How Do You Spell Presbyterian?

Though I usually suppress my giggles, I do have fun watching those filling out a form of one kind or another pause when it comes to listing where I work.  The “Sycamore” and “Reformed” are no problem, but I often have to help them spell “Presbyterian.”  I usually use it as an opportunity to explain what it means.  Here’s what I’ve experienced:

Favorite misspelling:  “Presbytrain.”  Choo-choo!

Worst definition to give:  “Presbyterian comes from the Greek word ‘presbuteros’ found in the Bible and means elder.  Presbyterian is a form of church government that….” At about the point the word “Greek” is mentioned, eyes glaze over, mouths hang open, and they mindlessly crumple up the form.

Worst response after a definition:  “Oh, I see.  Presbyterian is kind of the same thing as Catholic.”

My working street definition:  “Presbyterian means that rather than the pastor calling all the shots, a group of men help him shepherd the church.”

My favorite, most-repeated response: “That’s cool!”  I’ve yet to get a fist bump out of it, but hopefully someday.

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Last week our presbytery met.  (Oh, my working street definition of presbytery?  “Rather than a congregation existing all by itself, groups of churches watch over, and out for, one another.” )  The meetings were difficult because of some issues we faced.  Yet how I left joyful that a diverse group of men representing over twenty churches could maintain a hardy theological rigor in a spirit of gentle shepherding.  Praise be to God!

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I look forward to the day when congregations will start hiding the word “community” from their church’s name.

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Presbytery is a great place to play “Blue Book Chess.”  This is where men use appeals to church polity (in a blue cover for us) and Robert’s Rules of Order to try to checkmate their fellow presbyters on the other side of an issue into silence, all done to protect the interests of the King.  I played a few rounds of this.  I lost far more than I won, but a great time was had by all.

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As at one point at presbytery we debated the impact of the gospel on “constitutional sins,” it was helpful to my thinking to recall this quote from Jonathan Edwards in his book Religious Affections:

“Allowances, indeed, must be made for the natural temper, which conversion does not entirely eradicate: those sins which a man by his natural constitution was most inclined to before his conversion, he may be most apt to fell into still. But yet conversion will make a great alteration even with respect to these sins. Though grace, while imperfect, does not root out an evil natural temper, yet it is of great power and efficacy to correct it. The change wrought in conversion, is an universal change: grace changes a man with respect to whatever is sinful in him; the old man is put off, and the new man put on; he is sanctified throughout. He is become a new creature, old things are passed away, and all things are become new; all sin is mortified, constitutional sins, as well as others. If a man before his conversion was, by his natural constitution, prone to lasciviousness, or drunkenness, or maliciousness; converting grace will make a great alteration in him, with respect to these evil dispositions; so that however he may be still most in danger of these sins, they shall no longer have dominion over him; nor will they any more be properly his character. Yes, true repentance, in some respects especially, turns a man against his own iniquity; that wherein he has been most guilty, and has chiefly dishonoured God. He that forsakes other sins, but preserves the iniquity to which he is chiefly inclined, is like Saul, who, when sent against God’s enemies the Amalekites, with a strict charge to save none of them alive, but utterly to destroy them, small and great; slew the people, but saved the king.”

 

4 Comments

  1. DON P PASTOR March 14, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    A few short years ago I couldn’t spell Presbyterian – and look at me now – I are one.

  2. Rose March 15, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    O.K. I’ll bite. Why do we want to hide the word “community” from our church’s name? And what would that mean, anyway?

  3. Barry York March 15, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    Rose,

    Many churches have removed the word Presbyterian from their name to downplay their denominational association (some out of shame for what’s happening in their or other Presbyterian denominations) and have often replaced it with the more popular “Community Church” moniker. As a happy Presbyterian who is grateful for the covenant connections I have in the greater body of Christ, my comment was tongue-in cheek. I was suggesting that maybe one day things will change for the better so that advertising being independent will take a backseat to declaring union with other churches.

    Thanks for biting!

    Barry

  4. Rose March 17, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    I see. Thank you for the explanation. Although I, too, am Presbyterian, I don’t know that the response, “I see, Presbyterian is kind of the same thing as Catholic,” is such a bad response. I think that there have been too many times that pastors and elders allow their office to devolve into something that justifies Oliver Cromwell for saying, “New Presbyter is but old Priest writ large.” Holding onto authority and lording it over God’s inheritance is something against which to guard. Perhaps it is good to emphasize the community, or body, and the gifting of all God’s people by the Holy Spirit.

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