Monday, July 19, 2010

Reep does a little church hopping...

Hope Lutheran Church in Westcliffe. The oldest Lutheran Church in Colorado (137 years old)

While on a study sabbatical I have tried to visit other churches. Over my 14 years at Redeemer I haven't worshipped too many other places, there simply isn't opportunity to do so. So far I have visited seven different churches. Here's a run down with some observations at the end.

Oak Hills Presbyterian Church is one of our sister PCA churches in the KC area. I was able to attend the last worship service of their pastor and my friend, Russ Ramsey. I know several people at Oak Hills so it was a blessed time of worship and fellowship. There was also a tinge of sadness as the Ramseys said their farewells before heading to a new church in Nashville where Russ will be ministering. Oak Hills basically practices a "contemporary" style of worship with a worship team primarily leading the service with an occasional elder or pastor leading a scripture reading. There is no pronounced liturgy, but the basic elements of a Christ-centered worship service are clearly present. Russ preached an excellent sermon doing and exposition of Philippians 1. Oak Hills is pretty informal, very friendly, and place I am praying for as they wait on God for a new pastor.

Faith Presbyterian Church (PCA) is in Tacoma, Washington and is pastored by a liturgical mentor of mine, Dr. Robert Rayburn. As providence would have it, Dr. Rayburn was out of town the Sunday I attended, but the associate pastor did a wonderful job preaching in his stead. Faith's service looks just like Redeemer's (or maybe they would say Redeemer's looks just like Faith's!). Two differences I noticed- first, the congregation comes forward for communion. Second, on the last verse of every hymn, the whole congregation lifts their hands. The liturgical raising of hands...very interesting. Of all the churches I visited, I was probably most comfortable with the worship style at Faith.

Emmaus Mennonite Church is where my wife grew up. It's located in Whitewater, Kansas in the midst of a large farming community. Emmaus is close to 150 years old as a congregation. Over 2 years ago their church building (where we got married) burned to the ground. We were able to attend the opening service for their new building in mid June. The service was a celebration of God's faithfulness in the past and present with prayers asking for guidance in the future. The new pastor is solid, and dare I suggest, possibly even a Calvinist!!! I don't want to get the man in trouble with his Mennonite flock, but as I have talked with him twice and have heard from my in laws, he believes in the doctrines of grace. The service was like other services I have attended there, pretty traditional with hymn singing, "special music", and an expositional sermon. Emmaus basically functions like a congregational baptist church (though they do have a "board" that does most of the decision making). I have always found it interesting they vote on the pastor every three years-as to whether he should stay or go. That's how congregationally governed churches work. Let's just say, with all due respect, I'm glad to be Presbyterian.

Calvary Baptist is a reformed baptist church in Lenexa, Kansas pastored by my friend Brian Albert. Brian came to Calvary a few years ago and has guided them through a change in governance from congregational to elder rule. He has done a tremendous job wisely shifting this church to a more biblical form of government and place of spiritual health. The worship at Calvary is typically baptist with a singing team leading the hymns and songs, a few readings, and a sermon. I'll bet Brian would like a more liturgical form in the order of worship, but first things first, he's already made a huge change in the governance, one can't move too quickly. I have to say this- the morning I visited Pastor Brian preached one of the best sermons I have ever heard. Period. He was preaching through a series on the gospel and this particular sermon was concerning God's judgment against sin as outlined in Romans 2. Listen to his sermon here, it's well worth it.

Hope Lutheran (Missouri Synod) is an historic church in Westcliffe, Colorado very close to Horn Creek family camp where I speak each year (twice this summer). The worship at Hope is liturgical and traditionally Lutheran for the most part. Apparently they have a more "contemporary" service every other week. As for this service, it was just the way I like it- sound liturgy (lots of responsive singing parts), communion, and a faithful exposition of several texts of Scripture from their lectionary. There is a picture of their building above and on their website. The building is gorgeous inside and out.

Village 7 Presbyterian Church (PCA) is in Colorado Springs and a pretty large church (I'm guessing 1500 members?). Village 7's basic ministry structure reminds me a bit of Redeemer in that it has a school and has part in a seminary (something we hope to see at RPC in the future). The worship was pretty traditional with a clear liturgy that included a corporate confession of sin (something tragically rare in today's evangelical landscape), quite a bit of singing, and a solid sermon by guest preacher and author Kevin DeYoung. My friend Nathan George is their guest musician for much of the summer, he led the congregation in a couple new Psalm arrangements written by Greg Wilbur (check out one he led here). Something really strange happened the Sunday I was there. Twice in the service a seemingly disturbed young man stood up and announced that he believed NY City would soon be victim to a nuclear attack. The second time he got up (in the middle of the sermon) ushers quickly and graciously ushered him out. Pastor De Young stopped his sermon to pray for the man and continued preaching. I was extremely impressed with how Pastors Mark Bates and Kevin DeYoung handled a very strange situation.

Rocky Mountain Presbyterian Church (PCA)is in the Denver area, Broomfield to be exact. I visited there yesterday morning. RMPC has a building that is less than three years old but was designed to look old, in a good way. Check out the picture below. It's a gorgeous design inside and out. RMPC's worship is liturgical in form but the music is led by a few guitarists and a pianist. The sermon was a faithful exposition of Jesus cursing the fig tree and throwing the money changers out of the temple preached by a pastoral intern from Denver Seminary. There was a mixture of hymns and contemporary songs sung.

Observations: Each of these churches possessed the biblical elements of singing, giving, bible reading, preaching, praying, and fellowship. Two of the churches celebrated the sacrament of communion, for which I am thankful. Each of the churches provided strong, biblical, expositions of a text of Scripture. While the style of some of these churches wasn't my preference, each were clearly trying to be reverent and God-centered in worship. On the whole the churches were friendly, with some much better than others. I have thus far been encouraged by what I have seen, although I'll be honest- I'm very thankful for Redeemer as I have never been more comfortable any other place.

Rocky Mountain Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Broomfield, CO. The building is just 3 years old.


christianlady said...

I love this post. I'd love to see more churches on here...from the local area. More diversity and a critique thereof. However, you are a family man and have a responsibility to be careful for your family with these churches you visit.


Woody Woodward said...

Can't wait to hear some firsthand powerful testimonials experiences of your living Acts 2:42-43. And we thought you were embolden to “preach the word” before your sabbatical began? For sure, well seasoned, and as Paul said, “be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke exhort with great patience and instruction.”

Rick Calohan said...

It seems like you have had a wonderful tour de faith and we look forward to you returning your post at Redeemer, just remember to click your heel three times, and say “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home!” Godspeed Reepicheep!