Back & Well Rested, but Still an Anachronism at Times

Well, now that I’m back in my study and feeling well-rested from two weeks of vacation, I think I’m ready to get back to some consistent blogging. This is only the second time in over 20 years of ministry that I’ve taken two weeks together… and I’m finding it a great source of rest, refreshment and it helps me greatly be ready to re-enter my study and the ministry to which I’m called. God be praised for the rest He grants.

While we were away, we attended two different churches on two subsequent Sundays. I won’t mention names or denominations, but I do want to make a couple of observations about them. Sunday #1 found us attending a church in a nearby community which we had never visited before (the church, that is). Upon arriving, we quickly found out the senior pastor would not be preaching for it was “Missionary Sunday.” Disappointing, for I truly wanted to hear this man open the Word. I’ve known him for a while and was looking forward to this. Oh well.

The worship through music was a bit disappointing as well (perhaps my entire mood had fallen off from the start; a sinful tendency that still needs some self-mortification work done upon it). We (family) knew half the songs (all choruses, no hymns – mind you, I’m not opposed to choruses at all; I just like to see a good mix of both for it helps teach doctrine as well as the praise of God). The sanctuary had been transformed the day previous for their VBS kick-off that evening. In the middle of the entryway, was a cross-section of the bow of a ship. In front of this was pseudo-water, a beach/desert-island complete with palm tree to the ceiling. This forced the seating to be scrunched quite tightly and made entering/exiting quite cumbersome.

When the missionary was introduced, he spent the first five minutes talking about the joy of golfing with 1-2 of the men from the church… that very Lord’s Day morning. This enabled them to complete the “mini-tournament” they’d begun on Saturday. After describing his ministry in another country, his wife came up. I thought she would also share some about her ministry there, but no, she opened the Word and began to preach. Later on, my two youngest kids would tell me that she wasn’t preaching because she said she was only going to demonstrate how she taught among the women of said country. But trust me, she preached/teached (sorry, taught! Isn’t English a screwy language!). The problem (besides flying in the face of 1 Timothy 2.11-15) was there was not point. Oh she tried to make a couple of points numerically, but they were not related directly to the text, but more to her experience of the text. Needless to say, upon leaving this worship service, I was really wondering where we could go to worship and hear the Word.

I don’t blame the pastor of Church #1 on Sunday #1, except to say I would that he could have previewed the missionary’s presentation style/form. If he had done this, I think he would have found out that the husband was simply the tech-savvy, hands-on kind of administrator-missionary and his wife, while appearing to submit to his God-given headship, was really the one who sought to preach & teach.

Sunday #2. Church #2. Another church I had desired to visit on a Sunday off because Pastor #2 was somewhat new there. I had met this man a few months prior, knew he would be coming to this church and looked forward to a time to hear him open God’s Word.

This was a much better experience musically (we new 50% of the songs and the rest, while new in word, were familiar hymn-tunes). One of the songs was “Days of Elijah”, a peppy little ditty of which I’m still trying to work out the theology. Not quite sure how it fits with Scripture and the Kingdom, but still a catchy tune.

Pastor #2 opened the Word and truly exposited a passage (Acts 13.1-5 to be precise). A couple from this church was being commissioned that Sunday to go to the Dominican Republic, so this was not only an appropriate text for that couple, but for the church. I believe the pastor, being new to this congregation, was doing what many do these days, upon arriving: preach several messages about the church, what it is and what it should be about. Good message and encouraging to hear the Word faithfully opened.

Quick word of summary: Church #1 made me wonder if I’m not an anachronism … just in the wrong time zone. I don’t want to appear to be a curmudgeon, but there are so many times upon seeing or hearing of churches similar to this one that I feel so out of touch. Not out of touch with the Word or God or anything; just out of touch with what they think worship is and how important and central the proper preaching of the Word is to be in the life of a church.

Church #2 on Sunday #2 helped tremendously to reassure me that churches that I might be a bit more skeptical of for other reasons, still have hope and foundation because the centrality of the Word appeared to be vital.

My prayer is this:

A MINISTER’S PREACHING

MY MASTER GOD,

I am desired to preach today, but go weak and needy to my task;

Yet I long that people might be edified with divine truth, that an honest testimony might be borne for thee;

Give me assistance in preaching and prayer, with heart uplifted for grace and unction.

Present to my view things pertinent to my subject, with fullness of matter and clarity of thought, proper expressions, fluency, fervency, a feeling sense of the things I preach, and grace to apply them to men’s consciences.

Keep me conscious all the while of my defects, and let me not gloat in pride over my performance.

Help me to offer a testimony for thyself, and to leave sinners inexcusable in neglecting thy mercy.

Give me freedom to open the sorrows of thy people, and to set before them comforting considerations.

Attend with power the truth preached, and awaken the attention of my slothful audience.

May thy people be refreshed, melted, convicted, comforted, and help me to use the strongest arguments drawn from Christ’s incarnation and sufferings, that men might be made holy.

I myself need thy support, comfort, strength, holiness, that I might be a pure channel of thy grace, and be able to do something for thee;

Give me then refreshment among thy people, and help me not to treat excellent matter in a defective way, or bear a broken testimony to so worthy a redeemer, or be harsh in treating of Christ’s death, its design and end from lack of warmth and fervency.

And keep me in tune with thee as I do this work.
(from Valley of Vision, edited by Arthur Bennett, Banner of Truth Trust, page 191.)

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2 Responses

  1. After your comment today on “Days of Elijah” and then your mention of it in this entry, I decided to look around to bit to see if there was an explanation for this song out there somewhere. I found a rather lengthy one at the composer’s (Robin Mark) website (http://www.robinmark.com/DaysOfElijah_Story.htm). I think it’s interesting enough to read..I guess in general I enjoy learning about the stories, and even more, motivations and ideas behind songs. Still, it’s hard to imagine giving such a detailed description to the congregation…which still makes me wonder if it would be a good idea at our church. Especially when there are two large volumes of clear, Biblically-sound songs sitting on my piano. 😉

  2. Hello Kevin, my name is Tim and I’m a Reformed EvFreer also. A second career seminarian at TEDS who is looking toward church planting.

    If you’re an anachronism, then I’m right there with you. The frustrations you expressed are the same ones I’ve faced when visiting other churches. The church I currently attend is not Reformed and I am sometimes frustrated with them also.

    It seems to me that the worship service should be first and foremost about God. Not golf. Sorry you didn’t land at church #1 on a better Lord’s Day!

    Welcome back. I’ve been checking your blog since just before you went on vacation. Glad to know there are other Reformed minded men in the Free Church!

    Soli Deo Gloria

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