Monday, October 16, 2006

Moving Forward into a New Presbyterian Future

Last week I looked at the possibility of a future in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) without synods and presbyteries. It is my contention that things in the PCUSA have to change. We cannot live the next thirty years like we have lived these past thirty years. Change we must! If all I do is point out things at aren’t working in the denomination then I am a part of the problem—not a part of the solution. I want to be a part of the solution. I hope that you do to! With that in mind, I am going to take several days to make some suggestions as to how we can move into a new present and future for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

  1. Repentance: We need to humbly come before God in an attitude of repentance. There are many areas in which we need to repent—as individual Presbyterians; as pastors, elders and deacons; as presbyteries; as synods; as General Assemblies.
    1. As Individuals: We have not been committed to prayer, fasting, the reading and studying of scripture and the spread of the Gospel. We have not supported the ministries of our local churches to the best of our abilities with our time, talents and financial resources. Our primary focus has been on the local church and we have failed in our responsibilities to the larger church.
    2. As Pastors: We have become so busy that we spend too little time praying and studying God’s word. We have been afraid to fully proclaim the Gospel for fear of alienating people in the pews. We have sacrificed our families for our churches. We have shielded our congregations from the higher governing bodies of the denomination. We have failed in our responsibilities of being “good” presbyters.
    3. As Elders and Deacons: We have too rooted in doing things the way we have done them in the past. We have focused our energies on the local church and avoided the other governing bodies of our denomination.
    4. As Presbyteries: We have wasted the most precious commodity of our members—their time. We have been self-serving. We have longed for our theological “way” rather than standing firmly on the Word of God. We have had too many committee meetings that accomplished nothing. We have not stood by pastors and congregations that we hurting. We have become so set in our ways that WE are killing the church. We have failed to find new ways of being the church in an age of information technology. We have passed “problem” pastors on to other presbyteries.
    5. As Synods: We have tried to manufacture reasons for our existence. We have sought to “do” our own programming rather than to listen to the presbyteries and discern what they need from us. We have allowed campus ministries to preach and proclaim that which our denomination forbids. We have failed to effectively bring our presbyteries together to enable joint mission projects and opportunities.
    6. As General Assemblies: We have consistently gone against the will of the local churches and tried to force our ideas and theology on them. We have allowed “related groups” to do what ever they please without consequence. We allow staff to attend meetings with a disproportionately high number of folks as compared to official delegates. We keep asking the same people to be on committees. We have abandoned the mission field. We have forgotten that the only reason for our existence is to enable the frontlines of ministry.
  2. Prayer and fasting: Jesus prayed and fasted before beginning his public ministry. The church in Antioch prayed and fasted before deciding to send Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey. The Israelites prayed and fasted when the army Edom was coming to wage war against God’s people. There needs to be a time of individual prayer and fasting in the Presbyterian Church. Each of us needs to humble ourselves and seek God’s leading and directing. The transformation of our local church and denomination will not occur if we trust in our own wisdom and strength. We need to humble ourselves before God. After that, we need to have a time of prayer and fasting for the denomination. A week needs to be set aside for this to happen. Some will choose to fast for a day. Some will choose to fast for a couple of days. Some will choose to fast for the week. Some will want to fast longer than a week so the date needs to set sufficiently far in advance to allow this to happen. I believe that without prayer and fasting there is no hope of the transformation of this denomination.

Check back throughout this week for additional thoughts and a proposed time table.


At 11:44 AM , Blogger Dave Moody said...

Good words Lance, sane and resonable. Thank you. And leave it to a true blue presbyterian to promise a time table for prayer and fasting!;-)

grace & peace,

At 3:13 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Lance. I'm with you (although my hunch is that we disagree on some particulars.)

Can't wait to hear how this might work, but something's got to change. It's already changing in our congregation.

AND we have an iftar dinner with Turkish Muslim neighbors last weekend with a discussion on Muslim and Christian traditions of fasting. The Christians were surprised to hear that Jesus lifted this up along with prayer.

Thanks for the post.

At 6:41 AM , Blogger Bayou Christian said...

The solution: NWAC - New Wineskins Association of Churches. Keep in mind the congregation I serve has not endorsed but we see in it a possible solution to the very problems you have shown so clearly.

At 9:12 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your clear call to repentance and prayer and your concise and accurate assessment of the problems at each level of our denomination. Now we are getting somewhere!


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