Monday 29 March 2010

What is Worship (Part Two)?

A theology of worship is necessary for churches to re-think how their theology informs their architecture, furniture, room layout, the administration of the sacraments and church government. Everything we do is an image of something, either consciously or unknowingly. Edward Donnelly explains that for the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Ireland, their theology guides their design of church buildings, so that the pulpit is central, to signify that the Word of God rules over everything. Beneath the pulpit and in permanent full view before the congregation is the Lord’s Table, with the communion plate, the communion cup, and the baptismal bowl. Michael Horton similarly observes that worship is not neutral and he writes:
The Reformation, in its recovery of the preached Word, gave a fresh visual prominence to the pulpit. Along with the font (baptism) and the table or altar (the Lord’s Supper), the high pulpit stood over the people as the minister himself stood under the Word that he preached.

These are some of the visual aids that the Westminster Confession of Faith permits, while excluding others.
The Westminster Larger Catechism expounds the Second Commandment, as expressly forbidding any ‘monuments of idolatry’ and it condemns the worship of images as false worship, describing them as ‘not instituted by God himself’. It condemns ‘the making [of] any representation of God’ or ‘of all or any of the Three Persons’. Donald G. Bloesch explains that the ‘Christian faith is founded on God’s self-revelation in his Word’ and he warns that it is an ‘incontrovertible fact that an image [Ex. 20:4–6; Ps. 78:58; Is. 40:18] invariably gives a false picture of God because it is necessarily limited in what it can denote’.

The Westminster Directory of Public Worship connects the Trinity to Christ as mediator but this idea needs to be further sharpened, advanced and moved further in this direction. The Westminster Confession of Faith summarises the regulative principle for worship:

The acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.

Seven facets of public worship are gleaned from the Westminster Directory of Public Worship and it is our intention to encourage these elements in the Church of God.They are:

The Christian Sabbath
A Clear Call to Worship the Triune God in the name of God's mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ
The public reading of Scriptures
Congregational Singing (of which the singing of Psalms is singularly encouraged in the writings of the Westminster Confession).
Preaching Pure Doctrine, Pastorally.
The Right Administration of Baptism and the Lord's Supper
A Closing Benediction

Let us all pray for a recovery of biblical worship in the Church of God!

Tuesday 9 March 2010

What is Worship?

This question may seem like a ‘no-brainer’ to most people and it may be the kind of question which is never asked but just simply assumed. However, do we need to ask this question again for the 21st century church?
Recently I was invited to two different services in the same day and after returning from the evening service, a relative commented to me, that he could see on my face that I had enjoyed the evening service: my countenance was obviously different and he could see that. I remarked; “to be honest, you could say that what I have witnessed today, actually represents two different religions!” Yet, both would claim the name Christian, so what was the difference?

In the service in the morning the first thing that struck me as I entered a hired hall with about 300 people and a bustling atmosphere, was the noticeable lack of Bibles. I seemed to be about the only person carrying a Bible to ‘church’ and there were no church Bibles available either. The service commenced in a very casual way with a very professional music team, power point etc. There was almost no reading of Scripture, the majority of the time was spent singing emotional ‘trendy’, supposedly worship songs and the preaching was short and in fact was not preaching. The message was more like a positive pick-me-up for Christians where the Bible was nothing more than a promise box. However this did not seem to worry the congregation. They responded most enthusiastically with more singing, hands raised and then a hot cup of tea/coffee.

This service left me bewildered with many questions and the words of Jesus to the woman at the well sprang to mind: "You worship what you do not know (John 4:22)”.
In the evening I attended a church service that I suppose the morning crowd would consider ‘non-contemporary’, traditional or even boring and out of touch. On a different note I do find that the word ‘contemporary’ is a greatly misused term in evangelicalism, it is often used as a smoke screen to introduce unbiblical worship practices in the name of being relevant. Our aim is not to be traditional or contemporary but rather biblical.

This service began with a clear call to worship based on Psalm 124:8, everything was saturated with Scripture, including Bible readings, the singing of Psalms, the occasional hymn and we sang the Apostles’ Creed. There was a clear order to what we were doing and everything was conducted in a dignified way with a sense of the fear and awe of the God that we worshipped. Needless to say the high point of this worship was a 40 minute exposition of a passage from Luke that was Christ honouring, effectively explained, and it left us contemplating the majesty and beauty of God (not man or what God wants to do for man). Jesus said, “we worship what we know Jn 4:22)”.

Once again I ask the question ‘what is worship?’Hopefully you will see that this question is absolutely a ‘contemporary’ issue and if God permits, I would like to answer that question from the Bible on the next blog. Perhaps this article has most probably highlighted ‘what worship is not’.

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Church Planting in Sheffield

On February 1st 2010, I officially began as a church planter for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of England and Wales ( Durham Presbyterian Church have commissioned us to the work of church planting in Sheffield with the intention of establishing a long term work in the city. The aim and desire is to establish what we hope will become Sheffield Presbyterian Church. Please check out our website for more details:

We have begun a Westminster Bible study in our home for those interested in finding out more about the work. If you are interested then do please contact us.

The distinctive elements of this future church will be:

A Commitment to the Westminster Standards as our confession.

Public worship that seeks to be wholly committed to the expositional preaching of the Scripture.

Pure and simple worship that includes the singing of Psalms/hymns, prayer, preaching, and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper.

Hopefully the church will always be outward looking in a nation that is clearly a mission field.

Our desire is that the church will be filled with men, women and children who are serious minded about God and warm hearted at the same time.

Your prayer is valued.


Kevin Bidwell
Church Planter for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of England and Wales