A Sidekick's Blog

Great Quote to Accompany Amos

July 2, 2017
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You know the little Old Testament book, Amos, right? It’s a favorite of mine. Today in our church bulletin a great quote was printed to accompany our lesson from Amos 5:18-27:

Why do people at church seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a package tour of the absolute? Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a new batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning.

It is madness to wear ladies’ straw and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw is out to where we can never return.

-Annie Dillard


It’s Not Just Academic

February 14, 2016
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Suzie had to jostle me to wakefulness today during a sermon that should have been impossible to sleep through. I might have really embarrassed myself today if not for Suzie! So thank you, Valentine, for poking me in church today!

We talked about it after church. Most of my readers know that Suzie and I come from a Charismatic and Pentecostal background. Those churches are known for shouting, dancing, and jumping over the pews over any little utterance, however meaningless. Now we’re in a Reformed church, where the Regulative Principle of Worship is taken very seriously (God is the One who gets to decide how He is worshiped, and we don’t get to make up our own ways of worshiping Him that make us feel good). It’s a good, sound, biblical principle. But there has to be some kinda middle ground between Charismatic emotionalism and Reformed fight-sleep-through-an-awesome-sermonism.

It’s easy for me to imagine, sitting through a service like today’s at my church, that the people don’t actually believe a single word of what they’re hearing. Because if even a fraction of it were true, they should be – well, shouting and dancing and jumping over the pews, frankly. That is especially true of any church that teaches the doctrines of grace rather than that semi-Pelagian “maybe-so, if…” doctrine.

I understand we don’t go to church to be entertained, for goodnessakes. That’s a given for a Reformed Christian. But does it have to be so devoid of emotion that it becomes mere academia? I should not be able to sleep or even get sleepy during the worship of Almighty God who has done and is doing so many awesomely wonderful things for His people! Especially during the highlight of the service when His word is opened and the truth is expounded.

I’m grateful to report that the elders of my church are doing some deep study and prayer about “waking up” the sleepy church services without violating the uncompromising Regulative Principle. But it’s easier for me to appreciate churches that have struggled with this before and come down on the side of at least partially rejecting that principle, if only to prevent accidents like the one described in Acts 20:8-12. Don’t feel too bad, pastor, the Apostle Paul had people fall asleep during his sermons too! But we shouldn’t need to go and raise some kid from the dead every Sunday because church puts people to sleep.

Simplicity, Sincerity and Worship

December 15, 2013
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I have been a Baptist, a Charismatic (Pentecostal), a Presbyterian, and now – for the time being – an unaffiliated “Protestant.”

In all that time, the sweetest and purest and most deeply satisfying worship experience I have ever known, apart from my own private time alone with God, was the unaccompanied singing of Psalms – scripture that was written to be sung! Unfettered by ecclesiastical traditions and trappings, uncluttered by the addition of organ, piano, or guitar, unassuming, unpretentious, and unerring in the perfection of the words of scripture itself, and sung from the heart by a handful of Jesus’ disciples who wished only to adore Him, and to do so in the way He Himself prescribed instead of inventing some fancy, elaborate pomp and ceremony as if to impress Him, or in some effort to bring Him down from heaven into our midst. That simple time of worship, lasting only minutes, was as close as I have ever come to “heaven on Earth.”

Much more so than in those times of frenzied Pentecostal efforts to “conjure up the Holy Ghost” (to put it as kindly as I can), and much more so than in the grand, lofty, High Church, Anglican-style pomp and ceremony of my last former church. Today I revisited my old church because I have family visiting this week for whom it is their home church. But if today’s visit had been my first visit to this PCA church, it would surely have been my last. While all the pomp and ceremony is beautiful and pleasing to the senses, and while on it’s face the words of the liturgy and song service were fully glorifying to God, there was little else to appeal to a simple, humble sidekick who just wants to adore his Lord as the Lord has instructed. And the sermon, the pastor walked over to the Advent Wreath and explained that neither he nor the Session really knows what it’s supposed to mean, we just have it there and light the candles in a certain order because. Just because. My first thought: “Is this a Reformed church?” My second thought: “No, apparently not (that is, more apparent than before), and that’s part of the reason I left.” So we’ve got all these symbols and ceremonial trappings borrowed from Anglicanism, Romanism, and even Eastern Orthodoxy, which we don’t even understand, yet we employ them in “Reformed” worship? Was all that pomp and circumstance supposed to make up for such a sermon?

picard headesk

Don’t get me wrong, I know this Pastor well enough to know that he loves the Lord and is passionate for His gospel. I know him to be a devoted servant of Christ who is not only a lot smarter than me, but far more disciplined spiritually, mentally, and academically than me. I’d love to be half the Christian he is! And yet, simplicity and humility in my faith, in my practice, and in my worship have become far more valuable to me lately than academic discipline and spiritual knowledge. That denomination’s willingness to tolerate the damnable heresy of “the Federal Vision” eventually manifests itself this way I suppose, since FV is basically little more than a call back to Rome! The Reformation’s Regulative Principle of Worship is simply the doctrine of Sola Scriptura applied to worship. I suppose it just figures that the Regulative Principle would be an early casualty of my former church’s tolerance for such a heresy.

It makes me sad. And at the same time, glad to have found another church that practices sincere, humble, simple, unpretentious worship – and they’ve never even heard of the Regulative Principle of Worship.