Over the past 6 weeks I've been through an officer training course in our church, which is part of the path toward ordination as a deacon. The class has met each week, on Sunday afternoons, and has been a surprisingly thorough examination of everything from our specific denomination's system of government to our strongly held doctrine and theology. For a lot of evangelicals in this part of the world, the fact that we require officers to complete a fairly rigorous course of study, including both written and oral examinations, just to become a deacon or elder seems pretty extreme.
Growing up in the Southern Baptist tradition, all this stuff would've seemed downright "catholic" to me about 15 years ago. We actually have a constitution consisting of a book of church order and an exhaustive declaration of our system of beliefs in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. The church itself has a very specific form of government, which was just totally foreign to someone coming from a congregationally governed church background. Of course, I've come to believe that this is the Biblically correct model for a church - otherwise I wouldn't be here - but what caused such a severe change?
Well, I pretty much just read the Bible with an eye for what it teaches about the church, and came to the conclusion that the presbyterian form of church government most closely matches those teachings. I suppose it doesn't hurt that I'm an engineer and am naturally drawn to such a well structured and strictly governed organization as the Presbyterian Church in America. The Book of Church Order reminds me of a design specification for the construction projects I work on daily, and from what I can see, makes things so much easier on the leadership of the church. Disagreements over certain teachings, and difficult decisions that are made by pastors are not backed up merely by the individual pastor's opinions, but are shown to be either in or out of line with the accepted church position.
Some would argue that this adds to the requirements of Scripture, but that is only the case if the church's position is not thoroughly backed up by the Scriptures themselves. And all creeds, confessions, and similar documents must always be viewed as subject and subordinate to the ultimate authority of the Word of God. I've learned an incredible amount in the last 6 weeks, and am encouraged by our church's commitment to Biblical leadership and government. I wish more churches would take it as seriously as the PCA obviously does.