Equipped to Stand Alone

December 5, 2011

This week, I would like to describe a ministry vision that reflects my passion for ministry and a sense of urgency because of emerging realities. The basic idea behind “Bringing the Word to Life” is to enlighten, encourage, and equip presbyters for engagement in faith issues locally. It is apparent to me that the need for stand-alone Christians is more acute than ever. By “standing alone” I do not mean obstinately refusing to work with others for a common purpose, nor living in isolation from other presbyters. Stand-alone in my usage refers to the type of Christian who does not require spoon-feeding of Scripture, the constant presence of a faith buddy in the normal course of life’s events, or Christendom props like a church building or Sunday school classroom in order to feel able to witness to an unchurched person. A stand-alone believer has the necessary skills to study the Bible on his or her own, is convinced enough of personal faith to be convincing in sharing it, and possesses joyful confidence despite the discouragements and pressures in a non-faith direction.

My vision for the church sees a growing number of people whose conscious commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior leads them:

• to become intimately acquainted with God’s Word, both Old and New Testaments and to be in tune with God’s will in their own faith and life;

• to be strong in grace and truth, tender in love and courageous in all situations;

• to be unmoved by the threats to one’s spiritual well-being by those who would ridicule, doubt, or obstruct the genuine work of God in the Presbyterian Church;

• to grow in wisdom for the decisions that must be made within PCUSA governance;

• to proclaim and witness the transforming power of Jesus Christ among even the most resistant to gospel truth.

• to exhibit true, godly courage in the face of losses and intimidating circumstances; and

• to prevail in the effort to embrace our Presbyterian/Reformed heritage  and foster the kind of covenant life in which heresy, ungodly practice, and spiritual complacency have no place.

With this vision in mind, this week I would like to enumerate and describe six reasons why it is imperative to equip presbyters for stand-alone discipleship. The first reason is the growing number of challenges to orthodox faith and practice being debated in presbytery meetings. These challenges take various forms: questionable statements of faith under consideration, faulty christology and ecclesiology at work in presbytery practice, and political intimidation by those who appear to have or want more power.

Because great pressures exist within the PCUSA, intensely in some presbyteries like San Francisco, the need for solid grounding in the faith is essential for the wellbeing of every presbyter. These days, there simply are more instances in which a presbyter must make an independent assessment of the theological framework and practical “manner of life” of candidates and potential leaders in the church. More and more often candidates, perhaps in the desire to be “creative,” are stretching the limit of acceptability in their statements of faith. Since it has been demonstrated that judicatories are not interested in maintaining standards of orthodoxy and godly practice, it is up to you and me in our presbyteries to discern the deviations (celebrating consonance, of course), ask good questions for clarity, and vote our conscience when a candidate is unable or unwilling to articulate a Presbyterian/Reformed faith consistent with the Bible and our Confessions.

Further, because of the discussions about “gracious dismissal” and “differentiation,” evangelicals will experience greater pressure than ever to either stay quiet or toe the party lines of inclusivity, relativity, representation, and tolerance.  Penalties for holding town-hall forums to discuss dismissal, the adoption of bankrupting exit fees for departing congregations, and the stresses associated with “keeping the building” regardless of what side you are taking all exact a high price for standing.

If you do not feel ready for this, take today’s blogpost as an invitation to get ready.

It would be of great interest to me if you would give some feedback to the question: “What do you need to learn, practice, or receive in order to feel ready to stand alone in the rough-and-tumble Presbyterian life?” No fair saying, “I need an exit door.” The assumption of this discussion is staying in the PCUSA for the duration. What sort of equipping do you need in order to be present and thriving for the next five years?

Tomorrow: Reason #2 for getting equipped as a stand-alone disciple.


4 Responses to “Equipped to Stand Alone”

  1. Rogene Says:

    In answer to your question: What do I need to…..
    Courage. Learning to live my faith in a way that my friends and colleagues recognize my dependence on my Lord and Savior and learning to be alert to when another person is ready to hear more about my faith.

  2. deborah hollifield Says:

    Regular opportunities for collegiality and worship with other evangelical Presbyterians – cyber friends are great but our congregational singing isn’t up to par…

  3. Viola Larson Says:

    I will go with Deborah. There isn’t enough Collegiality or worship among Evangelical Presbyterians in my Presbytery. We need much more. That will help us all stand stronger.

  4. John R. Kerr Says:

    I would say, “all of the above,” and a curriculum to help train elders would be a nice bonus. I have long ago adopted a daily devotional routine that feeds my spirit and focuses my attention on Jesus Christ, but some resources for training others would be helpful!

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