Introducing Reformed Worship

Presenting a new magazine—"Here I am, read me!"–seems presumptuous. We, who have produced the magazine, presume that you, who now hold it in your hand, are interested enough to read it. We presume you won’t flip it into the wastebasket as junk mail. And we hope you will subscribe and read future issues.

Much of what we’ve presumed is expressed in our statement of purpose:

The purpose of the quarterly called REFORMED WORSHIP is to give practical assistance to worship leaders of the Christian Reformed Church and other ReformedlPresbyterian churches in planning, structuring, and conducting worship. This practical assistance will include education in the nature and function of worship and resources for liturgy and music, both in accord with the Reformed tradition. Worship leaders will include pastors, councils, church musicians, and worship–committee members of a culturally and ethnically diverse range of churches.

A lot is packed into this statement. Let me unpack it a bit.

We presume that worship leaders need assistance. Not because they are incompetent or lack commitment. Rather, because church musicians and worship–committee members tell us they can find few guidelines and resources, especially ones that reflect and speak to the Reformed/Presbyterian tradition. Pastors say they learned little in seminary about structuring and leading worship effectively. Once they leave standard formats and venture into the world of worship innovation and change, most worship leaders feel lost. Not that we’re advocating worship change for its own sake. The fact is, we live in a time of liturgical newness. Witness the new and revised hymnals in our churches. Many congregations are demanding a more varied liturgy with greater pew participation. But change needs to be weighed by biblical standards and formed by a healthy theological tradition.

We presume the assistance should be practical. While theories and guidelines are good, most worship leaders want help in planning the Reformation Day service, in choosing music for Advent, in deciding where to put the choir, in becoming a better organist. So we’ve provided seasonal resources and practical advice.

We presume the pastor is not the only worship leader. Church musicians certainly qualify. And in our tradition the final responsibility for worship rests with the council (session) of the church–often delegated to a worship committee. As the interview article "More than Preaching" points out, wider involvement in forming the liturgy, under the pastor’s guidance, can enhance the entire service, uniting it around the Scripture read and proclaimed.

We presume that a magazine produced by one church can serve many. That is possible only because of our common tradition, our common priorities, and our common desire to live in obedience to God’s Word. By drawing on the talents of many churches, we hope to speak to you all.

I trust what we’ve presumed about you is accurate. If we err, please correct us. Tell us how we may serve you better. For our goal is to enhance the worship of God’s people, that his name may be glorified, his people edified, and his church enlarged.

The late Harvey Smit was executive director of Reformed Worship and editor-in-chief of CRC Publications.