Children in Church

Often times we are asked why our little children sit through an entire worship service with the adults. I suppose it has become so commonplace to us that we do not even notice – unless, of course, a young child puts up a real fuss!

Many churches today have followed the practice of “children’s church”. This practice suggests that either before the worship service begins or just before the preaching, children are dismissed from the worship service to attend a Sunday School lesson or project. It is claimed that this is more profitable for children than to sit under a long sermon aimed, not at children, but at the edification of adults.

We do not follow this practice. Again, the question is often asked: why not? That is a good question and worthy of an answer.

Training children

We well know as parents that training children is something that takes place already when they are infants. When taught good habits they generally will adopt those habits the rest of their lives. This is why we keep our children with us during the worship service. We train them at a very early age to get used to sitting in church. We have found this to be successful too! Usually by the age of three or four they are pretty well trained, although they still test mom and dad by constantly telling them they have to go to the restroom!

We realize that there is a time (terrible twos?) when a child is too young to understand why he or she must be quiet in church. When they are constantly talking or fussing of crying it disturbs the other members of the church so that they are not able to listen. Out of common courtesy we then take our children out of the service. Generally, a parent will take them to our nursery found in the back of the church. If this is the case with your family, we have people that will be more than happy to care for your children in the nursery.

Is not “children’s church” better for our children?

Some argue that “children’s church” is better for our children since they are busy with Bible projects that will teach them something rather than sitting in a worship service out of which they receive nothing. Our answer to this is: not really.

First of all, it does not solve the problem children making noise in church. By the time they are old enough even to attend “children’s church” they are beyond the noisy years, or should be if they have been sitting in church. But, in the second place, there is good reason for our children to sit beneath the preaching of the gospel. The preaching of God’s Word is the means by which God works saving faith in our hearts and in the hearts of our children (I Corinthians 1:18ff.)

It is true that our little children understand very little of the sermon preached. But with proper training and through constant exposure to the Word they begin to pick up facts and truths out of the sermon. When mom and dad foster this, by the time children are in school they already are able to hear things in the sermon that might surprise us as parents! To expose our children as soon as possible to the preaching of the Word is good for their spiritual nurture and health.

Weekly children’s church

Just because our children sit in church on Sunday does not mean that we do not have children’s church. We do! We do not call it that, however. We call it catechism class. Neither do we hold it at the same time as the worship service. Most of these catechism classes are held on a particular day of the week.

Beginning with first grade and through the teenage years our minister gives our children systematic instruction in Bible History and Reformed doctrine. He teaches five different catechism classes each aimed at the level of learning the children are capable of at their age. If you would care to examine the materials he uses, just ask someone of the church and he or she will make them available to you.

Why so Quiet and Orderly?

There may be those who visit our worship services who will be immediately struck by how quiet and orderly the worship is.

The Solemnity of Worship

We believe that our worship must be solemn. The definition that Webster gives in his dictionary for solemn is, “marked by grave sedateness and earnest sobriety.” There are no jokes told or laughter heard, there is no loud and disorderly behavior during our worship services because we believe these are inappropriate for proper worship of God. The Bible teaches about worship in Ecclesiastes 5:1, 2: “Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.”

As we find from the above quote, the heart of worship is bowing before God in humble adoration. He is all glorious, almighty, sovereign in His rule over all things. He is majestic and terrible in His dignity (Psalm 47:2; Psalm 66:3). Man is but a little creature in the hand of his almighty Creator and is called solemnly to gather in worship of His holy name. “But the LORD is in His holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him” ( Habakkuk 2:20).

The Orderliness of Worship

The congregation established in the city of Corinth by the apostle Paul during his second missionary journey was known for its loud and disorderly worship service. Some members spoke in tongues, others had a psalm to sing, others wanted to pray in the church, and still others had a prophecy to relate. All of these were vying for a place during the worship service. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church God through this apostle admonished the church there. “If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak in tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad” (I Corinthians 14:23)? God’s Word regulates the worship of the church in this way, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (vs. 40). Why? “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (vs. 34). God calls us to solemn worship by means of an orderly way of worship.

The Purpose of Worship

The purpose of worship is to magnify the name of God. It is to hold His name before us in praise and pay homage unto Him. Such praise and honor is given when attention is focused on God and what He has done for us. Any attention drawn away from God and given to man takes from God what belongs to Him alone. It is for this reason that worship must be quiet and solemn. God’s people must be more quick to listen than to speak.

The chief way God’s name can be magnified in worship is the way God Himself has prescribed in the Bible; the preaching. When that preacher who is properly trained and called by the church carefully expounds and applies God’s Word then we hear what God is saying to us. The Bible is what the Spirit says to the churches. When we sit quietly and listen carefully to the Word of God preached, then we are listening to the Spirit of God speak to us through the mouth of His servant. We must not mistake that worship aimed at arousing one’s emotions or feelings as the proper means of receiving the Spirit. The Spirit is present and working in the worship service that focuses on careful instruction given through the preaching of the Word. It is for this reason then that we conduct quiet and orderly worship services.

The King James Version

The King James Version of the Bible.

You probably have noticed, or will notice, that the particular version of the Bible we read from, preach from, and have available to you in the pew is the King James Version. This is the English translation of the Bible the Protestant Reformed Churches use during the worship services, in the catechism classes, and in their Bible studies. This version may have some disadvantages since it is written in the old English language and, for that reason, has some outdated words and phrases in it, but we still consider it a good and accurate translation of the Bible.

The King James Version or the Authorized Version was written in 1611 by order of King James I of England. Since the Bible was originally written in the Hebrew and Greek languages it was necessary for the men who did the translating to be scholars in these languages. For that reason King James appointed 47 Bible scholars all of whom were fluent in these languages. These men also compared their translation with other great scholars who had translated the Bible into English before them. You may recognize the names of Wycliffe, Coverdale, and Tyndale.

It was obvious that the translators of the King James Version were highly spiritual men who had a deep respect for the Word of God. We read in the preface to the KJV, “And what a marvel? The original thereof being from heaven, and not earth; the author being God, not man: the enditer [the one who prompted it], the Holy Spirit, not the wit of the Apostles or Prophets; the Pen-men, such as were sanctified from the womb, and endowed with a principle portion of God’s Spirit; the matter, verity, piety, purity, uprightness; the form, God’s word, God’s testimony, God’s oracles, the word of Truth, the word of salvation . . . “ The work they did in translating this version of the Bible was careful work which took several years.

Why we use the King James Version

Until the 1960s and the sudden increase of modern paraphrases of the Bible, the KJV was the principle and most widely distributed version of the Bible available. Even today it still ranks first among translations sold. But, sad to say, it is now only one among a whole host of different English versions of the Bible and has, as a result, become lost to many. What Bishop Bancroft of London expressed when he was commanded to oversee the translation of the King James Version has become true: “If every man’s humor should be followed, there would be no end of translating.” Today many different versions of the Bible are available, few of which are accurate translations of the original languages. They vary so much it is difficult to follow along in one version while another is being read. God’s people begin to wonder if there really is a version available anymore that they can truly call God’s Word.

It is for that reason that our churches have continued the use of the King James Version. It is not as though we would consider a modern translation of the Bible wrong. Neither do we believe that it is wrong when someone uses another translation in his personal studies so long it is an accurate and faithful version. But the vast majority of the translations that have been published today are not faithful to the original and therefore contain many inaccuracies. Some versions even advance doctrinal errors. This cannot be said of the King James Version.

There are two reasons we believe the King James Version is faithful and accurate. First, it is based upon what is known as the Received Text. The Received Text is based on hundreds of manuscripts that were “received” or approved by the church for centuries. Yet, with the exception of three or four modern versions of the Bible, all modern translations of the Bible are mostly based upon 10 to 20 percent of these manuscripts that omit or change thousands of words in the Bible. This is one reason we believe the King James Version is a faithful and accurate. It is based on the majority of the old Hebrew and Greek manuscripts.

The second reason we continue the use of the King James Version is: the translators of this version were committed to “verbal inspiration”. This terminology simply means that God moved holy men to record word for word in the Bible exactly what He had chosen to make known to us. The vast majority of modern versions are translated by men who believe that God only inspired the thoughts of men but not the words they wrote. In other words, they believe that men recorded in their own words their inspired thoughts. For that reason, these translators have no problem adding or subtracting words from the Bible, or worse, rewording an entire phrase or sentence to express what they think the writers of the Bible meant. This has resulted in many inaccuracies, omissions, and even doctrinal errors in the translation. Since our churches maintain the truth of verbal inspiration we believe the King James Version truly remains a faithful version of the Bible.

Using the King James Version

We well understand that for a person who has always used a version in modern English it may seem strange to hear the Bible read in old English. Since we use this version in every aspect of our church life, it has become second nature to us. This is not true, we realize, of most of our visitors. But if you persevere with us, it really does not take long to catch on to the meaning of the old English words and phrases. Despite this obvious difficulty, we are assured that the King James Version expresses accurately the Word of God.

What is the Psalter?

The Psalter is the official songbook of the Protestant Reformed Churches, adopted for use during our worship services. It consists of various versifications of the 150 Psalms as well as two renditions of the Lord’s Prayer (numbers 433 and 434). The last few numbers in the Psalter (numbers 414 – 432), entitled “The Chorale Section”, consist of several Dutch tunes still sung in some Reformed Churches in the Netherlands today.

In the introduction to the Psalter is found this interesting piece of information. “This Psalter was first published in 1912 by the United Presbyterian Church. It was the fruit of the labors of nearly twenty years, by a committee drawn from nine American and Canadian denominations.” When a songbook has been used for as many years as the Psalter has in the Protestant Reformed Churches, the members of the church come to know it well. For that reason, the Psalter is highly cherished and its songs sung with gusto.

Why use the Psalter?

The Psalter can be distinguished from other songbooks used in churches. The Psalter is made up only of versifications of the Psalms. Hymnbooks, on the other hand, consist mostly of songs written about different biblical events or religious experiences. Because the Protestant Reformed Churches have chosen to sing Psalms in the worship service instead of hymns does not mean that hymns are wrong. It does not mean that God’s people may not sing hymns. There are many hymns that are thoroughly biblical and are a joy to sing. Yet, when it comes to our worship services our denomination is indeed partial to Psalm singing.

There are two reasons we use versifications of the Psalms rather than hymns. The first is: the book of Psalms is the songbook of the Bible. The Psalms are inspired by the Holy Spirit and recorded for the edification of the church. What better way to keep a worship service centered in the Word of God than the use of that Word in singing? What better way to keep error out of the church than to limit the songs for worship to God’s inspired songbook? Too often error has been introduced into the church by allowing the sweet and melodious, yet heretical, music and words of men to be sung in the church. Singing versifications of the Psalms safeguards the church from this alluring way that enemies of the truth, at times, use to lead the church astray.

A second reason we use versifications of the Psalms is found in their content. As churches we emphasize the sovereign majesty and glory of God. We preach His sovereign rule, His sovereign grace, and His sovereign purpose for all things. The Psalms are filled with this emphasis. They are filled with depth and meaning as opposed to many (surely not all) hymns that can be superficial in character. Since the Psalms express the glory and might of God we enjoy singing them during the worship service because they best express our faith. (See the pamphlet “Questions about the Worship Services in the Protestant Reformed Churches”)

How do I learn the Psalter numbers?

We know that when a visitor first comes to church these songs may seem somewhat foreign and strange, but the tunes are not really all that difficult to learn. If you are interested just ask us for a Psalter to take home with you. You are also able to listen to the songs of the Psalter on various CDs and over the internet (for example, ). Just contact us if you are interested in obtaining a CD.

Using ‘Thee’ and ‘Thou’ in Prayer

The tradition of using Thee and Thou to address God.

Every church has its own unique characteristics and traditions. Some of them we are used to while others seem strange and foreign to us. At present the ministers of our churches and most of the members still use the old English pronouns “Thee” and “Thou” to address God in prayer. To many people this tradition may be totally new. To others who remember the old practice it has, in their mind, become obsolete. Most people address God using the common pronouns, “You” and “Your”.

We do not deny that the use of “Thee and Thou” to address God in prayer is a tradition. It is not something that is required or demanded by the Word of God. We certainly do not accuse those who use “You and Your” in addressing God of sinning, as long as the language of their prayers, that is, the way they speak to God is reverent and God-glorifying. There is nothing holy about old English pronouns. Neither do we condemn a person for using modern pronouns when addressing God. It is a matter of Christian liberty.

An old practice.

At one time the vast majority of English speaking Christians addressed God using “Thee and Thou”. This was true because of the large influence of Presbyterian Calvinism in the British Isles and the United States. Calvinism is a name that has become synonymous with the truth of God’s sovereignty. That God is sovereign means that He rules in great power over all the creatures of His hands. He sits in heaven and the earth is His footstool. All creatures, including all men, are subject to His control and power. As our divine Creator and Ruler, God does what pleases Him, and no one can question Him. His is the right and the power to rule over all things.

Because all of this is true of God, we are called to bow before Him in fear. The chief duty of man is to fear God. This means when we speak about Him or to Him we do so with deep reverence and respect. For that reason, the old English pronouns “Thee and Thou” were utilized in addressing God in prayer in order to hold God in highest esteem and speak to Him with the deepest of respect.

This tradition changed with the onset of the 1970s. It was said by some that this tradition held God in too high esteem and therefore made prayer impersonal because it distanced God too far from us. That people started addressing God using “You and Your” was not in itself wrong, however. What was wrong is that with this the entire language of prayer changed. God was no longer held in high esteem. People no longer spoke to Him with reverence and in godly fear. He was spoken to as if He were a buddy. Petitions became shallow and mundane. The language of prayer changed. This view of prayer has continued to this day.

Our continued use of the old English pronouns.

Again, the use of “Thee and Thou” in addressing God in prayer may seem like an odd practice to those who are not used to addressing God in this way. But the ministers of our churches and most of our members continue its use because they were taught to do so from childhood. Neither is the use of “Thee and Thou” in prayer discouraged. We still think it is an excellent tradition.

We also follow the practice that our ministers preach regularly on the Lord’s Prayer in order to teach us the proper petitions we must ask of God in prayer. This way our prayers continue to be God-glorifying and reverent.

Heidelberg Catechism Preaching

What is the Heidelberg Catechism?

When visiting a Protestant Reformed Church for the first time the possibility exists that you hear a sermon based upon the Heidelberg Catechism. You can tell if the sermon is a Heidelberg Catechism sermon when a part of this confession is read before the sermon is preached, and when repeated mention is made of it during the sermon.

The Heidelberg Catechism is one of three creeds or confessions that all churches of Reformed persuasion maintain as true expressions of the truth contained in the Bible. The other two confessions are: The Belgic Confession (1561) and the Canons of Dordrecht (1618-1619). The Heidelberg Confession received its name from the place of its origin, Heidelberg, Germany. In order that the Reformed faith might be systematically taught to God’s people, Elector Frederick III commissioned men to write a manual for instruction. This manual was prepared and first published in 1563, and soon became known as the Heidelberg Catechism. It was adopted as one of the confessions of the Reformed churches of the Netherlands at the Synod of Dordrecht in 1618 -1619.

If you glance through this confession (you can find it in the back of our songbook, The Psalter) you will see that it is divided into three major parts: Of the Misery of Man, Of Man’s Deliverance, and Of Thankfulness. You will also find that there are 52 Lord’s Days each containing a distinct doctrine of the Bible. The Catechism is divided in this way in order that every Sunday of the year a sermon can be preached on each of the Lord’s Days. By the end of the year the entire confession has been preached. We realize, of course, that this is good in theory, but it does not always work out in practice. But we try! Although many Reformed churches have discontinued this practice, the Protestant Reformed Churches view it as a valuable tradition.

Why preach the Heidelberg Catechism?

This may seem like a strange practice for those who visit us for the first time. We realize that. For that reason, it is not wrong to question why we follow this old tradition. We will try to give a simple explanation, but if you have any more questions be sure to ask one of our members. The minister preaches a Heidelberg Catechism sermon each Sunday in order that God’s people might receive systematic instruction in all truths revealed in the Bible. If a minister simply chooses to preach on random passages out of the Bible (as every minister does), then it is easy for him to overlook certain truths of the Bible that need to be taught and understood by his congregation. He does not necessarily do this purposely; it just simply happens. Certain doctrines of the Bible are inadvertently overlooked. The result is that the church can easily forget these blessed truths, and the members of the church become spiritually weak for lack of knowledge. To avoid this problem our churches maintain that a minister must preach his way through the Heidelberg Catechism. This way all the truths of the Bible are expounded for God’s people. This confession presents these truths in a warm, personal way to avoid preaching cold, abstract dogma. When preached properly the Catechism brings the truths of the Bible to bear personally on the lives of those who listen.

But is it right for a minister to preach out of a confession rather than the Bible itself? That too is a very good question! The answer is “Yes”, as long as the confession itself is thoroughly grounded in, and a faithful expression of, what the Bible teaches. Then when a minister preaches out of the Confession, he is, in reality, preaching out of the Bible itself. In fact, if the minister is doing his work right, he is constantly making reference to many passages of the Bible, revealing that what he proclaims is indeed biblical. By using the Heidelberg Catechism the minister is able to blend together the many passages of the Bible that teach a particular truth. This is why we enjoy Heidelberg Catechism preaching. (This information is gleaned from the pamphlet, “Questions about the Worship Services in the Protestant Reformed Churches”)

Where can I obtain the Heidelberg Catechism?

If you are interested in obtaining this confession to examine for yourself, just ask one of the members of our church and he/she will (at no cost) supply you with a “Three Forms of Unity” book. This booklet contains all of our confessions. If you are interested in listening to any number of sermons on the Heidelberg Catechism, again, just ask a member of the church and they will direct you to the person who does our recordings. Then you can sit back at your leisure and begin to understand why we enjoy Heidelberg Catechism preaching.

Reading the Ten Commandments

A practice that is common to Reformed churches is the reading of the ten commandments during the worship service once every Sunday. This is not a common practice, however, to many Protestants outside of Reformed churches.

In fact, some people and churches raise a couple of objections against this practice. One objection is raised by some protestant churches: the reading of the law is a part of the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. It goes hand in hand with the legalism that is found in that denomination. A protestant church therefore ought to distinguish itself from the Roman Catholic Church by excluding the reading of the law from worship.

A second objection is raised by more than a few today too. It is claimed that the church of the New Testament is no longer under law. It is under grace. The keeping of the ten commandments is no longer in affect. Christ has freed us from the slavery of the law. The believer today must be led by the Spirit to determine what is right and wrong. To read the law during the worship service is a bad practice because it enslaves the church to the law again.

We want to answer these objections. We hope in doing so we will also be able to explain why we believe it is a good practice to read the law, but also to preach on the law.

A good, biblical practice

During the reign of king Josiah the nation of Judah had turned from the ways of God. The nation no longer kept God’s laws. The temple where that law was taught had fallen into total disrepair. Josiah was a good king and he decided to reform the nation of Judah. He began by fixing the temple. It was while making repairs on the temple that Hilkiah, the high priest found the book of the law. He brought it to Josiah and Josiah read it with amazement and dismay. Judah had departed so far from that law. Josiah then ordered that the law be read in the ears of all Israel. Afterwards, he appointed men to go through the nation and teach the people the law. (See II Kings 22:1 – 23:25).

We bring up this account because it reveals what happens to the church when it is not reminded of God’s law and her need to walk in the way of God’s commandments. The church soon forgets God’s ways and walks in her own ways. It is this that answers all objections against the reading or preaching of God’s law. Believers need to hear and know the law of God. It is necessary for their walk of holiness before God.

God’s law is a rule for godly living

It may very well be true that the ten commandments are read in the Roman Catholic Church because it is thought that a keeping of those commandments will merit salvation. Certainly, we do not agree with that! But this does not mean that the practice of reading the commandments is wrong in itself. Reformed believers maintain that keeping God’s commandments is a rule for showing our thankfulness for the salvation earned for us by Christ on the cross. Keeping those commands does not save us, but it is the way we walk in that salvation. Desiring to walk according to God’s law is the fruit of salvation in our hearts. For that reason, God’s people must always be reminded of those commandments. Reading them during the worship service and preaching on them periodically is a good reminder of our calling before God.

God’s people are not without law

Those who object because they believe the Christian is not subject to God’s law anymore, but is led only by the Spirit and by grace are wrong. No kingdom is without law. The kingdom of Christ is not without law either. By means of God’s law we are free to walk in the ways of the kingdom of heaven. The heart of the law is loving God and the neighbor. If we truly love God then we will strive to keep His commandments (I John 5:2, 3).

Besides, if we were to say that we need not adhere to God’s commandments anymore today, then we begin to do what is right in our own eyes. We must not forget that there is still sin in us. Sin will deceive us. So, we read the law during our worship services. As we do we pray God will by His grace more and more help us to keep that law.

The Length of Sermons

The importance of preaching

An element of worship that a person unfamiliar with our church services most often notices is the length of our sermons. Our services are approximately an hour and a half long, and most of that time is spent listening to the preaching. A person accustomed to a shorter sermon will after about 15 minutes begin to wonder why the preacher is not finishing it up. Then, as the sermon continues the pew starts getting harder and the question comes to mind, why so long? The question is understandable!

We believe that the preaching is the chief means God uses to strengthen and encourage a person in his faith. In fact, not only does the preaching of the gospel confirm a person’s faith, but at times it even works faith in the hearts of people. The apostle Paul emphasizes in I Corinthians 1:21 that, “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Romans 10:13-15 teaches the same truth concerning the preaching. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”

For that reason the sermon occupies a central position in our worship services. We believe it is the most important element around which the rest of our service revolves. All the other parts of the worship service must be subservient to and support the preaching.

Why the length of the sermon?

It has been said, “if the preacher cannot say what he needs to say in 15 minutes, then it is not worth listening to.” I wonder if we would say that about our favorite football team? “If my team cannot win the game in 15 minutes, it is not worth watching!” Consider once the amount of time per week we spend in God’s house compared to all the daily activities with which we consume our time, especially the recreational activities. Is 15 minutes of God’s Word (once, maybe twice on a Sunday) really enough to strengthen a believer spiritually for an entire week? Is it long enough to call the unbeliever to faith and repentance and then lead him to the cross of Jesus Christ? We need spiritual food in order to keep us spiritually healthy. If we do not receive enough spiritual food we will become weak in our faith and unable to withstand the powerful foe of the church, Satan.

Another reason our sermons are longer is in order to do justice to the explanation of a passage of God’s Word. It is true that some passages require less time to explain and apply than other passages, but enough time must be allowed to give a passage its due. If this is not done, the Word of God can be given a rather superficial treatment. For this reason we allow plenty of time for the minister both to explain carefully the meaning of a passage, and also to apply it to the lives of those listening.

We realize that for some it takes time to become accustomed to sitting and concentrating for a longer period of time. But the more you do it, the easier it becomes! Especially this is true when the Spirit is working, because it does not take long for the preaching to work in our hearts interest and even conviction in the Word of God. We hope this is true of you too!

The Simplicity of Worship

How often we have found that those visiting us are puzzled over the simplicity of our worship service! Let’s face it, on the one hand, there are no elaborate rituals or lengthy ceremonies found in our worship services. Neither, are there any motivational speakers, singing groups, or dramatic presentations included in our worship. We do not even have a church choir that sings for us during the worship service. The service consists of reading of God’s Word, singing, prayer, and preaching. That’s it.

Please do not misunderstand. Just because these things are absent from our worship services does not mean we do not enjoy some of them. We love to hear choirs or special music groups sing. We even sponsor these at times. We enjoy lectures and seminars given on various subjects. These too we will sponsor. But we do not include them in the worship of the church. As with all aspects of our worship there are reasons for this.

The primacy of preaching

The first of these reasons is our emphasis on the preaching. You may want to take with you another of these brochures entitled, “The Length of Sermons”. This brochure also explains our position regarding preaching. We believe that, according to Scripture, the sermon is what must receive time and attention during the worship service. Preaching is the chief task of the church (II Timothy 4:1, 2; I Corinthians 9:16; Romans 10:13-17). The preaching is primary in our worship services because God uses it to save people as well as to maintain the faith of those who are saved (I Corinthians 1:18-24). By means of the preaching God’s people acquire knowledge in the Scriptures. Through the preaching God’s people acquire understanding and wisdom. They learn how to use their knowledge to live a holy life in this world.

All of our worship therefore centers in the preaching. When God’s Word is read, it forms the basis of that which is preached. When we sing, it is in response to the reading and preaching of God’s Word. When we pray, it is to ask God’s blessing on us as we hear His Word and apply that Word to our lives. God speaks to His people through the preaching and we speak to Him through singing and prayer. By means of this type of worship, God dwells in fellowship with us, and we with God.

The regulative principle of worship

A second reason for keeping our worship services simple is what has become known as the “regulative principle of worship.” Many churches maintain that anything may be included in worship as long as the Bible does not condemn it. But this opens up the worship for anything that man may desire. All we need to do is observe the services in some churches to see how far the imagination of man can take him!

The regulative principle of worship simply means that the Bible must dictate to us what ought to be included in our worship services. It regulates our worship. The Bible obviously commands the church to preach the gospel. In order to preach the gospel, the Bible must be read. Congregational singing is sanctioned by God’s Word in Ephesians 5:20. Prayers are to be made (I Thessalonians 5:17, 18). Collections for kingdom causes are to be taken (I Corinthians 16:1, 2). God tells us to worship Him by these means and for that reason we include them in our worship. Many of the elements in contemporary worship today are not sanctioned by God Himself in His Word. Neither are the elaborate rituals and ceremonies of Therefore, we do not include them in our worship.

The focus on God

One last reason we keep our worship services simple is to maintain a focus on God’s glory. We realize that all worship makes this claim. But with the elements suggested today in contemporary worship comes a shift of attention. Man receives the attention. Perhaps this is not intentional, but it happens. The singer, the speaker, or the actor become the focus. The preaching focuses our attention on God and what He has done for us. Through good preaching God’s name is glorified. Through congregational singing and through prayer God’s name is glorified. The focus is on God.

May we in our worship and in our lives seek the glory of God’s name.

Two Sunday Worship Services

The Reformed practice of two Sunday worship services.

The Protestant Reformed Churches follow the long established practice of holding two official worship services on Sunday. Most of our visitors at first may not notice this because when they visit it is usually for one worship service anyway. But if you take a look at our bulletin you will find listed there the sermons for both the morning and evening worship services. The Reformed tradition of two worship services on Sunday can be traced back to the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s.

We realize that this is not a common practice in many churches today. For that reason we thought it good to offer an explanation of why we continue to hold two Sunday worship services.

The Lord’s Day as a day of rest

The fourth commandment of the ten commandments requires of the believer to “remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” This day is a day of rest. But we must not mistake the rest of the Lord’s Day to be mere physical rest. There is no doubt that God requires of us that we cease from the activities that fill the other six days of the week. But this does not mean that we sit idle all Sunday long in order to “rest” on that day. This one particular day of the week God sets aside to keep it holy unto Him. That means we must dedicate and consecrate this day to the worship of God. Believers must use this day to meditate on the things of the kingdom of heaven.

This is a good thing. Just as we grow weak physically when we do not nourish ourselves with food and strengthen ourselves with exercise, the same is true spiritually. We need to spend a day feeding ourselves spiritually with God’s Word and exercising ourselves in things that are spiritual. If we do not then we will become weak spiritually. An important part of this eating and exercising ourselves spiritually is going to God’s house. There we can sit for a little while and hear God’s Word preached, we can sing together with God’s people, and we can lift our prayers before God.

What a wonderful privilege it is to attend God’s house! This is how we keep the Lord’s Day holy unto Him. I know, two times in one day? And then we sit there for an hour and a half? That seems to be a lot of time spent in worship in one day! But is it really? How many hours do we spend sitting in front of our TV sets or reading a book during a week? Three hours a week in God’s house certainly is not too much time spent in spiritual matters is it? In fact, if we really analyze it, three hours is not enough! Besides, if we really crave the food of God’s Word (I Peter 2:2,3), if we really want to exercise ourselves spiritually (I Timothy 4:7, 8), what a wonderful opportunity to attend to these needs by going to God’s house.

In wisdom our Reformed fathers set the number of worship services as two – at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day. This assists the child of God in keeping the whole day holy unto the Lord.

Frequenting God’s house

It is true that the Bible does not set down a rule of two worship services every Sunday. But the Bible does make this requirement in Hebrews 10:23-25: “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, . . . not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” It is a requirement of every believer to assemble himself together with other believers in the house of God. Worship is necessary. The preaching and the sacraments are necessary for the welfare of every believer.

When given the opportunity to frequent God’s house therefore, we joy in that opportunity! We do not count it drudgery to come twice a Sunday. We do not come merely because we have to. We see it as a blessing God has given us! For that reason, we gladly carry on the practice.