Category Archives: Reformed Worship

COVID-19 & Tasmania — Update

Being a small island state has its advantages, especially during a pandemic.  The Tasmania state government made some good calls early in the crisis and those have paid off.  One of the key strategies was to close the state borders.  People from out-of-state could still travel to Tasmania, but they’d have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in accommodations provided by the state.  As a result of these strict measures, yesterday saw the 22nd straight day with no new COVID-19 cases.  Currently there are only two active cases in the entire state.

As of last Friday, more restrictions were lifted.  Travel is now permitted around the state, as is camping.  Many restaurants are now re-opened, though with limited seating.  But, most importantly of all, places of worship are now allowed to have 40 people in attendance for services.

Back in March, our church (Free Reformed Church of Launceston) decided to suspend worship services because of the pandemic.  We made this decision before the government imposed it.  In the place of worship services, we decided to provide two Sunday messages and one Wednesday evening message.  These messages, preceded and followed by prayer, just provided the bare minimum.

Last week, the consistory decided to resume worship services.  So yesterday we met together and worshipped for the first time since March 15.  For the time being, we are worshipping by wards, with numbers capped at 40 (plus “staff”).  Those not able to attend in person can still make use of the live-stream.

So what was it like to finally worship together again yesterday?  It was joyful.  Being able to see some brothers and sisters again in person, to be together in God’s presence, to sing and pray together — it was all so beautiful.  It’s easy to take these things for granted, but when it’s been taken away from you, you appreciate it all the more.

It was also surprising.  I’ve thought that when we get back together again, we may have some surprises.  Yesterday, we had two visitors from the community — people we’ve never met before, who’ve never attended before.  We warmly welcomed them and pray to see them again.

Finally, it was also so much better for me as a preacher.  After weeks of preaching to the heartless, dark eye of a camera, I was so happy to be able to preach to real live people in front of me.  It’s just so different when you can actually see the people listening.  Preaching to a camera just isn’t the same — I don’t even know if it’s really preaching.  Of course, it was better than nothing, but preaching from the pulpit is incomparable.  The physicality of being together cannot be replaced and it can only be poorly imitated.

More restrictions are due to be lifted in the next few weeks.  It’s possible that the schedule may even be bumped up again and we can soon have more people in attendance at public worship.  Things are looking good here in Tassie and we praise God for that.  I do think of brothers and sisters elsewhere still languishing in “exile,” especially those who have to deal with the frustration of not being able to worship together while governments look the other way when it comes to riots and protests which violate public health guidelines.  It makes no sense.  May God give us all wisdom and patience!


Now Available in the US : Aiming to Please

For those in the United States, Aiming to Please is now available here via Amazon. 


Now Available: Aiming to Please

My new book is available here.  Currently it’s only available in Canada — distribution for US, Australia and elsewhere is still being worked out.  Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

In 19 chapters, Wes Bredenhof explains in his unique, readable style, how Reformed worship aims to help us please God more and more.  All aspects of the service come under scrutiny:  Is singing hymns biblical?  Should the congregation say the votum?  Why collection bags?  Lord’s Supper in the pews?  And what about the role of organists, drums, the celebration of Christmas, and the use of projectors?  Does covenant theology make a difference to how we worship?  These topics and many more are addressed from the stance that we are not to worship God in any other manner than He has commanded in His Word.

Click here to see the Table of Contents.

Click here to see a list of questions the book addresses.

 


Worship, Unity, and Your Bible

Late last week our church leadership took the unprecedented step of suspending worship services.  Our initial plan was to do this for two Sundays and then reassess.  However, in the meantime, the Australian government has ordered the closure of places of worship (along with other public gatherings).  So it seems that we may be “in exile” for a while, possibly even up to six months.

While we’re sad about not being able to gather together, our congregation still has the opportunity to hear God’s Word.  We have the technology to live-stream (our church’s YouTube channel) and we’re thankful for that.  Last Sunday, I gave two messages at the times we would normally gather for worship in the morning and afternoon.  Many of our members were able to use that, and even some from outside our congregation.

We’ve been careful not to say that these live-streams are “worship services.”  They’re not.  They’re a poor substitute for what we normally do on Sundays.  Nothing compares to gathering together in person in the presence of God.  Because it’s not a worship service, I don’t stand on the pulpit.  We don’t have the call to worship, salutation, reading of the law, assurance of pardon, or benediction.  We do encourage our members to sing wherever they’re gathered and with whomever they’re gathered – even to sing by themselves if need be.  I supply them with suggested songs.  We also encourage them to pray together, and prayer points are supplied to that end.  We all pray for the day when these measures are history and we can return to our normal public worship.

Related to the foregoing, different churches have adopted different measures.  Some of those decisions may need to be revised in the coming days.  Whatever the case may be, we ought to remember that “Satan loves to fish in troubled waters” (adapting from Thomas Watson).  We’re in troubled waters and Satan wants to divide and conquer.  He wants Christians to be at each other’s throats.  Satan wants us to be biting and devouring one another – it serves his cause.  I respect the fact that there are other consistories who have taken a different approach to my church’s.  I might not agree that their approach is the best, but there’s no need for me to publicly or privately criticize them.  Let’s just respect one another and do what we can to strengthen the unity of God’s people in this trying time.

Finally, more than ever, believers need to be serious about their personal Bible reading.  You may not be able to go to public worship.  You might not be able to attend Bible study.  But you can still read and study your Bible at home by yourself.  There’s no obstacle to doing that.  If there’s ever a time when we all need regular spiritual encouragement from God’s Word, it’s now.  If you’re not already using a Bible reading plan, let me encourage you to do so (lots of options here).  Don’t worry that you’re starting late in the year — just start where you are and carry on.  Satan would love to use this crisis to drive you away from God.  Resist him.  Instead, let this crisis be a means through which God draws you closer to himself.  That means making use of whatever’s available – and the main thing that’s still available is the Bible.  Read it.  It’ll be a source of strength to get you through this.


Aiming to Please — Table of Contents

This new book (published by The Study) should be out soon.  These are the chapter titles:

Introduction

Part 1 — Principles

Chapter 1 – Setting the Stage:  The Covenant of Grace

Chapter 2 – Calling the Shots: The Reformed Principle of Worship

Chapter 3 – Organizing the Elements: Covenantal Structure and Logic

Part 2 — Ordinary Elements

Chapter 4 – The Introductory Elements

Chapter 5 – A Psalm-Singing Church

Chapter 6 – The Law, Confession of Sin, Assurance of Pardon

Chapter 7 – Preaching

Chapter 8 – Congregational Prayer

Chapter 9 – The Offertory

Chapter 10 – The Closing Elements

Part 3 – Other Elements, Questions, Issues

Chapter 11 – The Sacrament of Baptism

Chapter 12 – The Sacrament of Lord’s Supper

Chapter 13 – The Second Service and Catechism Preaching

Chapter 14 – Profession of Faith

Chapter 15 – Circumstances

Chapter 16 – Musical Accompaniment

Chapter 17 – Days of Commemoration

Chapter 18 – Reformed Worship and Mission

Part 4 — Conclusion

Chapter 19 – Nine Distinctives of Reformed Worship

Appendices

Appendix 1 – Liturgical Helps

Appendix 2 – Regular Items for Thanksgiving and Intercessory Prayer

Appendix 3 – Supervised Lord’s Supper Celebration Policy

Appendix 4 – Psalm and Hymn Selections Related to the Heidelberg Catechism

Appendix 5 – Psalm and Hymn Selections Related to Days of Commemoration