Rev Dr Timothy Tow
Going to church on the Lord’s Day is contained in the Apostle’s exhortation in Hebrews 10:25. It is inherently given in the Fourth Commandment. It is extolled in many a Psalm (Psalm 84, 118, 122). But, the flesh is always slow to respond to the commandments of God. It is said that many a Christian contracts that common disease known as Morbus Sabbaticus, Sabbath sickness, or Sunday morning sickness, male or female. Why is churchgoing a burden, not a blessing?
We who are leaders of the church—bishops, pastors, elders, deacons, Sunday school superintendents, choir masters and so forth—have a duty, like doctors and nurses in a hospital to attend to this disease. Let it not sweep the church like an epidemic. Why are the pews becoming more and more empty these days?
Dr S H Tow, who introduced the RPG Daily Bible-reading workbooks to you, offered a solution. Getting the congregation to read the Bible corporately, along a given direction, and preaching from the assigned readings, should help. I agree with my brother heartily!
I should like, however, to contribute my humble opinion. Whether churchgoing becomes a burden or a blessing on the Lord’s Day (basic church attendance) depends solely on the minister, inasmuch as it is the head that controls the body. While it is the duty of the congregation to pray for the pulpit, it is the greater duty of him who stands in the pulpit to pray for his sheep, to wrestle with God Himself for His blessings. It should be the happy understanding of the pastor himself to make each service as solemnly joyful as possible, because he is leading his congregation to worship before the Lord.
In this respect, music plays a secondary role only to preaching (in the words of Martin Luther). There should be progression in congregational singing—hymns of praise, prayer and thanksgiving and hymns of teaching and application. Hymns that are not always from the same hymnal or hymnals should be used. A pastor should own a library of hymnals and songbooks. He himself should appreciate good music and poetry. He is the one to introduce refreshing new songs, appropriate to the occasion, or else singspiration becomes perspiration.
He should learn to pray as the disciples had asked the Lord to teach them to pray. He should learn to pray publicly the things that should be prayed for publicly. He should delight to conduct the service throughout in the highest spirit of devotion and not leave it to someone less prepared. He should pray much before he ascends the pulpit and should have spoken to the Lord before he speaks to his people. How much time do you give to the preparation of this first part of worship? The singing of the Doxology and Gloria Patri stirs the heart to devotional worship. The Lord’s Prayer, frequently repeated, adds much power to our own prayers, especially when dissenting brethren have to repeat together, “and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”
Then there is the choir. A choir should sing, not to display itself like a peacock when he sees a crowd coming. A choir that sings from its heart can move worshippers to tears. But, the most important choir is the congregation itself. They should be given good hymns and be led in good singing.
The collection of offerings is in accordance with the Apostle’s command to the Corinthian Church (1 Corinthians 16:1,2). Giving to the church varies with the standard set by the pastor. If the pastor is not tithing himself, how can he expect his members to tithe? Giving is affected by the pastor’s way of life. If he uses the church’s money lavishly, upon himself, for wasteful purposes, let him not expect the congregation to support his ways. He must live a prayerful life and conserve the church’s income for every good work.
The greatest need is in the preparation of the sermon. It must not be left till Saturday night. All week through, all the days of his life, a pastor is given to preparing his sermons. He must be able to tell his congregation what the Lord wants them to know and do at all times. As Spurgeon has said, his whole life was his sermon. The preaching of serial sermons has a cumulative effect. The preaching of expository sermons, chapter by chapter, section by section, has a continuous effect. Of course there are special sermons for special occasions. The pastor is like a mother who feeds her children. As a mother cannot give the same food for every meal each day, so a pastor must have a variety in his preaching. Once I stayed with a poor Dutch pastor in Amsterdam. We had bread, cheese and jam—morning, noon and night. My dear brother minister, we must give our uttermost to the preparation of sermons which we must deliver week after week. They must be fresh and refreshing to the taste at all times or else churchgoing for members will be a burden not a blessing. These are my humble thoughts, which have been rapidly penned at a busy Congress. (adapted from Reformation Reporter, Friday June 24, 1983, newsletter of the 11th World Congress of the International Council of Christian Churches, June 16–30, 1983, Cape May, New Jersey, USA.)
Phase Three (Heightened Alert)—Precautionary measures for religious activities [First issued on 11 June 2021 | Updated on 18 June 2021]
“Religious Organisations (ROs) may continue to conduct congregational and other worship services at places of worship without PET for up to 50 worshippers at a time (excluding religious and supporting workers, whose numbers should be kept to a minimum), subject to safe management measures and the safe distancing capacity of the premises.
From 14 June 2021, ROs can conduct congregational and other worship services for more than 50 and up to 250 worshippers at a time, only if there is PET for all worshippers.
“a. Worshippers who have been vaccinated, or have an exemption notice, do not need to undergo PET.
“b. Religious and supporting workers, and volunteers who have extended interaction with worshippers during the worship service, will need to undergo PET. Those who have been vaccinated, or have an exemption notice, do not need to undergo PET.
“‘Vaccinated’ means that the individual has completed the full vaccination regimen in Singapore by the administration of an approved vaccine (i.e. the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine or the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine) by a recognised vaccination provider and has had sufficient time to develop sufficient protection (i.e. two weeks or more have passed after the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine or the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine), or is a recovered individual who has had one dose of an approved vaccination by a recognised vaccination provider (i.e. the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine or the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine) and has had sufficient time to develop sufficient protection (i.e. two weeks or more have passed after the dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine or the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine).”
[In light of this, True Life BPC will continue to worship with just 50 worshippers at a time. Church members are encouraged to get their vaccination as soon as possible. When a majority of members are vaccinated, we will return to the Auditorium with increased capacity for worship.]
“From 21 June 2021, ROs may continue to use places of worship to conduct religious rites and resume other religious activities (e.g. religious classes for adults and children) so long as they are conducted in gatherings not exceeding 50 persons, subject to safe distancing capacity and other safe management measures appropriate to the nature of the religious activity.”
[In light of this, fellowship groups may use Godhill for their meetings with no more than 50 persons each time. Safe management measures should be strictly adhered to.]
“TraceTogether-only SafeEntry, where the TraceTogether App or Token is required for SafeEntry check-ins, is required at all venues that are required to implement SafeEntry. ROs must make the necessary preparations to accept check-ins by the TraceTogether App or Token.”
[Let us continue to pray for our nation and for ourselves that God will protect us from COVID-19, and for infection rates to drop and be kept minimal. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.” (Ps 91:1–3).]
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