Thursday, April 29, 2010

PCA Strategic Plan: Post 5

A. Animating Values of Local Churches in the PCA

The PCA has historically held that the authority for beliefs or practices not specified in our constitutional standards resides in local leadership. This means that there is considerable diversity in the PCA’s “animating values” – the concerns, goals and practices that get us up and going each morning for the work of our individual presbyteries, ministries and churches. We can often identify a local church’s animating values by having its people identify its primary ministry goals – or, more simply, what do they think are the marks of great ministry. Animating values can appropriately differ given the great variety of contexts in which churches minister. The list below would identify the “animating values” of many local churches in the PCA:

Great ministry in the local church is characterized by . . .

1. Everyone understanding and applying Scripture

2. Perpetuating and refining Reformed Theology

3. Worshipping God rightly and well

4. Involving everyone in personal evangelism

5. Everyone grasping the grace of the Gospel

6. Multiplying “healthy” churches

7. Transferring the Faith to the next generation

8. Right administration of the Sacraments

9. Transforming culture

10. Good Bible preaching

11. Helping people to love Jesus

12. Support of Christian schooling

13. Reclaiming the nation for Christ

14. Supporting Christian artists

15. Supporting Pro-Life movements

16. Creating Christian community

17. Supernaturally renewed relationships

18. Securing family/married life

19. Ministry to the disadvantaged and oppressed

20. Racial reconciliation

21. Supporting mission work

22. Revival thru viral repentance and faith

23. Pervasive prayer

24. Predominant personal piety

25. Separation from unbelief

26. Church growth

27. Biblical care of hurting people

28. Other ...

B. Animating Values of Groups within the PCA

Just as individual churches have animating values, so also do groups of churches or individuals within the denomination. Again, these values are diverse, but because they characterize groups that are often seeking to set direction for others beyond their immediate context or for the denomination as a whole, such values can create tensions with groups who have different animating values. As a consequence, polarities have developed both in what groups identify as their animating values and in how they perceive others.

With apologies for obvious stereotyping, we identify some of these group polarities and perceptions below – not to perpetuate tensions – but to “name the elephants in the room” that must be handled in order for us to pull together for Kingdom purposes. We intend by the labels below to be “equal opportunity offenders,” helping each group to understand its role in the PCA and how that group may be perceived by those with different animating values. Of course, the real goal is not to offend, but to help all see that our differences typically are varying emphases on aspects of the formal values we all affirm.

As with local churches, we can often identify a group’s animating values by having its adherents identify their primary ministry goals (which may or may not be formally stated). The left column of the chart below identifies goals common among groups in the PCA; the left [sic] column identifies how others may perceive groups with these ministry goals.

Our primary mission/calling is . . . Perception of others

1. Properly expressing Reformed Theology (insensitive to relational)

-restore Southern Presbyterianism [all mind]

-ensure doctrinal faithfulness at all levels

2. Reaching the lost (ignores doctrine & doxological)

-multiply churches [all heart]

-multiply people in churches

-multiply mission support

3. Restoring the culture (idolizes the past & politics)

-reclaim nation-founding commitments [fears future]

-support conservative politics

4. Protecting the Faithful (idolizes family/community)

-separate from secular [fears culture]

-support schooling alternatives

5. Transforming the Culture (idolizes external o/ internal)

-oppose oppression (e.g., poverty, racism) [forgets spiritual]

-reach “gatekeepers” (e.g., media, arts, profs)

Summary: Churches and groups (formal and informal) within the PCA differ in what they see as the purpose and work (the “animating values”) of their particular church or group. Because churches differ in their goals, and because various “special interest groups” in the church vary in their focus, there is tension within the denomination. It is important that we all recognize that our relationships with others in the denomination who differ from us are affected not only by what we stand for, but by how we are perceived by others. Only then can we begin working on drawing together as a denomination.

Commentary: I doubt that anyone would disagree with the general content of this section. The analysts also admit that some of these are stereotypes, at least admitting that the analysis is flawed at this point. On the other hand, given the characteristics of the various groups as this analysis has laid them out, it is probably not a bad analysis. However, two things concern me. The first is that our animating values should be determined by our formal values. In other words, what we do as churches and as individuals and groups within the denomination should be restricted by our constitution. Behavior, goals, and projects that violate our constitution ought rightly to be opposed.

It is at this point that I think most of the tensions within the PCA arise. From visiting many churches in the denomination over the years in various sections of the country, I find that Church A doing something different from Church B, or Church A having different emphases from Church B is not really a source of tension. The tension comes in two cases: 1) when Church A perceives Church B as not really being a proper church if it isn’t just like Church A; and 2) when Church A is doing something contrary to the constitution of the denomination, and Church B points that out. For example, I don’t care if a church in a major metropolitan area is reaching out to the artistic community. In fact, I think it’s a wonderful thing. But if that church were to decide to soft-pedal what the Bible says about sexual behavior in order not to offend artists who might be continuing to engage in illicit relationships, that would be a problem, and ought rightly draw the ire of others in the denomination.

1 comment:

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