[Last month Rev. Murphy looked at the growth and advancements of the Reformed faith in the area of individuals and congregations. This month, Rev. Murphy continues the series by looking at denominations and ministies.]
It used to be said that once a denomination had gone bad, there was no reversing it. As a matter of fact, I think I had heard that substantiated with historical facts. Once a denomination had gone down the road of spiritual declension and apostasy, there had never been one that had come back.
That is no longer true. I began to first recognize this with the turnaround that occurred a number of years ago in the Southern Baptist Convention. I know they are not Reformed, but the efforts at the reversal in the denomination were largely a result of the Founders movement, which is Calvinistic, in that denomination. They turned that denomination around. The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church is another example. Twenty years ago it was in terrible shape. Its seminary and college were populated by liberals. Anybody that was conservative knew they could not study in those institutions and they had to go elsewhere to find conservative Reformed theology being taught. Women in office and other liberal doctrines were being propagated and were characteristic of that particular denomination. That denomination has had a complete turnaround now. There is still need for further reformation in particular areas, but conservatives have won the day in that denomination. A graduate of Westminster Seminary is president of Erskine Seminary and is hiring solid Reformed men for the faculty. The same is happening at the college.
The Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America with which I first became familiar ten years ago likewise had problems. They have reversed that course as well. Not to mention the expansion and growth of existing Reformed denominations. The Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, the Reformed Church in the United States, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church are all in the midst of church planting programs, multiplying congregations in their respective federations. There are multitudes of new Reformed denominations that have sprung up in the last 20 years, too many to mention. Most of them are small, but I tell you, Ihave spoken for them, I have encountered them, I have worshippedwith them, and though they are small, they are faithful.
And of course in our own circles, the United Reformed Churches in North America was formed and has flourished. In 1999 there were less than sixty churches within the federation, now that there are close to eighty. Classis Southwest of the URCNA is engaged in aggressive efforts at planting churches. It seems like every time you turn the page in the news, there is a new church being planted in that Classis. Classis Michigan is presently working on at least three church plants.
I became exposed to Mount Olive Tape Ministry, in Mount Olive, Mississippi when I was in Westminster Seminary and it became a very inexpensive resource for me. It is a tape loaning library. You can rent 12-100 tapes at a time at a very inexpensive rate for a month at a time. I remember supplementing my studies, driving back and forth between New York and Philadelphia every weekend, by listening to tapes from Mount Olive Tape Library. Hundreds of Reformed men have sermons and lectures on tape at the Mount Olive Tape Ministry.
The Ministry of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, encompassing Mike Horton’s work and Jim Boice’s work and a few others, has grown exponentially in recent years. Ligionier Ministries has gained a large influence in American evangelical circles. Soli Deo Gloria Ministries, headed by Don Kistler, out of Western Pennsylvania in the Pittsburgh area, is a huge ministry and hugely profitable in propagating the Reformed faith. Reformation and Revival Ministries, headed up by Rev. John Armstrong in the Wheaton, Illinois area, is having a widespread influence and is being blessed and used of the Lord to propagate the Reformed faith.
Earlier I made reference to Doug Wilson’s work in Moscow, Idaho. I went out there in February to attend a conference on American History. You might say, “What a dull thing to travel half way across the country for.” American History? I am telling you it was absolutely thrilling! It was very encouraging that Doug Wilson is a very prominent person in the ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He is not he alone. He is joined by Doug Jones, Roy Attwood, Peter Leithart, and many others there. From a work that began with former Jesus freaks in a garage worshipping the Lord, it has grown into a church that is approaching a thousand people. This is Moscow, Idaho! I am sure most of you don’t even know where that is. They have a grammar school, a high school, a college (new St. Andrew’s College), and they have started a seminary. They are publishers of magazines and books. And because of the widespread interest of people in the northwest and other parts of the country, and the enormous amount of church planting they have been engaged in, they have started their own denomination as well. It is absolutely astounding to see, not only what the Lord has done in that ministry, but the influence they are having throughout the evangelical world across our country. And that is not unique, either.
The same thing is happening outside Nashville in Franklin, Tennessee with George Grant, author of about 20 books. It has grown and been blest. They have started a college, Bannockburn College, and they are doing the same things that are going on in Moscow, Idaho.
The same tiling is occurring in Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church where Steve Wilkins serves a PCA congregation in Monroe, Louisiana. The same thing is being planned by Mike Chastain, an OPC pastor for Annapolis, Maryland. The same thing is being planned by the Detwielers in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. These are great encouraging things that are having widespread influence not only in the Reformed world, but also in the evangelical world.
Rev. Paul Murphy is the pastor of the United Reformed Church in Dutton, Michigan.