In this series of posts, we will consider the practices of other churches that share some similarities with the OPC, though also some significant differences. With some of the examples (ten in number), we may see some ways in which their practice is inconsistent with our doctrinal commitments, but also hopefully learn from these brothers and sisters in Christ. In particular, we hope to learn more effective ways to welcome new people into the language and culture of our worship, practice, and life as a church.
Call to Worship: An Acts 29 church with a Calvinistic pastor regularly uses words from the gospel of Matthew – “to all who are weary and heavy laden” – as his starting point but then he will begin to insert other contemporary invitations ….”to all who know their hope isn’t in themselves…..to all who feel the weight and difficulty of life……to all who feel like an outsider in a world of insiders….Jesus says come.” He varies it each week and he does it consistent with his personality, which is kind and somewhat gentle.
Initial Reformed Reaction: This is too creative for a call to worship. God didn’t say these things, and as clearly expressed in our Directory for Worship, the call to worship is God calling his people into his presence for worship. It should be a call “in God’s own words” through the minister as God’s representative, without the insertion of our own words.
The Principle that transfers:Every Lord’s Day, the infinite, eternal, and unchangeable God calls his people into his presence for worship. And that same God who creates and sustains all things gives us a warm invitation into his presence. In the example above, the pastor makes a concerted effort to remind people of the personal nature of God and worship – He’s calling all kinds of people who face all kinds of difficulties. He knows his children by name and he knows their circumstances. That is the God who welcomes you. God is personally welcoming people into his presence and this pastor is seeking to convey the personal nature of that call. Though this particular approach appears out of step with our commitments, we can ask the question: how can we better prepare people to understand the remarkable truth that God himself personally welcomes so many people with so many different blessings and challenges into his presence? People new to church, and even people who have attended for many years, often don’t realize this fundamental reality: that we are there to meet with God.