I grew up in non-denominational, charismatic-leaning churches. Then, at 22, I married a PCA guy—one who intended to become a pastor, no less. In the beginning, it was difficult for me to fully embrace the denomination, but twenty-five years later, I can see how God has worked in my heart to bring me to a place where I recently helped my husband plant a PCA church.

You may be wondering how a nice Reformed guy could end up with a girl like me in the first place. Peter and I met at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, which was once associated with the PCUSA but now has students of every Christian stripe. When we started dating in senior year, we had no intention of marrying. After all, he wanted to be a pastor, and I wasn’t interested in being a pastor’s wife (but that’s a story for another time). Our doctrinal differences weren’t as important as the fact that we were both committed Christians. We were out of college and living in different states when we decided to marry, so it wasn’t until then that the rubber hit the road.

Like all newlyweds, Peter and I had to make decisions about whose way we would do things. Wash the dishes with a rag or sponge? Open gifts on Christmas Eve or morning? When it came to choosing a church, we had to reconcile differences both of theology and preference. Only there wasn’t much of a debate here—our choices were limited because he needed to be under the care of a Presbytery. What even was a presbytery?!

I felt like a kid who had been given a false choice: you can brush your teeth first, or you can put your PJs on first. It didn’t matter; either way you were headed to bed. In the early years of our marriage, I would at times sulk inwardly. I felt that I’d lost agency in one of the most important decisions we could make. I was stuck with these Presbyterians for life! While I liked the particular Presbyterian I’d married, I wasn’t so sure about the rest of them.

However, over time, the Lord taught me submission in various areas, which both deepened my knowledge of him and grew me in humility toward others.

Luke 24:45: “Then he opened their mind to understand the Scriptures…”

First, the Lord graciously allowed me to read His scripture with openness. Of course, the most significant theological hurdle was predestination, so I took some time to examine this challenging doctrine. Reading R.C. Sproul’s explanation of the scriptural support of the idea and taking time to study it slowly convinced me, opening the possibility that there were other things about God I couldn’t reason out and may “not like,” yet were true. The reformed focus on God’s grace and sovereignty in turn deepened my worship as well.

I Peter 5:5: “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another…”

Second, the Lord showed me that I have no place to judge the sincerity or depth of a person’s love for Him based on their external actions in worship. It was challenging to come from more expressive worship to the stoic Presbyterian experience. (As I like to say, “You can lead a Presbyterian to rhythm, but you can’t make them clap.”)

Yet, over the years of getting to know the people in the seats and seeing they love the Lord and know Him well, I’ve learned that what I see on the outside is not for me to judge. To consider someone either “too showy” or “too detached” is not our place; only the Lord knows the sincerity of the heart of the person worshiping. Learning that has freed me to worship God with my eyes only on Him, and not on those around me.

1 Peter 4:10: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

Third, I came to truly appreciate the benefits of the structure of the denominational government. My parents had grown up Catholic and Lutheran but had met Jesus through the ministry of a non-denominational church. It took some time for me to understand the prudence of a denominational structure. When my husband explains the process of discipline or of appeals through the presbytery, I’m impressed by the God-honoring accountability and fairness they’re striving for.

Seven years ago, when my husband had the opportunity to plant a church in the PCA, I was able to get behind it fully. Throughout the process of being assessed and trained, I saw the wisdom and care the leaders at Mission to North America put into each step and felt even more assured of my husband’s call and my ability to support him in it.

To be totally honest, I don’t think there’s a perfectly “right” denomination or church here on Earth. Many Christians are striving to interpret the Scriptures faithfully and yet come to different conclusions. So, I look forward to the day when all of God’s people are in Heaven and finally understand Him fully. Only then will we be completely united as one Body, worshiping the Lord together.

Photo by Daniel Tseng on Unsplash

Jamye Doerfler

Jamye Doerfler holds her B.A. in English from Grove City College and her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is the wife of Peter, pastor at Redemption Hill Church in Pittsburgh, PA, and mother of three boys. Her advent devotional for tweens and teens is forthcoming from CDM in the Fall of 2023. Read more of her work about cultivating a joyful, faith-filled family life at jamyedoerfler.com.