Church reform(5): warriors who hide

New Warhorn Media post by Tim Bayly:

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In the spirit of Pr 18:17…it is hard to fight. My first ministry was in the UCC in the 80s. A renewal movement existed and my pastor encouraged me to be part of it. What I found was those who privately agree with you tell you to tone it down. You’re unloving, unkind, catch more flies with honey. And I was those things at times. But Ezekiel’s watchman gripped me. If this apostasy was real there are men’s souls at stake. Some intemperance may have been excusable.

Probably the worst of it all was my young daughter asking mom, ‘Why do these people hate daddy and want him to leave?’

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This seems a good argument against Presbyterianism as such. It looks as if the structure itself is a petri dish in which this sort of thing is bound to happen because professional Presbyterians… well, they seem to kinda fetishize parliamentary complexity.

In some streams of collapse theory it is proposed that what is really the problem is that complexity has entered diminishing returns. In other words when a system is beginning, each unit of complexity is an asset - until… it’s not. At that point each unit of complexity becomes a liability. Because bureaucracy is additive and never reductive, new structures are bolted on sheerly to process the complexity in the overall system. The thing the system most needs at this point is simplification. But simplification is the one thing that is impossible, not because people don’t recognize it; they do – or because there’s a huge conspiracy in place – but because interconnectedness means you can’t yank out one thing without screwing up everything else, which scares everyone most of all. Yet, eventually simplification must occur; when it does it happens in the form of collapse - which is simplification’s most dramatic form.

I think the PCA is kind of at this place.

Stepping back, I think it’s all about the local church. Jesus didn’t bear the cross for denominational superstructures, He bore it for each of His individual people. As a PCA elder I could sort of care less about whether the PCA as such stands or falls. I can barely even understand all the stand-sit-recognize-the-gentleman-from-wherever hoohah that goes on at Presbytery. There are souls in front of me in my local church, for whom I have to give an account. They occupy my time and concern (in fact they should own more of it than I’ve given, an area where I need to grow).

Worth adding that I’ve seen non-denoms that are orthodox to the core, which then drift or dissipate after that one faithful pastor, who was the center of mass, departs/retires/expires. Was it a waste? Course not. We just do what we can with what God has given us.

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Glad to hear you attend Presbytery. I think more involvement by REs would set the PCA on a better track.

As I said on another thread, there’s no organizing system that is foolproof against bad men. As I understand it, the PCA is simpler and much less top-heavy than the mainline church it came from, but that didn’t prevent drift, either.

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An excellent analysis, pithy, and concise. Well Done. Only thing I would add is that Presbyterianism is not at fault if it stayed with two courts: Session and Presbytery. If there was no General Assembly and resultant superstructure, things would be simpler. If the Presbytery goes bad, the Session can vote to go with another. Several of these independent presbyteries now exist, and the best have no standing committees, budgets, and bureaucracy. They exist to provide fellowship and discipline only. I suspect it will be a trend as we move further and further away from the outmoded ‘ideal’ of a state-like church - which seems, to this sheep, to be the urge for denominations.

Absolutely. This has been my conclusion after a lifetime in Presbyterianism. Just start presbyteries and have fellowship between them as they multiply. This is much better than religious non-profits with national aspirations like the PCA with a membership total that is less than one-third of one percent of our nation’s population.

Anyone who wants to start a presbytery in their part of the country/world can take our Evangel Presbytery template use it themselves. Documents (BCO, Directory for Worship, bylaws) should be available soon. Over the course of five years now, we’ve put countless man-hours into them and anyone will be able to freely amend/use them. Contact us if you’re interested. Love,

The immediate most recent couple of comments have prompted me to ask - and not out of snark, but genuine curiosity: how does what you’re describing differ meaningfully from Baptist ecclesiology?

What @gilimeod and @tbbayly describe sounds exactly like what the Village did/has done in the DFW area and, on a smaller scale, what the church that planted my own has done, as well. The size of the Village notwithstanding for the moment, the free association of sessions to new presbyteries sounds an awful lot like “independently governed churches” freely associating.

Am I wrong in my understanding of what you are describing and advocating?

Never myself known or heard of any Baptist church which was not congregational in its polity. In Presbyterian polity, elders and pastors and congregations are accountable to presbytery for their doctrine and practice. They want this. It’s Acts 15. Love,