Saturday, July 14, 2007

Thoughts on Church

One of these days I'd like to post a lengthy article with several thoughts on the Church that have arisen out of our experiences over the last couple of years. For now, though, I'd just like to tell you a little about the church we've been attending recently.

We have been enjoying our time over the last month or so at Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church. Westminster is a PCA church. The PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) is a very theologically conservative Presbyterian denomination. Westminster is a fairly large church with a combined attendance around 900.

The first Sunday I went, Carrie couldn't go because she was sick. (See this post!) Before we were halfway into the service I wanted to drive home and get her. It was so refreshing. Here are some reasons:

The music is very Christ-centered. The musicians are skilled and play together very well. In churches we have visited we have encountered two extremes. One extreme is the traditional piano/organ combo with a song leader who waves his hands around, despite the fact that most of the people in his congregation have no idea why. The music choices in these churches tend to be very traditional (do not read that as "inherently bad or boring"--traditional is not a judgment statement, but a descriptive statement). The other extreme we've noticed is the contemporary church with a "worship team" or "praise team" or "praise band." The music in these churches tends to be very loud and contemporary (again, "loud" and "contemporary" are descriptors, not necessarily terms of value).

My problem with the first extreme is that these traditional churches tend to ignore some of the wonderful Christ-centered, gospel-oriented music being written today. They also tend to neglect some of the most powerful aspects of music by refusing to use a variety of instruments. They also tend to be more critical of physical expressiveness in worship, such as raising hands, etc.

My problem with the second extreme is that these contemporary churches rob the church of the congregational singing that the Reformation restored to the people. I have stood beside Carrie in one or two churches and couldn't even hear her singing! The musicians on stage can have a tendency to drown out the glorious singing of the congregation. These churches also tend to neglect some theologically rich hymn texts.

At Westminster we found a glorious blend of traditional and contemporary. There are guitars, drums, a cello, a flute, a trumpet, a grand piano, and a variety of other instruments such as a harmonica, a shaker, etc. There is also a music director who waves his hands occasionally to bring in the congregation or help us cut off at points. The music is contemporary when appropriate and traditional when appropriate. I can hear everyone singing, and it is glorious! People stand still while they sing while others raise their hands while others may dance at their seats when appropriate. The songs range from Holy, Holy, Holy to In Christ Alone to a variety of other ancient and contemporary songs. There is a very talented choir that just got back from a two week mission trip to Austria. In fact, they were in Bob's hometown. All in all, the music is wonderful.

Carrie and I have felt somewhat starved for quite a while with a serious lack of good, authoritative, biblical preaching. So when I heard Dr. Alphin preach the first Sunday I was at Westminster, my spirit was so filled that I didn't want him to stop! We have been for several weeks now and have thoroughly enjoyed hearing the Word preached. Dr. Alphin is a very well-trained pastor and knows the Word. What's more, he knows how to communicate the Word clearly and in a way that changes how I think and live.

Over the past couple of years (and especially the past 6 months) I have come to find a presbyterian form of government more in line with Scripture than a democratic congregationalism. Now, granted, I love Mark Dever and have a lot of sympathy with his very biblical version of congregationalism, so don't pigeon hole me too narrowly. That being said, I look forward to seeing how this form of government works in reality, not just in theory in my head.

Westminster is organized around a variety of covenant (community) groups. The classes that are offered for these groups include the following:

  • An Evaluation of Worldviews
  • Family Worship
  • A Study through John Piper's Future Grace
  • A New Believers' Class
  • A study through 1 John
  • A leadership training class
  • A study through the book of Judges
  • A study of the life of Deitrich Bonhoeffer
For a more detailed description, check out this PDF.

We have so far enjoyed our time at Westminster. We are purposely making very slow decisions right now, so we don't anticipate joining right away. We are also still trying to work through some of the details of a classic covenant theology position. We have had our Baptist stereotypes of what Presbyterianism is blown away...thankfully.

Praise God for Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church. Please pray with us as we decide what our role should be in the community of believers.

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