First Presbyterian Church

"Why I am Presbyterian" Luke 24:44-53

 Today I will talk with you about, “Why I Am a Presbyterian”.

Presbyterians do not believe we have all of the answers.  They do not believe we have all of the truth. They do not believe we will be the only ones in heaven.

Presbyterians do not believe we come to church to get saved, rather we believe God saved us and redeemed us when Jesus died on the Cross and rose from the dead.  We don’t come to church to get right with God, rather we are right with God through Jesus so we come to church.  We come to church to worship God and to say “thank you Lord” for what you have done for us.

We come to church not out of fear of what God might do to us, rather we are here to celebrate what God has done for us taking our sins away and giving us new life in Christ.

Presbyterians are not perfect, but they are trying to be faithful.

One thing I have always liked about being a Presbyterian is that it is “Grace-Filled”.  By that I mean we believe that Jesus came to take away our sins but not our minds.  God gave us a brain, and God wants us to think and to use it for the good of this world and the people in it.  Presbyterians are not afraid of questions or new ideas.  We do not ask “why do something” rather we ask, “why not try something”

During the American Revolution Presbyterians were very involved in the efforts to free the colonies from the tyranny of the King.  Presbyterians believed in going to church on Sunday to worship God and to hear the Word of the Lord, and then we go out into the world around us and put that word into action to free people, to make life better, to share the Good News that God loves us and wants good for us.

Presbyterians were so involved in freeing the colonists, that 26 signers of the Declaration of Independence were Presbyterians, and the only minister to sign it was also a Presbyterian.  There were so many Presbyterians involved in the revolt, that King George of England called the insurrection the “Presbyterian Revolt”, and he ordered that Presbyterian Churches should be burned.  When freedom was finally won, there was a movement to make the Presbyterian Church THE CHURCH for the new colonies, but the Presbyterian Church said “No” and advocated for freedom of religion. 

However, when the new government was set up, it used the structure of the Presbyterian Church as a model for the new country.  That form of government is called “Representative Democracy which means the people elect their leaders. Instead of voting on everything, we elect people to the House and to the Senate to vote on things for us.  We elect a President to be our leader.


In the Bible we see how Judges were selected, and how Elders were appointed,

and it was based on their faithfulness to God.  That is the way it is in a Presbyterian Church.  The people elect Elders who are to make decisions under the direction of the Holy Spirit.  When decisions have to be made, the Elders decide rather than calling a congregational meeting to decide.  TheElders are guided by what they believe is the Will of the Lord.  The congregation meets to elects Elders and votes to call a minister, or to buy or sell property, but all other decisions are made by the Elders.

I am a Presbyterians because they do not ask what is in it for me, rather they ask how can I better serve the Lord, and how can I follow in the steps of Jesus?  The Presbyterian Church has opened the doors for more missions in more countries than any other denomination, but we have done the worst job of telling people about it. We have sent missionaries out to create churches, to train ministers, to build schools and colleges, to open clinics and hospitals, to do agriculture programs, to minister to the needs of people’s mind, body and soul.

We created this vast mission endeavor not to control people, rather we did it with the intention of training people to take over the churches, the schools, hospitals, and all the mission endeavors. 

During the Civil War, when fighting was raging in our land when money was in short supply, when the future looked uncertain, the Presbyterian Church voted to send out more missionaries to spread the good news around the world.

Presbyterians are the second largest denomination in the World second only to the Lutherans.  Today as we worship here at FPC, McMinnville we are connected to over 90 million other Presbyterians in about 120 countries around the world.

We have missions in Mexico and the Presbyterian Church is growing so quickly there that our Seminary cannot train enough ministers and educators to fill them. We have missions in Cuba (Seminary), Haiti, Jamaica, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile.

We have missions in Ghana, Sudan, Zaire, Ethiopia, (and our son and his wife who have four kids of their own have adopted a precious little girl from Ethiopia).  We have missions in Rwanda, Malawi, Cameroon, Egypt, Bangladesh, Nepal, Georgia, Hungary, Russia, China, Ukraine (remember the offering we collected to help the refugees there).  We had a mission in Iraq during the time of Sadaam Hussein when we had four underground Churches.  In North Korea we have many underground churches, and the only church allowed by the current dictator is one where he went to Presbyterian Mission School when he was young.  In South Korea it is a totally different story, because our missions have spread and grown, and in Seoul we have the Young Nak Presbyterian Church which has over 65,000 members. 

We are in all of these places because Jesus said “Go out into the world, and teach and preach, baptize and spread the Good News, and because people like you have put money in the offering plate Sunday after Sunday, year after year,

to spread the Good News about God’s love for people.

I am a Presbyterian because it believes in ministering to all people, regardless of their gender, race, color or creed, and as the old hymn goes, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.

The Presbyterian Church has lost members because it has stood up for the rights of women, minorities, and underprivileged people, but I would rather lose members than keep members by being a part of a church which does not  stand up for people, nor stand with people, in their time of need. 

Remember, on the night when Jesus was arrested, Peter did not stand up for Jesus, rather he gave in to the crowd pressure, and Peter denied Jesus three times.  I am a Presbyterian because it tries to reach out and minister to people wherever they are in life. 

The PCUSA has the most chaplains than any other denomination.  It has chaplains in the military, hospitals, prisons, as well as other places.  When Jill and I visited West Point Military Academy we discovered that two of the four chaplains were Presbyterians.

Presbyterians are not afraid to try new things or to go to new places, even to the moon and outer space.  John Glenn, Buz Aldrin and Sally Ride were some of the Presbyterians who became astronauts and went into space. 

One of our members, Rachel Killebrew, was hired by NASA right out of college and spent her career there.  She went through some of the lows and highs with NASA.  She was there when three astronauts died when a fire broke out in a capsule.  But she did not give up, and she was the only female programmer for the Apollo 11 historic mission when Neil Armstrong took the first steps on the moon.

If you saw the movie called “Hidden Figures” it showed the role of three Black female mathematicians, who worked in the early stages of the NASA program, and who were also members of the Presbyterian Church.

Presbyterians have been leaders in politics.  About half of the Presidents came from the Presbyterian or the Episcopal Churches.  Abraham Lincoln never joined any church, but he always attended a Presbyterian Church wherever he was.

Many of the prominent business leaders were Presbyterian.   When I served a church in Hot Springs, AR, it had a member who was the rich’s man in AR, and at the time of his death he had given more money to the Presbyterian Church’s missions than anyone else, and he never, never asked for his name to be put on any building or program. 

Following in his steps were Sam and Helen Walton who started the Wal Mart company, and they were members of a local Presbyterian Church in another town where they were known for rolling up their sleeves and working along-side people in the church and in so many mission programs. 

But before these people there were other Presbyterians by the name of Carnegie, Wannamaker, Flagler, and Mellon, who thought their money was a gift from God which should be used to help other people.

And there is one more Presbyterian who was well known by millions of people

for a new type of ministry he started.  He was a man by the name of Fred Rogers who was ordained in the Presbyterian Church to combine his love of Children and Families with his belief in the power of television, and he created “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” which ran on TV for 33 years and won many awards. 

As I said at the start, Presbyterians are not perfect, and they are far from it,

but at least they are trying to serve the Lord and follow in the footsteps of Jesus, and to make a difference and that is why I am a Presbyterian. 

And that is the Good News.  Amen


“To the Ends of the Earth:  Mission Stories from Around the World” by Marj Carpenter, 1995, Presbyterian Publishing Corporation.

“And a Little Bit Farther” by Marj Carpenter, 1998,

Geneva Press.

“About Being Presbyterian” pamphlet.

Sermon delivered by the Rev. Dr. Jimmie Lancaster at First Presbyterian in McMinnville, TN, on May 29, 2022, and it may not be reproduced or used without the written permission of the author.