Let's Keep Thinking about the "Second Service"

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When I was growing up in Chicago back in the days of Sputnik and Gunsmoke, our 7 PM services at all four Roseland Christian Reformed churches were only slightly less well-attended than the 10 AM services. They were not quite carbon copies in form and structure, though not exactly teaching services as the Church Order regulated until sometime in the mid-1960s. I did hear in those services preaching on The Heidelberg Catechism and, with two notably daring and good preacher pastors, presenting sermon series on both The Belgic Confession and The Canons of Dort.


Remarkably, for a kid who would today have been diagnosed with ADD, I learned my stuff there—which is the goal of teaching, after all. Early on those two preachers highlighted the doctrines, but they also gave us youth and adults the freedom to ponder responsibly a few of the inflammatory sections in all of those documents; those two preachers in particular encouraged close examination of one’s faith commitment. I thank those men (that’s all there were in our pulpits those days!). They were fine servants of God who encouraged believers to give reasons for the hope that is in us, as St. Peter tells us.


But it appears that confessional preaching/teaching and the second worship services are both going the way of the dodo bird and passenger pigeon in most places in our denomination. Check out this article about second services by Matt Vande Bunte in a recent on-line issue of The Grand Rapids Press and then read on. (I hope the article remains available for a while.) Related to this is a thoughtful article by Paul Alexander of Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Huntsville, Alabama. Jeff Scripps, a CRC colleague in Sioux Center admits being attracted to Alexander's article in part because he used to catch toads after evening worship. Whatever turns your crank, I guess....


Here in St. Catharines, Ontario one Christian Reformed congregation has discontinued weekly afternoon services, using the time for small groups meeting in people’s homes. The small group participation is greater than second service attendance had been. Two other congregations—Covenant and Maranatha CRCs—have now combined all afternoon worship after doing that with summer services for the last six years. Attendance  is steadily slipping, despite--may I say it?!--some pretty good preaching and teaching! A fourth congregation continues to hold its own afternoon service. Though the council realizes the trend toward disappearance, the services also attract a small, yet faithful group of worshipers.


I know this is not about numbers. I’m not even certain it’s much about faithfulness and seriousness of commitment. It is surely in part about many changing social dynamics mixed up with some spiritual commitment factors. For example, our congregation holds Bible study, youth groups, committee meetings, service clubs and more to such an extent that the church building is often used every day of the week for long hours. Other groups attend homeless shelters, sing in hospitals and seniors’ residences away from the building during times once occupied only by worship. People can only be in one place at one time and some are “at church” four times a week.


Then there are the cottages, the vacations, the mission and relief trips, the visits to children and grandchildren that take up weekends or weeks and change worship and Sunday habits. I’m not sure that Rev. David Engelsma’s comments in the Press article about RCA and CRC (among others) “great apostasy” are all that accurate. But he might be on to something partially.


A few parting questions to get some talk going:
• What are you doing with or about second services?
• Where do your youth and adults learn not just the Bible, but the historic creeds and confessions, Our World Belongs to God?
• We know we’re losing something—but are we gaining something valuable also?
• Are you fearful? Or confident?
 

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In Neerlandia we have our second service first.
It is intentionally not a worship service, but a time for teaching and discussion. We have a lesson on a topic, either from the confessions or some other topic relevant to the Christian life or the denomination (e.g. children at communion). This has been very good for dialogue and for keeping the congregation engaged with what is going on in the CRC and Christendom generally. We have our teaching service at 10:00 and worship at 11:15, with coffee in-between. During this time children go to Sunday school so that at the worship service which follows they can be present. I've been trying to write up a description for Reformed Worship but I haven't gotten to it yet.

Hi all,

At Ocean View CRC in Norfolk, VA, we have had a 6:00 pm service like typica crc's do.  Last year however, we changed the format to eliminate a second sermon and replaced that segment with dissussion on the morning's message.  Three discussion questions are included in the bulletin.  While still a worship service, we include a time for audience selection of three or four song.  Then we ask for prayer request and various people pray through the list.  This format has had very good response and about half of our morning attenders come to the pm service.  Last week we made another significant change to move the time of this service to 1:00 in the afternoon.  Our schedule will look something like this: Sunday School at 9:45, AM worship at 11:00.  A light lunch from 12:20 to 1:00 and then our new afternoon service (same format) from 2:00 to 3:00.  The rest of the afternoon and evening will be free.  One of the reasons for this change is that as a commuter church, some of our families drive too far to return for the pm service, especially those with small children.  We also hope that having a lunch after each service will be conducive to inviting visitors to get to know us better over a meal.  This proposal exceeded our minimum required vote (75%) by the congregation but, as you can imagine, there were a few people opposed to it.  We agreed to try this for a period of six months.  We will still have to see, how this will work out.  Some may see this as a step to phasing out a second service all together but we hope it will enhance the member's understanding of the sermon as well as increase opportunities for deeper fellowship.

Blessings to you all.

I like your idea, Gary,

We have dabbled in the Sunday afternoon service a time or two as we are a rural congregation and folks drive a ways to come, but we have stuck with evening service.  One thing I would like to share is that a year or two ago we tried doing a teaching service in the evening.  It bombed big time.  I went back to preaching.  Since that time we have had vistors who come to Lebanon specifically for the evening service, if you can imagine that!  It's a great encouragement to the congregation.  Several people have told me that they get more out of an evening service than a morning one.  Even though the attendance is small, the effect on those who attend is substantial! 

I appreciate your thoughts on the second service, Jim.  The second service (I'll say "evening") is important for a person's development, particularly in matters of doctrine.  I'll be preaching this Sunday morning on the importance of Sunday evening worship.  By the way, in my research, I came accross a good word on evening services written some time ago by Paul H. Alexander.  Could I post/copy the link?  To find it, I simply typed "evening service" into a search engine. 

Jeff

Thanks, Randy, Gary and Jeff for prompt, thoughtful responses. I'll make some comments about all of your contributions,

Neerlandia can probably do some things and expect some things from members because of the relative isolation of that fascinating hamlet. Though there are, if I'm not mistaken, three different Reformed churches there, the whole community holds a pretty strong sense of responding in lifestyle and sacrifice to Gospel imperatives. Bible and theological education were always pretty high values there, regardless of differences in interpretations and sad scuffles. They've had a number of pretty fine pastors and preachers--including the current incumbent. I don't know why in more urban areas the habits of education first and worship second can't be developed, but maybe here it's because there are so many choices that there is a sense (I'm being a bit judgmental) of getting one's ticket punched before doing whatever one wants for the rest of Sunday. In any case, I still miss Neerlandia, having preached there any number of times in the late 80s and earlier 90s and still staying in touch with old friends there.

Gary: It looks like your church is in some kind of transition in figuring out how most faithfully to use the hours of Sunday. Some years ago Fellowship CRC in Edmonton held its education time mid-morning on Sunday, called "Solomon's Porch." After that the people had a simple weekly potluck lunch, shared generously with visiting preachers and others; I was always happy to preach there. Perhaps Fellowship is still known Edmonton-wide as "The Lunch Bunch." After that lunch the creative, liturgical worship service was held, celebrating communion every week. Most attenders took part in both education and worship stayed the whole time, though some took part in the first and lunch, then left, while others came for lunch and attended worship. I haven't heard lately it these patterns continue. But there are patterns and examples for study and reflection.

Jeff: It's interesting that some folks are coming to Lebanon for evening worship. For my first five years in St. Catharines I taught through The Contemporary Testimony, Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of Dort (5 lessons only) and The Belgic Confession in evening worship. Attendance held pretty strong. When I started going through the books of the Bible, giving overviews of entire books each service, attendance started to flag. Some really loved it and said they''d never gotten broad perspective of Scripture before like that. I was larglely using a "Creation-Fall-Redemption" reading. Others simply found it too challenging. That might be my problem as much as anyone else's.

In any case, now in our combined afternoon services colleague Rich Loerop and I have begun preaching through 1 Kings, chapter by chapter. Among other things, we're looking at broad theological/doctrinal themes in those narratives. For example, the theological perspective on those narratives shows God works with or permits violence, betrayal and treachery in succession of kings, forging of alliances and so on--all in some way pointing to the King of kings. As you know, it's not always pretty reading, but it does show how God works with grays often his mysterious ways, our blunders to reform.  We'll see how that goes.

Meanwhile, let's keep responding.

 At Cutlerville East CRC approximately two thirds of the morning attenders return for the 5 pm service, with a similar proportion of young to old in both services. I was installed only six weeks ago and still do not have a good handle on why the attendance is still so good here in both services. The worship is quite traditional with pipe organ, grand piano, and brass instruments dominating the accompaniment. Children's messages have traditionally been given in the p.m. service, while the choir sings during three of four morning services, though rarely in the afternoon services. I preach through the Reformed Confessions consecutively, alternating between morning and afternoon services. After the pm service we have vespers for people who could not receive communion in the morning. One communion service each year is done in the afternoon rather than in the morning.

- Bill 

I've enjoyed reading the comments!  It is encouraging to know that others see the value of having two services on Sunday.

At the Edson-Peers CRC, we've tried many things.  When I came in 2004, the second service was held at 1:00pm during the summer months.  We extended that time frame to throughout the year.  The second service is like Sunday Morning lite, with less formality, song selections etc.  We also had lunch between services.  We tried to do what Neerlandia has done, but rather than having a separate time in the morning, we tried to enhance the morning service with discussion after the sermon.  It didn't work as well as hoped.  So, after a year, we reinstated the second service at 6:30pm.  It is a teaching service.  I've preached through the Heidelberg Catechism and we're now into the Belgic Confession.  I'd like to tackle the Canons of Dort as well.  The evening service attendance isn't great, but there are a few families with young children who come, and I usually try to speak to them at one or two points in the sermon, asking rhetorical questions, that sort of thing.  Last year, we moved the second service to 1:00pm during the winter months (Nov. - March) to avoid driving in the dark.  

In September, we started a Sunday Morning Bible Study from 9:30-10:15.  We've been using Greg Koukl's Ambassador Basic Curriculum, available from Stand To Reason (www.str.org).  It teaches Christians the basics for being Christ's ambassadors, through Knowledge (an accurately informed mind) Wisdom (an artful method of communication) and Character (a warm, attractive and inviting manner). 

There are probably several factors which contribute to low second service attendance.  1. Speed of life--it is becoming harder to schedule rest, especially in a society which boasts about how busy we are.  "How are you doing?" "Good, busy!"  "Yeah, me too!"  2. Other church experience--many CRC members have visited other churches which have never offered more than one worship service and found that those churches were just as faithful.  3. Convenience of life--more information is available online than ever before, excellent preaching and other material.  4. Facebook communication--fellowship with other believers at church is underrated. 5. Commitment--God doesn't get our first-fruits.  We are so inundated with demands (time, talents, opportunities) that other things become higher priority.  It isn't necessarily as though people mean to put God last, but there's little accountability to keeping him first.  6. Programs--the drive to be busy has increased the programming of churches.  We have groups and clubs and this, that and the other thing to do.  We are in competition with sports groups, clubs, etc.  Sometimes I wonder what would happen if we scrapped all the during the week stuff and simply told people "Come on the first day of the week, offer your first fruits of time, talents and treasures to God.  Listen and learn from him!  Then you will be prepared for the week to come.

Contributor

To some extent, anyway, culture shapes the time, if not the content, of a second service. When I was in my first charge (Leighton, Iowa) many years ago, I was told that long before my time, farmers came to the morning service (many by horse and buggy), they had lunch after the service, then they had the second service from 2:00 to 3:00 or thereabouts, and were able to get home by chore time. There does not appear, historically anyway, to be anything sacrocant about a morning and an evening service. These are determined by the needs of the congregation. City congregations did things quite differently.

So what are the cultural needs of today's congregations? And how can we best meet them with the message of the gospel? Many (non-Reformed) churches meet them with a Sunday morning and a Wednesday evening service (which has never been a part of our tradition). It has seemed to work well for them. Would this be an adequate substitute for two services on Sunday? I don't know. But I applaud any church that seeks to take the cultural patterns of its congregation into account in seeking to meet their spiritual needs.

I like Verlyn Verbrugge's comments because they are forward thinking.

We can lament the low attendance of second services for the next 20 years and not make any progress.  We need to start thinking about what we're going to do given what we have.  Like Verlyn said, we need to take into account the cultural needs of today's congregations and adapt our ministries accordingly. 

Instead of asking "Should we have 2 services on Sunday?" we should be asking as a denomination and as individual churches, "What do we need to do to minister effectively to people in our culture NOW?"

We shoudn't hold a second worship service just because it's always been done that way.  We should hold a second service if and only if this is the most effective way to minister to and educate the church community we have.  Church leaders need to adapt their ministries along with the changing culture.  We don't adapt our theology but we can and must adapt the way we do ministry given our various contexts. 

I had to chuckle (sorry) at the Grand Rapids press article in which it was repeated that the CRC is Dutch there.  I am Canadian and I presently serve a congregation whose elderly are actual Dutch immigrants.  And when in Seminary (CTS) I visited a number of G.R. churches.  Believe me, you are not Dutch except for some last names that originated in The Netherlands.  Ever been to The Netherlands lately?  The shift it seems to be is from middle to upper middle class, white western Michiganites (and very "American") to more multi ethnic and multi socio-economic diversity.  I think naming yourselves there as Dutch diverts you from what your real challenge is in mostly wealthy white congregations (with a lot of political same mindedness perhaps?)  This has little to do with a so-called "Dutch Reformed" heritage or something.   Just in case you wanted an outsiders opinion on G.R. CRC's ...

 

As to the main topic: "evening services"  the attendance trends are certainly not in question.  I am wondering however, whether we are asking the right question.  It seems that different congregations (the one I am in included) tinker with times and formats, wondering about use of resources and priorities of ministry activities.  Is not the heart of the question, how are we teaching the Reformed world and life view including the historic creeds and confessions in an effective way, i.e., so that members actually learn and retain and take to heart what is taught? 

It matters not to me if you have a second service, or a small group format, or a home study project, or an online course, so long as the goal is accomplished: growing in knowlege and wisdom in life from the Reformed perspective.  By the way, for me, Reformed perspective is a synonym for Biblical perspective.  The creeds and confession and teaching sermons or whatever, are tools to teach that.  The Historic Creeds we accept as faithfully reflecting the Scriptures are a good foundation to build on. 

So perhaps the question is not, "what to do about the second service", but "how do we teach the Reformed (Biblical) faith from generation to generation"?  And tied to that question is, how to we assess or test the effectiveness of our efforts?  You can have a full church in a PM service and still have no one learning or taking to heart what is being taught.  For some congregational cultures, double church attendance is simply mandatory, so, if you don't do that, you leave or are forced to leave.  You are simply guilted into being there.  But are you growing in your knowlege and faith?  Counting attendance does not answer that question.

Having or not having a 2nd service, it being full or seldom attended, is not yet to know about "apostacy."  With all due respect to Rev. Engelsma, it would seem that the immense wealth and ease we North American Christians live in in the face of large scale suffering and poverty would be a far greater indicator of apostacy in the church.  And claiming that teaching effectiveness in the 1500s is the same for today, that you can continue the identical peagogical approach and end up with the same results is simply traditionalism in my eyes.  Need for constant exposure to and learning of the creeds and confessions and Reformed (Biblical) teaching?  Yes.  Have to do that in a PM worship service because that's what the reformers were doing in the 1500's?  No.  I wonder if Calvin would have started a blog ... if his congregation ranged farther than walking or horseback distance?

Anyway ... are we being effecitive in teaching the Reformed perspective?  How do we know if we are?  (I better get back to my teaching service message on Our World Belongs to God.)

Colin and Verlyn and others: Thanks for your significant engagement wth this topic. The range and number of comments and reflections on this continues to surprise me. Noting the great differences in social conditions between the 1500s and the 2000s is an important, though almost obviously, corrective to Rev. Engelsma's wholesale accusation of apostasy. (yes--spelled wth a second "s"!); wish I'd anticipated it, but kudos to you, Colin.

Ever since living in Latin America for about nine years and returning every couple of years for weeks or months over the last 25 years has continued to impress on me that our "immense wealth and ease we North American Christians live in in the face of large scale suffering and poverty would be a far greater indicator of apostasy in the church." Thanks for putting those clear words to it.

Part of our trouble is, though, that we take that for granted or as unconditional blessing. Worse, though, many of us blithely assume everybody can live "like us." Fact is, of course, only very few can live "like us." And--contributing to the damage of the apostasy--not all want to live "like us" because they understand the spiritual, physiological and ecological peril of living "like us." In your terms, living "like us" does, in my opinion, very little, if anything, to contribute to the development of a "Reformed world and life view." Living "like us" may, in fact, contribute to its very opposite--the continuing development of an un-reformed, anti-biblical world and life view.

Some within our narrower and wider circles within North America have for years been writing, speaking and warning about that. I think of Loren Wilkinson, Calvin De Witt i. a. and further out, Wendell Berry, Edward Abbey, David Suzuki and more just in North America. Yet, we seem captive to living "like us" and hard-pressed for workable alternatives beyond recycling of the garbage we accumulate while not reducing its sources . Of course, to get the message of apostasy out, we use consumptive means--blogs, press, mass communication--all and more of which is living "like us." I don't like it, but I don't know what to do about it. It seems to do little more than raise more guilt, but then, as that famous theologian Garrison Keillor has said, "Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving."

Somehow, though, I DO think all this has profoundly to do with the topic that I first blogged about--namely the "second service." Not that NOT holding the second service is along an indication of apostasy. Rather--as Ron Rienstra nicely put it in Matt Vande Bunte's Grand Rapids Press article--we lose a sense of God framing all days and every day if we worship only once a week merely to get a ticket punched for our spiritual dose of Sunday living. Worship doesn't become a lifestyle; it too becomes consumption. Which is maybe one reason why lots of people flock for a time to the church du jour nearest them for a few months or years and then find another one for a time. Funny thing, some of those churches even have well-attended afternoon or evening services. Go figure.

I wonder if we too easily assume that the second service is the best way to spiritually benefit people today.

The reality is an institutional worship service doesn’t stimulate as much spiritual growth as it used to. In our culture people are more spiritually stimulated by interacting with the church organism: through the church community and the relationships in the community. The worship service is an institutional activity and people simply aren’t connecting with God as much through the institutional church. People in our culture (especially the younger generation) are very suspicious and cynical of the institutional church. Thus activities in an institutional context simply won’t do as much as they used to. We can lament this reality and do nothing or we can adapt our ministries to be more consistent with this reality.

In the article Engelsma says that the decline of the second service is “is definitely a sign of serious spiritual and theological weakness.” This may be true, but I wonder if it is also a sign of the institutional church’s inability and unwillingness to adapt the way we do ministry in our changing world.

In an article on preaching, William Willimon writes, "Sometimes in leaning over to speak to the modern world, I fear that we may have fallen in!" (http://willimon.blogspot.com/2007/11/on-not-reaching-our-culture-through...).  The article is worth a quick read.

North American culture has completely infiltrated the church.  We live in the reality that loyalty is almost non-existent.  We've glorified consumerism--getting the best bang for the smallest buck. 

How do we counter the culture we're in?  We simply do what Christ calls every believer to do.  We tell them about the God who is not for sale, who is worth more than all the universe but who can be found like a treasure in a field, or pearl of great price.  The cost: everything we own.

Most people, myself included, are not willing to pay up.  We want God on our terms in the ways we like.  But God will not put up with mediocre worship forever.  He will transform our hearts and our minds.

I’m keeping the second service.  It is a second opportunity for me to grow in my knowledge of God, and the Holy Spirit communicates that knowledge to those in the pews.  As Paul instructed Timothy, preach the Word, in season and out of season, even when people find others to fill their itchy ears with what they want to hear.

How about services on sat evening.

Amen Paul!

We all seem to be blessedly in agreement that our mission is to see Christ formed in people and the question is how that is best done today or any day.  I would think that the Word of God is the best tool to shape people into Christ and that preaching in the context of a worship service is God's preferred means of changing lives.  Therefore what the church and the world needs is more preaching and not less.  I can see the trends, but my question is this: "Will I lose confidence in the preached Word of God because of the behavior of people?” 

I’m not going to pretend to be so sanctified as to always answer “no”.  Sometimes I do lose confidence in the preached Word.  It’s hard not to!  I’m like Peter who took his eyes off of Jesus and started looking at the waves.  A good remedy was Steve Lawson’s book “Famine in the Land” which a fellow pastor loaned to me.   

When the church exists as an institution for itself, it is a curse; but when it exists for the Kingdom of God starting with Word and then moving on to application of that Word, it is one of the greatest blessings. 

Appreciating the discussion and they many thoughtful points raised,

Jeff

I do wonder, does proclamation of the word of God have to be limited to a worship service?  Indeed the pure preaching of the Word is one of the marks of the church but is the worship service the only place we proclaim the Word of God?  We absolutely cannot abandon the transformative Word we are called to preach; I'm arguing we need to get contextual and adaptive with how we proclaim the Word.  Getting contextual and adaptive does not necessarily mean we are giving into culture; I beleive it means we are being faithful to proclaiming the Word. 

In my mind when we model grace, mercy, love and acceptance to our community in any institutional or non-institutional context we are proclaiming the grace, mercy, love and acceptance of our Father in Jesus Christ.  We are living proclamations of the Word of God.  In my mind when we gather together to support and encourage and enjoy each other as a church organism we are building the Kingdom of God and letting the proclaimed Word live in us and through us. 

I beleive we as churches are called to find the most effective ways to make sure proclamation of the Word happens in all shapes and forms. We can abstain from having a second worship service and still be counter-cultural and still be faithful in proclaiming the word of God.  We can have confidence in the proclaimed Word of God because it lives and breathes in so many ways inside and outside an institutional worship service. 

Nick, in short, no, the proclamation of God's word must happen all the time, everywhere.  A worship service ought to contain the pure preaching of the Word, where God's people are equipped with the true teaching/expository preaching of God's Word so that they can share it with others.  Sometimes what people want from a sermon is a x-step method to better finances, better relationships, better whatever.  What God's Word does is transform hearts, so that everyone can be better ambassadors, better at doing the great commission.

Certainly, we need to model grace, mercy and love in our community.  However, we are not books that can be read.  Though people ought to be able to see Christ in us, unless we explain with words, they will not understand.  Unless we explain how Christ has transformed us, unless we explain who Christ is, we will look no different from loving, accepting, merciful and gracious Muslims, Buddhists, Mormons etc.  What makes us different from other faithful followers of other religions?  The God we worship--the Trinity, revealed in the Word.

Respectfully, we aren't seeking to be counter-cultural; we're seeking to equip the saints.  If the old adage is true, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink", then we can offer all kinds of training and equipping, but it won't guarantee people will come.  We've even offered courses and seminars because that's what people said they wanted, but so few come.  Ironically, the ones who come to the special events also come to the second service.

Perhaps we simply need to remind people that we're in a war.  This is not peacetime.  We are not living for ourselves, we're living for Christ, and that requires sacrifices.

Just a side note, I was listening to a lecture and the speaker made the following comment.  "Search for the word love in the book of Acts.  In all the sermons that are recorded in that book, the love of God is not mentioned once!"

What is your point about love not being a part of acts?

Hi Ken,

I wasn't very clear in my previous post.  God's love for us is often what gets preached in evangelistic sermons today.  It is interesting then that of all the evangelistic sermons recorded in Acts, not a single one mentions God's love for us.  Maybe people don't need to hear about God's love so much as they need to hear about God's holiness and humanity's sinfulness and dire need of a Saviour.  Greg Koukl (www.str.org) puts it this way.  People need the truth.  Society says religion is like ice cream, just pick your favourite.  Christianity is not like ice cream, it is like insulin and all humanity are diabetics.  Without Christ, we die.

Paul

I agree people need the truth, but love is part of that truth.  Thanks

At West Olive we have a very small but faithful crowd in the evening. I've been preaching through the Heidelberg at night (2 more weeks to go!), but quite honestly I think I'm not the only one bored with it. Thank goodness it ends with the 10 Commandments and Lord's Prayer because I don't think I could've made it otherwise. We've had a few breaks in between that have been much better. I did a series of 5 sermons on the Canons of Dort last spring - basically the sermons were just proof texting the major points under each head, in a systematic fashion - and it was great! In the summers we join up with a local RCA for the evenings and do a series together and that has been a blast for us pastors and, I think, for the congregation as well.

In reflecting on why the Catechism has seemed so boring, I think it's because everyone attending our evening has heard it so much before. It's not meat, at least not anymore. In the next month or two we're hoping to make the evenings a bit more "meaty" since the people there are definately at that stage in their spiritual development. Next spring we're going to try and use the catechism topics as a guide for the morning scripture sermons so that those who most need to hear the basics of our doctrine can get that, but in a format more palatable than a "Catechism sermon" in the strictest sense.

If anyone has ideas about teaching/preaching the Belgic I'd love to hear them for future reference! I think my e-mail is in the yearbook under West Olive CRC.

Scott,

A few years ago I preached through the Belgic by making it a series about cults and new religious movements.  The two that I focused on the most were the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons.  I took what they said about a certain point of doctrine, contrasted it with orthodox Christianity as seen in the Belgic, and then finished by giving three or so sample questions about that point of doctrine that people could use if cult members came to their home.  I found that putting it into this apologetic mode helped a great deal.

At a very simple and basic level, it is a heart issue...many in our culture have no problem watching some show night after night, ie jeopardy, or week after week, ie lost/survivor just to give some examples, or following every game of a certain sports team or would never miss the evening news...but when it comes to why they don't need to be at the 2nd service, oh, the excuses/reasons I've heard make me cringe and cry :( !    I'm not a pastor, as I gather many who previously commented are, but the 2nd service was being discussed in our church last year, and so, many comments were made related to the 2nd service.  Like someone mentioned earlier in this discussion, God isn't the last priority, but He definitely isn't the first in many cases.  So, I pray Eph. 1:17-18 (open the eyes of our hearts); Ezekiel 36:26 (give us new hearts, remove heart of stone and replace with heart of flesh); and Eph. 3:16 (that our inner man/being will be filled and strengthened with His Spirit); alot!!   We want to fix it with the latest program/concept - whatever idea we might have, but God has to do some serious heart surgery before the 2nd service is something His children won't want to miss.   Praise God!  I see/hear some evidence of His stirring our hearts/spirits to seek Him more! 

Another prayer is based on a line from How Firm a Foundation...the dross to consume and the gold to refine...that God would do this in our denomination.  We don't like to address, or even admit to the "dross", but the dross -whatever it might be for various congregations and some denominationally, needs to be recognized and "consumed".  I am not referring to the 2nd service as dross, I believe that would fall under the gold that needs refining!

Bless your hearts with more of Him!

Hello Bev, You are so correct about our hearts need refining and the dross consumed. I think there are viable alternative's to the a educational type service such as the mid week or Sat evening. These are just idea's that carry the theme of our need for additional time devoted to the Lord. I would like to add another area we should explore is communal service in the community. This could be a great way to put our belief's into action while gathering perspective on the community as a whole. I like your Spirit driven heart Bev. I wish I were able to join you on those streets like Railroad Ave in Bellingham. I helped Mitch get Three Tree's off the ground. Thanks and God bless you

Ken

Bless your heart, Ken...  Thanks for being in agreement... praying in one accord is powerful..

That's awesome that you helped Mitch with 3 Trees...  God is using that gathering place in amazing ways... I understand Mosaic (CRC) in B'ham is going out on the streets one service a month, and I also just heard a praise report about Bellingham Christian Center (non-CRC), who started going out on the street on Saturdays to share the gospel with people, and have led over 40 people to the LORD since the beginning of the year...   PTL!  He's on the move (and getting us to move, which can be like moving a mountain sometimes)

In Him...Bev S

That's great to hear Bev. Glory be to God. I'm a little detached at the moment but prayers have been answered with the changes going on in downtown. There is ample supply of people searching for peace in B'hm. They hunger for good news.

Ken

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