When people come to a Presbyterian Church, they usually notice that the worship service is a bit different than other churches. Frequently, it is less formal than what they are used to. There is less structure than many churches and the bulletin is rather simple. For many it is more formal, with creeds and responsive readings that are foreign to them. Some people aren’t used to reading responses, like the Apostle’s Creed or the Lord’s Prayer. Another difference is our music. The hymns and tunes are sometimes unfamiliar; some seem to be very old, and some seem to be very new. So why do Presbyterians worship the way they do?
We encourage you to learn more about what we believe, our leadership and staff, and how we worship.
When is your worship service on Sunday?
We meet at 9:30 a.m. and 6:00 pm. We have Sunday School for all ages at 10:45 to 11:30 a.m.
Why do you have two worship services?
We believe the most important ingredient to Christian growth is corporate (group) worship and preaching. Correct worship is what God seeks (John 4:24) and preaching is where the voice and truth of Christ are heard most clearly (Romans 10:14). Of all the things the church does, this is the most important.
What do we wear?
You may dress any way you like. You will see some in suits and dresses and some in jeans and polos. However, we do not shy away from saying our worship is “formal” worship. That merely means that it is organized, orderly, and has a goal of true reverence. Since reverence has an element of respect in it, many of our folks will try to “clean up” nicely for the service. But that is different for each person. Sunday evening is always more relaxed than the morning. The service is slightly simpler, and ties and dresses are relatively rare.
What should we expect at your worship service?
We have written elsewhere in the website in detail about our approach to worship. But suffice to say here that the worship service will be orderly, participatory, and reverent. There will be a bulletin that has some written unified responses to say. We sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs out of the Trinity Hymnal or from printed songs in the bulletin. We use mostly a piano and organ to accompany the singing, though on occasions we will also use guitar, electric piano, or even a harpsichord. We use the Bible throughout the service and the preaching will always be an exposition of a portion of Scripture. We seek the dual Biblical characteristics of reverence and joy to be present in every service.
How is evening worship different than morning?
As was stated earlier, evening worship is less formal though still reverent and orderly. The preaching is still Biblical, but emphasizes personal Christian growth and is often more topical than the morning service. The morning service nearly always features consecutive expositions of books of the Bible. We have been working at introducing different types of music into our evening service, whereas the morning service is more historic (traditional).
What about children?
We have a well staffed nursery for preschoolers. However we emphasize that worship is for the whole family and we encourage families to train their children to worship with the whole church as early as they can in life. It may take a while to train a child to sit quietly, sing, and listen in a group setting. But there are few things more valuable for a child to learn. The pastor has written a brief guide to help families teach their children to worship. There is no children’s church or children’s sermons.
How is your Sunday School organized?
We have age graded Sunday School from the age of 2 and up. Adult classes are “affinity based” small groups which meet throughout the church building. Though there is a great deal of overlap and all are welcome in whatever class they choose, the classes are organized around life situations, beginning with young singles all the way to retirees.
Are there any other small group meetings?
We gather in various groups to pray and share on Wednesday nights, the Women in the Church sponsor several small group meetings, and there are often informal groups that spring up throughout the year. Check the office for specific times and places.
What is there for children and youth?
We have a full youth program. In addition to Sunday School there are classes for ages 5 and up on Wednesday night while the adults gather for prayer. The teenagers have their own meeting house on campus where they meet Wednesday and often on Sunday evening after the worship service. We have an annual Vacation Bible School for our children and the teenagers participate fully in our denominational summer conference ministry, The Edge for junior highs, and RYM for high schoolers. There are also various other activities throughout the year which are led by our Youth Director.
What does it mean that you call your church “Presbyterian?”
“Presbyterian” is a word to describe churches that are theological descendants of what became known in history as the “Reformed Faith.” Reformed theology and practice stems from the rediscovery of certain basic truths in the Protestant Reformation. One branch of the Reformation identified itself as “reformed” meaning everything in the church should be reformed by Scripture. The word “Presbyterian” actually refers to the distinctive view rediscovered in the Reformation that the church should be ruled by a group of elders (“presbyteros” in Greek).
Is there just one “kind” of Presbyterian denomination in the Shoals?
Actually we have counted six different Presbyterian denominations in our general area! Our local church is a member of the Presbyterian Church in America (pcanet.org) which was founded in 1973 from a group of churches who left another Presbyterian denomination because of what it perceived as a liberalizing influence. Today it stands as the second largest Presbyterian body in the United States. The PCA holds to the Confession of Faith that the American Presbyterian churches adopted in 1788 and has held ever since. That confession is called the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. The PCA believes in world-wide evangelization and has a greater number of missionaries than any other Presbyterian body. The PCA holds firmly to the inerrancy and infallibility of the Scriptures.
How are Presbyterians different today from other denominations or churches?
In our day and age we find the Presbyterian and/or Reformed understanding of the Bible differs from others in mostly three areas.
First, we have a strong emphasis on the sovereignty and transcendence of God. We believe that God is almighty and “magnificently other,” deserving majestic worship and humble obedience. In the doctrine of salvation we believe the Bible emphasizes the sovereignty of God. This focuses on the free invincible grace of God that saves sinners through their expression of faith. Often this is called “election” or “predestination” in the Bible. Our practice of evangelism in preaching and sharing the gospel is enhanced by knowing that the Holy Spirit is going before us, drawing men, women, boys, and girls into saving faith. God truly saves the lost, not just makes it possible for them to save themselves.
Secondly, the Presbyterian and Reformed faith understands the Biblical sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper in a slightly different way than most churches. Our views are connected to our understanding of the covenant in Scripture. We baptize by pouring water, believing the mode of baptism follows the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We baptize all believers and their infant children, believing the Bible teaches that the family is one of the main methods of evangelism. The sign of belief is placed on whole households (e.g. Acts 16:15, 25f) as a declaration of God’s special love for the family and our anticipation of the children’s hoped for salvation. We include them in the covenant that we make with God. Presbyterians have always had a strong focus on the rearing of children in a Christian environment. This is our obligation in the covenant of grace. We also believe the Holy Spirit is vitally present in the Lord’s Supper, and works through it in a similar way to how God uses the Scripture to bring us grace and strength. We do not believe the supper contains the physical body or blood of Christ in any way, nor do we believe the supper is merely a reminder of Christ’s life and death. The Lord’s Supper is the sign of communion in the New Covenant (1 Corinthians 11:25).
Thirdly, Presbyterians believe that church is ruled by a series of courts which are made up of elders or bishops. There are several elders in each church, each of whom elected into their role by the congregation. The pastor is just one of the members of the board of elders. There is a regional board of appeal and fellowship called the presbytery, which is made up of representative elders from congregations in a specific geographic location. There is an annual meeting called General Assembly which functions as a “supreme court” for national issues and challenges. The church functions as a republic, not a democracy or a dictatorship. Elders are elected and lead, much like our representatives in our civil government.
Are these the only or most important distinctive beliefs of the Reformed Faith?
Not at all. The Presbyterian/Reformed faith has several other major emphases. The preaching of the inerrent and infallible Scripture is a mark of the Reformed Faith. Proper church discipline administered by loving and concerned elders is a distinctive. Our understanding of the Old Testament’s relationship to the New, and the use of the moral law of the Old Testament is a historic distinctive. The difference in our understanding of law and grace in Christian growth is often freeing to the soul. Our approach to outreach is not only a belief in evangelism from the pulpit and by members during the week, but a desire to take the Biblical mandates and apply them to our whole culture, “taking every thought captive” to the Word of God. Often Presbyterians will be in the forefront of reform in politics, civic life, and education, to name a few. This is a fully orbed approach to extending the Kingdom of God in our midst. More information about all of these are available from the church.