I know the old saying, “If you find the perfect church, it’ll stop being perfect because you’re there,” or something like that. Well, I’ve been around the block a few too many times to think that there is such a thing as a church full of perfectly consistent Christians who always forgive each other, are loving, generous and caring, while at the same time utterly devoted to offering the purest, most biblically ordered and sincere worship of God. I may be a bit naive about some things, but when it comes to church, I’m . . . well, not so naive. But that doesn’t keep me from getting enthusiastic about church from time to time.
Perhaps a little closer to what I have in mind is the way people talk about “your own hell.” You know, some conceptualize hell by making it an infinite and eternal punishment of enduring whatever any given individual finds the most unpleasant or distasteful. Like hell for some people is lying on a bed of nails for eternity, for others it’s having to watch Family Matters reruns (I never did like that show), and still others may dread an eternity of reading poorly written blog posts, or something. But you get the idea. This is more analogous to what I have in mind when I say that this past Sunday, I visited what I consider to be “my perfect church.” It had just about everything I could ever ask for in a church (with very few exceptions).
In the world of debating the Reformed notion of the “Regulative Principle of Worship,” the matters that come under discussion are usually categorized in two ways: elements of worship (mandatory things the Bible requires:preaching, prayer, sacraments, etc.), and circumstances of worship (optional things utilized for practical reasons: choice of musical instruments, sound systems, carpet color, etc.). I think I’ll try to categorize the elements and circumstances of my own personal concept of the perfect church, which I discovered in Overland Park, Kansas at Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
- Preaching that explicitly centers all exposition and application on the good news of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, with a minimum of autobiography, corny jokes, illustrations and sundry other rabbit trails.
- Weekly communion
- Long-winded prayers full of Scripture
- The predominance of classical, historic hymnody (I can tolerate a dose of contemporary music, as long as it’s done tastefully)
Circumstances (Icing on the Cake!)–
- Big, beautiful church architecture and a really cool pulpit (not a glorified music stand)
- Pipe organ accompaniment of at least the primary psalms and hymns sung by the congregation (okay, there were no pipes–just giant speakers, but the organ had the sound!)
- A book table full of Reformed literature
- A pastor who runs a Reformed blog
- Members who demonstrably care about me
Anyway, that gives you a pretty good idea of what gets me all giddy and makes me start speaking in terms of “the perfect church.” These were all to greater and lesser degrees present at Redeemer Presbyterian. I was even impressed by the hospitality of the couple in the pew in front of us with whom we “passed the peace” (my first time for that practice, but I’d heard of it from an Episcopal friend before). When they learned that we were from out of town to visit our daughter who attends UMKC, they gave us their name, phone number and address with an invitation to crash with them whenever we return to Kansas City.
Then there was the pastor and the preaching. First of all, when I was searching online for a church to visit last Sunday morning, I noticed on Redeemer’s webpage that their pastor is the man who runs the blog called “Reepicheep,” which I’d seen a few times before in the blogrolls of other blogs, but had yet to begin regularly following. Well that’s changed. When I shook his hand at the door on my way out, I told him I’d add him to my blogroll (see sidebar). As for the preaching, a thorough exposition and application of Philippians 2:9-11 on God’s and man’s response to the supreme humility of Christ sealed the deal (listen here). It was obvious by it’s predominance that the gospel is a priority for the preaching ministry of this church. If I lived in Kansas (or Kansas City, this would be the church for me). But I don’t, so it isn’t. But this is the heart of what I consider to be my “perfect” church.
P.S.–I would’ve taken more pictures like the tourist I was, but I was embarrassing my wife. 🙂