Anthony W. Brooks
On this fifth installment of Why I Am A Presbyterian I want to lay out my case for Presbyterian Worship. Starting here I began a series on the reasons I came into the Presbyterian church and why I was convinced, over time, that it is the most faithful form of Christianity that I know exists. It is no small secret that I tend to lean more high church, but originally I needed to find a church that was both comfortable for my wife and myself. She was very evangelical in her faith. She liked the laid back vibes of the Baptist church while I was more drawn toward the high liturgy of the Anglican rite. I hade to find a comfortable medium. I visited a Reformed Episcopal Church and it was perfect for me, but not for her. So I decided to go more toward Reformed liturgy. Something that saw the sacraments as efficacious and taught the whole council of God in the liturgy. I said it before that I asked many people where I should take my family and they gave me many faithful recommendations and I eventually landed with the OPC. So the following is an Introduction with no specific details, for I will lay out those details in future posts.
Faithful Worship vs. Unfaithful Worship
In the Baptist Church worship was meant to benefit you. The hymns were meant to help you feel something. Often the song leaders would ask for recommendations and you would get to call out your favorite hymns for singing. Often women and men would get up and sing “specials” to prerecorded tracks and show their talents. But the goal was to get you into the proper frame of mind for the sermon. We would applaud them for their talent and fervor.
I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this display of talent, and sure I have my favorite hymns, but is the worship service the right place to do this? In the Old Covenant the laws were strict. The New Testament tells us this: “Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness.” – Hebrews 9:1. How much more is the more perfect New Covenant worship supposed to be?
“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” -Hebrews 12:28-29
Worship is to have a spirit of reverence. We cannot invent a new type of worship. Those who are ordained to the office of elder are the only one qualified to lead the congregation in worship. It is the elder’s duty to protect the worship and teaching of the church just as it was the priests duty in the Old Covenant. In the church of my youth there were about 15 minutes per service where the congregation was encouraged to stand and give testimony, prayer requests, or discussed business, but this is not called for in the New Covenant. Thinking back on some of what was said, there were some troubling things that probably amount to heresy.
Another thing that I eventually found was problematic was the period of the service often called an “alter call”. This portion is where the church would have a time of personal reflection and the gospel would be given for all who desired to accept it would come down and accept it at the front of the church. Essentially I realized that this was effectively making the congregation of Baptized believers a mission field for the pastors to harvest. When the word of God is given it needs to be given to equip the congregation for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17) not to call them to Christ. If every sermon is a sermon on salvation with the end goal to get one or two people to come down for the third or fourth time to rededicate their lives to Christ then the church isn’t performing it’s function.
Loose vs. Ordered Worship
At Judson particularly we would sit through the majority of the service only standing on the last verse of the opening hymn, offertory hymn, and closings hymn. It was very loose and laid back. At Christ the King OPC we only sit for the sermon to be instructed but for the majority of the service we are standing (unless your health forbids you to do so). The reasons for this are Biblical:
“30 And they were to stand every morning, thanking and praising the Lord, and likewise at evening, 31 and whenever burnt offerings were offered to the Lord on Sabbaths, new moons, and feast days, according to the number required of them, regularly before the Lord.” -1 Chronicles 23:30-31
The Levite’s were the Priestly tribe of God. They received no land inheritance for their service because God was their inheritance (Deuteronomy 18:1-2). They were to offer worship to God daily and stand while they did so. This was the proper position to praise God. So when I first visited Christ the King I was amazed at how much this congregation stood. But it was correct to do so. The looseness of worship vs. the orderly nature of worship should be something we are to be concerned about.
In the next installment I will speak on the Eschatology of worship. Until then.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Picture: Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia Worship Service