Posted by: gmscan | August 15, 2011

It is Nice to be Home.

Out of my concern for the future of the Presbyterian Church, I decided to check out a different church last week.

This other church is nondenominational and I’m beginning to think denominations are more trouble than they are worth. At the same time I worry that without a denominational structure the church might rely too much on the charisma of the pastor to define itself. So I went to the church’s web site and found its theology to be pretty sound and consistent with the Reformed tradition.

This church is large and growing and very family focused. The service I was going to attend was listed as “contemporary,” but I really didn’t know what that meant. Here are some observations:

The building is fairly modern and instead of pews it has interlocking padded chairs. I brought a Bible, but I didn’t see anyone else with one and there were none in the chairs/pews/seating area. There were also no hymnals. There was a screen at the front of the church with the words to songs projected on it. Below the screen was a small ensemble featuring at least a guitar, keyboard, and singers. The first 20 minutes of the service involved the congregation standing and singing Christian rock tunes.

The music was powerful and energetic. Not having hymnals or printed lyrics meant the standing congregation had to face forward to see the screen, so everyone was projecting their voices and the upbeat tempo got people swaying in time to the music. It was reaching people at a very emotional level.

I have to confess this was all pretty jarring to me, but perhaps that is just my own cultural prejudice. After all, Psalm 33: 1-3 says:

“Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.”

Today’s lyres and harps are guitars and keyboards. The rock songs of this church are probably closer to what the Psalmist had in mind than the traditional hymns of my regular church. And these are indeed “new songs” just as the Psalmist commanded.

My concern lies elsewhere. There was no Scripture reading. There was no Lord’s Prayer. In fact there was a minimum of prayer at all. There was a sermon from an assistant pastor who told of his life’s journey and how the Lord influenced him along the way. And it ended with a “Thanks for coming. See you next week.” No benediction, no recessional.

I left feeling empty and unsatisfied.

This week I went back to my regular church. There was no rock and roll, but there was “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the king of creation,” written in 1665. Another hymn was written in 1582. There were Scripture readings from the Old Testament, the Gospel, and the Epistles. The pastor’s sermon explained how these were related and how they apply to our time and our place. We affirmed our faith, confessed our sins, and said the Lord’s Prayer. There were prayers for the healing of the people. We were told that the Lord has already forgiven our sins and that Jesus died on the cross to affirm His covenant with us.

Maybe I’m a fuddy-duddy, but it seems to me our work as Christians is to proclaim the Gospel and to believe in Jesus. A church service that skips over the Scriptures is hardly worth attending. Sure, our music could be a little peppier, but tunes that have survived for 500 years are not to be lightly dismissed. They must tap into something deep inside us.

It is nice to be home.

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Responses

  1. Welcome home, Greg! I plan on visiting some other churches sometime too. Just for the fun of it because right now I am content to stay at the Presbyterian Church of Waynesboro and content to Pray really, really hard for the church and in particular for guidance as to what the church’s next step is regarding our affiliation with the PC USA.

    I am affraid the decisions in our future are not going to be easy.

    Also, our Church has a contemporary service that is at 8:30 am on Sunday morning. You probably already knew about it? Have you ever attended it? It isn’t as heavy as the traditional service at 10:45 am and there is more singing involved. Mostly praise songs. Give it a try if you haven’t already!

    John

    • Thanks John,
      I have no problem with the service at our church. In fact I love it. That isn’t why I checked our another church. My problem is being associated with the PCUSA and its political support for a host of Left Wing causes including supporting abortion, hatred of Israel, advocating homosexuality, and changing the Form of Government to a top-down undemocratic structure.
      Greg

      • Having been accused elsewhere of wanting to attack you I felt it important to tell you myself I have not such aims in mind.

        But I would like to go on record to say that this view you are portraying of the PCUSA is not yours but has been given to you by people who want to destroy it. By people who have spent decades and many millions of dollars to do it. The PCUSAs real sin is to have so loved the world for Christ’s sake as to have perhaps gone a bit native for its sake. But God becoming a man, that too was going native a bit, was it not?

        Pray for your enemies and bless them. This is the command we have from Jesus. If you think they are in the PCUSA, then pray – advocate – for them before God. And bless them.

  2. I think PCA is maybe the right answer to your search:

    Here is the directory for Pa.

    https://processor.pcanet.org/ac/directory/directory.cfm

  3. Greg, The blasphemous voice coming out of the PC USA is very sad, but we were made to glorify God and enjoy him forever… and sounds like going back to your home church keeps you on the right track to do that. Keep up the good fight in vocalizing your concerns. At some point it may make sense to go to the PCA or EPC. Doctrine will never match everyone’s opinions but I suspect EPC and PCA will be closer to what you believe. I hope your congregation makes the jump (although I can imagine it will come at a high price).

  4. You might check out a few more “non-denominational” churches. There’s a lot of variation in that term.

    If there was a sermon, I would expect (at least in my church experience) to be an exposition of a text from the Bible–so the “lack of Bible reading” wouldn’t be a problem.

    I do miss some of the hymns. When we sing them in my church (we have the band setup, too), we tend to sing them a quarter-beat too fast for my preference. It makes me grumpy. Not a great testimony, I realize, but there you are.

    There will always been a lot to mull over in the message/function/method debate.


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