Presbyterianism is technically a form of church government, but it has also become a catch-all phrase for Presbyterians who are Reformed in conviction and adhere to Westminster Standards in doctrinal standards. Which means, being a Presbyterian is a lifestyle. It is adhering to that particular church government, and it is living your life in the light of God’s glory in His sovereignty and works of providence. It’s having an orthodoxy that leads to orthopraxy. It’s a Calvinism that is lived out for the glory of God and the enjoyment of Him forever. Being a Presbyterian isn’t always just about a session and diaconate and presbytery and synod … it’s also about being Biblically Reformed in the style of the Westminster Standards in all of our life.
I love being Presbyterian! In this day and age when it’s popular to loudly and boldly let other people know what you stand for, I’ll say it again for the people in the back row – I LOVE BEING PRESBYTERIAN!
I am a later convert to being Presbyterian. I was first raised in a non-churched home where we eventually started going to a Southern Baptist church in my hometown of Sumter, SC. Because of the wonderful ministry of that church, I will always be grateful to the SBC for their emphasis on the Gospel, loving Jesus and His word. It was in college at Winthrop University that I got involved with Reformed University Fellowship, which led me to a local Presbyterian church. That was the beginning of the end for me! From that point, I have been immersed in all things Presbyterian, and, I will say again, I love being Presbyterian!
A friend of mine, John, tells the story of his journey becoming a Presbyterian. He, like me (and maybe some of you as well), was raised in a Southern Baptist church. For college, he ended up at Columbia Bible College, now known as Columbia International University. Through different classes and professors, my friend was exposed to Reformed theology and Presbyterian ecclesiology. Somewhere along the way, John realized he was no longer a Southern Baptist, but had been “converted” to Reformed Presbyterianism! This shook him up, so he went to a trusted professor and friend to talk this through. They had a good discussion, and at the end of the conversation, this professor said to my friend, “John, if you’re going to be a Presbyterian, then be a good Presbyterian to the glory of God.” That bit of advice has stuck with me since my friend, John, shared that story with me.
What does it mean to be a good Presbyterian to the glory of God? How can we winsomely (a favorite Reformed Presbyterian word!) love being Presbyterians? I offer a few categories to think through:
We are good Presbyterians to the glory of God when our Presbyterianism is rooted in the Scriptures. We think of Acts 15 and the church leaders meeting together as a council to discuss a Biblical issue in order to advise and direct as a council. Much like how Presbyterian synods and assemblies and presbyteries operate now, we take from Acts 15. The church officers were chosen by the people – we see that in the story of Matthias in Acts 1. When talking about church officers, Paul would use the term “presbyteros” meaning “elder.” These were the men who were called by God and chosen by their congregations to spiritually lead that particular congregation. We also see in Paul’s letters that there were a plurality of elders in the church. There are other scriptures that we could go to that shows the Biblical precedent of Presbyterianism. All told, we are good Presbyterians to the glory of God when we are Presbyterians because that is what Scripture teaches for church government.