“Do You Know Of A Good P&R Church Nearby?”

 By Brad Isbell - Posted at The Heidelblog:

It happens often—a friend or listener sends a message with the question: “Do you know of a good confessional Presbyterian or Reformed church near X?” All too often, after searching online, consulting denominational websites, even asking other friends, the answer is no. When I signed up for the life of a confessional Presbyterian churchman, I was under no illusion about the size and reach of Reformed churches in North America, but that does not make the situation any happier. Now, for a variety of reasons, people are moving from the coast to the interior, from the city to the country. Too often, however, they are destined for locales with no local churches confessing the Reformed faith and worshiping according to the scriptures.

Rural and small-town America is likely to become even more of a confessional Presbyterian and Reformed (hereafter P&R) wasteland unless pastors and planters are willing to become bi-vocational or to serve multiple churches. There are churches on the Plains, up the hollers, and around the corner in No-Starbucks Land, but they are not Reformed. Many of those Baptist, Pentecostal, and even United Methodist churches exist without full-time pastors. This may be because the people are poor or lower-to-middle income. It may be because thinly-populated areas simply cannot generate the numbers required to support the type of church city or suburban folk have come to expect or it may be because the people do not give as they ought, making the support of full-time pastors impossible.

Whatever the reasons, P&R circuit riders and tentmakers may be required but are P&R folk too good for part-time ministers? Are ministers themselves willing to make these very real sacrifices? Are “upscale” Reformed denominations satisfied with being a sort of Gifted and Talented program for theologically-minded Evangelicals or a landing place for upwardly-mobile Baptists who might like to have a drink now and again? Are the P&R denominations suited only for affluent suburbs and the more desirable cities?