This is a short four-part series examining some of the things the Presbyterian Church in America, could, and I would say should, learn from Soma Communities, a group of churches in the Northwest.
Having been back in the normal patterns of Church life in our community, I have had some time to process my time with Soma, and some of the things that the PCA can learn from Soma. As I end, I’d like to recap and suggest where we can go from here.
First, Soma and the PCA are theological first cousins. We might use slightly different language, but the PCA is in overwhelming theological consensus with Soma. The sentiment that the “New Reformed Movement” is just focused on Reformed Soteriology is not true with these folks. I’d bet that many of the Soma elders would be able to pass any of our ordination exams in the PCA. This gives me confidence to say that rather than just copying systems from Soma, we would benefit from engaging with their theology.
Second, Discipleship does not have to be a specialized activity, and for those of us who want to see discipleship as the ordinary activity of the church could learn a lot from the way that Soma organizes and equips their members.
Third, We can believe that the canon is complete, that God uniquely gifted the Apostles for the sake of establishing his church, and still live in a posture of dependence on the activity of the Holy Spirit. I think many in the PCA have been far too concerned with reacting to the excesses of the Charismatic movement, and in their reaction have ignored the Spirit in our churches(see part 2).
I know that my advice and a nickel…will get you a nickel, but the following three things would be a step in the right direction for the PCA:
- See More PCA Church Planters attend Soma School. I wish that I had been able to go before we started Grace & Peace rather than in the middle of planting. So much of what they are doing could be implemented in the core group stage of a church plant. It was absolutely worth the time, and financially it was cheaper than many other conferences (Soma School is so much more than a conference).
- See more churches in the PCA begin to embrace a model that sees the church as a Gospel Community on Mission (GCM). This is a larger movement than Soma; it includes the Crowded House Movement in the UK (profiled in Total Church), and a number of other similar GCM churches in the US and abroad. For more on Gospel Communities on Mission, check out GCMcollective.com.
- See men like Jeff Vanderstelt, Caesar Kalinowski, Steve Timmis and Tim Chester, invited to lead seminars at General Assembly in the future.