Each year, you send me and other elders to our denominational national meeting — the General Assembly. This year our two Teaching Elders (Jeff and Paul) were able to attend. In the past, we have often sent Ruling Elders as well.
One of the benefits of Presbyterianism is a practical connection to other churches. We call this “connectionalism” (because creativity is not our strong suit). Connectionalism provides for both accountability and cooperation. We practice cooperation and accountability in graded courts — the local church Session, the regional Presbytery, and the national General Assembly.
This year our General Assembly was in Birmingham, and we had around 2500 elders from all over the nation.
The Work of the Assembly
There are different ways that the Assembly addresses topics for discussion. The main way is through an overture. An overture is a proposed change or action. Overtures come before the Assembly by an individual, a Session, or a group making a proposal to a presbytery. The presbytery will then debate the overture, refine it in the process, and then send it to the General Assembly for debate.
It is a cumbersome process but a good one. I often say that the difference between an idea and a good idea is that a good idea has been made good by the body. An idea is not good because I think it is good, an idea is good because the body of Jesus has worked on it together. This cumbersome process takes a lot of time and energy, but it generally leads us to wisdom.
If an overture requires a change to our Book of Church Order, it is then sent down to our presbyteries for further debate. If 2/3 of our presbyteries approve of it, it is sent back to the next General Assembly for a final debate and approval.
We move slowly. But we move deliberately and carefully.
You can find an excellent summary of the General Assembly by our Stated Clerk, Bryan Chapel.
The Need for Church Planting
On Tuesday, I helped lead a seminar on rural church planting. The room was standing-room-only and we could have talked for a second hour. Many of us noted that it seems like God is moving the hearts of his people to notice the gospel needs of people in small places.
In 2021, the PCA averaged a church plant every other week. That is 26 churches planted last year.
This is not good news.
The population in the United States continues to grow and we are not planting fast enough. There are generally two reasons for this: not enough financial resources and not enough people who are willing to plant.
The Growth of RUF
Our denominational campus ministry (RUF) continues to be blessed by the Lord Jesus. When I was a campus minister, RUF was on less than 30 campuses. Today, RUF has grown to 148 campus in the United States, 7 campuses globally, and 400 campus ministers.
I continue to be thankful for the PCA. Worship during GA was robust, rich, and full of Jesus (particularly Elbert McGowan on Wednesday night). In the future, you should be able to view these sermons at the General Assembly website. One of the highlights of our time together is reconnecting with other pastors and their families. Some tremendous men and women are serving in our denomination. We continue to hold forth the good news of Jesus Christ through the truth of his Word.