When you meet a new person it is natural to ask about their name, about where they come from and what they do in order to know them better. When people visit a church it is very much the same. So, who are we? Our Story Begins With Our Name.
Sharon was the name chosen by our spiritual fathers when in the 1840’s they first settled this rich Iowa farmland. Sharon is also the name of a fertile valley in the land of Palestine which even today is fruitful when irrigated with water. Our name illustrates our desire to bear spiritual fruit as God daily waters us with the refreshing streams of His grace (Song of Solomon 2:1; Psalm 46:6; and John 15). If you find yourself thirsty for God’s grace come for a visit. We too desire the refreshing streams of God’s grace and mercy pouring into our souls like water on a hot day.
Reformed is another part of our name and tells you that we are a people committed to Biblical and historic Christianity. We are Christians whose history flows out of the 15th and 16th century Reformation of the Christian Church in Europe. The term Reformed reveals the rich spiritual heritage our congregation shares with the Reformation of the church and reformers like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Knox. Among the many other things which their labors gave the Christian Church was the Word of God (the Bible) translated into common languages, something which for many years had been denied Christian people.
God also used men like Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox and many others to preach the gospel of sovereign grace throughout all Europe. The Spirit of God blessed the preaching of these reformers to evangelize the nations and new worlds to the west known as America. During this fruitful period of time a group of men gathering at Westminster Abbey and over a number of years forged the Westminster Confession of Faith, published in 1646.
The Westminster Confession of Faith is still the subordinate standard of Presbyterian Church doctrine even today as we continue to publically confess the Bible as the ultimate and final judge of our holy faith (Sola Scriptura). To help us explain to the world our understanding of, “… the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3) we embrace the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Shorter and Larger Catechisms, and the Testimony of the RPCNA as the declaration of our faith and practice.
Presbyterian is that part of our name that tells you about how the church is governed. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Christ governs His church through presbyters or elders who faithfully teach, proclaim, and apply Christ’s Word (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5).
The word Presbyterian comes from the Bible word used for elders or presbyter. The office of presbyter or elder is a spiritual authority divinely instituted by Christ for the safety of the His church (Acts 20:28; 1Pet. 5:1-4). Our local elders also join in regional presbyteries and synods in Christ’s name and by His authority for the better government and further building of His church (Acts 15:22; 16:4). For us, being Presbyterian is not a matter of preference like a meal choice on a menu, whatever might taste good at the time. Rather, the church is under the government of the King, by the King, and for the King, established by God in the Scriptures and given to guard the sheep and honor the only true Head of the Church, Jesus Christ (see 1 Peter 5:1-4; Eph. 1:22; 1 Tim 4:14; Rom. 11:36; Psalm 2). The church is a display of King Jesus’ loving, wise, protecting and directing authority (Eph. 3:10). Are you under Jesus’ protection? If you are in Christ by faith, then place yourself under His protection by joining the visible church.
In case you might be wondering, Sharon RPC has been a part of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA) since our founding in 1846. The RPCNA has churches and missions around the world. (Iowa was once a frontier mission field too!) We also affiliate with many other Reformed and Presbyterian churches in the association known as NAPARC or North American Presbyterian and Reformed Churches. The RPCNA at local and national levels seeks sincerely and earnestly to work with all true churches in work for the Kingdom of God.