Church, FOR God, BY God. Reformed vs Evangelical Worship

8 Apr

It seems that the “church is for the unchurched” crowd in evangelicalism gets things exactly backwards. The priority seems to be to design church/worship around what is pleasing to the unchurched, then the churched, then God, sadly in that order. Shouldn’t it be exactly the reverse? Shouldn’t church be designed FOR God (what pleases Him) and BY God (according to His biblical methodology)? What does the bible say? What are the dangers of doing church according to our own designs?

Calvin: First, it tends greatly to establish God’s authority that we do not follow our own pleasure, but depend entirely on his sovereignty; and secondly, such is our folly, that when we are left at liberty, all we are able to do is to go astray. And then when once we have turned aside from the right path, there is no end to our wanderings, until we get buried under a multitude of superstitions.”

Robert Godfrey has a helpful, fair, and accurate description of what separates Reformed worship from mainstream evangelical worship in this short essay (excerpt below).

One of the challenges of being Reformed in America is to figure out the relationship between what is evangelical and what is Reformed. Protestantism in America is dominated by the mainline Protestants, the evangelicals, and the charismatics. After these dominant groups, other major players would include the confessional Lutherans. But where do the Reformed fit in, particularly in relation to the evangelicals, with whom historically we have been most closely linked?

Some observers argue that the confessional Reformed are a subgroup in the broader evangelical movement. Certainly over the centuries in America, the Reformed have often allied themselves with the evangelicals, have shared much in common with the evangelicals, and have often tried to refrain from criticizing the evangelical movement. But are we Reformed really evangelical?

One area in which the differences between evangelical and Reformed can be examined is the matter of worship. At first glance, we may see more similarities than differences. The orders of worship in Reformed and evangelical churches can be almost identical. Certainly, both kinds of churches sing songs, read Scripture, pray, preach, and administer baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But do these similarities reflect only formal agreement, or do they represent a common understanding of the meaning and function of these liturgical acts in worship?

If we look closely, I believe that we will see the substantive differences between evangelicals and Reformed on worship. That difference is clear on two central issues: first, the understanding of the presence of God in the service; and second, the understanding of the ministerial office in worship.

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