When to deviate from the bulletin?

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by Mr. Bultitude, Oct 7, 2013.

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  1. Mr. Bultitude

    Mr. Bultitude Puritan Board Freshman

    I visited a black church (African Methodist Episcopal) yesterday, and they had a disclaimer at the top of their bulletin that said, "The bulletin is only an indicator of the order of worship. We are under the dominion of the Holy Spirit, Who anoints us, leads us and guides us in worship." This seems to echo a common complaint from Pentecostals and other charismatics about churches with a strong sense of the order of service, especially those holding to a set liturgy. My question is, under what circumstances would you dispense with what was planned on a given Sunday? What would you do instead?

    Obviously, we must not equate spontaneity with the Holy Spirit's guidance, which is a trap that Pentecostalism sometimes seems to fall into. But shouldn't we also be careful not to be ignore the the Spirit's guidance by being too rigid?
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2013
  2. matt01

    matt01 Puritan Board Senior

    I don't reaaly know how to answer, but there was one time, at a RB church where about 1/3 of the way through the sermon the pastor stopped and said that he wasn't able to go on. I don't recall what he said exactly, but it had to do with his impression that the Spirit wasn't present. Someone prayed and we were dismissed. All that, I suppose there are times when it would be appropriate to change direction if things aren't going right.
  3. Andres

    Andres Puritan Board Doctor

    And how exactly would you know that "the Spirit" wants you to change the service?
  4. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Senior

    First, we don't have a bulletin from which to deviate. Secondly, our order is pretty simple and routine. So, on any given Lord's Day there is a set order and it isn't likely to be deviated from. Now, if I passed out while preaching or a member went into cardiac arrest, then we would obviously stop what we were doing to address that. But the order we have employed in our worship is that order we have deduced from the Holy Scriptures which were inspired by the Spirit of God. The Spirit speaks and leads us in and through his Word. And so I would maintaine that our worship is indeed led by the Holy Spirit, without whom we could do nothing. So I am not looking for some "special revelation" apart from God's Word from the Spirit to "lead" me to throw out the plans I've made for worship in that week.

    Now, that is not to say that the man of God, charged with leading the public worship of the church may not change certain aspects of a service if he deems it necessary for the glory of God and the better edification of the church. There have been times when I felt that a certain hymn was better suited than the one I had previously chosen, so I changed it. From time to time I'll do the same thing with regard to the call to worship, the Scripture reading, or benediction. Now that doesn't happen often, but when it does, using the light of God's Word and the sanctified common sense he has given me, I take liberty make those changes.
  5. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

    Jesus is the worship leader. He sets the Bulletin, and it consists solely of His Word (Reading of His Word, Preaching of His Word, Praying of His Word, Singing His Word, Seeing His Word (Sacraments)). Should we deviate if led by the Holy Spirit? We should only deviate from our man made creations in worship where we recognize Scripture hasn't commanded us to do something which we planned on doing, and follow Jesus only. The Spirit leads according to the Word alone.
  6. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    So you can't pray until after the sermon? And no call to worship or benediction?
  7. MarieP

    MarieP Puritan Board Senior

    Interesting... It was great that the pastor stopped for prayer, but I'm surprised the service was dismissed. My own pastor stopped for prayer once for that very reason, but he continued on, and "God delivered" as they say! But to dismiss the service and not continue in the preaching seems short-sighted and, honestly, showing little faith in our Father's willingness to give the Spirit when we ask. But at any rate, I'm sure it's a hard call for pastors- whether to continue on and finish what's in their outline, sometimes from a sense of dullness in the congregation or in themselves, or more happily because of their or the congregation's attentiveness and zeal (my pastor said he had to restrain himself from saying all he wanted to say yesterday morning in his sermon in a multipart-series on our identity as children of God!)

    We don't have bulletins (someone actually told me they thought only Charismatics did that!) Like Pastor Sheffield said (great to call him that!- my church had been praying for a man to be called by God to lead that flock!), the order of worship is simple. Though, the order of service is sent out Sat. morning to those who would like to have it. Basically, it's Psalm or Scripture reading, prayer, one or two hymns, consecutive New (A.M.) or Old (P.M.) Testament reading, prayer from the congregation (A.M.) or pastoral prayer (P.M.), another hymn, and then the preaching (which includes prayer at the beginning!).

    We generally don't have a closing hymn, but sometimes we do if a particular hymn is on the preacher's mind as he is expounding the Word, or if it seems fitting because of the way the Spirit's been engaging the congregation.
  8. Mr. Bultitude

    Mr. Bultitude Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for the responses so far!

    Are you a cessationist? I only ask because if you are that statement makes complete sense, but if not it raises a lot more questions.

    Well that pretty much is exactly my question.
  9. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    Once in an OPC church the bulletin had the Scripture text wrong. The minister seemed completely oblivious of it, and went ahead preaching the text he had prepared.
  10. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    While it may be appropriate in some circumstances to vary from the bulletin, the pastor should be sensitive to the impact on others when making the change.
  11. MarieP

    MarieP Puritan Board Senior

    One of my friends from church reads Braille, so if there is a late change in the order of worship, she's without (unless it's one she's memorized).
  12. Andres

    Andres Puritan Board Doctor

    I am a cessationist and I concur with Elder Barnes. We dont' wait for "warm fuzzies" to dictate how to proceed in worship. We base our worship on the RPW, which is based on Scripture. Can the order or worship ever be altered? Well, last Lord's Day our order or worship had a misprint of the wrong Psalm to sing, so we deviated there, but that's more common sense than an extraordinary move of God.
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