Finally, after visiting a Pentecostal Church, a Bible Church, a Wisconsin Synod Lutheran Church, Redeemer Presbyterian, and St. Albert the Great Catholic church, I heard the Gospel proclaimed clearly, more than once, and not as adjunct to something else. It was at High Pointe Baptist Church, Austin, Texas.
This is a very friendly church, and it didn’t feel forced. Again, I was amazed at the ethnic diversity I found. As with the other churches, I conclude it has something to do with the location of the church.
Neither music nor worship were contemporary let alone blighted by a praise band. The songs were Reformed but with some good theology. “Two wonders here that I confess/ My worth and my unworthiness.” You can find that thought in the Formula of Concord. The following you can find in Luther. “If you terry till you’re better/ You’ll never come at all.” None of the tunes were familiar all were churchly and all sounded like the new ones in The Lutheran Service Book.
Their website identifies them as a confessional church rooted in the Calvinist wing of the Reformation. They refer you to the New Hampshire Baptist Confession of 1853. And they are not afraid to use and talk theology. These folks don’t play at worship and are serious about theology – both are evidenced publicly.
The sermon was more of a Bible class on Ecclesiastes 4: 4-16, but it was insightful and well prepared. He clearly preached the Vicarious Atonement, Universal Atonement, and even when I thought he was going to leave us with the Third Use of the Law and a practical application, he ultimately left us with the Gospel.
The only access point for this beautiful, clear Gospel was faith. They are Calvinist so there was no altar call or decision theology, and since they are Reformed there were no real Means of Grace. You were told you can and should believe this message, but it was not given or applied to you by Word (Absolution), by Water (Baptism) or by Bread and Wine (Communion).
They did have the Lord’s Supper as a reminder of what the Lord did for them. Beautiful mood music set up Communion. They passed little pieces of bread down the pews. No mention was made of who should or shouldn’t partake till after you had the opportunity to take a piece. Then the Words of Institution were read from I Corinthians 11, and you were told if you were a baptized Christian you should take this even if you weren’t a member of their church.
Like the other Reformed Communion services, I have attended they did all eat and drink at the same time. This church was the only one to date who did not say they would be insulted if you were a Christian and didn’t partake. The other notable feature of their communing is that when they simultaneously ate the bread there was an audible and nearly simultaneous “crunch.” I say this not to be funny, but to observe that unwanted noises in churches are prevented. Most churches with hymnals have padding at the bottom of the pew racks so as you don’t hear the “thud.” I’m sure this crunch – which comes from the type of bread used – is intentional and a subtle distinctive mark.
The only mention of money outside the offering was being asked to leave a dollar at your seat to be used for benevolences. However, the bulletin’s facts and figures were only about money. If you fall 2,335 dollars short on Easter Sunday, your budget is inflated or you’re going under.
What I found interesting is that while as Calvinists they confessed correctly that conversion can only be in God’s hands, they evidently don’t feel that way about giving. That needs the prodding if not machinations of man.
Still, this was the first church I have attended that I could say that a person could walk in a pagan and walk out a Christian, and THAT is saying a lot.