Friday, June 24, 2011

Small is Beautiful, Darryl Hart

Darryl Hart has written a thoughtful piece commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  Here is a snippet

If Google is a reliable search engine, the anniversary of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church on June 11 passed without any mention by the press. The reasons are not hard to fathom. The OPC is small, and it lacks a celebrity. In an era when megachurches rival Walmart and Home Depot in square footage and pastoral fame generates worshipers, the OPC usually slips under the media radar.

The OPC’s lone celebrity was J. Gresham Machen, a professor of New Testament at Princeton Seminary who fought liberalism in the mainline Northern Presbyterian church throughout the 1920s and 1930s. In 1929 he took the lead in starting Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, which he hoped would counteract the liberalism of the Northern Presbyterian seminaries.

In 1933 he continued to fight liberalism, this time on the mission field, by creating a rival Presbyterian missions board. Finally, after a Presbyterian church court tried him for his competitive ways in 1936—a trial that received significant press coverage—Machen found peace and quiet in the new Presbyterian denomination he helped establish on June 11, 1936.
Just six months later he died, on January 1, 1937. The faculty at Westminster Seminary tried to fill the vacuum, but as familiar as the names of Cornelius Van Til, John Murray, and Ned Stonehouse may be to Orthodox Presbyterians, to outsiders they garner only confused stares. At the time, even some of those who knew the names didn’t care for Dutch and Scottish theologians giving direction to an American denomination.

The new Presbyterian church never really took off. The OPC began as a small band of 5000 committed communicants with a remnant mind-set—a drop in the bucket compared to their competitor, the PCUSA, which then had upwards of 2.5 million members. Today the OPC’s rolls include slightly under 30,000 members. For the past twenty years the PCUSA has been losing more members each year than the OPC’s total membership. Obviously, evangelically minded PCUSA
members have not been looking to the OPC as an alternative to their mainline church.

Meanwhile, many born-again Protestants in the United States seem to prefer congregations whose membership is bigger than any of the OPC’s presbyteries. For instance, in one new membership class, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Community Church trained 2400 new members. The OPC as a denomination is lucky—wrong word for Calvinists, of course—if it receives 2400 new members in an entire calendar year.
Many inside and outside the OPC have speculated about why the denomination has stayed so small.

Read the rest at the following link and pay attention to the end.  Would we in the PCA have the same mindset: Small is Beautiful - First Things

No comments: