Another presbyterian church: bring it on
In relation to recent news regarding a church plant in the Highland capital, a clergyman has written on-line: “Just what we needed in Inverness, a new Presbyterian church”.
“Just what we needed in Inverness, a new Presbyterian church”.
With the difficulties of interpreting a comment posted in an electronic environment, and made in relation to a new church plant, it is possible to understand the remark (above and opposite) in two quite different ways.
But – assuming for this purpose a positive ‘good news’ sense – in fact I would go much further.
What is needed is a new Presbyterian church in every street. However to clarify that desire, there is a requirement to first address the terminology.
The word ‘Presbyterian’ comes from the Greek word 'presbyteros' commonly translated as ‘elder’; and – as applied within denominations and to forms of church government – should, strictly-speaking, outwork in the form of ‘plural male headship’.
Meanwhile the word ‘church’ should be understood in the simple and biblical sense of a ‘gathering of God’s people’. However both of these words have become corrupted in meaning and in practice.
The (servant) ministry of ‘elder’ was divided by the Reformers into two categories: the ‘teaching’ elder, and the ‘ruling’ elder. This was done to sustain and justify the unbiblical ‘clergy/laity’ distinction which was carried wholesale (albeit with 'fig leaf' title changes cf Matt 23:9) from the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church into the Reformed Protestant Church.
Further damage has been done (and continues to be done) in many cases, by elders being appointed for reasons that have little to do with their spirituality and more to do with their worldly status. Additionally (in some denominations) women have been appointed into ‘headship’ roles. (The point here relates to gender and not levels of spirituality; some of the best men in the church are in fact women.)
Meanwhile the ‘church’ has become so disfigured as to almost defy description.
The biblical meaning of the term 'ekklesia' refers simply to a gathering – small or larger – of a group of believers (cf Matt 18:20). It does not refer to buildings, clergy, denominations or all the other trappings which organised religion has accrued unto itself.
In the early church we see a radical simplicity operating in the power of the Spirit and blessed mightily by God (Acts 2:42-47). Not so now.
Nowadays, albeit with notable exceptions, we see expensive buildings and paid employees operating in almost identical fashion to secular organisations – complete with hierarchies, badges of rank, status symbols, power broking, money-generating schemes and business-growth models. The spirit of Babel (Gen 11:4) has truly invaded the Kingdom of God.
And of course the ‘get them into the building’ form of ‘church growth’ and the kudos of ‘numbers', has resulted in the planting of many tares amongst the good wheat.
So when I say that what we need is a Presbyterian church in every street, what I mean is we need to aim for a group of believers in each and every neighbourhood; operating on the low-cost but highly-efficient, and – if the pages of Scripture are anything to go by – highly-effective forms set out for us in the New Testament.
And within these 'churches', every saint of God – young and older, men and women – outworking their ‘ministry’ through their giftings and callings under the servant oversight of mature men – 'elders' from within these groups who nurture and disciple those around them.
Another church; a different church
“Just what we needed in Inverness, a new Presbyterian church!” Yes indeed. Absolutely!
In fact don't stop there. Let us work towards a church in every street – to the glory of God. Churches of saints in the priesthood of all believers in whole-body ministry and as witnesses to the transforming power of Jesus Christ – in Inverness, and in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria; even to the end of the earth.
"And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people.
And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved."
The Editor, 14/02/2012