Saturday, June 27, 2009

How Can One Talk About Worship without Mentioning the Sacraments?

In an effort to remain informed about the teachings of other churches, and to assist with teaching, I will occasionally pick up doctrinal books from other denominations. Recently I ran across the book Church of God Distinctives by Ray H. Hughes, which, as the title indicates, is a summary of Church of God beliefs. Well, to be accurate, the teachings of the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee.) "Church of God" is actually used by more than one denomination. This particular denomination represents a church of over 6 million, so it is certainly quite representative of major Pentecostal teaching.

The contents of the book contain no surprises for those familiar with mainstream Pentecostal belief. It predictably includes many pages devoted to the so-called charismatic gifts with emphasis on healing and speaking in tongues. When reviewing chapter 4, the "Distinctive of Worship," which is a little short of 20 pages, I was, however, surprised by one glaring omission. Nowhere could I find even a hint of information concerning the place of the sacraments in worship, especially the place and function of the Lord's Supper. If one reviews the official "Declaration of Faith" for the Church of God, you do see mention of both Baptism and the Lord's Supper. And while they are part of their stated beliefs, you begin to understand how they are pushed so far to the side when you also realize the equal attention given to the so-called "Baptism in the Spirit" (which wrongfully tears the Spirit from the one and only true Baptism) and the Washing of Feet (which Hughes calls the "Pedilavium Distinctive"). Hughes devotes no less than 3 pages to this last practice, while allowing nothing to explain thier teaching on the Lord's Supper. Amazing!

Considering that in Acts 2:42 we learn the Early Church ordered its worship around the Teaching of the Apostles (Word), Fellowship, Prayer and the Breaking of the Bread (Lord's Supper), it seems all the more surprising that one would omitt even a mention of this in discussing worship. This does not even touch on the fact that the institution of the Supper is mentioned in three of the fourth Gospels and is expanded even more in Paul's letter to the Corinthians.

Admittedly Lutherans have allowed their own regular worship to become somewhat disconnected from the Sacrament over the years, although efforts remain to restore the practice of every Sunday Communion. Seeing how far one so-called Christian denomination has strayed from this simple and central practice of the Early Church only encourages me to work all the harder in seeing the Sacrament restored back to its rightful place in public worship.

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