What is a Presbyterian?
The first thing you should know is that being Presbyterian means that we are Christians.
We don’t want the first thing we emphasize to be about how we are different than other Christians. We want to emphasize that we are part of a family of believers bigger than just ourselves. We are all striving to follow Jesus together. We are all a part of the same team.
We believe that Jesus Christ is Lord; he lived, died, and rose again so that we could be at one with God, with each other, and with ourselves, now and forever.
That being said, there are some specific ways that we live all of that out.
The word “Presbyterian” comes from the Greek word presbuteros, which means, “elder.” A lot of times, we think of elders as being an older person. But when the Bible talks about elders, it refers to spiritual leaders chosen from among the people. Those leaders can be young, old, or right in the middle!
At its core, that is what being Presbyterian is about. We don’t have a pope or a bishop, giving orders from the top down. Neither does the pastor “run the show” or make all the decisions. And the congregation doesn’t vote on every single issue in the life of the church. We elect leaders to represent the congregation and provide for the life and ministry of the church. Think about how the American government works. We elect representatives to lead the people. That’s essentially how the Presbyterian Church works. We all work together to discern God’s will for the church, the world, and our individual lives.
So being Presbyterian is, in part, about how we govern ourselves. It is also about theology.
We believe that God came into this world and revealed himself to us in the person of Jesus, so that we could know what God is like and know his will for this world and for our lives. God came to us in grace and love (not judgment), to bring healing and wholeness to a broken world. As Presbyterians, we believe that there is nothing we have to do to earn the love and favor of this God. God freely pours it out upon us, even when we feel like we don’t deserve it. God sought us out and gave his life up for us while we were still sinners. God’s love is a gift, not something we earn for ourselves by believing the right things or acting the right way.
The “motto” of the Presbyterian Church is “the church reforming, and always being reformed, according to the Word of God.” We believe that God is constantly being revealed to us in new ways. We are constantly learning, growing, and being shaped into the people God created us to be. There is never a point in our life or faith where we have it all figured out or have all the answers. Faith is a process, a journey that lasts our whole lives. We believe that learning is important. Asking questions is important. Trying new things is important. All of this can help us grow in our relationship with God. Our understanding of God is formed and reformed over and over again as we engage God’s Word (written and fleshed).
More than two million people call the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) their spiritual home. Worshiping in 10,000 Presbyterian congregations throughout the United States, they engage the communities in which they live and serve with God’s love.
To find out more about Presbyterians, check out the PC(USA) website.