The new denomination birthed out of Vanguard Presbytery will ground the work of discipling the nations in the local church and in the Presbyteries. We believe in Presbyterian polity to the core (Acts 15:6ff, Titus 1:5). General Assembly will hold the Presbyteries accountable to the work of the Great Commission rather than usurping that authority with a hierarchical, quasi Episcopal form of polity where the General Assembly permanent committees dictate a sociologically or culturally driven philosophy of ministry which can be out of touch with the local church or Presbyteries. Practically speaking, this means:
- church planting efforts, including training, funding, deploying, and shepherding church planters and their church plants, will be conducted at the Presbytery level where greater input and direction is available to the men planting these churches.
- the local Presbytery will be “hands on” in helping the church planter evangelize in his community, seeking to encourage him and his family in what can often be a lonely and daunting task.
- the vital work of discipling the nations will emanate from the Presbytery and the emphasis will be on evangelism, church planting, and mercy ministry. Evangelism, as we see it practiced by our Lord Jesus and His apostles in the gospels and Acts, will be the driving force of mission activity wherever our missionaries are deployed. There will be an intentional and direct preaching of Christ crucified, calling men everywhere to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Presbyteries will recruit, train, fund, and deploy missionaries to plant churches and work with like-minded Presbyterian and Reformed indigenous leadership wherever the Lord directs us.
This continuing reformed, presbyterian denomination will follow in the train of Eighteenth-century New Side Presbyterians like William and Gilbert Tennent, Samuel Blair, and Samuel Davies. These men, while holding firmly to the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, wholeheartedly embraced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit during the Great Awakening of 1735. The Old Side Presbyterians were skeptical of the work of the revival and were concerned about open air preaching and itinerant preachers who called people everywhere, even those in Presbyterian churches who were baptized as infants, to be born again, repent, and believe on Christ. The new side preachers’ clarion call was, “You must be born again.” We seek to do the same. The gospel must be preached anywhere, and everywhere, one-on-one, from the pulpit, and on the streets of our cities, stressing the necessity of the new birth through regeneration, which yields justification, and which proves its reality through sanctification, a growing ability to put off indwelling sin and to walk in a greater measure of gospel holiness.
A controversy arose in the 1820’s and 30’s between Old School Presbyterians such as Charles Hodge, Daniel Baker, and James Henley Thornwell, and New School Presbyterians such as Charles Finney. Old School men believed in the utter corruption of every man, that man must first be changed on the inside by the new birth and that without true conversion of men no lasting change can happen in any group of people. The New School Presbyterians, who were semi-pelagian, believed to a large degree in the basic goodness of man, that man was free to choose or reject God, and that by bringing good and moral changes to the world, culture could reach some level of utopia;
The New School Presbyterians compromised on Reformed doctrine as it is expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith, allowing many exceptions to the Confession, while the Old School Presbyterians maintained continual delity and loyalty to the Confession and all it teaches. While we cannot stress too much the necessity of Confessional delity, we also know the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. Therefore we seek to preach to the hearts, not merely the minds of people, asking and expecting the Holy Spirit to regenerate, justify, and sanctify the elect.
Three Fold Office
We believe the Scriptures teach three offices for the church— the office of Elder (we see the wisdom of Teaching and Ruling Elders, 1 Timothy 5:17), the office of Deacon (Acts 6:1-7), and the office of Evangelist (Ephesians 4:11,12). Only qualified men are ever to serve in these three offices (1 Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-9). While other Presbyterian denominations have historically had evangelists, we believe the absence of the actual office of Evangelist has had devastating consequences for Presbyterians for well over one hundred years. We have generally failed to evangelize the lost. We tend to emphasize theology and sound exposition of Biblical texts, which are vital, but we have not always emphasized the task of raising up men to take the gospel intentionally and directly to our communities. We believe God has gifted some men for this very task and seek to elevate the work of evangelism by giving the office of Evangelist its due. We also believe Elders are to shepherd and rule in the local church, Presbytery, and General Assembly. We eschew the “corporate model” which is so common today in which churches are staff led or led by “executive sessions” which put the direction and decision making in the hands of a select few elders or staff. We wish to practice a Biblical Presbyterian polity.
Rev. Dewey Roberts
Tel. (850) 376-3166