Building for the Future
In seeking to project the testimony of Jesus to generations yet to come, our church is endowed with a precious heritage from which we start. Institutionally, we have an extended history of stable adherence to the classical Reformed tradition, both in constitutional commitment to principle and also in actual observance. The consequence is a shared consensus, an institutional memory, and customary forms of procedure, which make for conservation of the tradition. Notably, there is a stated acknowledgment that it is incompetent for the church officers to set aside the doctrine and worship exhibited in the church’s constitution and concerning which they have taken vows.
We continue the stance in doctrine and worship espoused by the Church of Scotland at the sixteenth-century Reformation. At that church’s Disruption in 1843, the Free Church of Scotland carried on the spiritual identity and succession of the Reformation in Scotland.
If the tradition is to survive, there is the never-ending work of thoroughly training the successors, with prayer that they would acquire experimental acquaintance with the truths which captured the hearts of their parents. Though the tradition has a past record of stability, every new generation of hearts and minds must be won over, like the necessity of planting young trees to create a fresh forest where an older one has been harvested.
The challenge for parents is to labor during their lifetime for the establishment of congregations across the nation, so that when they are gone they will have left behind them places in which their descendents and others may worship according to the Word of God and in which they may benefit from a faithful administration of the laws of Christ. If parents only go so far as to teach their children the classical Reformed tradition, and leave them few church structures in which that tradition is conserved and practiced, it will be much more difficult for the next generation to retain the tradition. When Christ appoints the church as the pillar and ground of the truth, he identifies it as his instrument for publicly maintaining the form of sound words in the earth, and for preserving the tradition he delivered to the apostles. The work of erecting such churches should not be postponed for another generation.
Many neighborhoods in the urban areas of America are greatly altered from their complexion fifty years ago. Former residents revisiting those streets feel themselves to be strangers in the place. The same transformation comes over churches when a subsequent generation let slip the persuasions on which the church was founded. The question for the oncoming generation is whether it will lay hold for itself on classical Reformed theology and practice, and come to cherish these things as dearly as did those who preceded them.