“Presby – what?”

‘Presbyterian’ is a strange word (and hard to spell!) But it says a lot about our church, what we believe, and how we function.

It comes from the Greek word ‘presbuteros’ (πρεσβύτερος) and means ‘elder.’ From the beginning of the denomination in Scotland, this word has proclaimed a great deal.

First, it says that rather than being led by priests, we are led by the Great High Priest who provided the last sacrifice for sins – himself. We don’t have priests who provide sacrifices on altars. Instead, we are led by a group of men called ‘elders.’ So, ‘Presbyterian’ says we believe Jesus is our priest who provided the once for all sacrifice for sins (1 Pet 3:18).

Second, (as already stated), it reflects the biblical pattern and command that the church be led by a group of men called ‘elders.’ This is the pattern established in Acts (e.g. 14:23; 20:17) and commanded in the epistles (e.g. 1 Tim 3:1-7, Tit 1:5-9, 1 Pet 5:1-4). These men are to be godly, able to teach, and caring for the church. The Presbyterian church is not a one-man show – we are a team, being equipped by a leadership team.

(It should be noted, the Bible uses the terms ‘elder,’ ‘overseer/bishop’ and ‘shepherd/pastor’ interchangeably – see Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Pet 5:1-2.)

Third, we are an interconnected church. Some denominations are ruled by a hierarchy of bishops/priests, with many churches ultimately being ruled by one person. Other denominations have their churches be completely independent from one another (though they might be friendly towards one another, they have no impact on the others’ church leadership).

The Presbyterian system, on the other hand, says that all churches are interconnected, reflecting the reality of the council in Acts 15 where the apostles and elders gathered to make a decision for all the churches (see below for the explanation of how that works). Each church governs itself through its elders, but receives oversight from the other churches in the region, then State, then nation.

So, what does ‘Presbyterian’ mean? It means we are a church which believes Jesus is our priest and once-for-all sacrifice, led by a group of qualified men called ‘elders,’ who are connected to other Presbyterian churches.

Not only are the leaders of each individual church a team leading their local church to be a team for Christ’s glory, but all Presbyterian churches form a larger team, with the goal to proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ – his death and resurrection, and the call to repent and believe. Will you join us?


Some odd words

Coming into any unfamiliar system will mean learning some new words (or even adjusting familiar words to mean different things). Here are some words you might like to know:

Elder: a man elected by the congregation to be one of the leaders of the church. This is a lifelong position (unless they resign, move away, or are removed from the position because of heresy or gross ungodliness).

Session: the Session is the official meeting of the elders. It is here decisions are made concerning the spiritual direction of the church. (Think “The court is now in session” in any courtroom scene you’ve seen on TV.)

Board of Management: The BoM is the body that cares for the finances and property of the church. Those elected to the Board (a two-year position) are called Managers. (Elders are automatically on the Board.)

Deacon: someone elected by the congregation to care for the material well-being of the poor and needy. This is a three-year position.

Presbytery: The State is divided into regions called ‘presbyteries.’ From each church in that region, their pastor and one other elder gathers with the other pastors and designated elders. They meet as a presbytery to have oversight over each church and to plan for future gospel ministry within that presbytery. They may also hear appeals from decisions made in a Session.

Assembly: This is the week-long meeting of every pastor and a representative elder from each church in the denomination, exercising further oversight, hearing appeals from decisions made in Presbyteries, and determining the rules by which the denomination will function. (There is a State Assembly every year, and a national Assembly every three years. The national Assembly does not include every single pastor and representative elder, but a proportion.)

Courts: When elders meet formally, they meet in a court. It is these courts which have decision-making authority – no individual can make unilateral decisions. The courts of the church are: Session, Presbytery and Assembly. Think of them as a mix of a parliament (making rules for how the church will run) and a law court (hearing appeals about a lower court’s decision).


Confused? That’s OK! Come and chat to Jesse about it. He’d love to clear it up for you.

The Lord’s Supper – Who May Come To The Table?

The Lord’s Supper should be a wonderful moment of unity in the church of Christ. Sadly, there is debate and disagreement over (probably) every element imaginable.

One of those disagreements is over who should participate. Do you need to be a member of a church? Do you need to be baptised? What about children? Here is how we at Eaglehawk Presbyterian answer those questions.

Do I need to be baptised?

Yes. Confusion over this is often due to how little we think about the purpose of these two sacraments. Baptism is the rite of initiation, the ceremony in which someone is officially welcomed as part of Christ’s church. The Lord’s Supper is a meal through which Christ continually nourishes the faith of his church. Just like those wanting to join Old Testament Israel needed to first be circumcised before they could take the Passover (Exodus 12:48), so we must first be baptised before we take the Lord’s Supper.

A quote from Michael Horton is particularly helpful here: ‘If baptism is the bath for the beginning of the journey, the Supper is the table that God spreads in the wilderness along the way.’ We need to have the bath before we can join in the meal.

Do I need to be a member?

Yes. Those coming to the table are expected to be a member of a Christian church – whether of our church, another Presbyterian church, or any other Christian church. And they need to be a member in good standing – if someone is under discipline at their church and unable to take the Supper there, we pray they would respect that process of discipline and not seek to get around it by visiting another church!

There are multiple reasons for this, but the key reason is that the Supper is a communal meal (indeed, one of the names for the Lord’s Supper is ‘Communion’). We not only commune with Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16) as we eat at his table, but we also commune with one another (1 Corinthians 10:17) as the church comes together (1 Corinthians 11:18). For the church to come together, we have to know who’s in the church! That’s what membership identifies – with the wisdom that Christ gives his people, they determine whether someone’s profession in Christ is genuine, and whether they will commune with them in this meal.

Are children welcome to participate?

It depends! Are they full members of a church? Have they professed their faith publicly (either by being baptised as a believer, or giving a Profession of Faith if they were baptised as an infant)? One of the requirements given to those partaking is that they ‘examine themselves’ and be able to ‘discern the body’ (1 Corinthians 11:28-29). A young child is unable to do these things.

But how young is too young? This is where a conversation with the parents and the elders/leaders of the church is important. Taking the Supper is a great privilege, but it also comes with some danger (1 Corinthians 11:27, 30). We want to protect them from unknowingly abusing the Lord’s Supper. When it would be appropriate for a child to profess faith, and so be welcomed into membership and to the table of the Lord’s Supper requires the wisdom of both the parents and church leaders.


When I was growing up, I had this all reversed. I took the Lord’s Supper before I was baptised, in a church where it probably never crossed their mind to consider whether I had genuine faith. Did something terrible happen to me? No. Was it a heinous crime against the church? No. But it was inappropriate.

As a church, we want all things to be done with good order (1 Corinthians 14:40, Colossians 2:5). When we consider the importance and meaning of membership, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and any number of other issues related to what it means to function biblically as a church, we can see how seriously Christ regards his church.


The Lord’s Supper is for those who are baptised Christians, who have publicly professed their faith in Christ and been accepted as members of a local body of believers, and who have examined themselves. It is a privilege to participate in the Lord’s Supper. Let us do it with great joy!

Children in Church

How can Christian parents and the church best nurture the faith of the children in their care? It’s an important question, and one where churches respond with different answers. The main options are:

  • Children stay with the adults in the church service the whole time, or
  • Children leave the service at a certain time (whether it’s after a few songs, or only for the sermon) where they can have dedicated teaching.

Both methods desire children to develop their own faith, and neither is easy.

At Eaglehawk Presbyterian Church we love our children to stay with us for the whole service. We hope this article will help explain why, answer (some) questions, and offer some tips on how to help your children worship our God with you in the pew.

Why keep the children with us?

We believe one of the most significant ways we can parent as Christians is to worship with them, with the covenant community. There are struggles, but they are well worth it. Why?

  1. God made us to worship him

Whether we’re very young or very old, we’re here to worship God. This is why God created us (Gen 1:27; Psa 149:11-13), why we’ve been saved (Rom 12:1-2; Eph 1:4-5), and why we’ll be raised on the Last Day (Rev 19:6-8, 22:3-4).

  1. Worship is both individual and corporate

Throughout the Bible, people are called to worship God both as individuals and a community. In the New Testament we’re called to do everything to God’s glory (1 Cor 10:31), and to gather together (Heb 10:25). Together we are the flock (John 10:16), the body (1 Cor 12:12) and the temple (1 Cor 3:16). When someone is missing from the gathering, we all suffer for it.

  1. Gathered worship involves the Word, prayer, singing and sacraments

God gets to decide how people worship Him, and these are his appointed means. God’s word is to be preached (Neh 8:8; 2 Tim 4:2), we’re to pray (1 Tim 2:1; Col 4:2), sing (Col 3:16), and have baptisms and participate in the Lord’s Supper (Matt 28:19; 1 Cor 11:24-25).

There’s more to say about worship. Our worship should have integrity (not just hearing the Word, but believing and obeying), joy and awe. It should be encouraging and centre on God.

  1. Throughout the Bible, children are included in gathered worship

They take part in the feasts of Israel in the Old Testament (e.g. Passover [Exo 12:26-27]) because they are considered part of the people of God. This is why infant boys were given the sign and seal of the covenant (Gen 17:9-14). This continues in the New Testament. Whether you believe children of believers should receive baptism or not, they are part of the church. They receive the promises (Acts 2:38-39), and they are spoken to in the letters (e.g. Eph 6:1-3; Col 3:20).

  1. There are blessings that come with children worshipping with the church
  • They hear the Word preached. While it is beneficial for children to have the Bible taught at their level, there is also great benefit in them hearing God’s Word proclaimed to the whole church, and to sit under it themselves. They won’t understand everything, but they will pick things up quicker than we might think.
  • They see the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper). They will no doubt ask questions about this, which gives great opportunities to explain the gospel truths.
  • They join in prayer, hearing what the church prays for each week, and often learn how to pray themselves as they hear others.
  • They are with the church, surrounded by saints of all ages and walks of life who are examples as they worship with all their heart.
  • They are with their parents, learning from them what it means to worship God, seeing what is important to them.
  • It tells them that they can worship God too. It’s not an adult activity; it’s for them.
  • And it encourages the adults, older saints, as they see these young ones learning how to worship, learning the songs, learning to pray, starting to serve. The older ones are reminded of the call to have child-like faith.

Some tips

We know (all too well!) that children being in the service can be difficult. Parents with young children may feel they miss out on church for a long period of time, as they manage crying and squabbling children. Parents may fear their children will be bored.

But consider that we struggle through these challenges with other things we find important. We battle feeding our children what they need multiple times a day. When something is important to us, we want to include our children, even though they don’t understand the intricacies.

Parents don’t keep their kids away from footy until they can understand the rules – if they love the game they’ll have it on TV, take their kids to the games, and explain as needed. The child won’t always be paying attention, but they’ll learn that it’s a love of their parents, and as they experience it themselves it may become a love of theirs too.

So, what can parents do to help their children in gathered worship?

  1. Talk about church through the week. What were the sermon and songs about?
  2. Try not to make Saturday a late night, and be ready early on Sunday.
  3. Have family worship at home – read the Bible, pray, and sing together.
  4. Whisper to your child occasionally, telling them what hymn you love, or what you were challenged by in the sermon.
  5. Get help from others in the church.
  6. Encourage them to be involved – stand for the songs, give in the offering, bow their heads in the prayers.
  7. Don’t worry about what the other adults are thinking about you! We’re so glad to have children in the church!
  8. Encourage your children when they are behaving (don’t only speak to tell them off!)
  9. Be patient. Your children are learning, and so are you. Pray that they would encounter God through His Word

We know it’s not easy, but there are great moments of joy and blessing. Please join with us as we teach and model worship of our great God to our children.

(This is mostly a summary of Let the Children Worship by Jason Helopoulos – a small book that is highly recommended!)

Book Review: ‘Gender – A Conversation Guide for Parents and Pastors’


Many parents and pastors, along with others in our society, are struggling with the issue of gender. While there have been discussions and debates on some aspects of gender, it has been accepted that there are only two genders, and this matches with the body God gave you.

But no more. Our culture has rapidly accepted the idea that one can feel they are a different gender to what their body is. These are arguments we haven’t heard before, and our children are being taught them by their friends, the shows they watch, and their teachers at school.

Gender: A Conversation Guide for Parents and Pastors is a helpful first step for those wanting to be better prepared to teach their children what God says about gender. Roughly dividing the conversation into 3 parts: pre-primary school, primary school, and high school aged children, the building blocks for the biblical view of gender are laid.

The reader is given some ‘key concepts and passages,’ a great help for those unsure how to teach biblically on gender. There are ‘sample dialogues,’ ideas for how you could briefly explain these concepts to your children, ‘age-tips’ and ‘questions and discussion starters.’ All of these are brief, and helpfully grounded in the Bible.

There is a section for adults, where some different objections to the biblical view are addressed, but the authors manage to avoid being technical. This is an easy to read book, short (75 small pages), cheap, and an excellent first step for parents and pastors to understand the issues themselves, and then to teach to the children in their care.

Our world is having a constant conversation with our children about gender. This book is a helpful guide to fill our children with God’s word, understood through the gospel of Jesus Christ, so they can be inoculated against the confusion our world wants to teach them. It is highly recommended.