PCA-ers have a big blue book called the “BCO” (the book of church order). There’s lots of great and helpful stuff in the BCO, and there’s a decent bit of boring material as well. Whatever your opinion of the BCO, it’s appropriate to wonder, “Why do we have a BCO?”
Let’s acknowledge that all communities, organizations, societies, and institutions have some version and degree of order; and there is an inevitable spectrum of order …and on that spectrum there are extreme polarities (with couldn’t-care-less on one end, and hyper-cautious and controlling on the other end). For example, when a group of 10 year old kids build a fort in their neighborhood, they intuitively organize into roles, and take inventory of resources, and create rules and regulations as their fortress community comes to fruition.
So, “Why do we have a BCO?” One reason is, because we can’t help it. Having been created by a God of order (as opposed to chaos), and especially seeing as how God has created us after His own image [Genesis 1:26], we inevitably operate with varying degrees and versions of order.
In addition to God’s inescapable design (which constantly compels us to do the work of categorizing, classifying, ordering, and organizing); God has also specifically instructed us to be intentional about, and committed to, the work of orderliness.
For example, a long-time member of our church was explicitly commissioned by God to write a letter to a church community in the city of Corinth a couple of thousand years ago. And in this letter, the writer says, “You have to always be emphatic and intentional about ordering the life of the church in such a way so as build people up and encourage and console them. It is not enough to personally and individually feel good about your modus operandi, but you have to consider what will be edifying for the entire body. So, for example, if a person speaks sundry, substantive, and superabundant truths of Jesus in the Russian tongue, but the people listening only understand Nepali, then the Russian speaker needs to stay silent. There are many different languages in the world , and none is without meaning, but if you don’t know the meaning of the language, you will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker foreign to you. So, be eager for manifestations of the Spirit, and strive most emphatically to excel in building up the church. Diligently pray for interpretation, for if someone prays in a foreign tongue, their spirit might be enlivened, but their mind is unfruitful unless they can understand the words being spoken. Pray with your spirit and your mind also! Sing praise with your spirit, and with your mind also! Be committed to speaking 5 words with your mind in order to actually instruct others, rather than 10,000 words in a foreign tongue. Don’t be childish. Be childlike/mature [Mark 10:15]! You must realize that the phenomenon of Pentecost [Acts 2] is for unbelievers, not believers. Don’t hijack the gift God has intended for unbelievers! And certainly don’t appropriate the unbeliever’s gift in order to accommodate your arrogant quest for feeling superior to your siblings in Christ. If an unbeliever attends the weekly family reunion and appointed time of Colossians 3:16, and hears y’all babbling in tongues, the unbeliever will say that you’re out of your minds! However, if you simply preach the scandalous and supernatural stories of God’s Word in a language they can comprehend; then they will be convicted, and called to account, and the secrets of their hearts will be disclosed [e.g. John 4:29], and they will fall on their face and worship God and declare that God really is among you.”
THAT’S WHY WE HAVE A BOOK OF CHURCH ORDER!
*And just to clarify, the long-time member of our church who wrote the letter does cover, in some detail, the scenario wherein there are people present who speak different languages. He says, “If any speak in a tongue, let there be only 2 or at most 3, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. Let 2 or 3 prophets speak, and let others weigh what is said [e.g. Acts 17:11]. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and be encouraged, and the spirit of the prophets are subject to the prophets [e.g. Acts 17:11]. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” After this the letter-writer says some highly controversial things about women, and I’m straight-up going to not talk about that right now (if you’re interested in navigating that topic, I would recommend that you talk to Elizabeth Elliot, Deborah the judge of Israel, the gal in Mark 14:8-9, Joanna [Luke 8:3],Peggy Michalenko, and Mimi Henderson).
“Let all things should be done decently and in order.”The long-time member of our church/dude who wrote the letter to the church in Corinth a couple of thousand years ago.