Indelible Grace Church

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Indelible Grace Church Blog

Part II: What is Presbyterianism?

alt

In the last blog post, I wrote about why we are in a denomination. Today, I want to talk about the main distinctive of being our specific denomination--Presbyterian. Every denomination has a historic reason for existing, namely, why it broke off from the larger established church. For example, Baptists objected to infant baptism, thus their name. Presbyterians objected to the authoritarianism of the Church of England, believing that church power rightly belongs with ordained elders, not the king or a solitary archbishop. "Presbyter" is the Greek word for elder.

Presbyterians saw in the New Testament plentiful evidence that Christ entrusted the care of his church to elders. Elders are called "overseers" and "manage" the household of God (1 Timothy 3:1-5). And church members are called to "obey" and "submit" to elders (1 Peter 5:1-5, Hebrews 13:17). Elders are wise, godly shepherds who are tasked to love the congregation and even lay down their lives for the church. In the PCA, a gathering of local church elders is called a "session."

Presbyterians also see in the New Testament that elders from various churches meet together as a council to discuss and deliberate on matters pertaining to all churches. The PCA calls this regional gathering of elders a "presbytery." The biblical model for this is the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, which decided the matter of circumcision for all churches.

So the "session" and "presbytery" is the main distinctive of being Presbyterian. Our church is to be ruled by a session of godly elders. And over the session is a presbytery of regional elders.

Picture: Assembly of Westminster Divines drafting the founding document of Presbyterianism, The Westminster Confession of Faith, in 1646, during the height of the English Reformation.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 May 2016 16:32
 

Part I: Why a denomination?

alt

Our church is part of the PCA (Presbyterian Church in America). But not everyone is familiar with this denomination. So we are going to do a three-part series explaining and introducing the PCA through these blog posts. The hope is that this will be informative and encouraging to you!

First, let's address the larger issue of denominationalism. Why are we in a denomination at all? Why not be a non-denominational church? And aren’t denominations contrary to the spirit of unity?

Our response is that denominations are a healthy way to be connected to a church heritage. We do not “do church” ex nihilo, out of nothing. But rather, everyone is influenced by a particular church heritage – a certain way of practicing church leadership, baptism, orthodoxy, community life. In other words, everyone is doing church within a tradition. The only question is whether we will be self-conscious of it.

Being part of a denomination acknowledges our heritage and gives us a self-awareness of the flaws and weaknesses of our heritage. For example, Presbyterians are strong on theology, but a big weakness is that we are a very cerebral, heady tradition, and rather weak on “doing” the gospel. Historically, Presbyterians are great at writing theology textbooks and founding seminaries, but not very good at frontier evangelism and community engagement.

Being Presbyterian doesn’t mean we arrogantly look down on other denominations. Rather, it means we humbly acknowledge the weaknesses of our own tradition and respectfully listen to the strengths of other traditions.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 May 2016 16:22
 

A Theology of Work

alt

One of the great challenges of the Christian life is how to work. That is, how do we integrate faith with our professional lives? For most of us, Christianity is what you do on the weekends and in the evenings, like praying and reading the Bible, while work is something altogether different, making Christianity effectively irrelevant in the workplace. In other words, at work, we become practical atheists--it makes no real difference whether we are Christians or not.

We need to recover a "theology of work." For many, work is just a means of income and a drudgery to be endured. For others, work is our glory and significance. But what does the Bible tell us about the origins and meaning of work? Why is work so awful, such that we hate it, and yet there are glimmers of deep meaning and fulfillment? And how should we go about choosing a profession?

This Sunday, Pastor Michael will begin a two-part series on integrating faith and work.

Image: "The Tower of Babel" by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The story of Babel in Genesis 11 shows us the tragedy of work without God.

Last Updated on Thursday, 29 October 2015 12:57
 

New Sermon Series: The Life of David

alt

It is said that the inscription on King Arthur's tomb read: Hic iacet Arthurus, rex quondam, rexque futurus -- "Here lies Arthur, the once and future king." The legend of Arthur is the story, lost and wonderful and sad, of a king who began his reign with such promise, a good and just king, but ends in tragedy and grief and death. But a prophecy speaks of Arthur reigning again in the future.

The Arthurian legends were based on the story of King David in the Bible. David is the most fully realized portrait of any biblical character except Jesus of Nazareth. He is a deeply complex and tragic figure: a soulful poet, a great warrior, a man after God's own heart, an adulterer, a murderer, an indulgent but neglectful parent, a man full of passion and tragedy. In David, we see the human condition in all its complexities and contradictions.

And, in David, we see a glimpse of true greatness, a just king who delivers his people from oppression and reigns in peace. That promise is finally fulfilled in his son, Jesus. Jesus is repeatedly called the Son of David, born in the City of David, who would sit on David's throne. There are over 50 mentions of David in relation to Jesus. Which means the New Testament is telling us that you can't understand Jesus without immersing yourself deeply in story of David.

We are going to begin a new sermon series, the bulk of which will focus on David, but also looking at Samuel, the last of his kind, the final prophet-judge of Israel, at King Saul, the first king of Israel and a deeply tragic figure, and many other surrounding characters - Jonathan, Abigail, Michal, Joab, Mephibosheth, Nathan, Bathsheba, Solomon, and so many others - that make the story so richly detailed.

We are going to begin a new And in the end, we will come to a deeper appreciation of Jesus, the Once and Future King.

[Illustration of David and Goliath by Gustave Dore.]​

Last Updated on Monday, 28 September 2015 10:00
 

Reflections on the End of a Sabbatical

alt

I think the chief benefit of a sabbatical over a typical vacation is that it affords you time that is truly unstructured. Normally in a vacation, I find myself scrambling to catch up on long-delayed errands and then, after that, preparing for the return to work. And I admit I did a fair amount of the same during my sabbatical. But I also experienced days and weeks on end without an agenda, wonderful unscheduled time in which I found myself at last pulling back and really thinking meaningfully about life and ministry. For that, I am deeply grateful.

So here are a few things I learned, in no particular order:

(1) Christina and I visited a different church each Sunday. ​​Let me tell you, visiting a new church is a daunting and lonely experience. You feel like an outsider intruding on a family reunion. The best experience Christina and I had is when we met a nice couple who genuinely took an interest in us and extended their friendship. It made us want to return to see them again.

(2) I read a lot of books during my sabbatical. The best, by far, was Washed and Waiting by Wes Hill. Wes Hill is a gay celibate Christian. I found his personal story deeply compelling, his writing easy to read and his theological vision of the Christian life (in which he is resolved, though he feels strong, unremitting same-sex attractions, to a life of chastity and holiness) profoundly beautiful. I commend it highly to everyone.

(3) I have come to discover a few simple maxims about summer vacations with the kids:

     - Gifts shops are more engaging for my kids than the amusement parks which contain them.
     - We made several long roadtrips and we discovered another child is vastly superior to the most expensive car toy.
     - Kids grow up too slowly (I feel this most of the time) but there will be stabbing moments when it is too fast. Paradox.


(The photo above is of our trip to San Diego.)

(4) I truly love the rich community of our church. I love the friendships and just sharing life together. I’ve missed very greatly the weekly rhythm of seeing everyone. And I appreciate all the more the profound privilege of pastoring this congregation. I’m filled with gratitude and awe.

(5) Finally, as I think about the future of our church, I've come to this deep conviction. I want us to be a church where the gospel is not just a slogan or a mere intellectual idea, but a real, palpable, transforming power. The gospel changes lives, or it is no gospel at all. I'm committed to that more than ever.

So thank you everyone for extending me this break! I come back renewed and excited for ministry. See you all soon! --Pastor Michael

Last Updated on Saturday, 05 September 2015 18:48
 


Page 2 of 19