for today. You will likely be poor no matter what.
  • The new generation thinks that all religions or no religion at all is just fine. It’s just another choice.  Why get worked up about it? Be cool.
  • The new generation believes in Evolution. That was proved to them in the public school system. Creationists are kooks! God did not make us.
  • The new generation believes in Socialism. They have been taught it in public school all their lives. They believe in Big Government.
  • The new generation is largely poor, and they believe in higher taxes on wealthier people. After all, they themselves have little to tax.
  • The new generation believes that the Bible is out-moded and not to be taken seriously. Whatever religion you like, or no religion at all, it doesn’t matter.

Like other American denominations, the PCA has stopped growing. We once grew quickly, as relatively conservative churches dropped out of the PCUSA. But any churches dropping out of the PCUSA now are heading toward the EPC, which accepts women as elders, and has a more Liberal atmosphere. In the decades ahead we will probably continue our decline. It is happening all over the Western world; and the PCA is not immune to what is happening in our culture. The decline in the PCA cannot be reversed, because there are many forces at work pulling us apart, and there is not much “glue” holding us together.

Is there a future for the PCA in light of these considerations? The next article will present helpful and hopeful remedies and suggestions.
__________________
Dr. Marshall C. St. John is pastor of Wayside Presbyterian Church in Signal Mountain, Tenn.

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Can We Ask Our Children to Pay Our Debt and Still Call Ourselves Good?

Reverend Anthony R. Locke

Nehemiah 5:1-13 English Standard Version

1 Now there arose a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers.

2 For there were those who said, “With our sons and our daughters, we are many. So let us get grain, that we may eat and keep alive.”

3 There were also those who said, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards, and our houses to get grain because of the famine.”

4 And there were those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king’s tax on our fields and our vineyards.

5 Now our flesh is as the flesh of our brothers, our children are as their children. Yet we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but it is not in our power to help it, for other men have our fields and our vineyards.”

6 I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words.

7 I took counsel with myself, and I brought charges against the nobles and the officials. I said to them, “You are exacting interest, each from his brother.” And I held a great assembly against them

8 and said to them, “We, as far as we are able, have bought back our Jewish brothers who have been sold to the nations, but you even sell your brothers that they may be sold to us!” They were silent and could not find a word to say.

9 So I said, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our  God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies?

10 Moreover, I and my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Let us abandon this exacting of interest.

11 Return to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the percentage of money, grain, wine, and oil that you have been exacting from them.”

12 Then they said, “We will restore these and require nothing from them. We will do as you say.” And I called the priests and made them swear to do as they had promised.

13 I also shook out the fold of my garment and said, “So may God shake out every man from his house and from his labor who does not keep this promise. So may he be shaken out and emptied.” And all the assembly said “Amen” and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.[1]

The Jews returned from Babylon to desperate conditions. They were poor and living in a country devastated by wars and ruin. Most of their time was spent building the wall, not building their businesses or planting their fields.

Some people had money, but they lent that money at interest rates which further impoverished their neighbors. Moral people would have provided food to starving people as charity. Even providing money to buy food as a loan without interest would have been acceptable. Verse 2 shows we are talking about basic necessities of life.

Excessive interest was being charged. Homes were confiscated. Children were turned into slaves as they worked off their parent’s debt. Verse 2-5 are the complaints to Nehemiah.

In verse 6 Nehemiah responds. The Bible says he got angry. He was very angry.

Nehemiah didn’t use his anger to fuel his words. He made a passionate appeal. In verse 7 Nehemiah took counsel with himself. The question – How do you change an abusive financial culture? How do you change a community built on debt, which enslaves the next generation into debt even before they are born?

We need to be asking ourselves the same question.

The average American family has six credit cards with an average of $8,000 total on those cards. If the average family stopped using their cards, just cut them up, and made the minimum balance payment on those cards until they were paid off, the average American would pay over $55,000 in interest over their lifetime.

But we don’t stop using our cards. Most people pay what they can, but the balance stays around the $8,000 mark. Hence, what constitutes a national average. So over our lifetime, we pay closer to $150,000 interest on an $8,000 credit card balance that we never pay off. Ouch.

Again, how do you change a financial culture that ensnares people with just enough debt to turn them into lifetime financial servants? We and Nehemiah have the same problem.

I do not know all the solutions to our problems in America, but I know that verse 6 is our starting point. We must get very angry over financial structures which confiscated homes and turn young people into slaves working a lifetime to pay off debt. The Bible would call this a righteous anger. But anger isn’t the destination.

In verse 7 Nehemiah brought charges against the nobles and officials. He called an investigation. He called a grand jury. He worked behind the scene so they wouldn’t see it coming, and then BAM! He called a press conference and leveled charges against them.

He did this with the power of the people behind him. He assembled a crowd to pressure the officials. This is happening today in our culture with the new bipartisan Tea Party Movement.

Nehemiah spoke truth to power. He confronted injustice. He showed them a better way in verse 8.

Verse 8. Nehemiah used his life as an example to confront the abuse. He personally had used his financial resources in Babylon to buy people out of financial slavery and bring them back with him to Jerusalem. (i.e. Don’t tell others how to manage their money until you have a healthy savings account)

8 “We, as far as we are able, have bought back our Jewish brothers who have been sold to the nations . . . He couldn’t buy everyone back, but as far as he was able, he helped.

Nehemiah appealed to their love for country and love for their fellow man. His example exposed their greed. With plain speech he appealed to their better nature.

In verse 9 Nehemiah appealed to their fear of God. So I said, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies?

It is time that we follow the example of Nehemiah and call our civic leaders to change.

American financial leaders (public and private) are not living in the fear of God in the way they manage money. The world sees our misuse of money and feels righteously indignant. They feel like they are doing the Lord’s work when taunting us because we hurt people in our use of money.

Let me explain that with an illustration. America sold the world scam investments through our subprime mortgage scheme. We labeled the loans as good investments, but over a million of those home loans have gone into foreclosure. Our leaders lied and gave them a “Triple A” rating.

Our nation severely damaged financial institutions throughout the world. Our financial leaders gave cause for us to be despised and scorned.

We are also hurting world financial institutions by monetizing our debt. We are printing money which makes the money we owe them worth less. It is immoral. It’s a white collar crime of theft that steals the value of the asset. Our leaders are hurting everyone using the dollar, especially Americas.

In the subprime mortgage debacle the American people came out of pocket billions of dollars. Our government political leaders abused Fannie May and Freddie Mac to our shame.

Nehemiah did the opposite. He modeled the fear of God and called others to do right.

In verse 10 Nehemiah gave interest free loans for basic necessitates as a moral obligation.

He confronted regardless of the consequences. As a leader he could have been run out of town. He was willing to pay a political price. We need people in leadership with these qualities.

Nehemiah was revolutionary. He called for the leaders to return, verse 11, their ill gotten gains. He calls them to restructure the community relationships based on responsibility and respect.

The bankers, in verse 12 said, “We will restore these and require nothing from them. We will do as you say.” And I called the priests and made them swear to do as they had promised.

The problem in our country is that people say that they will do something and then do the opposite. We as the American people have a hard time holding our leaders accountable.

In 2007 the speaker of the House of Representatives promised that After years of historic deficits, this 110th Congress will commit itself to a higher standard: Pay as you go, no new deficit spending. Our government promised to not burden our children with mountains of debt.

In the four years since that promise, the national debt has gone from 8.5 trillion to 14.5 trillion dollars. The 2010 election was an attempt to hold those leaders accountable. It still isn’t working.

Let me give you some perspective on that 6 trillion dollar increase in a 5 year period.

From George Washington to the end of Ronald Reagan’s 8 years in office, the total national debt grew to a whopping 2.5 trillion dollars over that 213 years.

Starting with Bush senior, Clinton and then Bush junior, our national debt grew from 2.5 to 10 trillion. In 18 years the debt increased 4 fold or by 7.5 trillion dollars.

Under President Obama the debt has increased by 4 trillion in just the first two years of his presidency. He predicted that with his budgets, even with his best efforts, that there will be red ink as far as the eye can see.

Why is it a national sin to have our collective debt this high? Let me illustrate.

It would be a sin for me to use the social security number of my children, apply for credit cards, and then borrow money for what I want expecting my children to pay the debt.

Our national debt of 14.5 trillion dollars is more than we will ever be able to pay off. Our children will be born into our debt. This is why the excessive debt is a sin. We expect our children to pay this debt.

So what if we found our moral compass? The Jews of our passage were inspired by love of country and love of their fellow man to do right. Imagine this generation being driven by the fear of God to do right by our children and pay off our debts. How much would each of us owe?

The current tax payer in America would owe $136,000 of that 14.5 trillion dollars. If we as Americans stopped using our Washington credit card, and paid off our debt right now, each tax payer would owe 136,000 dollars. (If you want to rework my math, assume that only tax PAYERS will be paying on the debt. Don’t divide by 350 million people, but households paying taxes)

We don’t have that money to pay our debt, so we will lay that debt on our children.

That’s immoral. We are selling the next generation into financial slavery.

But that’s not all the debt we will pass on to our children. We collected money for Social Security, but never saved the money. That’s fraud. It’s stealing. We spent the retirement money on bigger government. New tax payers enrolled in the program have to pay for the current recipients. That’s a textbook Ponzie scheme.

Our children will have to refund trillions to the Trust Fund that this generation stole for our own consumption. How much have we stolen? Over 50 trillion dollars. That’s prison worthy fraud. It was a sin. Government officials should go to prison.

But that’s not all, when we add in the unfunded pensions, the promises we made in Medicare and Medicaid, we are talking about 150 to 202 trillion dollars of money that this generation would need to find to keep our children from being burdened with our debt.

So to square our finances, do we need $136,000 per tax payer? No. We need 1.5 million from every tax paying American right now if we are to pay for what we have purchased.

It is immoral to bind our children to this debt. It is immoral to rob our children’s future and make them beholden to China. An ethical and noble society would not treat its children this way.

Proverbs 22:9 says that A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children. The devastating consequences of our debt will cause future generations to relabel the “Greatest Generation” as the “Greatest Spending Generation”. Those are the folks who have held the powers in government and the banks. The last few generations might not even be remembered as good, but rather greedy and selfish. How sad.

And by our collective votes as a nation we have cosigned our names to the debt. Every time we send another financially irresponsible legislator to Capital Hill they sign our name for more debt.

The federal government’s accumulation of debt will constrict the freedom of future generations. It is unpatriotic, unloving and reflects a lack of fear of God. It is a great sin.

Recently, the government almost shut down because the two political parties couldn’t agree how to spend the 2 trillion we pay in taxes annually.

After weeks of arguing, both sides claimed victory for agreeing on a budget that spends 3.5 trillion. They are spending 1.5 trillion more than they collect, yet telling the American people that this is a victory of responsible leadership. That’s a lie.

Even the “Buffet Rule” is a ruse to distract us from the real issues. The Buffet tax would bring maybe 4 billion into the Treasury. If each government agency saved just 1% it would result in 36 billion saved. The issue is our budget and savings, not new taxes.

We need to cut 1500 billion from this years budget to break even. This would get us even, but still not give us any hope of ever paying off our debts. A responsible budget would be closer to 1.5 trillion so we can start paying down our debt.

We need responsible people in politics. We need leaders willing to hold congressional hearings, level charges, and clean up this mess. We need people like Nehemiah to beg God to bless us with wisdom and the public support to make system wide changes.

The Church should publicly champion the Biblical principles in our nation’s founding documents: private property rights, limited government, freedom of religion, sanctity of life, liberty and justice for all.

Any politician willing to spend more than we make needs to be labeled a thief and voted out of office.

Sadly, the money troubles our country faces are just a symptom of a bigger moral problem. Last Summer our president ordered all government lawyers to stop supporting the Marriage Defense Act, and then caused a budget impasse because he wouldn’t sign a decrease in abortion funding.

Like Nehemiah, we need to get angry, PRAY, develop a plan of action, and then embrace the public, legal and spiritual channels to force people to do the right thing.

Nehemiah spoke plain speech and called people of influence to repent. He prayed for the Lord to give him success as he organized the community to fight these moral hazards.

May God give us the strength of character to do the same. May we not cosign our names to more debt by voting for politicians who will increase our debt. And may we beg God’s forgiveness for not taking our nation’s debt serious.

God help us.


[1] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


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How Does Erskine Implement Christian Education? — Two Opinions

by David C. Noe

Nouns are important. Along with verbs, they are the sturdy workhorses of any language. Writers both skillful and clumsy call upon them routinely to pull heavy cartloads of meaning through the streets of prose and poetry alike. The many things we want to say cannot be said without nouns. In their concrete and abstract forms nouns undergird and adorn all manner of important communication. There is a sense in which the noun in any given expression is the essential element while the accompanying adjective provides us with a shade or modification of meaning. This is why in Latin, and in the Romance languages which call her mother, the noun typically precedes the adjective: Geneva pulchrior urbibus aliis est we might say, or “Geneva is more beautiful than other cities.” Geneva comes first, then that she is quite beautiful. English convention is of course the opposite, as we seem to want to know what kind a thing is before knowing what the thing is itself.

Adjectives, which give us the what kind, likewise have a part to play in the drama called speech. Adjectives can be revealing, concealing, pointed, dull, archaic, newly-minted, and everywhere in between. They add color and flavor to the staid and reliable world of nouns. It is on one particular adjective, namely “Christian,” that I want to focus in this brief essay.

In the book of Acts, Luke records for us that it was at Antioch that disciples of Christ Jesus were first called Christian (Acts 11:26). Since what follows below may seem obstinate or narrow to those accustomed to applying the adjective “Christian” to all manner of nouns (counseling, publishing, radio, hip-hop, etc.), I want to state for the record that it is clear the adjective Christian can be used properly. While the only biblical example that we have, the one just cited, refers exclusively to those persons in whom Christ dwells by his Spirit, arguably we can extend the adjective to apply to those things closely and uniquely connected to Christ. For example, “Christian worship” is a designation that does not seem to admit of any real ambiguity. It helps us distinguish the worship of Christ from that of Allah, for example. There are certainly important differences in Christian worship, between, for example those who follow the regulative as opposed to the normative principle. But clearly the phrase has reference only to the worship of Christ’s person performed by his followers. Likewise, the adjective Christian seems to me to apply well to the noun “religion,” as that also names one and one thing only, the many differences notwithstanding.

When one attempts, however, to apply the adjective Christian to other sorts of nouns, an immediate difficulty arises. Since non-Christians also engage in nearly every activity in which Christians properly engage,[1] from cooking and eating, to riding their bicycles, to writing poetry, it becomes difficult or even impossible to identify precisely what about how that activity is performed or what product it results in makes it “Christian.” If, for example, a world-class cyclist wins the Tour de France one summer, and then by God’s grace is transferred during the off-season from the kingdom of darkness to that of Christ Jesus, presumably this new believer will want in the next season to ride for his Lord.

How precisely is he to do this? He is now both a Christian and a cyclist no doubt, but is there such a thing as “Christian cycling”? One may wish to answer that “Christian cycling” does in fact exist, because the one who once cycled for money or fame, which are selfish motives if pursued exclusive of God’s glory, now cycles for the glory of God. Such an idea is coherent and even helpful, but notice that we have now expressed by attaching the adjective “Christian” something about the person, but nothing specific about the actual activity.

I can watch on my television as three hundred cyclists climb the Alps and then race through the streets of Paris toward the finish line, not having any idea whatsoever which one is engaged in Christian cycling and which is practicing Jewish cycling perhaps or Hindu cycling. In other words, the activity itself, though practiced by a Christian, has really not changed at all in and of itself. If our Christian cyclist were in fact to alter his activity in the slightest way from what caused him to win the event in the previous year at a time when he was not reconciled to God, he may very well lose the race. In that instance, we might be tempted to say he was cycling to God’s glory less than before inasmuch as his pursuit of excellence was now diminished.

But let us say that his skill is not diminished and he succeeds in winning this brutally competitive contest. He then boldly proclaims to the cameras that mob him in the winner’s circle that he gives all glory to God for his victory. We then know that he is both a Christian and a cyclist because he has told us something about his personal commitments and motivations, his desire to glorify the God who made and saved him. But I do not think we are in any way justified in calling what he does “Christian cycling.” It is not distinguishable except for motive and disposition from the second place winner who worships Allah or perhaps no god at all. And unless he tells us, we do not know his motive any way. I am not at all suggesting that motives and intentions are unimportant. In fact, as Calvin says in Institutes Book III, they are the primary value of good works. But we are wrong, I suggest, to expect that difference in motivation will yield other kinds of observable differences.

One might be inclined to agree with the analysis so far but dissent when we start to apply the same logic to something other than athletic activity. Can there, for example, be a Christian practice of philosophy or of art, by which we want to indicate something unique with respect to content and practice rather than merely about their practitioners?[2] One might want to make a claim like this on the belief that certain kinds of activities, those in which the mind rather than the body seem to predominate as regards success, are more revelatory of the image of God implanted within us. In point of fact, I am not sure that this would reflect anything more than ignorance of the intellectual elements involved in winning the Tour de France (strategizing, years of nutritional manipulation, etc.) It may also be a simple prejudice for abstraction over sweaty exertion. Whatever the case, let us grant for the sake of argument that music and philosophy are higher in some sense than athletics.

If by “Christian philosophy” one means philosophizing (the production and evaluation of rational arguments that deal with such things as ethics and metaphysics, for example) that deals with explicitly Christian topics,[3] then at first glance the adjective has some salience. But deeper reflection, I argue, proves that this designation is also problematic. Presumably a very bright non-Christian reasoning consistently, diligently and with complete access to the basic data of special revelation, can more often reach sound and valid conclusions than the most devout yet dim-witted believer on the topic of our Lord’s incarnation.

If that is true, what would it be about the believer’s philosophizing that makes it uniquely Christian? If we cannot tell based on the product of his or her work whether our philosopher was practicing “Christian philosophy” even on topics that deal explicitly with matters of faith, does the noun “philosophy” receive any meaningful modification when we add “Christian” to it? Could one really be said to practice Christian philosophy in that instance? Are we not rather just back at the same point with philosophy done well (producing both sound and valid arguments that tell us something meaningful about the world), but that it is Christian when done by Christians with specific goals and dispositions motivating them and non-Christian otherwise?

The same seems to apply to the practice of art. Much of the really gorgeous art of the Renaissance and other eras deals with explicitly Christian topics. Caravaggio’s painting of David holding the severed head of Goliath, for example, is executed on a theme that comes directly from special revelation in 1 Samuel. Is this Christian art? It might make sense to call it such if we mean art that deals with Christian themes. But could we say that Caravaggio or any other painter was practicing Christian art simply because he or she painted such themes? Other artists, who tell us explicitly that their motive is to glorify God, are sometimes by common consent less skilled at what they do and do not always depict scenes from special revelation in their paintings.[4]

When Pope Paul V threatened Caravaggio with excommunication and sentenced him to death, did he cease to be a practitioner of Christian art during that time, since he was officially outside the communion of the church? When the same Pope later pardoned him, did his status as a Christian artist return? In addition, few would doubt that some of the beautiful paintings on religious themes were wrought by those not reconciled to God through Christ. Were they practicing Christian art, though not themselves Christian? In other words, if the cultural product is not materially distinguishable when done by a Christian or non-Christian, does it make sense to call what the Christian practices “Christian art”? And are not the skills involved in painting beautifully the same whether one is depicting Madonna and Child or Bacchus and Ariadne? So it seems that neither the skills constituting the process nor the final product are distinguishable when practiced by Christians or non-Christians irrespective of theme.

As a first conclusion, then, we find that the adjective “Christian” is not meaningful with respect to the cultural artifact itself nor the process that an individual uses to produce it. Both the skills involved and the final product can always be the same for believers and non-believers alike (I can think of no counter-examples that are not actually violations of God’s law). In addition, we often do not have access to the disposition and intention of the cyclist, philosopher, or painter. Unless they tell us that they ride, reason, and paint for God’s glory, we would seem to be on very shaky ground in labeling anything about the activity “Christian” in any sense.

God knows those who are his own and their motives also, and at the last day we may learn that all sorts of activities were indeed Christian because we see,ex post facto, that they were done for his glory. But that seems to me to have little value in the present life, since we are not privy to such knowledge, and, as I have said, even when we are, when the agents tell us why they do things, it does not change in any way what they do or how they do it. In addition, it would also seem impossible to teach others how to be a Christian pianist or Christian volleyball player beyond giving exhortations with respect to motive. And I imagine that we would offer the same exhortations to the non-believer: practice scales and arpeggios, or bump, set, and spike, for God’s glory and not your own.

If what I have argued so far is true, then it would seem to apply as well to that last noun-stronghold where the adjective “Christian” shelters and where many thinking Christians wish to keep it protected. I mean education. I teach Classics for the glory of God. I do this because he has saved me from my sins, and reconciled me to himself through the vicarious atonement of his Son freely given for me. This makes what I do Christian, but it seems that this is only because I seek, Dei gratia, to do it for his glory.[5]

I use in this instruction a vast array of books, tools, terms, and skills, the overwhelming majority of which were produced by men and women whose motivations are likely different than mine. Moreover, while their motivations sometimes differ from mine in ways that are un-Christian,[6] I as a Christian am utterly at a loss to find a better, or sometimes even different way to do the things they did despite my having a motivation that is sanctified. In fact, efforts to find a uniquely Christian way to teach Classics, for example, seem both vain and futile, as well as ungrateful in that they risk denying the common grace God has given the wicked, the rain he has sent on us both, and by which he has apparently intended to bless me also.

Process aside, what about results? If I fail in using my sometimes superior (because righteous) motivation to produce superior results, either because I do not have gifts equivalent to those of non-believers or because I am sinfully lazy in employing what gifts I have, should I be allowed to say I am providing students with a “Christian education”? My motive, at least at times, is Christian (to glorify my Savior), but that says something about me, not about the education itself.

If I succeed with my sanctified motivation and surpass the efforts of a non-believer such that my students understand Plato’s Greek, for example, more accurately and profoundly than if a non-Christian had taught them, this does not seem to me to constitute Christian education. The rejoinder that a Christian will have taught them to see Christ speaking in Plato[7] will not do either, since that can also be accomplished by a non-Christian and presumably better by one more gifted and studied than their Christian counterpart. This means the fact that I am a Christian would make no observable difference in either process or result when it comes to educating students in Plato. If so, why give the adjective “Christian” to education? Remember that discussing motivations is mostly saying something about persons, not about the task itself in either process or result.

In conclusion, it seems to me that, as with cycling, philosophy, and music, the most we can say about “Christian education” is that it is education delivered or provided by Christians. This, of course, is not an unimportant claim. But when we say that, however, we are once again talking about dispositions and motives and saying nothing distinguishable either about the process or the result of that process. In short, it seems there may be no such thing as Christian education after all, at least not in the sense in which it seems often used, and that grand adjective which indicates a special closeness with the divine Son of God ought, perhaps, to be confined within a much closer compass: to persons whom Christ has saved, the worship such persons offer, and the study and promulgation of the divine Word on which that worship is based. If by “Christian education” this is what is meant, the term seems quite apt.[8]

ENDNOTES

[1] I use the adverb “properly” here in an advised fashion, inasmuch as there are obviously sinful activities, adultery, lying, stealing, that I do not think are in danger of being labeled “Christian” even by those most eager to employ the modifier (although it has been applied even to such unlikely and inappropriate candidates as “hedonism”).

[2] I choose these nouns advisedly as well, since they may be considered subsets of a typical program of so-called Christian education.

[3] In other words, if “Christian philosophy” simply means philosophizing about the hypostatic union of Christ’s two natures, the extent of the atonement, and like topics, then the designation seems at first to have coherence.

[4] The example I have in mind is Thomas Kincade.

[5] It seems to me quite important that WCF 16.7, in its explanation of how the works of a believer differ from those of the unregenerate, mentions only the motives of the one who performs them rather than the method, and seems to say that a “right manner” means in conformity to the Word. It also suggests the outward indiscriminability of such works.

[6] Apart from Christ, they may be motivated by vainglory, love of money, etc. But to my shame, I often do my work, simul iustus et peccator, from the same motivations (cf. WCF 16.5). And non-believers seem often to act from altruistic motives, to the extent that anyone truly understands their own motives. This is another very telling criticism even of the “motivation” explanation for labeling something “Christian.” Note that it does not militate against something actually being found by Christ to be a good work, but rather against our accustomed carelessness in so labeling it.

[7] I mean this in a light of nature way (WCF 1.1), and quite despite Plato’s own intentions or consciousness of the fact.

[8] I believe that this is the way in which WCF 1.6 uses the phrase “Christian prudence,” i.e., in a context explicitly tied to questions of ordering Christian worship according to the Word. And even here the light of nature contributes.

 

David C. Noe, a ruling elder at Redeemer OPC in Ada, Michigan, is Assistant Professor of Classics at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Copyright © 2012, The Orthodox Presbyterian Church. All Rights Reserved.

 


Benjamin Miller responds to the above article in the Aquila Report


Is There Such A Thing as Christian Education?
In short, YES!!

by Benjamin Miller
Here as elsewhere, the “facts” are never in the raw; it makes a universe of difference whether they’re learned within the context of the fear of the Lord, or not. If that is true in sex education, it’s true in all education

This month’s edition of Ordained Servant Online includes an article by Dr. David Noe bearing the provocative title, “Is There Such a Thing as Christian Education?” Because the stakes are so high in what he has written, I’m responding with a post that is considerably longer than usual.

Dr. Noe seeks to mount an effective (and in his mind, it seems, somewhat overdue) assault on “that last noun-stronghold where the adjective ‘Christian’ shelters and where many thinking Christians wish to keep it protected,” namely, education. The adjective “Christian,” he argues early in his article, has been attached most unhelpfully to all sorts of nouns, not only without adding any real meaning to these nouns, but actually with the effect of muddling their meaning.

What, for instance (he asks), is the difference between bicycling and “Christian” bicycling? Or piano practice and “Christian” piano practice? Or volleyball and “Christian” volleyball? If we cannot discern how attaching “Christian” to such nouns makes any difference, other than to create the misimpression that (say) the motion of bump/set/spike changes because one believes in Jesus, should we not abandon the adjective?

But then, why stop here? Is it not in the interests of semantic economy to unburden other nouns, such as “philosophy” and “art”? Doesn’t one read the same text of Gorgias whether one is a Christian or not? Doth not the Christian and the pagan potter throw the same clay? Who then can meaningfully speak of “Christian” or “non-Christian” philosophy or art?

With all of this in hand, Dr. Noe finally reaches out to grasp his intended quarry: there can be (he says) nothing distinctively “Christian” about either the process or the result of the activity for which we employ the noun “education.” For instance, “the fact that I am a Christian would make no observable difference in either process or result when it comes to educating students in Plato.” From this it follows: “the most we can say about ‘Christian education’ is that it is education delivered or provided by Christians. . . . [In saying that, we are] saying nothing distinguishable either about the process or the result of that process.”

I retrace Dr. Noe’s steps in this way, because I wish it to be clear that I have understood him. Quite clearly, in fact. And having understood him, I don’t know which appalls me more: his argument, or the fact that this argument is being presented without so much as a hint that it reflects anything other than the mainstream of thought in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. I, for one, wish to register my dissent from Dr. Noe’s argument and his conclusion in the strongest possible terms, and I am fully confident that I am not the only minister in the OPC who would wish to do so.

Is it in fact the case that the bread of “education” simply is what it is, and that being a disciple of Jesus Christ determines nothing more than the jam one prefers on one’s bread? That is precisely what Dr. Noe is saying: the text of Plato is the text of Plato, the teaching of Plato is the teaching of Plato, and while one may dab on here or there the condiment of Christianity, this has nothing to do with the substance of one’s learning, or the process by which it is learned.

What is completely absent from this analysis is a biblically holistic understanding of education. One could, I suppose, reduce “education” to mere data input. One could perhaps even call such data input “the acquisition of knowledge.” What one could not do is derive such an educational model from the anthropology presented in scripture. Man, in biblical terms, is never simply a receptacle for data; he is called to bear the image of God in understanding, discernment, and wisdom; and the formative processes of God’s covenant with His people, especially when they are still young, are all directed at the inculcation not simply of information but of everything meant by wisdom. (As an aside, it is remarkable that Dr. Noe, a classicist, fails even to mention Christian interaction with the classical trivium in terms of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.)

Data neither exists in the raw, nor is it ever learned in the raw; it is always discovered and mastered within an interpretive framework (a “worldview,” to deploy the overused term). The same may be said of the development of various skills: all are learned within an interpretive and teleological context, within the context of a worldview. Here I don’t think I can improve on the words of J. Gresham Machen, who said of the “freedom” granted by government schools for hours of religious instruction:

But what miserable makeshifts all such measures, even at the best, are! Underlying them is the notion that religion embraces only one particular part of human life. Let the public schools take care of the rest of life – such seems to be the notion – and one or two hours during the week will be sufficient to fill the gap which they leave. But as a matter of fact the religion of the Christian man embraces the whole of his life. Without Christ he was dead in trespasses and sins, but he has now been made alive by the Spirit of God; he was formerly alien from the household of God, but has now been made a member of God’s covenant people. Can this new relationship to God be regarded as concerning only one part, and apparently a small part, of his life? No, it concerns all his life; and everything that he does he should do now as a child of God.

It is this profound Christian permeation of every human activity, no matter how secular the world may regard it as being, which is brought about by the Christian school and the Christian school alone. I do not want to be guilty of exaggerations at this point.

A Christian boy or girl can learn mathematics, for example, from a teacher who is not a Christian; and truth is truth however learned. But while truth is truth however learned, the bearing of truth, the meaning of truth, the purpose of truth (even in the sphere of mathematics) seem entirely different to the Christian from that which they seem to the non-Christian; and that is why a truly Christian education is possible only when Christian conviction underlies not a part, but all, of the curriculum of the school. True learning and true piety go hand in hand, and Christianity embraces the whole of life – those are great central convictions that underlie the Christian school. (“The Necessity of the Christian School”)

This is not difficult to illustrate, using adjectives other than “Christian.” My background prior to the ministry was in law, and there is no doubt that the Bill of Rights is the Bill of Rights whether one studies it at UC Berkeley or Regent University. One could therefore try to make the case that the adjectives “progressive” and “conservative” are meaningless as applied to constitutional jurisprudence. That would be news to the faculty and students at either institution.

Or one might say that because Yale Divinity School and Westminster Theological Seminary use the same Greek New Testament, the adjectives “evangelical” and “non-evangelical” are vacuous in New Testament studies. Dr. Noe actually says something very like this: “Presumably a very bright non-Christian reasoning consistently, diligently and with complete access to the basic data of special revelation, can more often reach sound and valid conclusions than the most devout yet dim-witted believer on the topic of our Lord’s incarnation.”

As a plank in his overall argument, I find this simply bizarre: are we really prepared to say that because some non-Christians bring a higher IQ to the Bible than some Christians, and because everyone is using the same Bible, there is no significant difference between a “Christian” and a “non-Christian” understanding of our Lord’s Incarnation? I wonder: should the pastor with an average IQ offer his Sunday school class to the brilliant pagan from the local divinity school, because the biblical data of the Incarnation is the same no matter who teaches it?

Or let us suppose the educational subject matter at hand is sexuality. The facts are the facts, for Christians and non-Christians alike; yet I can hardly imagine a Christian parent who wouldn’t insist on presenting those “facts” within a decidedly “Christian” context. Here as elsewhere, the “facts” are never in the raw; it makes a universe of difference whether they’re learned within the context of the fear of the Lord, or not. If that is true in sex education, it’s true in all education. There is no sphere of learning in which the child of God is not called and commanded to love the Lord his God with all of hismind. There is an educational process that aims at this result, and there is an educational process that undermines it. The one is Christian; the other is not.

Our fathers in the OPC have made this case even more strongly than I have done here. Cornelius Van Til, for example, had this to say on the issue of educational method:

Here, too, the temptation besets us that we should be very keen to watch the methods that are used around us. Now this too is in itself altogether commendable and necessary. It is commendable because every good soldier should know the tactics of the enemy. It is commendable too because perhaps some of the methods used by the enemy may be transformed and used by us. But transformed they must always be. We cannot afford to say that if only we place a different content before our pupils we need not worry about the form because the form is neutral. If a glass has contained carbolic acid you do not merely pour it out in order then to give your child a drink of water.

How much more impossible will it be to take a non-Christian spiritual content and pour it out of its form in order to use the latter for the pouring out of a definite Christian-theistic content? The connection between form and matter is too much like that of skin and flesh to allow for the easy removal of the one without taking something of the other. It is incumbent on us to be on our guard with respect to the educational methods of our opponents. We can never, strictly speaking, use their methods. We can use methods that appear similar to theirs, but never can we use methods that are the same as theirs.

So, then, our conclusion with respect to the educational philosophies and the educational policies that surround us is that we must be intensively and extensively negative or we can never be intensively and extensively positive in the Christian-theistic sense of the term. The fundamental principle of the antithesis upon which Christianity is built demands nothing less than that. We must more and more dare to be consistently peculiar in our educational policies. If we dare to be peculiar we will be “peculiar” in the eyes of the world, to be sure, but we will not be “peculiar” in the eyes of God. If we are not peculiar, we will be “peculiar” in the eyes of God and be twice “peculiar” in the eyes of the world. (“Antitheses in Education,” emphasis on original)

These are sage words, and we would do well to heed them for the sake of our children’s children.

Given the idiosyncratic and highly controversial nature of what Dr. Noe has put forward, it is my hope that Ordained Servant will provide opportunity for those who firmly disagree to respond, especially where their dissenting views are well-pedigreed in OPC history.

Benjamin W. Miller is an evangelist/church planter for the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in north central Long Island, and organizing pastor of the Trinity Church mission work in Huntington, New York. This article first appeared on his blog, Relocating to Elfland,and is used with permission.


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Draft for the ARPC Form of Government

by William Barron

Chairman – Committee to Revise the Form of Government

TO:  Ministers and Session Clerks
RE:  Form of Government Revision

Please see the attached document for an explanation of the work of your Committee to Revise the Form of Government.

This is only the Cover Letter to the FOG which will be included in the Synod packet mailed in May.

A Cover Letter to the Form of Government 2012 PDF

The Current FOG — Form of Government in PDF

OUTREACH Prayer Update April 2012

Our church planters depend on the prayers and encouragement of God’s people.

OUTREACH NORTH AMERICA provides this monthly prayer letter to inform you of some of their specific needs and praises so you will know better how to pray for them.

Thank you for your prayers and the interest you show by your phone and e-mail responses. Your prayers truly encourage your church planters.

In general

  • Pray for preparations this month for the Church Planting Assessment Center (CPAC) that will be early next month, May 1-4.
  • Pray for our mission congregations as they plan summer outreach ministry.
    • Christian Education Ministries (CEM) has seen an increase in the number of churches wanting to participate in the Appalachia mission, but due to limited availability and a desire to optimize effectiveness, it may be difficult to find enough ministry sites for all the churches that want to participate. The Appalachia mission has also seen great success and ONA is working with CEM to take veteran churches to help with church plants and renewal endeavors in the ARP.
    • It is great that ARP churches are excited about missions and ONA and CEM want to help provide opportunities for mission trips to support our ARP church plants!
    • This summer some established ARP churches taking mission trips to church plants to help them with their summer outreach ministries. We hope this great opportunity will flourish and grow over the next few years.
    • Please contact the ONA office if your church is interested in participating.

Canadian Presbytery

Kingston, Ontario

exploratory work  Contact: Rudy de Vries

newreformedchurch@gmail.com


Catawba Presbytery

Grace Presbyterian Church, Pontiac, SC

Daughter church of First Presbyterian Church of Columbia

Brandon and Elizabeth Barrett brandon@gracepresarp.org

Pray

  • For us as we head into April. After Easter we need to catch our breath after two months of public worship and think strategically about outreach as we head into the spring and summer.
  •  For us to find good avenues for serving our community and connecting with unchurched people.

Iglesia Biblica Latinoamericana, Columbia, SC

Kings Parish, Dallas, Texas

David and Margaret Winburne david@kingsparish.com
Praises

  • We thank the Lord for a wonderful “joining service” on March 18. The Mission of King’s Parish now has 20 new ARP’s.
  • We praise the Lord for our denominational leaders from Catawba presbytery and ONA who came to Dallas to witness our “joining service” and encourage us in our church planting efforts.
  • We praise the Lord for a community of faith that delights in one another and in the worship of the Lord.
  • I (David Winburne) want to thank the Lord for a core group that is wonderful.

Prayer

  • We ask for you to pray that we would reach more and more people with love of Christ.
  • We ask you to pray that the events on our church calendar would be used as an avenue to love our neighbors and share the Gospel and the means of grace in worship.
  • We ask that you would pray for perseverance, wisdom and joy as we do our work.
  • We ask that you would continue to pray for Mary Margaret Winburne’s sister-in-law, Kellie Moore as she has terminal brain cancer and four young children.
  • We ask you to pray that the Word of the Lord would accomplish His work in our worship service.
  • We ask you to pray for continued leadership development for the future of King’s Parish ARP.

Hill City Church, Rock Hill, SC

Church Planting residency at Living Waters

Andy and Ellie Stager AndrewRStager@yahoo.com

Praise

  • Presbytery approved Hill City to become a mission congregation in April.
  • For a beautiful historic downtown space in which to meet for Sunday evening meal and worship.
  • For a non-Christian friend who articulated our precise philosophy of mission, word for word: “I don’t believe. I wish I could but I just can’t make my brain believe. But I really want to belong, and I feel like I already do. Can I keep showing up for things?”

Pray

  • For two new community group leaders beginning to lead our people in discipleship and mission.
  • For our provisional session, and for 1-2 additional local provisional elders.
  • For wisdom in establishing systems that will make us effective in Gospel ministry, especially related to families with children.

First Presbytery

African ARP Mission, Charlotte, NC

Rev. Zachary and Ruth Kariuki zkariuki@yahoo.com

Brookside Presbyterian Church, ARP, Boone, NC

Rev. Larry and Joyce Young drlarryyoung@msn.com 
www.BooneBrooksideChurch.org

Praise

  • That winter is over – no more snow and ice on weekends!

Pray

  • For good attendance as the Florida folks return for summer in the mountains.
  • For improved finances.

Centerpoint ARP Church, Lewisville, NC

Rev. Bob and Joyce Wilson drrcw13@gmail.com

www.centerpointarp.org

Praise and Thanks

  • For a great day March 11! We had an infant baptism, and the Lord blessed us with a great time of worship, and attendance!

Prayer

  • For new visitors and members, and that our tithes and offerings we meet or exceed our expenses.

Christ Coastal Church, Southport, NC

Rev. Walt and Val Shepard waltshepard@gmail.com

Praise

  • We are speechless–for the second week in a row now the Lord has brought over 25 folks to the service on Sunday morning at the Seaside Chapel. We are not sure what the Lord is doing, but here are a few of the factors:
    • The Lord has connected us with a music guy who is doing an amazing ministry to the homeless here out of his house. He is a self-described “ordinary radical learning how to love God and his neighbors.” What a concept? He and I get together for prayer and find a strong, mutual encouragement. We were both struck at how the Lord worked through his music following the message from Jonah 3 last Sunday.
    • There are two older (they are my age!) ARP couples who sold their homes in Greensboro and moved to this area. They are on board and are not at all put off with “thinking out of the box.” It is very encouraging to have them.
    • The preaching part of my work has been so relaxed. There is a minimal set up procedure on Sundays, but it is far from hectic. I am looking for all sorts of “water passages,” since we are down on the waterfront. Jonah has been a good fit these days. But much prayer is needed for this old guy!

Pray

  • An infra structure needs developing, especially since the Lord is increasing our numbers, and the work has been pretty demanding. We have plans for two discipling ministries to get off the ground immediately, and two more to follow. Prayer ministries are with folk outside the church, and we are looking for ways to begin an intentional prayer ministry in the local church, in the neighborhood of Seaside Chapel.
  • I am talking seriously with a man who has the burden for youth ministries for this area, and even tonight we are talking to his wife to prayerfully recruit him for the radical discipling of youth through Christ Coastal.
  • We continue to ask the Lord for people who will have a burden for the unchurched of this area. And I am using some elders who are going to another church to be something of an advisory board for prayer and counsel. They have the burden for this area, but I do not want them to leave their churches. It is a principal that I think that God is honoring here: Do not take from the other churches. We want to extend the Visible Kingdom of God, not grow at the expense of other churches.

Christ Church ARP, Denver, NC

Rev. Morrie and Lori Lawing morrie@christchurch.org
www.christchurcharp.org

Praise

  • We continue to see new visitors show up.
  • For several new member families this year.
  • For a wonderful opportunity to buy land and build a building.
  • For our land/building funding source – Fundementum.

Prayer

  • For wisdom for our building committee in selecting a general contractor.
  • For our April men’s retreat – Duff James is speaking.
  • For fruit from our outreach efforts in Denver.
  • For wisdom for our provisional session in recommending elders and deacons as we seek to become an organized congregation.

City Church, Asheville, NC

Duff and Kristi James thomasduffyjames@gmail.com

Pray

  • Please continue to pray for increased opportunities to share the Gospel with our non-churched and de-churched friends.
  • Continue to pray that the Lord would add to our group. We especially feel the need for some older couples to join us. At 38 years old, I am the oldest member of our group. Having some older saints who bring a perspective and wisdom gained only by walking with their Savior for years, will prove invaluable to us.
  • Pray for our family, especially for Kristi and me as we continue to grow in our marriage. We recognize that the most effective way Satan can disrupt the progress of this church plant is to disrupt our marriage, and we want to be proactive in guarding ourselves.
  • Continue to pray for our housing situation, that we would find affordable housing in the area we are looking to plant the church.

DaySpring Presbyterian, Mocksville, NC

Pray

  • There are many spiritual needs in this community. May God raise up a solid core group here to minister in this needy area.

Faith Chapel ARP, Pleasant Garden, NC

Rev. Terry and Mary Crahen reformedalive@earthlink.net

http://faithchapelarpc.com

Grace Church Leith, Leith, Scotland 

Rev. Athole Rennie atholerennie@yahoo.co.uk

Andrew and Helen Court, Intern
www.gracechurchleith.org

www.reformissionscotland.com

American contact Dr. John Carson carson@erskine.edu

Follow this link to watch a short video about Leith

http://www.reformissionscotland.com/about/leith/

Pray

  • For our new teaching series in Luke’s Gospel– that some of our non-Christian contacts would come to consider the person and work of Christ. Several new contacts in the community have been made over the past month some of whom have expressed an interest in coming along on a Sunday. It would be great if you could give thanks for these contacts and please pray that they would come and that they would keep coming!
  • For the other expectant parents in the church. There are two more babies due in April. Pray that the church would care well for all the families that belong to Grace Church Leith.
  • For the opportunity with the Leith Festival. Pray that this would be a really positive way to build relationships in the community.
  • For our church weekend. Pray that we would grow in our love for one another and our love for our community as a result of time invested over the next few days.
  • For the ten people I asked prayer for last time. Pray that we would be joined by people who would see the need in this part of our city and would buy in to the vision of the church. We are aware that with so many new babies, our resources are going to be stretched. New parents will not be able to serve in the same capacity as they have been up to now and we will need more people who are willing to serve in order to spread the load.
  • For perseverance. We have much to be encouraged by but seeing Gospel contacts come to Christ is a slow process. Please pray that we would not lose heart and that God’s Spirit would open blind eyes. Pray that we would have a deep trust in God to work sovereignly in the lives of those we are trying to reach with the Gospel.
  • Give thanks for all that God has done to bring us to this point in the life of our church. He has greatly blessed us with some fantastic, Gospel minded people and people in our city are hearing about Jesus as a result!  Pray that we would regularly rejoice in all that God is doing.

Grace Community Church, Black Creek, NC

Rev. Randy and Sally Jenkins jenkinseleven@gmail.com

Grace Hill Church, Hillsborough, NC

Rev. Ross Durham ross@gracehillchurch.net

http://gracehillchurch.net

Pray

  • For healing for some spinal disc issues Ross is having. Pray for carpal tunnel issues Cathy is having (Ross’ wife).
  • For Communicants Class starting April 1.
  • For visitors.
  • For interactions with people at our table at the “Last Fridays” community events in Hillsborough, monthly from April through Sept.
  • For various theological and leadership training meetings.
  • That the “Kid’s Night Out” ministry to lower economic families will show Christ love and compassion and meet real needs.

Praise God

  • For volunteers. Pray that God will richly bless them.
  • For growth in attendance in worship this quarter. Pray for growth in giving.

Grace of the Lord Korean, Cary, NC (exploratory work)
Rev. Joshua Kim

Hope Chapel ARP Church, Greensboro, NC

Rev. Todd Jones, staff@hopechapelgreensboro.org

Praise God

  • For the 14 New Members that will be joining this Sunday.
  • For the new permanent worship space.

Pray

  • For our Easter Services that many from our neighborhoods will visit.
  • That God would continue to bring new visitors each week.
  • For all of our college students as they prepare for the final leg of the semester.
  • For God to continue to provide financially and to help us pay down our debt to free us up to do more ministry.
  • For our church members as we partner with different local public schools and work with refugees here in the city.

Hyo Shin Korean, Greensboro, NC (exploratory work)

Rev. Byong Han Son

Johnson City, TN – exploratory work

Bethesda Presbyterian Church, ARP

Northside Presbyterian Church, Greensboro, NC

Rev. Paul and Jo Traub ptraub@juno.com

http://site.northsidegso.com/Home.html

Pinecrest Hispanic Mission, Hendersonville, NC

Pray

  • That our faithful congregation will remain intact as we look for a new pastor.
  • Continue to pray for Pastor Unda as he transitions to the military chaplaincy.

Rodam Korean ARP Church, Pineville, NC

Rev. Eun Joo and Kim Young Yup Kim kejcs@hanmail.net

Tapestry ARP Church, Charlotte, NC

Rev. Jarvis Ross jjplanter.ross2@gmail.com

Triangle Onnuri Korean ARP Church, Raleigh, NC

Rev. Abraham and Sungmi Ji Biblestoryteller@gmail.com

Wilkes-Covenant, Millers Creek, NC (exploratory work)

Student Josh and Crystal Feimster joshfeimster@gmail.com

www.cpcwilkes.org


Florida Presbytery

Christ Community, Apollo Beach, FL

Rev. Charlie and Coco Lewis Charlie@christcommunityfl.com www.christcommunityfl.com

Pray

  • That God will fill our leadership needs with maturing members of our congregation.
  • That we will be bold in representing Christ to our community and that Christ Community will have an impact in our area.
  • For blessings on our Easter Sunrise Service and our regular Easter Service. Pray that it will be pleasing to God and that God will soften hearts and open the eyes of the people He brings there.

Praise

  • For building new relationships and strengthening older bonds in our church.
  • For leading us to valuable studies for our small groups to participate in and learn from.
  • For providing us with opportunities to demonstrate His love to others.
  • That Emma Lewis, Pastor Charlie’s daughter, is healed and that we were able to have a party on March 31 to celebrate that she is leukemia free.

Fort Myers, FL

Rev. Steve and Rachel Reynolds sc_reynolds@comcast.net

Praises

  • Training in March at the Verge Conference in Austin was both useful for the church plant and a time of refreshment and encouragement.
  • We are making some inroads with non-Christian friends here. Small opportunities to share Christ arise and we try to take full advantage of these Divine appointments!
  • I am continuing to have a few men referred to me for support, encouragement, and possible recruitment into the church plant. Thank God for Craig, one of the men who refers others to us!

Pray

  • Pray for more opportunities to share Christ with our non-Christian friends. One, in particular, is heading down a dangerous road. Pray for Greg.
  • Pray for a renewed ministry opportunity at the Quality Life Center, as well as service options at the YMCA and Beauty from Ashes.
  • Continue to pray for leaders to come alongside and join the core team. I went to the Verge Conference with one man who was considering a move to the area to help with the church plant. God has renewed his vision for where he is currently serving. We praise God for that renewal, but ask him to send other capable and committed leaders!

North Port, FL

Church Planting residency

Rev. Tom and Carolyn Schneider ccttschneider@hotmail.com

SonLife Church, Jacksonville, FL

Rev. Bob and Dail Hovey thehoveys@aol.com

www.sonlifejax.com

Tampa Chinese Presbyterian Church, Tampa, FL

Rev. Jeff and Hsin Hsiu Liu jjxxbb@yahoo.com

www.tampabaychinesechurch.org

 


Mississippi Valley Presbytery

Havana ARP Church, Havana, AR

Rev. Moises and Cindy Chan havanaarpc@yahoo.com

Praise

  • For my prison ministry friend. He had his first unsupervised visit with a family member this weekend. His family had not seen him in a long time and could not believe the change the Lord has done in him. I was invited to visit and of course had a wonderful opportunity to point to God’s grace in that situation. The family wanted to know we have been doing with him. He was so excited to talk to his family about the Lord. This was a high note of thanksgiving and I am trusting and praying the Lord would use this to work in his whole family.

Pray

  • For the ESL classes. We were hoping to take a little break, but when we drove pass the church, there was a group waiting for the class. So we went ahead with the session. It was a blessing to see their enthusiasm for learning the language.

Northeast Presbytery

All Nations Mission Church of NY, New York City, NY

Rev. Bongkyun (Andrew) Bang bongkbang@yahoo.comor ANMC2009@gmail.com

Christ Presbyterian Church, Grove City, PA

Rev. Dr. Iain and Barbara Duguid ibduguid@gmail.com

Prayer requests

  • My wife, Barb, will have knee replacement surgery on March 23, followed by my daughter Rosie having back surgery for scoliosis on May 1 and a second knee replacement for Barb on May 26.
  • For ongoing counseling challenges.
  • We have a great relationship with the YMCA where we meet. They may be able to provide office space for us to use, in exchange for a little redecorating and remodeling.

Praise

  • For Rev. Matt Harmon officially joining me on the pastoral staff. He
    and his wife are a real gift of God.
  • For the privilege of mentoring young men headed for ministry.
  • For the joy of sending out students excited about the Gospel into a variety of new locations around the globe as they graduate.

Communion Presbyterian Church, Irvine, CA

Rev. Kent and Stephanie Moorlach kmoorlach@communionpres.org

Praise

  • The arrival of another baby girl to our congregation.
  • A number of men considering the call to ministry.
  • The relationship among fellow NAPARC churches in the area.
  • Encouraging visitors.

Pray

  • For the Lord to continue to build his church in Irvine.
  • For relationships to be restored.
  • For upcoming Holy Week services.
  • For opportunities to share the Gospel with those we meet.

The Future Vision Presbyterian Church, Flushing, NY

Rev. Jin Hwa Kim, PhD bigthink2006@hotmail.com life919@gmail.com

Global Vision ARP Church, Flushing, NY

Rev. Peter Tae Mun and Hong Eun Lee PeterLee@MissionGlobal.Org

Good News Community Church, Gilbert, AZ

Rev. Clyde and Ann Reed clydeannreed@yahoo.com
www.goodnewspres.com

Praise

  • God made our day today when a gal whom we were very close to a couple years ago finally called back. We had no address, just her cell phone and have called again and again and left messages with no results. Once more we were reminded that God does not give up on us and we should not give up on people either.
  • The title company who researched the title to our property was very encouraging stating that there are no papers saying that we are a part of the HOA other than one from the former owner that he never signed. Pray as we meet with the HOA in person with our paper work.
  • The property is pretty much cleared. We will get our 5th big dumpster after we are sure we are not in the HOA and can begin work on bringing the little office building up to code.

Pray

  • For wisdom and a positive witness when we meet with the HOA.
  • That God will move local visitors to add to our wonderful core.

Iranian Christian Church of Washington, D.C.

Mr. Javad and Nazy Pishghadamian kelisayeiraniandc@comcast.net

Tri-State Community Church, WV

Rev. Rick and Tammy Anderson andersonr06@comcast.net


Pacific Presbytery

Fullness of Joy, La Crescenta, CA

Rev. James Baek baekuchul@hanmail.net

Praise the Lord, Los Angeles, CA

Rev. Suk Ho Jin sukhoj@gmail.com

Sharon Presbyterian Church, Tijuana Baja California, Mexico

Rev. Pablo Song iglesiacf@hanmail.net


Second Presbytery

Clemson Korean Presbyterian Church

Rev. Jae Park jaeparkl@hotmail.com

International Community Outreach Mission, Atlanta, GA

Travelers ARP Mission, Travelers Rest, SC

Rev. Billy and Sissy Barron TravelersARP@gmail.com
www.travelersarpchurch.org

Praise

  • To God for His constant faithfulness.
  • To the new visitors and contacts over the last couple of months.

Prayer Requests

  • Our annual Easter-in-the-Park will be held on April 7.
  • Our Good Friday service on April 6.
  • For more people to come and become a part of the mission.

Tennessee-Alabama Presbytery

Hanmaum ARP Korean, Madison, Alabama

Rev. Soo Young Kim hanmaumus@gmail.com

Riverside Presbyterian, Prattville, AL

Rev. Greg and Courtney Duke, jgregoryduke@gmail.com

www.riversidearp.org


Virginia Presbytery

  • Pray for opportunities to establish core groups and plant churches in our presbytery. We have been praying and asking the Lord where He would have us do a demographic study for the purpose of starting a new work, because we know that he knows where the hearts are ready to receive the Gospel.
====================================================================

Canadian Presbytery

Kingston, Ontario – exploratory work

Catawba Presbytery

Grace Presbyterian Church, Pontiac, SC Rev. Brandon Barrett

Iglesia Biblica Latinoamericana, Columbia, SC

Kings Parish, Dallas, Texas Rev. David Winburne

Hill City Church, Rock Hill, SC Rev. Andy Stager

First Presbytery

African ARP Mission, Charlotte, NC Rev. Zachary Kariuki

Brookside Presbyterian Church, ARP, Boone, NC Rev. Larry Young

Centerpoint ARP Church, Winston-Salem, NC Rev. Bob Wilson

Christ Coastal Church, Southport, NC Rev. Walt Shepard

Christ Church ARP, Denver, NC Rev. Morrie Lawing

City Church, Asheville, NC Rev. Duff James

DaySpring Presbyterian, Mocksville, NC Rev. David Olah (supply)

Faith Chapel ARP, Pleasant Garden, NC Rev. Terry Crahen

Grace Church Leith, Leith, Scotland Rev. Athole Rennie

Grace Community Church, Black Creek, NC Rev. Randy Jenkins

Grace Hill Church, Hillsborough, NC Rev. Ross Durham

Grace of the Lord Korean, Cary, NC – exploratory work Rev. Joshua Kim

Hope Chapel ARP Church, Greensboro, NC Rev. Todd Jones

Hyo Shin Korean, Greensboro, NC – exploratory work Rev. Byong Han Son

Johnson City, TN – exploratory work

Northside Presbyterian Church, Greensboro, NC Rev. Paul Traub

Pinecrest Hispanic Mission, Hendersonville, NC Rev. Juan Carlos

Rodam Korean ARP Church, Pineville, NC Rev. Eun Joo Kim

Tapestry ARP Church, Charlotte, NC Rev. Jarvis Ross

Triangle Onnuri Korean ARP Church, Raleigh, NC Rev. Abraham Ji

Wilkes-Covenant, Millers Creek, NC – exploratory work Student Josh Feimster

Florida Presbytery

Christ Community, Apollo Beach, FL Rev. Charlie Lewis

Fort Myers, FL Rev. Steve Reynolds

North Port, FL Church Planting residency Rev. Tom Schneider

SonLife Church, Jacksonville, FL Rev. Bob Hovey

Tampa Chinese Presbyterian Church, Tampa, FL Rev. Jeff Liu

Mississippi Valley Presbytery

Havana ARP Church, Havana, AR Rev. Moises Chan

Northeast Presbytery

All Nations Mission Church of NY, New York City, NY Rev. Bongkyun (Andrew) Bang

Christ Presbyterian Church, Grove City, PA Rev. Dr. Iain Duguid

Communion Presbyterian Church, Irvine, CA Rev. Kent Moorlach

The Future Vision Presbyterian Church, Flushing, NY    Rev. Jin Hwa Kim, PhD

Global Vision ARP Church, Flushing, NY Dr. Peter Tae Mun Lee

Good News Presbyterian Church, Gilbert, AZ Rev. Clyde Reed

Iranian Christian Church of Washington, D.C. Rev. Javad Pishghadamian

Tri-State Community Church, WV Rev. Rick Anderson

Pacific Presbytery

Fullness of Joy, La Crescenta, CA Rev. James Baek

Praise the Lord, Los Angeles, CA Rev. Suk Ho Jin
Sharon Presbyterian, Tijuana Baja California, Mexico Rev. Pablo Song

Second Presbytery

Clemson Korean Presbyterian Church Rev. Jae Park

International Community Outreach Mission, Atlanta, GA

Travelers ARP, Travelers Rest, SC Rev. Billy Barron

Tennessee/Alabama Presbytery

Hanmaum ARP Korean, Madison, AL Rev. Soo Young Kim

Riverside Presbyterian Prattville, AL Rev. Greg Duke

 

If you know others who would like to receive this monthly e-mail, please send names and e-mail addresses to Leland Beaudrot at Leland@arpsynod.org
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