My beloved denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), turns 50 this year. Anyone who knows me knows I love the PCA. It has been my spiritual home for close to 25 years.
The PCA is far from perfect (as evidenced by counting me among its members), but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. The very things that attracted me to the PCA years ago continue to excite me most about it today.
1. The PCA is biblically minded.
The PCA began with a desire to be true to the Scriptures, and it continues to uphold that commitment. It proves no small thing for a denomination to persevere in holding to the inspiration, inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency of the Scriptures in its faith and practice.
I can truly say I don’t know a single pastor, elder, deacon, or PCA church that would deny the authority of the Word of God. Whether I’m in a PCA congregational, session, presbytery, or General Assembly meeting, a biblical argument is a winning argument.
As a whole, the PCA knows it received a gift passed along by previous generations of the church. The denomination makes a concerted effort to remain unashamed of the gospel—“the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). The PCA maintains a high view of God, a robust view of grace, and a low view of human ability.
2. The PCA is productively Presbyterian.
At first glance, this may appear to be an oxymoron. Presbyterians rightfully earned a reputation for moving slowly and cautiously. However, I’ve come to the conviction through the years that we benefit from our Presbyterianism.
Presbyterianism, by definition, necessitates connection with others—not just people in my local church but other churches and presbyteries. Churches in other parts of the country, throughout the state, and in neighboring cities are connected. Churches in rural and urban, college and blue-collar, politically progressive and politically conservative populations are all united as one. Churches among different ethnicities, languages, and socioeconomic classes are linked in the courts of the church.
We’re connected. Yet no bishop rules over this family of churches. No edicts or judgments come from “on high.” Presbyterianism requires continual compromise. Most issues facing the church find resolution through clear articulation, informative discussion, and even heated debate.
The PCA maintains a high view of God, a robust view of grace, and a low view of human ability.
As I reflect on my experience, I realize how I often need to be pushed and pulled in different ways. Discussion and debate sharpen, refine, and helpfully define. I need people both to the left and to the right of me theologically. I benefit from people who think differently from my treasured assumptions and natural inclinations. As a sinner, I’m too often blind to my failings and faults.
Yes, it takes longer to make decisions than it would if we operated independently or under the direction of a single man. At times it can feel as though the denomination is fraught with constant friction, which leads to frustration. Yet time and again, the Lord works in this to lead us to better and more fitting places as a denomination and as individual Christians.
Though our movements are slow, it proves productive to be connected and in communion with others. “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed” (Prov. 15:22). It bears fruit in the soul and to the glory of Christ.
3. The PCA is confessionally committed.
Despite the benefits of the push-and-pull dynamic, we should only be willing to go so far. Compromise only proves beneficial if it remains within bounds.
As a confessional church, the PCA commits itself to the historic Westminster Standards. Each officer within the PCA promises to stay firmly within those bounds by taking this vow at his ordination:
Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; and do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will on your own initiative, make known to your Presbytery/Session the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of your ordination vow?
Each officer in the PCA pledges commitment to our historic faith. This confessional integrity provides for and maintains unity even amid our differences. The PCA hasn’t and doesn’t shy away from the importance and necessity of doctrinal fidelity. It blesses my soul to be united with believers who “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
4. The PCA is evangelistically motivated.
I was first won to the PCA by observing within it a true mind for God wedded with a fervent heartbeat for people. Some of the best theologians, scholars, thinkers, and authors in the Reformed world reside in the PCA. It remains rightly serious about doctrine. Yet one would be hard-pressed to characterize the PCA by the familiar pejorative “frozen chosen.” From its inception, the PCA has proven as serious about evangelization, church planting, and missions as it is serious about sound doctrine.
The PCA has proven as serious about evangelization, church planting, and missions as it is serious about sound doctrine.
The PCA is motivated by true love for the lost and the advancement of Christ’s kingdom on earth. Our Lord’s commission—“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”—hasn’t been viewed as the “Great Suggestion” (Matt. 28:19–20). Rather, it has motivated congregations to prayer, action, and sacrifice. Entire communities, cities, states, and countries would look drastically different apart from its ministry among them.
The PCA isn’t perfect. I have no illusions that we have everything correct or do most things, let alone everything, well. Yet the PCA is the church I know, belong to, and love.
If the PCA continues to uphold these characteristics, we may be used for the glory of Christ in the small part of the vineyard we occupy, until the day our King returns. Lord, may it be.
The Gospel Coalition