Is It Possible to Be Kingdom Focused While Remaining in the PCUSA?

September 22, 2011

I commend to my readers the comments that appeared in response to yesterday’s post. They represent both sides of the Stay or Leave the PCUSA debate and are really quite helpful for understanding and empathizing with both liberal and conservative points of view. If that reading exercise does not totally exhaust you, then I offer just a short thought for today.

Yesterday I spilled the beans about my intent to stay with the PCUSA for now, and I am going to continue to explore why this track has merit in the days to come. My purpose for doing so is not to convince evangelical Presbyterians to stay when or if they want to leave, but to teach a way of thinking. The reality is that any congregation that seeks dismissal from the PCUSA has a long road ahead of it (perhaps two years). Two years is a long time for people to be patient, a long time for confusion to set in, a long time for anger to take hold, a long time for exhaustion to paralyze the best of intentions. Those who oppose the dismissal of congregations may in fact want to draw out the process to wear church members down. So it is a matter of great urgency to strengthen the flock, in knowledge and faith. How are those church members going to be equipped, prepared, “kept in the boat,” or taught about the nature of the church and their place in it? Since I feel part of my job here is to bring the Word to real life, I want to talk about how to live as citizens of the Kingdom of God and survive those difficult tests of patience.

How to exist joyfully and productively even in an error-ridden environment is a relevant topic for most everyone, leavers or stayers. The point of highlighting two inspirational characters yesterday was not to claim that evangelical suffering in the PCUSA is on par with Zamperini’s POW experience or the Christian sex slave’s victimization. My point was that sometimes people are stuck in environments over which they have no power and cannot (for one reason or another) escape; and yet, even in those appalling circumstances they can still honor God by the way they think and pray and set their minds on things above (Col. 3:1). The willingness to live into the Kingdom of God while in hell (as some feel their current denominational environment) could be a sign that even there one is capable of showing love for God and neighbor (and dare I say enemies, as in Mt 5:43).

For evangelical Presbyterians, this translates into the view that if a congregation cannot leave the PCUSA, it is still possible for it to be faithful to its calling to glorify Jesus Christ and take on the Great Commission (Mt 28:18-20). This may require it to quietly go about its ministry business. Or it may move it to stand: to stand for Jesus and the Word of God, stand up to theological intimidation, stand in for those who do not have the stomach for the conflict, stand firm against the winds of (false) doctrine (Js 1:6), and when all else has happened simply to keep standing (Eph 6:13).

Some would say that standing is not enough; a congregation must advance the Kingdom by embarking on a missional journey. I do not disagree; in fact I am quite passionate about the missional church and its leadership. But I am not convinced that the current climate prevents a congregation from “being missional,” an idea I’d like to unpack in upcoming posts.


5 Responses to “Is It Possible to Be Kingdom Focused While Remaining in the PCUSA?”

  1. I missed just one day’s responses, and went back today to try to swim up the waterfall. Pros and cons, yes; and numbers of efforts to say, “The real issue is…” For me it’s, “I’m glad you’re staying, to keep needling, feeding, challenging, and helping me as my friend.”

  2. Mary Fields Says:

    Yes. You are quite passionate.

  3. Viola Larson Says:

    I agree with Houston-Praise God you are staying. We all, even your enemies: ) need you!

  4. L. Lee Says:

    One of the key ingredients in being Kingdom focused is being submisive to the Holy Spirit.
    When disobedience to Scripture invades leadership, and courts and is prevalent then there is a lack of the Holy Spirit in the church resulting in lack of truth, lack of people coming to God, lack of power and gifts. This is something I am weighing in thinking about staying or leaving the PCUSA. I think this denomination is impeding the work of the Holy Spirit.
    Could the work of the Holy Spirit be moe effective in an atmosphere where people are faithful and faithfilled, obedient, seeking holiness, submisive to be transformed according to God’s word. Yes, some churches are there, but the leadership of the General Assemblies has lost something in knowing the power of God to bring revival to this generation. They are more focused on selfish willfulness and disobedience instead of holiness. Maybe God is not pleased with us, maybe God wants us to so sold out that we are willing to forsake all to be in a place where we can see the Holy Spirit move.
    Maybe harboring “sin” in the church at large is impeding the Holy Spirit’s work for this generation. If that is so, then God may be moving to side step the PCUSA for His grand purpose and we should be open to that movement.
    We need to pray that God would raise up leaders, and people, who have the gifts of the Holy Spirit to affect this generation in or out of this denomination. The church I am in is seeing the Holy Spirit feed people spiritually, but I m not sure the denomination as a whole is seeing it.

  5. L. Lee Says:

    I know you have talked in your blog about doctrine. But really is is not about doctrine because doctrine is man’s effort to understand and “organize” knowledge about God. What we need is stronger personal relationships and encounters with the living GOD. We need to increase our faith, not in the church, but in God and in the work of the Holy Spirit. This is happening in my local church, but I fear as stated above that there is something missing because of a disobedient spirit in the PCUSA that impedes the gifts we need.
    Thanks for your post and would love to hear what you think about the Holy Spirit and it help in the coming battles. L.lee

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