How do you think of your faith in relationship to other Christians? Truth is, most people don’t much. Our society conditions us to think of faith as personal and private, our own spirituality. It’s certainly personally meaningful and spiritual, but private? That’s not the biblical perspective.
God saves us into a relationship with him and into a spiritual family in whom he dwells (Eph 2:21-22). The church is spiritually connected with Jesus and one another. He is the vine, and we are the branches (John 15). We find our life in him, and because of him we are connected to one another. To change the metaphor, we’re the Body of Christ, again, spiritually connected to one another (Eph 4:1-16). The foot cannot say, “Because I’m a hand, I don’t belong to the Body… I don’t need the Body” (1 Cor 1:14-20). In Christ we, though many, form one body, and each believer belongs to all the others (Rom 12:5). Theologians call this the “communion of the saints.” Because of our union with Christ, we have communion with one another and share in each other’s gifts and graces and are bound to one another’s mutual good (Acts 2:42-47; Gal 6:10; 1 Thess 5:11; Westminster Confession 26.1). We cannot ordinarily grow in faith and spiritual maturity in isolation from our brothers and sisters in Christ (Eph 4:11-16).
It’s hard enough to convince independent, autonomous Americans to think this way in terms of their local church. It’s even harder to think this way beyond our local churches. And that’s why I love being a Presbyterian. I need it. Being a Presbyterian pastor forces me, indeed obligates me, to be connected to other pastors and elders and local churches in our region and around the country. And over the years I have grown and learned and been personally blessed through those associations. The challenge is to help our churches understand that they are connected to something larger than their local church, too. Practically speaking, most members of Presbyterian churches like GRC, have little idea that other PCA churches even exist. It doesn’t affect our day-to-day life and ministry.
GRC helped form a new Presbytery, called West Hudson Presbytery, one year ago, in large part, to change that. We are sixteen fairly small churches that, at least in principle, want to be connected. We want to work together to help each other flourish and to reach our region with the gospel. Our charter document states, “The purpose of the West Hudson Presbytery is: (1) to be a unified regional church that seeks Gospel renewal through reformation, church planting, and revival…” Last Fall we agreed on a vision for church planting, which states, “The churches of the West Hudson Presbytery long to see God bring renewal in our churches and transformation to our region as we work together to extend the Gospel in word and deed through the continual planting of churches among the multiple people groups who reside here” (emphasis added).
That’s one of the reasons our upcoming Missions Conference is potentially significant. For you, as a member or attender of GRC, it will feel very similar to what we did last year… with a few more people in attendance that you may have never seen before. You’ll be encouraged to live missionally yourself and as a family. But we’ll also rub shoulders with brothers and sisters from sister churches, share ideas and explore ways our churches can work together, and actually begin to put “feet” on our aspirations to be a connectional church in our region.
I hope you’ll make a point to come to the Missions Conference on Saturday, February 8 (info and registration here). You’ll be blessed. And you’ll help us live out the reality that we are part of the Body of Christ, and that is bigger than GRC. (And ladies, for similar reasons, the women’s retreat later this Spring will also be in partnership with our Presbytery, so keep a lookout for that, too.)
Steve Sage is our Pastor of Discipleship. He was “Reformed” before he was Presbyterian; he became Presbyterian because of its vision for churches to be connected partners with one another.