The Fickle and Circumstantial: Emotions and Modern Praise and Worship

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers star on Hollywoo...

            I recently showed my wife a video clip of Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers playing Learning to Fly.  When it comes to pop culture, my wife is clueless.  She thought it was a typical American Evangelical worship service.  Why did she think so?  Because it looked like one, the people were having the same experience with this performance as many have in the worship performance of their church.  I bring this up because many against the priority of public worship say that more joy is experienced and affections rise higher in private devotion than in public worship, which is often dull.  Many prefer a praise and worship performance to a gospel logic liturgy, which we have in Reformed churches.  Many claim that Reformed worship is especially dull since we only do those things God’s word implicitly or explicitly command.  Revivalism has encouraged this dichotomy and addiction.  The contrast between outward forms such as Reformed polity, rites, liturgy, and confessions, labeled as mere human invention, to the immediate work of the Spirit in individuals’ hearts that you find in Revivalism.

            For the Reformed, there is no contrast.  God uses externals to convey spiritual grace—all spiritual things come by mediation (i.e. Word and Sacrament).  Without externals you are left with only experience as your mediator and we know what the Bible says about experience, it is deceitful warns Jeremiah when he says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (17:9).  The Bible also cautions that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2Cor. 11:14).  If he can create an experience, he can manipulate emotions.  This is a powerful weapon against a church ruled by personal enjoyment.  God’s Word is the only sufficient guide for His church (1 Tim. 3:16).  Private experience is not a sufficient rule to guide the church, because it is fickle and circumstantial.  I would also argue that praise and worship, as it is a genre of pop is not highbrow or lowbrow, but a steady diet of nobrow created by a music industry concerned about one thing—the all mighty dollar.  Songs that have no lasting value, I consider nobrow music.  Where will Briton Spear’s music be in 50 years?  The same place as much modern praise music.  There will always be top charts for the ever-increasing nobrow.  Psalms are everlasting, just read Psalm 90, the oldest of the Psalms, written by Moses.  We sing it in our church and there is nothing fickle or circumstantial in God’s Word.

Want a church that looks to Scripture alone to norm everything found inside the church, rather than Revivalism and the emotions.  I encourage you to attend an upcoming Divine Service in Missoula, as we will begin the Divine service soon.  I will post more when I know more on the time and place.  The day will always be the Lord’s Day and only the Lord’s Day, because Scripture implicitly recognizes this day alone.

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Pilgrims and Exiles: Tomorrow is the Fourth Bible Study!

As pilgrims living between the ages, as sojourners and exiles anticipating God’s glorious return, we center our pilgrimage around Christ’s church.  It is the only institution Christ died for that we might have our souls nourished and our spirits refreshed for eternal life in this age.  This saturday is our fourth Bible study. Come and be a part of a potential new church plant, where, Lord willing, one day God’s heavenly manna of Word and Sacrament will pour fourth.

We are meeting at 6:30pm, Saturday the 19th at Sean Kelly’s, The Stone of Accord, located at 4951 N. Reserve St., a block south from I-90 Reserve Street Exit.  The Stone offers great dinner and has the perfect size conference room (down the hall on the right).  So, come hungry for God’s Word, great food, and fellowship.  I hope to see you there and invite friends, all are welcome, whether Reformed, on the journey, or interested in hearing about a simple Gospel centered church.

Missoula’s Demographics

Located in the west-central portion of Montana and nestled in the heart of the Rockies, Missoula is a vibrant growing western city.  The US Census Bureau’s 2009 estimate has Missoula’s population at 68,876.  It is the 2nd largest city in Montana after Billings, and Missoula county with 108,623 is also the 2nd largest county trailing Yellowstone.[1] It might just become the largest population in Montana, Betsy Cohen of the Missoulian states:

According to data from the last U.S. Census, Missoula’s population, including the 50-mile zone around the urban corridor, was 140,000, making it the second-largest community in the state after Billings, which was counted at 142,000.  When the 2010 census is completed and the data is released in 2012, Missoula’s population within the 50-mile zone will be around 160,000, making Missoula the largest community in the state.[2]

And why not, Missoula offers a rich culture and a beauty of its own.  Many flock here to live and experience this wonderful community.  In addition, it is home of the University of Montana. I took a class here myself and most of my friends graduated from this school.  It is a great school and many students come here to study and watch the Griz beat up on their opponents.  As the principal city of the metropolitan area, it hosts two semi-pro teams, the Osprey, and the Phoenix.

According to Best Places report on religion only 30.54% of the people in Missoula affiliate with a religion, which is below the national average of 48.34%.  Only 14.75% are Protestant, which is below the national average of 22.43%.[3] If these numbers hold then 85.25% of Missoulaians hold beliefs different from that of historic Christianity and concerning our historic reformed perspective are un-churched.  It is obvious that the field is ripe for the harvest and the population of the target area should be able to support a URC congregation.  It is my prayer to do pioneer work in the Garden City (a nickname for its dense trees and lush green landscape).  Please pray for this work and if you live in the area, you might want to consider a Reformed church.  Leave a comment and let me know.


[1] Missoula County Census over the years: 1970: 58,263; 1980: 76,016; 1990: 78,687; 2000: 95,802; 2009: 108,623

[3] Catholic10.86%; LDS 4.41%; Baptist 1.93%; Episcopalian 0.75%; Pentecostal 2.32%; Lutheran 3.92%; Methodist 0.72%; Presbyterian 0.92%; Other Christian4.19%; Jewish 0.19%; Eastern 0.10%

Islam 0.22% (see http://www.bestplaces.net/City/Missoula-Montana.aspx#; accessed Oct. 20, 2010).

What I’m about?

Right, now I’m about graduating from Westminster Seminary California. One day, I would like to be about church planting and Lord willing in Missoula.  Missoula holds a special place in my heart.  It is where I learned to nymph fish. It is where I met my beautiful wife Liz and also where we married. There are so many other things I could mention but for the sake of simplicity I will mention one last thing.  Missoula is the place where I answered the call to the ministry and that call has led Liz and I to Escondido, California but our journey began in Missoula Montana.

We married in Missoula in 2003 and began our seven-year pilgrimage to the Reformed faith.  My wife is a native from St. Ignatius, MT and I transplanted to Montana with my family.   

Liz graduated from the University of Montana; I attended her graduation even though I barely knew her.  It seemed like a smart move to get to know this cute girl.  We met at Missoula Alliance Church helping the youth ministry. After several years of serving the youth, I heeded the call to the ministry.  So, Pastor Scott Brooks sent us off to Moody Bible Institute.

At Moody, I majored in Bible with an emphasis in Greek.  Growing in understanding of Scripture I encountered the reformed doctrines of grace, known by the acronym TULIP.  At first, I met these doctrines with hostility as they challenged my worldview and picture of God.  However, over time I came to embrace them to find an almighty God who is also a faithful Father.

I eventually accepted Reformed theology and joined the United Reformed Church.  What is a Reformed church?  It is what I’m all about.  We are Christians confessing the four ecumenical creeds of the ancient church (e.g. we believe in the Trinity).  We are Protestant confessing the five solas of the reformation.  We are Reformed, the original protestants of the Calvinian tradition as opposed to Lutherans.  My denomination descends from the continental Reformed tradition with our oldest confession prepared in 1561 to protest against the papist persecutors that those of the Reformed faith were no rebels but law-abiding citizens who professed the true Christian doctrine according to the Holy Scriptures.

Now as my education ends in May, Liz and I must look for a call within a Reformed denomination.  Ever since I embraced the Reformed faith, I have desired to bring this confession of the faith to Missoula, our hometown.  I approached Belgrade URC and they became excited about the opportunity.  So, under the care of the Belgrade consistory we are doing pioneer work to establish a historic Christian, Protestant, Reformed Church.

What we are about!

The Missoula Reformed Bible Study is a mission work of the Belgrade United Reformed Church in Belgrade, MT.  At this time, the work is organized and led by Jared Beaird (M.Div. Westminster Seminary California candidate) with oversight from the Belgrade Consistory.

We are about a Confessional Reformed church with “acceptable worship, with reverence and awe” according to the Word of God (Heb 13:28).  God takes worship seriously so he devotes the first four commandments directly to worship, “You shall have no other gods before me,” “You shall not make for yourself an idol”; “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord” and “Remember the Sabbath day.”

These passages reveal a Reformed doctrine known as the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW).  We may only do in worship what is required explicitly or implicitly in God’s Word.  It is not “May we do this?” but “What must we do?”  So we are about worship God’s way.

An underlying theological reason for the RPW is the doctrine of Christian liberty.  God alone is Lord of the conscience and no one can make us do what God has prohibited.  In matters of faith and worship, we can only do what God has explicitly commanded.  Parallel to this is the ministerial authority of the Church.  The Church does not have creative authority.  It can declare only what the Word of God teaches. We are only about the Word of God.

Another major theological reason is the lex orandi lex credendi; the way of worship is the way of believing.  The way we worship has major implications for what we end up believing.  We believe that our only hope and comfort is found in the fact that “I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death— to my faithful savior Jesus Christ.  He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.  He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.  Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me whole-heartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him” (Heidelberg A. 1).  What we are about is the proclamation of the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.