#21: Presbyrterian: Is there a perfect church?

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When I wrote the title for this post, the thought "there is no perfect church" popped into my head.  I wonder now if it was me talking or if I was hearing the voice of God again?  Whoever it is, it is certainly an accurate statement. 

In the past 5 months of attending different church's every week, I have yet to find one where I walked in and thought, "I'm home."  And then last week, I was certain that was all about to change.  I attended River Road Presbyterian church in Richmond VA http://www.rrpcusa.org/   It was the first time I felt like I could see myself becoming a member of this congregation. 

The people were very kind and welcoming, everyone was dressed fairly nicely, there were many young adults, and I could live with the music even though it wasn't exactly my favorite.  They were even having a sermon on the 10 commandments which I find most churches are kinda dismissing these days.  As if, Christ did away with the law instead of fulfilled it.  “This is it!” I thought, “Finally, a place where I can see my husband and I fitting in!” 

But then I started doing a bit of research on their doctrinal beliefs and I quickly realized that I just can't get behind this church.  Don't get me wrong, I respect what they believe, but it's so different than what I have taken away from my studying of the Bible that I just can't negotiate on some things.  On the surface it might not seem all that different; we both believe that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior. But doctrinally, there are things that just don’t jive with me.  Is there a point where I just say: “We both believe in Christ, so what if they believe God chooses us and we have no say in our salvation and therefore we’re all just His little robots, at least they have a young adults group?”

Quite honestly, I find that I disagree with pretty much every church on some level so I’d just worship alone all the time if I didn’t overlook some things.  But things like the concept of election verse free will seem pretty big to me. And I know I don't have all the answers (actually I have very few) but if I establish a belief through studying the Word of God, I guess I'm inclined to hold it as a Truth for me and learn from those who believe as I do.

I wonder in my search for the not so perfect church, will I find one that resonates with me and my beliefs completely?  Are most church goers 100% aligned with their denominations major doctrine?  For instance, do all Presbyterians believe in election?  Do all Catholics believe that priests should be responsible for forgiving their sins?  Is there a Catholic out there that thinks, "You know what, something about this seems wrong" but continues to walk into the confessional week after week? 

Do people just eventually give in on some things in order to make the commitment and find a church family?  I don't want to give in.  I don't want to commit to a church that doesn't line up with what I believe God is saying to the churches.  How could I?  It's funny, just 5 months ago I would have said that so many of these things I battle aren't relevant and that denominations are all dividing people and missing the "bigger picture".  And that the only important thing is loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself.  And although I still agree with that statement wholeheartedly, I'm starting to find that loving God is seeking and obeying the Truth about Him.  And that truth is found in His Word.  So if it's important to God, it's important to me because I love Him that much.

So even though I won’t call it home, the experience at River Road Presbyterian was a good one.  So much so that when I left, I was calling my friends and telling them that I may have found a possible church family.   If you’re a believer who is looking for a mid-sized church that allows female laywomen (Ruling Elders), has a young adult group, is in an upscale part of town in the Southside of Richmond, that has a very warm and welcoming group of believers, you might want to check out River Road Presbyterian.  http://www.rrpcusa.org/

Oh but before you go, here are a couple of their major beliefs….just in case that’s a deal breaker:

  • Once Saved Always Saved:  If you believe in your heart Jesus is Lord and confess it with your mouth, you are saved, once and forever:  NO MATTER WHAT.
  • Sovereignty of God:  No such thing as free will to choose God, He chooses us. (by default this means that some of us are NOT chosen by God and therefore doomed to hell which we deserve)
  • Infant baptism (and only adults of unsaved).  Sprinkling, not full immersion.
  • Communion:  Lord’s Supper 
  • Spreading the Good News: The church is governed at all levels by a combination of clergy and laity, men and women alike in an attempt to fulfill the Great Commission.
  • Gifts of Spirit:  Spiritual gifts no longer exist.  They were gone at Pentecost.  While fruits are alive today, gifts of the spirit are not. 

This is just a brief breakdown of what I found relevant. 

My pastor, who I study with weekly, pokes fun at the way I banter about such religious positions with common language.  Jokingly referring to phrases such as “break it down” and “I just can’t jive with” as “very theological terminology.”  So if you’re one of those who desire an in-depth study of the Presbyterian Church, with formal descriptions that use robust theological vocabulary visit http://www.pcusa.org

 

 

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5 Comments

  • Nicole Unice

    Nicole Unice May 31, 2010

    Jessica,
    great job on “breaking it down.” It can be a real cross to bear when you are a thinker like you obviously are. I agree with you that no church is going to feel exactly right, because church is broken because it’s filled with broken people. However, I do think it’s important to work through whatever the “majors” feel like to you. Good luck in your search….

  • Jenny

    Jenny May 31, 2010

    Maybe start by picking a denomination you fundamentally agree with.  Once you narrow it down you will get closer to that perfect church.  smile

  • Anne

    Anne May 31, 2010

    I also struggle with election/predestination, etc.  I might suggest that if you really like the church you go and talk to one of the ministers - voice your concerns and see how he/she responds.  Sometimes the written word is more restrictive in our minds than the interpretations made at the individual church level.

  • VT

    VT June 01, 2010

    This is why I always say there is no “blind faith”.  Even the faith of child causes them to ask simple (yet often incredibly profound) questions.  The faith of an adult causes them to ask adult questions.
    I heard a great caller on the radio last week, talking about his conversion.  He said he found the church when he stopped asking God to show him a church that conformed to his human beliefs and instead starting asking God to show him the Church that taught God’s word / will. 
    In fact, read Acts 8:26 to 40, the story of the Ethiopian eunuch.  It tells the story of a traveling man, reading the bible.  Phillip comes up to him and asks, “Do you understand what you are reading”?  His response, “How can I unless someone instructs me”.  We all need an instructor (it also one of clearest examples in the bible against Sola Scriptura).  Of course, that begs the question, who is to be the instructor?  This is the issue with many churches and denominations that you have begun to uncover.  How can one know that the teachings of one church are the inspired teachings of Jesus and not just the teachings of a human pastor?  Of course, the answer is also in the bible.  Jesus promised that he would send the Holy Spirit to protect his Church.
    Now, it my self-appointed role as the official Roman Catholic representative to “52 Prayers” you wrote, “Do all Catholics believe that priests should be responsible for forgiving their sins?”
    Technically, Catholics don’t believe that Priests forgive sins or are even responsible forgiving sins.  Catholics do believe that Priests are responsible for administering the sacrament of Reconciliation during which your sins are forgiven in the name of Jesus Chris by God and the Holy Spirit.  We believe this b/c Jesus granted this authority to his Apostles, who necessarily would have to know what your sins are in order that they may be forgiven. 
    In answer to the further question about confession, ““You know what, something about this seems wrong” but continues to walk into the confessional week after week?”  The answer is of course, “Yes”.  At different times, everyone one has fears about going in to, “face the music” but it’s like working out.  Before you do it, you hem and haw, procrastinate, etc.  But AFTER you do it, you feel wonderful.  The next time you do it, you try to remember how much better you felt after and focus on that.  Eventually, you come to realize how special a gift it is that our Lord gave us.  One can kneel down in church and ask for forgiveness of their sins but God rarely answers back audibly.  In the confessional, God answers.  His Priest says to you, “By the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, your sins are forgiven”.  It is an incredibly powerful experience.
    Lastly, Catholic teaching allows for what is called a “Perfect Act of Contrition”.  A penitent can say a particular prayer, lay their sins out directly to God, and ask for forgiveness.  They must also resolve to go to Confession at the next reasonable convenient time.  This is not something you are encouraged to do regularly, it really shouldn’t be done when you could reasonably get to Confession and it is not for “really big” (that’s a highly technical term) sins but going directly to God for forgiveness is not foreclosed.

  • Jessica

    Jessica June 01, 2010

    Dave-You are totally the official Roman Catholic representative of 52 prayers.  I love having your insights! It’s so fascinating that you mention that scripture about Philip.  I have been studying his gifts of evangelism this week very closely.  For personal reasons I won’t discuss in depth here, it feels very purposeful that you chose to quote this scripture.
    Nicole-“church is broken because it’s filled with broken people” - I love that you bring that to the table since I believe I’ve looked at this backwards:  Church is corrupting the people—but people may be corrupting the church, and we’re all “corrupt” in some sense. 

    As always, thank you all for your thoughtful contributions and support in my search.

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