Andrew Wilson from Think Theology praises PJ Smyth’s analogy of church elders as bridesmaids:
I once took a wedding where it was pouring with rain and muddy outside the church. I was moved watching how the bridesmaids selflessly got wet and muddy to ensure that the Bride didn’t. They were clear in their minds that the day was about the Bride, not them. They were resolute in their endeavour to present a clean, dry beautiful Bride to the Groom, even if they got grubby in the process.
About a week later I preached a message entitled “Elders are Bridesmaids.”
The Bride we serve belongs to Him. We are stewards of the Son of Man’s wife. And, one day we will give an account to God for how we stewarded our responsibility as maids to his Bride (Heb. 13.7).
Last I checked, Jesus is the one who presents the bride to himself in splendor without spot or wrinkle, holy and blameless, having sanctified her with his baptism and word.
The coronavirus has forced churches to stop meeting and begin taping or livestreaming their services. My own congregation has done this several times, and it has been simultaneously a blessing to have the technology to remain connected and a horror that the church is left with a facsimile of corporate worship. This unprecedented crisis and the quality of technology have led to a significant debate for the church: can we consider the livestreaming of church services, church? Followed closely behind is the question of whether or not people participating (i.e. viewing) the livestream should be encouraged to give themselves the Lord’s Supper. This issue was further complicated within my own denomination when our Stated Clerk, Jeff Jeremiah, issued a provisional opinion permitting the practice of virtual communion, an action not unique to the EPC in this moment.
This is a serious issue: the administration of the sacraments is one of the marks of the church. Not our sacramental theology, but our sacramental practice. I am sympathetic to those who wish to have the Lord’s Supper, and hunger for it myself. And I am also sympathetic to Jeff and the calls he has to make, and acknowledge that this is only a provisional decision. But the decision is wrong and should be retracted. Yes, these are exceptional times, and the church should use all available tools to minister during them. But even with the conditions being what they are, neither the teachings of scripture, nor our confession of faith, permit people to take communion at home away from the congregation of the church– even with access to a livestreamed service…
“And to stay in one’s own church despite much impurity in doctrine and life is our duty as long as it does not prevent us from being faithful to our own confession and does not force us, even indirectly, to…
The Gospel Coalition published an article by Baptist pastor Phil Newton called “10 Ways Pastors Can Encourage Church Attendance.” Take one guess which reason fails to make the cut.
The word “sabbath” never even appears in the article, much less the biblical idea that perhaps pastors can encourage church attendance by teaching that it is a Christian duty.
WSC 60: How is the sabbath to be sanctified? The sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.
I know that TGC is an ecumenical organization, but where are its Presbyterians on this?
The Westminster Theological Society is a group a ministers in the EPC who are striving to keep the denominational discussions and priorities centered around scripture. In 2017 they began publishing the Westminster Society Journal, which is aimed at EPC ministers, ruling elders, and interested lay people. I contributed an essay to last year’s volume, and contributed again to the 2019 volume which was just released. My article is called “Church Is a Place You Go”, and was also the subject of an interview I gave a few weeks ago on the E.A.R. Podcast. The opening paragraphs of my article can be found below…