Recently in an article in the “Wall Street Journal” an article made a distinction in a political setting between what we believe (orthodoxy) and what we practice (orthopraxy). It seems to me that it is possible to believe exactly the same thing but to have a different “practice” of implementation. I experienced that distinction recently in dialogue through e-mail with our “Social Justice Office.” I believe that both of us have the same belief system. Not only from a strictly doctrinal position but also what we should do. However how we accomplish what we do may well be different. I, for example, am not fond of government doing things like welfare, education, etc. I believe those areas can better be accomplished through federal grants to nonprofit organizations. The individual in the Social Justice Office was asking us to lobby our representatives not to cut federal assistance for “Food Stamps.” We, however, both agreed that we needed to be concerned with the welfare of those who are poverty-stricken. I think this kind of give and take happens regularly in government. Having the same concern with different solutions happens in many areas of life.
It happens in the church as well. I think what binds the Christian Reformed Church together as a denomination is not so much what we do as compared to what we believe. Over the years of our existence our confessions have not changed much (if at all). However, how we practice what we believe as changed. One area that has changed significantly is our worship services. When I graduated Seminary in the early 70’s every order of worship in the churches was almost exactly the same. Part of our Practical Theology training was a history of liturgy in the church. Most of the orders of worship we studied included a “Call to Worship”, God’s Greeting, Confession and Words of Assurance, Pastoral/Congregational Prayer, Offering, Sermon, Benediction with songs in appropriate places. Recently worshipping in three different CRC’s, one out of three churches even came close to following the order of worship just listed. Despite those differences in worship, I believe that each of those churches still abided by the same confession. So I wonder is it alright for the churches to have that much diversity in worship as long as they continue to confess the same confessions? I also wonder who instigated the changes in worship, elders, pastors, church growth seminars, etc.. As I read through the Church Order, elders are responsible for the order of worship and the songs that are sung. Is that happening in our churches today? How much time in the elders’ meetings is spent on reviewing the content of the order of worship, of what we do, and why we do it? Do we know prior to each worship service what songs have been approved by the elders?