The EPC’s Joy-Filled Distinctives
6 Robust Distinctives To Celebrate
I’ve seen smile after smile and heard laughter around every corner at this year’s Evangelical Presbyterian Church General Assembly. I’ve had long-awaited reunions and lung-bursting hugs. I've been encouraged in the ministry of our Lord. It has been a joy to worship with the church as a denominatino once more.
I was discussing with a friend just how joy-filled this denomination always seems to feel. He agreed and asked, “Why do you think that’s the case?”
I’d like to share with you a few reasons I believe the EPC is a denomination of contagious joy in the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ in our world.
One—Trust In The Authority And Power of God’s Word
At the center of all we do is worship. Our Moderator Brad Strait reminds us repetitively that “business at GA is worship.” Our denomination is about worshiping the one true God and turning corporately from all false gods.
And the way the EPC encourages this is through trust in the inerrant and infallible word of the Lord. The Scriptures are our rule for faith and practice. Perhaps the joy is here in the EPC because we are committed, as a denomination, to the truth of God’s word in a world that says "the only real truth is the one I subjectively believe."
God uses His word to build His church, make disciples, and save the lost. The EPC has not, and Lord willing, will not waver from this commitment to the sufficiency of God’s word. It is an ordinary means of grace that we celebrate and believe God will use for His purposes.
Two—Encouragement Driven Ministry
I was talking to a Southern Baptist friend this week and he lamented the reality that their yearly convention lacked education and equipping for pastors. The EPC’s GA has built into it leadership seminars, focused lunch seminars, and morning and evening worship with messages aimed at those in ministry. This doesn’t even include all the Presbyteries and their meetings throughout the year that foster this kind of instruction.
As a Teaching Elder, the time given to this at the local and national level is an incredible encouragement. Both our hearts and minds are cared for and equipped in the task of ministry. We are learners and we can always learn more about what God is calling us to. I’m thankful the EPC agrees.
Three—Agreement On The Essentials
Perhaps one of the greatest reasons the EPC is joy-filled is that there is very little squabbling or division in our midst. Now certainly there are plenty of things that we don’t see entirely eye to eye on, but the EPC has at its core an ethos of unity for the glory of God.
The number one way we pursue this unity is through the Essentials of the EPC. Our denomination has actually spelled out those seven essentials that every Teaching and Ruling Elder confirms. We are committed to these and we will not choose to bring division over them. They are first-tier issues and we don’t take second-tier issues and try to make them essential.
Our very motto spells this out explicitly: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” I am thankful the EPC knows who we are and are unified in the mission of the Gospel.
Four—Hope-Filled Expectation Of God’s Power
We have seen the Lord do incredible things in and through churches in our denomination. From church plants bringing countless lost to salvation, to churches on the doorstep of closing to become revitalized, to the release of Andrew Brunson through the denomination’s tireless work, to the incalculable influence in our culture, the EPC has been God’s hands and feet.
If the Lord has worked in the EPC in this way in the past, ought His promises to continue into the future? There is a real hope among our denomination of what God has done and therefore what God might do again! We are a hope-filled denomination for what the Lord will accomplish in our future.
Five—Confessionally Minded Worship
In the midst of all of this, we are Presbyterian. We are confessional in that we hold and ascribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith and its catechisms. This again goes back to the first point, that we uphold the truth of God’s inerrant word. The Westminster Divines did the same. Their articles are given to summarize and buttress the truth of God’s word, that we might know it clearer.
We as a denomination believe that the Confession is subservient to Scripture, but does what no other human document has done, describe the truth of God’s word. This we confess. And this our denomination clings to for the worship of God and the proclamation of the Scriptures.
Six—Increasing Diversity And Representation of God’s World
Lastly, the EPC is a big tent denomination. We represent God’s people across our nation, and increasingly across the globe as our connectionalism stretches beyond the continent.
I am thankful that with this spread has come an increase in diversity. Our denomination is coming to represent the ethnic and social world in which we live. This is to be celebrated and encouragingly emphasized in how we see the future of our churches and the denomination.
The Revelation 7:9 Taskforce’s work has been integral in helping the EPC move forward in our love and celebration of God’s people. I am filled with delight at the increasing diversity in our denomination as we come to reflect more the neighborhoods and cities to which God has called us to serve.
The EPC Is My Denominational Home
I am pleased to call the EPC my denominational home, a place of both theological and ecclesial fellowship that can be celebrated to the glory and unending worship of God. May God continue to bless His church for the good of the nations and the glory of His name.