Doctrine Matters

In my past I had often said that “I was Southern Baptist born, Southern Baptist bred, and that one day I would be Southern Baptist dead.” (I suppose that two out of three isn’t too bad.) In 2005 I became a member of a church that was a part of the Presbyterian Church in America (http://www.pcanet.org/), and in 2006 was graciously called to be the Associate Pastor at Reformed Presbyterian Church (RPC) in Beaumont, Texas (http://www.rpcbmt.org/). I must admit that I have never been happier in my life (Although my wife accuses me of saying that every morning when I wake up)!

Although the PCA has its issues, as all denominations do, one of the things that I have always appreciated about it, is the importance we place on doctrine. When RPC began to consider calling me to be a teaching elder, I had to jump through many hoops before my ordination would be considered “kosher.” I took written examinations on Bible content, theology, the Sacraments, Church history, the history of the PCA, and the Book of Church Order. Thankfully, the Book of Church Order states that “a Presbytery may accept a seminary degree which includes study in the original languages in lieu of an oral examination in the original languages” (I would shudder to think of taking a Hebrew exam at my age!). I was also examined on my “acquaintance with experiential religion, especially [my] personal character and family management (based on the qualifications set out in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, and Titus 1:6-9).” Then, I was scrutinized orally by the Presbytery’s Candidates and Credentials Committee for a couple of hours (or longer) and finally had to answer questions on the floor of the Presbytery.

 It is important for me to make the following statement so that everyone can understand my motives in recounting all of these examinations: I have written all of this, not as a complaint, but as a complement! A pastor should never be chosen in order to “attract young families to a congregation,” or because he “relates well to people,” or “tells great stories in the pulpit.” The church office of “pastor” is too important for such considerations! A pastor should be chosen because he is called of God for the task, and loves and can communicate the truth of God’s Word to God’s people. Yes, it helps to be able to relate to people, but the primary means by which Christ grows His church is through the preaching of the Word of God in the power of His Spirit. This is why at one’s ordination the following vows are taken: 

1. Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as originally given, to be the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?

2. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; and do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will on your own initiative, make known to your Presbytery the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow?

3. Do you approve of the form of government and discipline of the Presbyterian Church in America, in conformity with the general principles of Biblical polity?

4. Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord?

5. Have you been induced, as far as you know your own heart, to seek the office of the holy ministry from love to God and a sincere desire to promote His glory in the Gospel of His Son?

6. Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the Gospel and the purity and peace and unity of the Church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account?

7. Do you engage to be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all your duties as a Christian and a minister of the Gospel, whether personal or relational, private or public; and to endeavor by the grace of God to adorn the profession of the Gospel in your manner of life, and to walk with exemplary piety before the flock of which God shall make you overseer?

8. Are you now willing to take the charge of this church, agreeable to your declaration when accepting their call? And do you, relying upon God for strength, promise to discharge to it the duties of a pastor?

May we always take seriously the duty of choosing only men sound in the faith to be pastors in Christ’s church, because DOCTRINE MATTERS!

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7 Comments

  1. Carly said,

    May 19, 2009 at 3:45 PM

    Amen!

  2. Dana Kendrick said,

    May 19, 2009 at 4:02 PM

    Thanks….I really needed that reminder. Please keep Northwood in your prayers.

    • cliftonr said,

      May 19, 2009 at 4:10 PM

      We pray for you all quite often.

  3. Sandra A. said,

    May 19, 2009 at 6:19 PM

    Thanks for sharing about your ordination process and vows.
    So glad that you are one of our pastors, Clifton.

    • cliftonr said,

      May 19, 2009 at 6:57 PM

      I almost feel like I have “died and gone to heaven” at RPC. Thanks for the kind words.

  4. Ashley said,

    May 19, 2009 at 9:26 PM

    I love RPC and I’m glad you’re there to teach us!

  5. Ellis Hayden said,

    May 20, 2009 at 4:36 AM

    Glad you fill fulfilled and at the place where God has led you. Could have been a coach!


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