Westminster Weekend: What's Happening in the Church?

The generous folks at Lynden URC (Lynden, WA) broadcast a daily radio show, Abounding Grace Monday-Fri at 8:30AM, on 55 KARI AM in Blaine, WA share their friday program with us at Westminster Seminary California. We call it Westminster Weekend. Yesterday we broadcast the first of a two-part discussion with Chris Gordon (pastor of Lynden URC) about the state of the evangelical church.

You can hear part 1 here.

Part 2 is here.

You won’t want to miss the July programs.

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  1. Thanks Dr. Clark and your guest made a lot of good points but I suspect that if we eliminated all of the saddleback inspired broadly evangelical churches we might see a slight up tick in attendance in conservative reformed congregations but I suspect that the principal beneficiaries would be the Pentecostals and the Anabaptists. I have long ago made my peace with the fact that the kind of worship that I love (old fashioned broad church Anglican liturgy with three substantial readings from the lectionary, a song Psalm, the Nician creed, a choir to sing a nice mix of hymns from the last 1000 or so years and holy communion every Sunday) appeals to a very narrow band of Christians. I don’t like it but it doesn’t keep me up at night. I hate drums, electric guitars, praise music and PowerPoint videos in the worship service but I don’t think there blasphemous. However if the kind of liturgical reforms you advocate were broadly implemented I can’t believe the end result would be anything other then a lot of empty pews. There must be some way to mix Christ centered preaching with worship that appeals to all of today’s Christians (not just reformed theology geeks). I don’t want to make church growth an idol but it seem to me it a problem that the only churches that are following you model you advocate that I know of are small ethnic Dutch congregations who seem to me (a sympatric outsider) completely indifferent to evangelism. Can you (or any of your readers) recommend a church in the Toronto area that would convince me that I am wrong about this?

    • Steve,

      It’s not about style. It’s about the principle around which worship is organized. As we (the Reformed churches) understand Scripture worship is to follow a dialogical pattern: God speaks and his people respond. The primary actor in worship is God and the primary audience is God.

      Since Charles Finney worship has changed audiences. It’s no longer God, it’s “the lost.” The primary actor in worship is no longer God but the skillful entertainers and speakers who are able to justify anything they do on the ground “we’re trying to reach the lost.”

      These are compressed programs (a little less than 14 minutes) so we can’t unfold things are great length but we do hope to stimulate thought and perhaps even change. The hope is that those listeners, who sense that something is wrong but who cannot name it, will hear the program and will look into Reformed worship.

      The next thing that has to happen is that there must be a Reformed congregation to attend. This is a bigger job. That’s why I wrote RRC, to try to help folk see an alternative.

      As to attracting people, well, doesn’t that assume something about who the audience for worship is?

      I don’t know enough about the congregations in the Toronto area to comment.

  2. Thanks for you thoughtful comments you are a real blessing to me. On the one hand I understand the distinction that you want to make between style and substance. But it’s important to remember that to quote a prominent Canadian intellectual “the medium is the message”. Last night I attended the choral evensong at our local Anglican Cathedral. The liturgy was from the classic (and sadly rarely used these days) Book of Common Prayer. The service was identical in form to what you would have found a few blocks to the east in the militantly “low Church” and reformed Little Trinity but the impression I as a congregant got was completely different. When I participate in the liturgy at Little Trinity (or at my home parish for that matter where we use the BCP for our 8:30am Sunday morning service) I always find myself both wrestling with the archaic language and amazed at how theological dense (and reformed) the text is. When I hear the cathedral’s wonderful choir of Men and Boys sing it just washes over me. It may be nurturing my soul but it’s an aesthetic experience I am having I am not engaging with my intellect. Likewise when I recently visited my Dad’s PCA congregation this last Easter Sunday I found the experience of singing my favorite Easter hymn “Christ the lord has risen today” completely change by it presentation by a four piece rock band. When the choir sings I want to join them when a band plays I sit back a listen (or not depending on the volume and quality of the band-in this case defiantly not). The words are the same but the congregant’s experience of “worship” is very different. The Sons of Korah are great but they are very different from what you would encounter in a “wee free” presbyterian congregation in highlands of Scotland. None of this contradicts anything your saying but I think the nuances are important. In what ways would (or should) a working class black (indigenous?) reformed congregation in South Africa differ from there Afrikaner brethren? Should they differ at all and if they did would that make one or the other less reformed?

    • Steve,

      i agree that form is important but I want to resist the move that many make and that is to make this a debate about style. It isn’t. I’m comfortable with good, contemporary tunes for God’s Word written to be sung by the entire congregation.

      We believe in forms too — see the discussion in RRC about the Genevan and Heidelberg liturgies. I have versions of them posted at my WSC website.

  3. Sorry that should have been “Wee Wee Free” (Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland) not the less reformed “Wee Free” (Free Church of Scotland) – Sorry Hamish I know these distinctions are important

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