By: Henry Knapp
“You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.” Given my family antics, I needed to be reminded of this fact from time to time—how often I longed to be able to pick (or “unpick”) my family! The idea behind the quote is that there are some things you can choose, and there are some things that are chosen for you. I can't change who my parents are, who my siblings are, who my children are—by definition, I am connected to them.
Hebron is a church in the "Presbyterian tradition." That means we believe certain things theologically and we act certain ways practically. On a theological level, to be "Presbyterian" means that we believe the Bible teaches certain key ideas—the sovereignty of God; the depravity of Sin; the predominance of Grace in salvation. We work hard each week to communicate, and worship according to these key biblical ideas. Practically, to be “Presbyterian” describes the way we function (as led by elders), and that we are inter-connected with other congregations.
This “connectional character” of our church is sometimes hard to grasp.
Basically, this “inter-connected-ness” tries to capture the fullness of how God speaks in Scripture about His people. Sometimes, the Bible uses the term, “Church,” to describe the local congregation. When Paul addresses letters to Ephesus or Philippi it is most likely he has in mind a single gathering of people to worship the Lord. There are other times, however, when the Bible speaks of “Church” as referring to all of God’s people, as when in Acts 15 the whole “Church” gathers together representatives from around the world—a “universal Church.” Finally, there are times where the word, “Church,” addresses the congregations in a local area—Paul’s letter to Galatians is a perfect example: many local gatherings all taken together.
Given the various ways “Church” is used, Hebron, as part of the Presbyterian tradition, has recognized (1) it is an individual congregation, (2) connections to other congregations, and (3) is part of the “universal Church.”
The “interconnectedness” of the Church means that we cannot always separate ourselves from other Christians. We all know what it is like to be embarrassed by what another Christian has done—there have been some epic failures of church leaders in the past years. As much as I have wanted to distance myself from them, the same forgiveness (same God, same Christ, same Grace) that saves me is available for them as well. “There is one body and one Spirit… one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all” (Ephesians 4:4-5). We are “connected” in Christ.
How this “interconnectedness” works out in everyday Christian life for the believer is a challenge. It is also a challenge to work it out as a congregation—How shall our “connectedness” be expressed? As part of the Presbyterian tradition, we want to be linked to other believers, other congregations, as a way of expressing that biblical picture of the universal Church, but how, with whom, and in what ways, is a challenge.
As you seek to express that “one-ness” of faith with one another, please be praying for Hebron as a congregation as we seek the best way to reflect our participation in God’s universal Church. And, keep showing up! You are valued and wanted in our connection here at Hebron! All so that we might be… “To the Praise of His Glory.”