Presbyterian Proverbs


Greek Fables (close enough)

An advantage of being in the same church for a long time is that you have an opportunity to see things play out.  You can observe parenting and then watch the “parented” children grow up.  You can see folks go from young parents to empty nesters.  You can see all sorts of people just passing through. In short, you’re around long enough for time to tell its story.  And if it told proverbs about Presbyterian church life, they might sound like this.

  1. One who speaketh in his first Sunday School class will evaporate like the morning dew.   It’s uncanny – visitors who enter by sharing their brilliance in their first Sunday School class won’t be around for long.  And, really, you don’t want them around for very long.
  2. Better an early grave than the sneer of an alpha church lady.  Thinking of confronting her? Just find something else to do.
  3.  Like an idol under a hammer is family legalism under actual parenting.  No kind of schooling or parental style is guaranteed to produce the child of your imagination.  A man is arrogant indeed if he is not humbled by parenting. A man is a moralist indeed if he rigidly insists upon all his preconceived family dogmas.
  4.  The fatted calf buys no loyalty.  You can go all out for a visitor or new member, but your sacrifice will be forgotten if his whim leads him elsewhere.
  5.  Sin happens.  Your church is not immune from the sin virus.  There will be ugly things to deal with.
  6.  Your gut speaketh truly but it matters not.  Yeah, you might have good hunches about people and situations but that doesn’t make you lord of them; usually all you can do is watch things play out. At least you have a front row seat.
  7.  Does a kangaroo stop hopping?  If your new members have been church hoppers, your church is a temporary landing spot. Use pencil when you write their names on the roll.
  8.  The heart knoweth not why it leaves a church.  Or at least it isn’t telling. Either they don’t really know or they don’t feel like telling, because departing members say some pretty weak things.



  9.  More welcome is a leper than a former elder.  Members who depart (when circumstances don’t demand it) draw devil horns on their former pastor and session.  Don’t say “see you later,” just say “goodbye.”
  10.  Better a morsel of faithfulness than a feast of victories.  Because you don’t really know what a victory is. Not yet.
  11.  Grace walks softly.  Loud and flashy don’t awaken it and they seldom describe it. Mix simple worship, solid preaching and the sacraments – let grace appear in its own time and its own way.
  12.  Catholic converts cleaveth unto the church but Evangelicals are a church unto themselves.  Former Catholics respect the church and its government while broad Evangelicals take years to “get it,” if they ever get it at all.
  13.  When a wife ruleth, the family shall go the broad way.   More often than not, the passive husband / dominant wife combo lists toward broad evangelicalism.
  14.  A Presbybaptist wedding cake is sweet but a sour stomach followeth. It may not seem like a big deal for a Presbyterian to marry a Baptist but eventually there will be serious conflict that centers on baptism or child rearing.
  15.  There is a man who taketh a vow like he downloads programs.  “A vow? Yadda yadda yadda, I do what I want.”
  16.  Whoever speaks of leaving has already left.  If a member wants to talk to you about leaving the church it’s not a conversation but an announcement.



  17.  A clearly preached gospel gives more hope than anything else you can say or do.
  18.  There is more growth when roots go deep into the church.  Those who have a high view of the institutional church are more prone to listen and learn.
  19. Those who major in the minors will not be silent. Call them hobby horses, obsessions, or whatever you wish, but people thus imbalanced will leave if they aren’t put in office, allowed to teach, or given some outlet to spread their virus. In this regard the Session is an anti-virus program.  (To provide balance to gender statements above, we’re looking at you, patriarchalists.)
  20.  Peace in the sanctuary is peace indeed. If you’re doing preaching, worship, and the sacraments right you should have a healthy measure of contentment and be able to put other problems in perspective.
  21.  Spareth the deacon, sidetrack the preacher. Good deacons are good for everyone, and make it unnecessary to have a Pastor Jack of All Trades.
  22.  An ounce of Presbytery is worth a pound of discipline. This one could be hotly disputed in places, but if you are connected to your Presbytery you can receive some assurances that you and your pastor are not off track. If your Presbytery is not doing well, you need to know that and do your part to improve it.  A bunker mentality is just congregationalism.

Of course, some of these could be regional proverbs, or based on a small sample size, but there’s twenty-two. That’s roughly one per year; I’ll have enough to update this list by 2034.


Filed under Church, Presbyterianism

12 responses to “Presbyterian Proverbs

  1. Richard

    I love it! Welcome back.

  2. Pingback: Presbyterian Proverbs

  3. Aimee Byrd

    This is good!

  4. Pingback: Presbyterian Proverbs | thereformedmind

  5. Wow. I have only been in full-time pastoral ministry for about 3 years,and I can already attest to #1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 15, 16, and 19 from first-hand experience. I guess it is somewhat comforting to know that I’m in good company. 🙂

    Thankfully I can also attest to #10, 11, 17, and 20.

  6. Jeanette

    Very good list. I have to agree with Andy it is comforting to know that we are not alone. 🙂

  7. Reblogged this on mgpcpastor's blog and commented:
    Lots of these aphorisms resonated with me.
    Most pastors (and active church members) will recognise what’s described here.

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