This is week 2 with Tom. If you didn’t read last week, here is more about him or skip down to the final portion of the interview.
Tom Trouwborst has pastored Calvary OPC in Schenectady, NY for the past 20 years. Prior to pastoring, he spent 10 years as a CPA. The church in Schenectady is challenged by the fact that the town used to be the hub of GE with 30,000+ employees, and now today a little over 1,000 employees.
Here are Tom’s answers to our last couple of questions in the interview….
Question: What is a great idea or practice you learned from someone within the Reformed world?
I smile more. I smile more in the pulpit and with people.
A little bit of background. Reformed churches can be negative. We can criticize sloppy doctrine and sloppy Christian practice. We can assess worldviews and the evils of our age. It is so easy to be negative. It is so easy for me to be negative and for me to lead the church in negativity. By nature, I am good at it.
But I am learning to repent of that, and as part of that, I read this quote on a regular basis: “Well, I believe that it is precisely the POSITIVE, ENCOURAGING nature of his ministry that makes him so ‘effective.’ I remember RC Sproul commenting once on how Reformed preachers need to get over the mournful, dreary way in which we present the Gospel. Smiling and offering HOPE is what the Gospel is about, after all!”
So I smile more. We look at Sunday as a day of joy and gladness, a day to enjoy the Lord. We are looking to create an atmosphere of thanksgiving as part of a positive day, a day of feasting. We sing with gusto, shouting to the Lord (Ps 100:1), rather than whispering or mumbling. Yes, we sing songs of lament and some sermons are sober and sobering. I am not talking about being a happy-clappy church. Yet, foundationally so, we want to be upbeat and positive because God’s plan of redemption is upbeat and positive (Luke 2:10). We love the Lord’s Day and love being together as God’s people on His day, and visitors can sense that (1 Corinthians 14:25).
As part of this, we look to be friendly. We look to greet people with a smile and show them love as God has shown us love. If visitors want to talk, there’s opportunity; almost no one leaves immediately, and a good number of the congregation will still be conversing an hour or so after worship. And some of our visitors stay that long, even on their first visit.
Question: What is the most “successful” outreach thing you’ve done or what has most contributed to your “success?” —not necessarily you personally, could be something you’ve implemented in church life or a collective church practice or approach.
We have no “success” stories per se or one thing that has “worked.” But we pray every Wednesday for outreach and every Sunday morning that God would bring visitors and we would be able to minister well unto them. The simplest and most basic thing we do is to encourage our members to invite others to church. We attempt to have relevant, applicable sermons. Our church has a more than an average number of excellent musicians. We have held Friday night concerts, inviting as many as we can and sometimes our attendance has been low, but sometimes we have had a full house. We printed Heidelberg Catechism question and answer #1 cards, and have handed them out (“My Only Comfort”). We have done VBS. We encourage hospitality and seek to practice it regularly, including monthly fellowship meals to which visitors are invited. We have a sign (that people can see) and change a message on the sign weekly.