One thing you may not know about me is that I grew up Southern Baptist. I had no idea what a Presbyterian was until I got to college. During my first week at Mississippi State University, someone invited me to a college ministry called RUF. Curious, I asked what RUF stood for and was told it was short for “Reformed University Fellowship.” My immediate thought was, "Oh! This must be an organization that helps kids who were bad in high school get reformed and get their life straightened out." I know you laugh, but this is how little informed about the greater kingdom of God and how unaware of different denominations and theological teachings I was at the time.
But it was at RUF that I immediately started to grow in my faith through the simple preaching of God's Word - something I had never heard before. Soon thereafter, I was invited to a Presbyterian Church. Having been raised in the south where attending a Southern Baptist church is about as common as breathing air, I was nervous to step outside my comfort zone and attend a Presbyterian church. Well, it didn't take long for me to figure out that that little PCA church in Starkville, MS, loved the Bible, loved the Gospel, and loved people. Soon, I became a member and then joined the staff of Grace Presbyterian Church. I've been a Presbyterian ever since, and by God's grace, I even married Presbyterian!
Why am I Presbyterian? What does "Presbyterian" even mean? I'm glad you asked! The word Presbyterian comes from the Greek word presbuteros,and means elder or overseer. So “Presbyterian” describes our church government. We are a church body that is governed by elders. As I began to learn what the Bible said about elders, I was convinced that it is God’s plan for us to be led in this way. I am a Presbyterian because it is a joy and because it is for my good to submit myself to the Spirit-led body of elders.
What is an elder and what does he do? The believers in the early New Testament Church, and even God’s people in the Old Testament, were governed by elders. Consider Titus, Timothy, and the Ephesian elders in the early church. Recently, we have been studying the book of Acts in adult Sunday School and have seen that historically, elders were appointed whenever new Christian churches were established. Your session, which is the body of elders, takes its leadership responsibility as a high calling from God and strives daily to pray for the flock, disciple the flock, and care for the flock. It is an honor and delight for our elders to be your shepherds.
What does it mean to be a church member? Church membership is not just important for Christians; it is also biblical. Membership allows your church leaders to do our job effectively and as the Lord has called us, because when you become a church member, you make these two important vows: 1) You promise to support the church in its worship and work to the best of your ability; and 2) You promise to submit yourself to the government and discipline of the church, and promise to further its purity and peace. Submitting yourself to the church "government" does not mean you will be paying taxes to the church. It means you will submit yourself to the elders and allow them to shepherd you, as is their calling by God. By submitting to the "discipline" of the church, you are not giving the elders the right to "spank" you. Instead, you give your elders responsibility to teach you, shepherd you, and yes, even admonish you if you fall into sin. This is not oppression. It is for your joy because it is God's design and will for the good of your soul.
Why do I tell you all this? Again, I'm glad you asked! This Sunday, April 27th, and nextSunday, May 4th, Cornerstone will be hosting its first membership class. In this class, we will dive deeper into what it means to be Presbyterian and reformed, and also learn more about the importance of church membership. If you are thinking about joining Cornerstone or would like to learn more about the PCA, then please join us. If you have questions about reformed theology, then please join us. If you've been attending Cornerstone for a while and have never joined, then please join us! I'm looking forward to seeing you there!
By His grace and to His praise, your pastor and elder,