I highly recommend Dever MP3s. They are first-class: always interesting and biblically informed. And the interviews are lots of fun!
Last night my wife, Jenni, and I finished reading Letters Along the Way: A Novel of the Christian Life by D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge.
We really enjoyed reading it, and I highly recommend it. This isn’t your typical novel. It’s the compilation of (fictitious) correspondence between two people: Dr. Paul Woodson (i.e., Woodbridge + Carson) and Timothy Journeyman. Professor Woodson is a professor of systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Tim spends part of the book as a student in college and seminary and part of it as a rookie pastor. Tim perennially asks for advice, and Woodson shares his wisdom on all kinds of issues, including assurance of salvation, perseverance, campus evangelism, evangelical seminaries, evangelicalism, foreign politics, marriage, psychology, spiritual formation while in seminary, pastoring, and much more. Reading these made-up letters is almost as personal as if you wrote the question to Drs. Carson and Woodbridge themselves and then received a thoughtful reply.
This is not a heavyweight theological tome. It’s light reading. Jenni would usually read it aloud (to give my eyes a break from reading print and electronic resources all day) while cleaning up after dinner or lying down just before retiring. We’re kind of sad that the book is over, but it was a thoroughly edifying adventure.
This morning my wife and I visited College Church in
We just moved to Deerfield, IL in early August and since then have been spending most of our Sundays at Lake Drive Baptist Church in Bay Side, WI, where I’ve been preaching/teaching three times each Sunday. A possible pastoral candidate is preaching there today, so we decided to drive 50 minutes southwest to visit a historic church and hear a godly man who has authored many books, some quite influential. (For more background on Dr. Hughes, see this two-part interview by Jason Janz: part 1, part 2.)
We really liked the worship service, more than any I can remember in recent memory. The main reason is that everything about it was God-centered. God is great, and I love participating in worship that exults in God’s greatness. I tried to think of the specific factors that contributed to this God-centered worship (in order of my impressions as a visitor—not necessarily importance):
- The building’s architecture: The auditorium is beautiful, elegant, majestic, grand, exalted. Illustration: When I was a child, one of the rooms in our house was off-limits. It was a sitting room with my parents’ most elegant furniture, and we were not allowed to go in there. It was reserved for special occasions. That’s what
‘s auditorium felt like: a special room for a special occasion, i.e., worshipping God. College Church
- The people: For the most part, the church (i.e., the people) contributed to this by their demeanor and dress. They did not have the overly serious demeanor of monks, nor were they slapping each other on the back talking about the latest ballgames. Their modest, formal dress appropriately communicated that they were serious about worship.
- The music: The music was tastefully conservative—every bit as conservative, if not more so, as churches I’ve attended in the past (e.g., FBC of Troy and MCBC). One aspect I especially liked is that when we sang hymns, the organist lead us. No one stood in the pulpit and waved his arms or interrupted the hymn by cutting out verses or interjecting comments. This allows you to focus on the words you’re singing rather than the tempo of the song leader. (By these comments I’m not saying that I reject the use of a songleader! One of my best friends, Scott Aniol, is a songleader, and a skilled songleader can be quite helpful. Often, however, that is not the case.)
- The order of worship: It was evident that a lot of thought goes into a worship service at
On Saturday evening I downloaded the Sunday bulletin as a PDF and mentally prepared for the service. Because the order is written out and everyone receives a bulletin when entering the auditorium, there is no need to announce what it coming next. For example, no one announces the hymn number. The service is fluid. It all fits. The Scripture reading, hymns, and sermon are a package with a unified message. College Church.
- The pastor: Dr. Hughes preached the word. He was simultaneously humble, dignified, sober, friendly, and pastoral. After his sermon on Philippians 4:14-20, the closing hymn, and his benediction, we were all seated for a minute or two of silent reflection and prayer. No come-forward invitation. If someone wants counsel, he may seek it at the front of the auditorium after the service—not during it. I love that, not least because it forces everyone to respond to God’s preached words.
I’m aware that there are pros and cons to these thoughts, and I don’t mean to imply that this is the only way to worship God in any culture. But in my culture and limited experience, this is one of the most positive experiences I’ve ever had worshipping God with a church on the Lord’s day.
Grace to you!