Here are some frequently asked questions that we get and some brief answers. Feel free to send in your questions or follow up on any of these ones by contacting our Pastor or Elders here.
1. What is a Reformed church?
The word "Reformed" essentially means "biblical." During the Middle Ages, the Christian church in the west became increasingly corrupt in its beliefs and practices. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the church experienced a great reformation, being reformed according to Scripture. The term "Reformed" refers to the biblical standards confessed during the Protestant Reformation.
As a Reformed church, we seek to be biblical in everything: our beliefs, how we worship, and how we live. We believe that Scripture alone is our only guide for faith and life. We believe that we are saved from sin and God's eternal wrath by God's grace alone, which is received not by our good works, but through faith alone in Christ alone. We believe our worship and life is now to be lived to the glory of God alone.
To summarize the doctrines of the Reformation and the truth that unifies us, we confess the "Three Forms of Unity, which are the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and Canons of Dort. We wholeheartedly believe these confessions, along with the creeds of the ancient church, faithfully summarize "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). To read these confessions, go here.
We also recommend: Welcome to a Reformed Church: A Guide for Pilgrims, by Daniel R. Hyde. For a free copy of this book please visit our resource table.
2. Why is your church so formal?
We believe that worship is a significant event where the holy God of the universe meets his people and dwells in their midst to bless them. Thus, we strive to approach our God with a balance of joyful confidence in Christ and reverential fear and awe. The author of Hebrews puts it this way: Heb. 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. . ..Heb. 12:28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire. And so, our worship seeks to strike the right Biblical balance of joyful confidence and reverential fear in God’s presence. In other words we try to remember that God is both our heavenly Father AND the Holy King of all the earth.
3. Why do you sing psalms and hymns? Why not “contemporary worship music”?
We don’t sing psalms and hymns because we all prefer their musical style. In our leisure time some of us prefer classical music, others prefer folk music, still others prefer pop, country, jazz, classic rock, hip-hop, etc. And so, it isn’t a matter of we all prefer this style of music. First and foremost we sing psalms and hymns because we believe the Bible commands us to sing psalms and hymns: Col. 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (cf. Eph. 5:19). We especially love to sing Psalms for the following 10 reasons:
1. They are inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21)
2. They help us to hide God’s Word in our heart (Ps. 119:11; Col. 3:16)
3. They present the Biblical pattern for properly balancing the objective and subjective aspects of the Christian life
4. They give us a comprehensive presentation of Christian emotion (e.g. Joy–Ps. 4:7; Ps. 33:1; Reverence–Ps. 5:7; Ps. 8:1, 9; Shame–Ps. 44:9, 15; Fear–Ps. 56:3; Sadness–Ps. 6:6-7; Anger–Ps. 109:8-10; Doubt–Ps. 73:3-5, 13; Confidence–Ps. 46:1-3; Trust–Ps. 20:7; Love–Ps. 18:1; 116:1)
5. They present the overall movement of the Christian life from suffering to glory (the overall movement of the Psalms is from lament to praise)
6. They have been the primary songbook of the church throughout church history
7. They help us to understand the New Testament better as they are often quoted or alluded to by Christ and the New Testament authors
8. They speak about Christ and his work of salvation (Luke 24:27, 44)
9. Jesus and his disciples sang them (Matt. 26:30)
10. We come to know the mind of Christ and his prayer life better through the Psalms. In his greatest trial Christ was meditating on Psalm 22 on the cross (Matt. 27:46; cf. Ps. 22). Thus, we should hide them in our hearts for all of our trials in the Christian life.
As you can see there are many reasons we sing the Psalms. As for hymns, we love them too because of their rich Biblical content expressed in beautiful poetry that is set to music that is appropriate to the truth of the words that we are singing. Singing hymns also expresses our unity in the faith with brothers and sisters in Christ from other generations. As for contemproary songs we do sing several contemporary hymns (such as "In Christ Alone") and other songs that were recently written that faithfully reflect the teaching of Scripture as expressed in the Three Forms of Unity. There is so much more to be said on this important subject and we welcome your further questions.
For resources on why singing Psalms and hymns is important we recommend the following: Sing a New Song: Recovering Psalm Singing for the Twentieth Century, eds. Joel R. Beeke and Anthony T. Selvaggio; Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal, by T. David Gordon; “What is Worship Music?” by Paul S. Jones.
4. Why don't you have more instruments or a band?
We love instruments and we love bands, but when it comes to the worship service we believe that the accompaniment should serve congregational singing and not draw attention to itself or drown out the people. We believe this can be done well with a piano, an organ, a guitar (depending on the song) and other appropriate instruments but it should be done in such a way that it assists the congregation to sing well, is appropriate to the song being sung, and does not seek to draw attention to itself as a performance. Sadly, in many churches today worship has become more of a spectator occasion where the people watch professionals perform. We want our people to sing out and to be able to hear themselves and each other and to sing well to God from the heart.
5. Are you Catholic?
Yes and no. First, no, if you mean Roman Catholic (which is probably your question). You may have thought that we were Roman Catholic because we confess “the holy catholic church” in the Apostle’s Creed or because we use a liturgy in worship or because we use words like “catechism.” It’s understandable that you would have this question and this is why it is in our list of frequently asked questions. The fact is we trace our roots to the historic Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. As a Protestant church we believe in justification by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone, that Scripture is our final authority and that Christ is the only head of the church. However, we don’t shy away from using the term catholic because it simply means “universal.” When we confess “the catholic church” (notice the lower case “c”) in various creeds and confessions we are confessing that the church is not confined to any one location or time but is made up of a people from every place and time.
6. Why do you recite the Apostles Creed and other creeds and confessions?
British theologian John Webster has said: “To confess is not to reflect, even to reflect theologically; it is to herald the gospel…. To confess is to testify—and to testify with a bit of noise.” We use creeds and confessions in our church because we believe it is Biblical, necessary, and practical.
As a Biblical practice we believe that the church has always confessed the faith through short creedal statements that summarize the faith. In the Old Testament, when God redeemed Israel from Egypt he instructed Israel to confess the creedal words of Deuteronomy 6:4-7 on a daily basis: Deut. 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.
When we come to the New Testament we also find other summaries of the faith based on God’s revelation and redemption in Jesus Christ such as the following:
Many Biblical scholars believe that these and other statements like these in the New Testament are examples of early Christian creeds that summarized the faith or the “pattern of the sound words,” of the early church (2 Timothy 1:13). Along with these statements the New Testament gives many exhortations like the one found in Jude 3: Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
We also believe it is necessary to confess the faith through creeds and confessions. If someone asks you what you believe, unless you plan to open up your Bible and read from Genesis 1:1 until Revelation 22:21, you will inevitably be forced to confess what you believe through your own private confession of faith. We believe that having time tested public creeds and confessions that are faithful summaries of the Bible help us to confess the faith together as a church with other churches throughout the world and even throughout the ages.
We also believe that it is practical in that creeds and confessions help us to preserve the churches unity, to protect the church from heresy, to provide instruction on the essentials of the faith, and to promote praise in God for what he has done for us in Christ and by His Spirit. In the words of Carl Trueman: "The recitation of a creed in a worship service is one of the most countercultural things that Christians can do. It is an act of defiance, if not even of actual revolution. . .The recitation of a creed makes it very clear that, whatever the attitude of heart of any individual church member, the church as a whole looks to God as king, not some creaturely pretender. . .As soon as the congregation says 'We believe in one God...' all other pretenders to the divine throne have been put well and truly in their place. Neither sex nor money nor power is God; there is only one God, the God whom the creed proceeds to describe.”
For more on this topic see these resources: “Why Christians Need Confessions” by Carl Trueman; The Creedal Imperative by Carl Trueman (available in our church library); “Why Do We Have Creeds” by Burk Parsons (available at our book table).
7. What sort of programs do you have for families and children?
We place a high priority on passing on the Christian faith to our children. In the Old Testament Israel was commanded to make this a daily practice: Deut. 6:6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. This exhortation is repeated in Ephesians 6:4: Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
In order to pass on the faith to our children we especially encourage parents to be discipling their children in the faith on a daily basis. If you are not sure how to do this or where to begin we would love to come alongside you and help you learn more about teaching children the faith.
We also offer a children’s Sunday school class for ages 3-7. In this class our children learn basic Bible truths through stories and crafts. For ages 8-12 we offer a more thorough training through the “Life In Christ” curriculum. For teenagers to adults we have a Sunday school class that addresses various topics of the Christian life and/or studies a book of the Bible. In the past the adults have studied Galatians and James and other teaching series by Paul David Tripp, Timothy Keller and others.
Here are some resources we recommend on training our children in the faith: “Fathers Instruct Your Children: The Importance and Practice of Catechism” by Kim Riddlebarger.; The Nursery of the Holy Spirit: Welcoming Children in Worship, by Daniel R. Hyde; Westminster Bookstore Children’s Resources.
8. Why does the pastor raise his hands during the service?
The Bible teaches that worship is a dialogue between God and his people. God speaks to us by His Word and we respond in various prayers and songs. When the pastor raises his hands, this is a symbol that God is speaking to His people through his ordained minister. You may want to look up at the pastor during this time to hear God’s Word to you just as you would look at a person who is talking to you during a conversation. Or if you prefer, you may bow your head as a sign of humility. Either way lift up your heart with confidence in Christ and humbly receive God's word of blessing through his servant.
Also, this symbol of the minister raising his hands is not something we just made up. The high priest of Israel would raise his hands and bless the people in the “Aaronic" blessing (Numbers 6:23-27; Leviticus 9:22). Jesus also raised his hands and blessed his disciples during his ascension into heaven (Luke 24:50-51). Thus, it has been a practice throughout church history for pastors to raise their hands during worship to assure God’s people that He is speaking His blessing to them.
9. Do you have childcare?
The Bible teaches that the children of believers are part of Christ's visible church. We believe that children should as much as possible be included in the worship service, and not removed to a separate “children's church.” Children are welcome to participate in the worship service. In this short video, Pastor Michael Brown of one of our sister churches explains briefly why we welcome children into the worship service.
If, however, you desire a to train your little one on how to participate in the service without the fear of an unexpected meltdown, you may utilize the foyer as a “training room” which is equipped with a pew, songbooks, speakers and a window to view and hear the service (feel free to close the doors). We also have a staffed nursery downstairs with speakers to listen to the service. You may stay with your child in the nursery if you wish.
Here is a book we recommend on the topic of children in worship: The Nursery of the Holy Spirit: Welcoming Children in Worship, by Daniel R. Hyde
10. Do you have any mid-week Bible studies or community groups?
From time to time we have mid-week Bible studies. The women have been through several studies together including, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, by Paul David Tripp and Grace to Stand Firm, Grace to Grow: Light from 1-2 Peter, by Carol J. Ruvolo. The men have also been through a few studies together including The Reason for God: Conversations on Faith and Life (DVD), by Timothy Keller, and The Hole in our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness, by Kevin DeYoung. They are currently studying A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times, by Kim Riddlebarger. To view the schedule for this class visit here. Pastor Brian also teaches his Redeemer Basic Training class regularly which goes through the basics of what we believe and confess as a Reformed church.
More Q&A's to come. . .
11. Why is the service so structured?
12. Why does the church confess their sins together in the service?
13. What opportunities are there for service in this church?
14. Why do you baptize infants?
15. What do you believe about the Lord's Supper?
16. What is church membership?