Presbyterian describes how we organize and govern ourselves. It comes from an ancient Greek word meaning “ruled by elders.” A team of trusted servant leaders (our pastors and elders) leads the church. These leaders work together as peers in directing the life and mission of the church.
This team approach is consistent with the vital connection we see in the New Testament, where followers of Jesus Christ are connected to one another in relationships built on mutual beliefs, trust, and accountability. Just as individual Christians are connected to one another, individual congregations are connected under Christ as the Head of His Church. Because of this connection, we believe we can accomplish more for Christ and His kingdom working together than working separately.
There are three organizational levels in our system:
1. The local church.
2. The presbytery—a regional gathering of churches.
3. The General Assembly—the national gathering of churches (the national office is called the Office of the General Assembly).
We are intentionally “local church focused;” our presbyteries and Office of the General Assembly work to serve the local church and its leaders as they pursue the mission God has called them to.
Finally, to be Reformed is to be confessional. We have one confessional standard: the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. While it is subordinate to God’s Word, it helps us maintain and defend the gospel as the Bible declares it. We affirm the value and use of creeds and other confessions that are biblical and orthodox. Our “Essentials of the Faith” statement is a summary affirmation of orthodox Christianity taken from the Westminster standards.
To be missional is to declare that God has a mission: the creation of a community of men, women, boys, and girls saved through His Son Jesus Christ. He has called His church to that mission “in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1.8). In the EPC, we have always been committed to global missions with a particular focus on unreached people groups in Islamic countries.
As this commitment continues, we acknowledge the “local nature” of God’s mission: that the United States is a vast and growing mission field. In this mission field, we believe God has strategically placed our churches for the purpose of effectively reaching out to those around them with the good news of Jesus Christ. Our churches are communities of authentic disciples of Jesus Christ who gather for celebration, prayer, and teaching—and then disperse locally and globally as His missionaries to love and serve people.
A key element of God’s mission for our churches is to look outward and to move outward into the mission field that is their community. In the EPC, “The local church is where the action is” as it pursues this mission. As a result, our presbyteries and national office exist to serve and resource our local churches. A fuller statement of missional can be found on the Definition of a Missional Church and Denomination page.