I was recently hanging around some theologians and leaders in the PC(USA) and it struck me that they are not hoping the PC(USA) to be "a leader denomination" among the Protestant Mainline Protestant churches. They simply want to make PC(USA) style "Presbyterianism" better. They don't care about their numbers and position in relationship to the other mainline denominations. Then I thought, "hmmm, why have many PCA (Presbyterian Church In America) notables over the years tried so hard to be leaders of conservative/Reformed broad American evangelicalism (and drag many emerging young PCA leaders into time-wasting discussions in evangelicalism) instead of focusing their attention on building a better PCA-style Presbyterianism?"
Putting Numbers In Perspective
Below are the 2012 stats for the PCA. This is probably a big as the PCA is ever going to get and that's just fine. Really, what's the shame in 364,019 in country where there are nearly 6,200 distinct Protestant denominations? Presbyterians are not the only Christians in America doing evangelicalism and planting churches. Think about it: 364,019 is an important number of people God can use in the story in redemption in America's suburbs, small towns, and cities and around the world. God did a lot with 12 people after the first Easter.
Gen Xers Want Out of YRR Discussions
I've been having conversations with GenX PCA pastors all over the denomination who are walking away from involvement in YRR events and conferences because they want to invest the next season of life in building a better PCA-style Presbyterianism. The don't care about the PCA being an "evangelical leader." Boomers seem to want evangelical "influence" but these GenX leaders could care less about that. It's an interesting shift away from 10 years ago when many PCA leaders were trying to get a piece of the YRR pie (Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Acts 29, Reformed Southern Baptists, etc.). That attempt failed (#epicfail). That ship sailed and many PCA notables were left at the dock waving as the ship went off to sea with conferences, book publishing, magazine articles, national television profiles, etc. The PCA is too young to be bothered by trying to an "evangelical "this-and-that" is the consensus that I'm discerning from these GenX pastors.
The sentiment is that they want to free people to be proud to say, "I'm first and foremost a follower of Christ, a Presbyterian second, and an evangelical a very, very distant third." In other words, they only have limited energy and resources and their is a lot to be done with 364,019 people.
Christian First, Presbyterian Second
It is, then, ok to have "Presbyterian" in the name of your church and have Presbyterianism as a part of one's public Christian identity. It is ok, then, to lead off answering questions with what the Scriptures and the Confession teach. Quoting the Confession and Catechism in sermons and writings is a actually a good thing. Talking about Presbyterian history is a good thing to do. Explain to people what difference Presbyterianism makes in the practice of faith is a good thing to do. And so on. . .
The result of this cultural shift would be something like this in the future if these guys are successful: if you are a PCA member attending the denomination's college (Covenant) or the denominational seminary (Covenant Seminary) the cost to families would be pennies on a dollar because 364,019 people value education in a distinctly, confessionally, Presbyterian context even if their own family members do not attend. Both schools would have waiting lists.
The stats from the Stated Clerk:
- There are now 1,777 churches and missions — a net increase of six.
- In 2012, there were 9,145 total professions of faith — a decrease of 922.
- Total membership in the PCA is 364,019 — an increase of 12,613.
- There are 138,010 “family units” in the denomination — an increase of 502.
- Sunday school attendance is 101,809 — a decrease of 817.
- Per capita giving is $2,580 — an increase of $119.
- Per capita benevolences are $440 — an increase of $4.
- Total “congregational disbursements” were reported to be $743,643,457 — an increase of $35,960,789.