I’m getting some interesting feedback on the earlier post regarding the second service. A few thoughts:
1) I discuss this at length in the forthcoming volume, Recovering the Reformed Confession. So I don’t want to repeat all of that material here.
2) Some have written to suggest that the second service was a “Dutch” thing. Well, actually, it wasn’t. As Visscher says, it was a universal, trans-cultural, Reformed practice until very recently.
3) There is strong exegetical, biblical warrant for the second service. It’s not just an historical practice that we’ve outgrown. See the forthcoming chapter in Recovering.
[I know it’s frustrating when I cite works that don’t yet exist. When will it appear? I wish I could say. It’s with a publisher right now.]
4) It’s true that many Reformed congregations are commuter churches. This presents real problems. I understand. We commute 23 miles one way to church in high-speed So Cal traffic. There were families in my congregation in Kansas City who commuted 45 minutes one way! When we had two services they drove back and forth every Sabbath.
Cancelling the second service is not a solution. One solution is to hold a congregational lunch and then a second service. It might be that the catechism instruction has to be de-centralized. Better to do that than to de-centralize the second service in favor of cell groups.
5) The ugly truth, as I see it when I travel, is that congregations are abandoning the second service not because of the challenges posed by commuting members but because they no longer see the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments as a means of grace. This is a national phenomenon.
6) I know this is true because I myself encouraged our elders in Kansas City to cancel the second service. I did it because I did not appreciate the uniqueness of preaching and sacraments as the divinely instituted means of grace. We replaced the second service with bible studies. These were edifying but they weren’t the means of grace. We watched videos. These were instructional and helpful, but they weren’t the means of grace. We prayed. This was edifying and the Westminster Standards do describe prayer as a means of grace, but, in context, the divines seemed to have prayer in the stated services in view and certainly not private gatherings.
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
7) One of the most interesting things I’ve ever seen as a teacher is the response I get whenever I criticize small groups. Some years ago I posted to the web a brilliant piece from the Nicotine Theological Journal criticizing small groups. You can’t imagine the response! I’ll try to find it and post it here.