I’ve grown up with a firm conviction that you must never root yourself in a community where you can’t also root yourself among fellow believers who are seriously pursuing Christ together. I’ve also grown up with a deep love for the Reformed, covenantal, serious-Christian heritage my parents gave me and a pretty strong allegiance to the denomination of the PCA, warts and all.
And now I cannot deny that the Lord is beckoning us to come and serve Him in a community with nary a PCA church in sight, and only two Reformed churches, neither of which we’ll be able to attend since Mike needs to be able to gain organ experience as part of his degree. As God’s humor would have it, one of those churches sings exclusively Psalms, a cappella. One is led by a resident praise band. So it looks like we will be sojourning in the land of the Lutherans for the next couple years.
The last two glorious years I’ve enjoyed sitting under the teaching a thoughtful, insightful, faithful pastor. I’ve learned a couple things from him that are helping me sort out what’s about to happen to this long-time PCA girl.
First, from Bonhoeffer via Josh, the idea that we are called as Christians to live together in community and that means loving the church that is, not the church that you visualize as your ideal. The Christians that live and worship where you are rooted – those are your people and you love them. That is The Church.
Second, Christianity is simple. In Sunday school the other day Josh was talking about the Lord’s Supper. While I understand and consider important all the theological nuances that make me a Reformed Presbyterian instead of anything else, there are a few essential things about the Lord’s Supper that beg us to simplify and unify. “There’s bread. There’s wine. There’s people who love Jesus. We eat together.” Those weren’t Josh’s exact words but that was the basic idea. The Lord’s Supper is the place where we should be unifying. It is a feast of joy before the Lord. “There’s bread. We eat it together.” It comforted me as I prepare to commune among the Lutherans for a couple years. Sure, I think “in, with, and under” makes very little sense, but I know that it is their best attempt at being faithful to the word of the Christ they love. That’s why they’re Lutherans, not Presbyterians. But we have the important thing in common: We’re both giving it our best attempt to be faithful to the word of the Christ we love. There’s bread, there’s wine, and we’re going to eat it together.
Forgive me for my long introduction. I was musing with Mike on the way home from church the other night about why I expect to miss the PCA – and our particular congregation of the PCA – in particular. There are four things that I love about where I am right now and where I grew up.
1) Intimate fellowship and involvement with each other driven by a consciousness that we are members of a covenant community in covenant relationship with the Lord together, just like old Israel.
2) Preaching of the Word driven by a consciousness that we are under its authority as members of a covenant community defined by our posture of listening to the Lord.
3) Church leadership driven by a consciousness that the goal of the elders is to do everything in their power to help the covenant community along in their pilgrimage from here to home.
4) Corporate worship liturgy driven by a consciousness that we are gathered as members of a covenant community, entering the heavenly throne room together in order to dialogue with the Lord.
These are a few of my favorite things. They are what I find to set apart the “serious Reformed” Christian community from the broader world of evangelicals. Do I find my conscience bound to join myself only to a community that is this rich and covenantally-minded? No. I realize that God may take us to many different places. I am committed to loving each place no matter how different, so long as they love Jesus and the doctrines of His all-sufficient grace.
I am also committed to maintaining these four distinctives as most precious to me and to my family. My husband and I have been blessed to experience them together at the foundation of our marriage and we are determined never to lose them and to teach them in turn to our children. I only pray that these beliefs will be a source of joy and fellowship and not of loneliness in their lives. I’ve known both.