Back in November 2018 Mercy Street Reformed Church began holding Lord’s Day services at the Schlessman YMCA in Denver. At first our services were held every other Lord’s Day, but then in April of 2019 we began meeting every week.
Over the course of the two years that we have been meeting, we have seen our attendance fluctuate between a low of one (myself and one other congregant, which took place on Mother’s Day 2019) to twenty-six (our largest attendance to date).
Some people have asked me, “Do you become discouraged due to low attendance?” to which I usually along the lines of, “Sometimes, but then again I know that it’s the Lord who builds His church and all I can do is seek to be faithful.”
About nine months ago I sat down with an individual who told me that he had “successfully” planted a number of churches over the past decade or so, implying that if I followed his church-plant strategy that Mercy Street could be just as “successfully.” Simply put, I was told that if Mercy Street would stop holding services and for the next year raise as much money as possible (somewhere in the neighborhood of half-a-million dollars) so that we could then have the best possible praise band and sound system, and if we would hold our new launch date on a “mud-day,” meaning a day in which people were less likely to want to be outside recreating, and if we would appeal first and foremost to the women in the church (especially women with children), since they – according to this individual – make most of the spiritually-based decisions in most families these days, THEN we would have the greatest likelihood of being a “successful” church-plant.
I politely listened to all that this person had to say, asking questions here and there, but when all was said and done I thought to myself, “If that’s what it takes in today’s world to plant a successful church, then I guess we’ll be unsuccessful while seeking instead to be faithful to what God’s Word tells us a church should be.
Our Lord’s Day services have been, and will continue to be, fairly straight-forward with our primary emphasis placed on the faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word. Yes, we sing, and yes, we agree together in prayer, and yes, we have a time of fellowship before and after the service (with snacks and coffee provided). However, our main focus is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, since that’s what we all need to hear week after week, and since it’s through belief and repentance related to that same glorious Gospel that transforms lives.
As a member of the Reformed Church in the United States (which you can read the history of under the “About” tab), we are also a Confessional Church which means that we confess that the Heidelberg Catechism (written in the mid-1500’s), the Belgic Confession (written around the same time), and the Canons of Dordt (written in 1618-1619) are faithful summaries of what God’s Word teaches in the major areas of theology.
Every church that I’m aware of (even the ones planted by the above-mentioned individual) have some kind of ‘Statement of Faith” concerning what they believe and confess to be true – and most can be found on each particular church website. A typical “Statement of Faith/What we Believe” might include a sentence or two explaining what a church believes concerning the Bible, personal relationships, how to know Jesus, how to be a good citizen, and how to invite others to church (in fact, those same five categories are the only five listed on the website of the largest church in the Denver Metro area).
Mercy Street, along with the other RCUS churches, also has a “Statement of Faith” only ours is much more fulsome and defining which serves us well since so many of life’s issues go well-beyond any five areas of study. I realize that many people today like things put in simple terms, and so do I when it comes to recipes for cooking or for building a product I buy at IKEA, but when it comes to knowing God and the things of God, I would much rather have all of the major doctrines (teachings) of Scripture faithfully and clearly explained and presented to me.
By means of an example, here is a direct quote from a local churches website explain what they confess and believe when it comes to “Spiritual Formation” – “We believe that living and linking arms in a safe ‘me too’ group is the best environment to train to know who Jesus really is so that He is formed in us. (Romans 12:1).”
In contrast, here is just one statement (out of dozens of others) that we in the RCUS confess and believe to be true under basically the same area of “Spiritual Formation” – first, the question is asked, “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” and then we have this answer, “That I with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with His precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil, and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation, and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of everlasting life, and makes me heartily willing and ready, from now on, to live unto Him.” (I Corinthians 6:19-20; Romans 14:7-9; I Corinthians 3:23; I Peter 1:18-19; John 1:7; I John 3:8; Hebrews 2:14-15; John 6:39; John 10:28-29; Luke 21:18; Matthew 10:30; Romans 8:28; 2 Corinthians 1:22 and 5:5; Romans 8:14 and 7:22) Lord’s Day 1, Question and answer 1, of the Heidelberg Catechism.
Hopefully it’s evident that what we confess and believe the Word of God to teach is, like I said, much more fulsome and defining, not only in that area but in many others as well. In fact the Heidelberg Catechism has 52 Lord’s Days with multiple questions and answers; the Belgic Confession has 35 Articles; and the Canons of Dordt has five major heads of doctrine (teaching), each with numerous articles stating what we believe the Holy Scriptures to teach.
Of course all three of those faithful summaries are just that – faithful SUMMARIES of what God’s Word teaches,- and therefore every preacher in the RCUS seeks to preach nothing other than the Word of God itself. At the same time, having clear statements/confessions of what the Word of God teaches in so many areas of life, keeps us from we seeking to water down what the Scriptures teach, or from trying and make the Word more culturally relevant than it already is.
According to Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers, the flower fades: but the Word of our God stands forever.” Along with that “standing Word of God” is the truth that it conveys to God’s people. By His grace, we at Mercy Street Reformed Church seek to be faithful to the entire counsel of God’s unchanging Word, so that we might know the only true and lasting comfort, both in life and in death, which belongs to all of God’s own through saving faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Please come and worship with us at 4:00 p.m. each Lord’s Day evening at Faith Presbyterian Church in Aurora, CO. I promise that it will be a simple worship experience with no ‘bells and whistles,’ but it will also be one in which the preaching and teaching of the Word of God is front and center.