Biblical worship conference: Joyful reverence and awe

Church plants often struggle to survive. And survival mode forces a focus on bare basics, leaving little energy and few resources for evangelism or outreach. But Sioux Falls United Reformed Church Fellowship, a church plant in Classis Central of the URCNA, has surpassed survival mode to host a recent conference on worship.

Rev. Spencer Aalsburg

“With Joyful Reverence & Awe: Biblical Worship in Post-Modern Times” was held on October 7 & 8, 2011, at the Heartland Community Church building in Sioux Falls, SD. Rev. Alan Strange, Associate Professor of Church History at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, and Rev.Spencer Aalsburg, pastor of Sioux Falls United Reformed Church (SFURC), spoke at the conference.

Rev. Aalsburg explains the rationale that motivated conference planners: “When we sit back and ask, ‘Why a church plant in Sioux Falls?’—a significant answer is Reformed, i.e., biblical, worship. Moreover, since we’re created and redeemed to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, it soon became clear that we were planning a conference on arguably the most important topic in the Christian life.”

Organizers asked Rev Strange, who is ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), to speak on the subject of worship. 

The conference began on Friday evening when Rev. Strange gave two lectures. He spoke first on “Created and Redeemed to Worship: The Duty and Delight of Worshipping our God on the Lord’s Day.” His second presentation was on “Dynamics of Biblical Worship—How Has God Called Us in His Word to Worship Him?”

Rev. Alan Strange

On Saturday morning, Rev. Strange spoke about “The Voice of God Today—The Preaching of the Word is the Word of God.” He later addressed the subject, “Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns—Prayer and Music in Worship.”

In the afternoon, Rev. Aalsburg spoke on “When the Worship Begins on Sunday—How Does Biblical Worship Look in Practice?” Following that presentation the two speakers fielded questions during a question and answer session.

Both pastors led the Sioux Falls congregation in worship at Sunday morning’s service, which was followed by a fellowship lunch. 

About 75 people from Sioux Falls and surrounding communities attended the free conference. For several attendees, it was their first visit to SFURC. Rev. Aalsburg provides these examples of the diverse audience: “Dordt Professor, ELCA Lutheran pastor from Iowa, and Lutheran lay leader from a nearby town.”

“As always, you’d like to fill the pews and be forced to set up chairs, while reviewing the fire code capacity for the building,” he continues. “That would be ideal. More realistic is the fact that people don’t always prioritize learning events like this—even in their own church—let alone attend an event at a church with which they aren’t affiliated. So we were pleased with the number of people we had never met before.” 

Free materials from Ligonier and the White Horse Inn allowed SFURC to distribute a folder of relevant resources at no cost. A book table from Reformation Heritage Books allowed attendees to purchase material related to the subject of worship.

“The beauty of conferences (especially free ones) is the vast amount of free advertising that hits all kinds of people regardless of whether they actually attend,” says Rev. Aalsburg. “Moreover, notices about conferences keep on advertising even after the event. A lady recently saw an ad and called me looking for the audio—we ended up meeting for coffee and discussing biblical worship.”

Organizers hope soon to post audio files of conference lectures at the SFURC blog: http://sfurc.blogspot.com.

This article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 10-11 of the December 7, 2011 issue of Christian Renewal.

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