The Heartbeat

My guess is that every pastor is pretty much the same in that every pastor has his own particular "hobby horses": things that matter to them far more than they may matter to others. I know I have my list. Here are some of my "hobby horses" as they relate to church life…

1. Hymnody. As I posted out on the church sign last year, "If we cease singing hymns we become a thief…robbing a younger generation of their Christian heritage." Do you remember that sign? It was one of those signs that I intended for the greater church in Lancaster County. For my attitude has been, for a long time now, "shame on those churches that have ceased singing hymns." By hymns I mean the songs that the church has sung literally for centuries: Come Ye Sinners; Amazing Grace; Holy, Holy, Holy; O Sacred Head Now Wounded; and others. The route I chose for Burning Hearts was to begin each service with one of these songs. God forbid that someone growing up at Burning Hearts would not know such songs.

2. Having music at a volume that allows people to hear themselves sing. What is the point of quoting St. Paul and his challenge to "speak to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs" if, in the end, one cannot even hear oneself? I've been to the churches where the music is extremely loud – so loud that ear plugs are available! – and I will tell you what I have observed: people NOT singing. And that makes sense, for why should anyone even attempt to sing if one cannot be heard even by oneself? Such an approach to church singing is not merely strange, or even wrong, it is actually bizarre.

3. Do not project Bible passages on the wall or on a screen. I know that this has followed the projection of the lyrics to songs, but, to me, this is an indirect discouragement for people to bring a Bible to church. Someone may say, "Ah, but they bring their phones" (that contain a Bible app). And they are likely right. But I believe we should actually ENCOURAGE the bringing of Bibles to church. D. L. Moody once said, "If you walk a mile to church carrying a Bible, you preach a sermon a mile long." If people are not bringing their Bibles to church do you really think they are spending any great time opening their Bibles at home? I doubt it. But by bringing their Bibles to church they will be FORCED to become more acquainted with them and this will, in turn, help them to better handle their "swords."

4. Praying on our knees. For years – going way back in my time as a pastor – I dreamed of a time when in the Evangelical Church we would follow the pattern so ubiquitous in Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Episcopal Churches: kneeling in prayer. The Bible mentions this physical position – a position of submission – in the context of prayer. Little did I ever imagine that a virus called COVID-19 would force us to spread out our seating area and that that, in turn, would make it easier for people to physically turn around and kneel. Even though we have now moved the seats somewhat closer together (though not as close as they used to be), there is still room for a time of kneeling in prayer and so I hope to see this continued.

5. Distinguishing between the sacred and the secular. In the Old Testament scriptures, the high priest was to take off his daily garments and put on specially made high priest garments when he was acting in his official role as high priest. A modern equivalent for me has been to dress up for the Sunday service time, and to wear a black suit on the first Sunday of the month (when we celebrate the Lord's supper). Some may think this strange or "corny" but it is my way of reminding myself of the distinction between the sacred and the secular. My hope is that church congregants would pick up on this example and themselves make the decision to regard our time of gathering as special. Do they need to wear a suit? No. But, in my mind at least, they shouldn't be coming in sweatpants either.

These are a few of my hobby horses. You, Justin, will have the freedom to "ride" these same horses, and some others as well, or you may choose to be done with all of them. That really is going to be up to you. Should you literally discard the five that I have mentioned above, it will be hard for me. It will. But even then I will support you. So practical deviance I can live with. Theological deviance, on the other hand, I cannot accept. And I will speak to that in my next letter to you.

By His Grace,
Doug Winne

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06 Jul 2022 - 07:00PM
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08 Jul 2022 - 07:00PM
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