Mission

The mission of the Music & Worship Ministry here at HPC is to use the God-given gift of music to bring praise, honor, and glory to our holy, righteous, living God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our goal is to lead and join the congregation in joyful, reverent worship before His throne through all of the elements of our worship services.

We believe that music, in particular, is a very powerful means of reinforcing the message of the Gospel into our minds and hearts. Here at HPC we strive to have a blended service, not over-emphasizing one style, voice, or instrument. On any given Sunday you’ll hear ancient and modern hymns, contemporary choruses, and songs that come straight from the Psalms. In our services, we love to lift a unified voice of praise to our great God. This is why the voice of the congregation is the loudest instrument you’ll hear. We do have very talented musicians that lead us with piano, guitar, violin, percussion, and other instruments, but our corporate voice is the one we emphasize.

With all of this in mind, we pray that, as God graciously works in and through us, we can help others learn to appreciate, develop, and use their own musical gifts in the service of the Lord and His worshiping church. Our desire is to be instruments used by God, emptied of ourselves, so that our great Savior will be honored, glorified, and magnified by His people in worship.

Philosophy of Worship

God alone is deserving of Worship. God, being the highest Being, deserves and demands our worship. He is a jealous God and as His people, we are called to give our highest affections to Him alone. (Ex. 20:3-6Ps. 148:13)

“The ultimate aim is to experience God in such a way that he is glorified in our affections.”

Corporate Worship is a response to God. Based on what we know to be true about God, we can worship Him. This knowledge comes mainly through the preaching and study of God’s Word. Worship is an overflow from a redeemed creature to his Creator based on what has been revealed through scripture. (Ps. 895:6-7147Rom. 11:33-36)

“It is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look unto himself.” John Calvin- Institutes of the Christian Religion, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), 38

The Gospel is what unites God’s people in worship. Regeneration is the ultimate enabler of a worshipper. The Gospel frees us to worship God and unites us with others who are regenerate. The Gospel also reminds us of our state before regeneration. As sinners we must remember that without Christ we are utterly lost. This should give us a mindset of humility and reverence as we come before God. (Ps. 86:12-131 Pe. 2:9)

“We will try to avoid being trite, flippant, superficial, or frivolous, but instead will aim to set an example of reverence and passion and wonder and broken-hearted joy.”

Texts used in Worship must be in complete agreement with scripture. The Bible is our authority for sanctification, therefore the texts used to worship the sanctifier must be in complete agreement with His ways, desires, and decrees. (Ps. 119:92-93Eccl. 5:22 Cor. 2:174:2)

“The content of our singing and praying and welcoming and preaching and poetry should always conform to the truth of Scripture. But more than that, the content of God’s Word should be woven through all we do in worship and will be the ground of all our appeal to authority.”

Texts used in Worship are to be both didactic and affectionate in content. Teaching is a main emphasis during worship. The truths expressed in the text must be reflective both of scripture and our response to that scripture. In other words, the texts used in the worship setting should stimulate both our hearts and our minds, causing us to simultaneously muse on the truths of God and express with joy our praise to Him. (Ps. 19:7-11Col. 3:162 Tim. 3:15-17)

“The elements of our worship service should aim at kindling and carrying deep, strong, real emotions toward God, especially joy, but should not manipulate people’s emotions by failing to appeal to clear thinking about spiritual things based on shareable evidences outside ourselves (namely scripture).”

The style of Worship must be one that is inviting, not offensive. Worship is a time to draw people near to God. Therefore, extremes of any style of music are inappropriate in a Worship setting. People from diverse backgrounds and age groups are brought together at church, and the style should be reflective of that diversity. (Rev. 15:4Eph. 5:19-21Col. 3:16-17)

“No church or service can be all things to all people. But we do not value stylistic narrowness. We believe there are affections owing to God that different tunes and different texts and different genres may awaken better than in others. We will strive to be who we are without exalting our own tastes as the standard of excellence or power.”

The offering of Worship must be done in an excellent manner. As different gifts from the congregation are utilized in the Worship service, a standard of excellence will be maintained. God is deserving of our best gifts. These offerings may not be perfect by the standards of men, but they must edify the body of Christ, come from a pure heart, and honor God. (1 Cor. 14:26-3340)

“We will try to sing and play and pray and teach in such a way that people’s attention will not be diverted from the substance by shoddy ministry nor by excessive finesse, elegance, or refinement. Natural, undistracting excellence will let the truth and beauty of God shine through. We will invest enough time and energy in order to be undistracting in transmitting heartfelt truth.”

The attitude of Worship must be one that is preferential to one another. Preferring one another must extend into the worship service. This demands not just an expectance, but an appreciation for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and their worship styles. (Eph. 5:19-21)

“We expect and hope and pray that our focus on the manifesting of God is good for people and that a spirit of love for each other is not incompatible with, but necessary to, authentic worship. ”

Unless otherwise noted, quotes are taken from Bethlehem Baptist Church’s philosophy of worship statement prepared by Pastor John Piper.

Why We Do That

“Worship is the supreme and only indispensable activity of the Christian church. It alone will endure, like the love for God which it expresses, into heaven, when all other activities of the Church will have passed away. It must therefore, even more strictly than any of the less essential doings of the church, come under the criticism and control of the revelation on which the Church is founded… We must discover from [God’s] own self-revelation in scripture what pleases him. We cannot simply determine for ourselves what is honoring to him.”

-David Peterson, Engaging With God

Why do we do what we do during our corporate worship service on Sunday? To an outsider it must seem strange. We do more than just sing, which is usually what people associate with the word “worship”. There are times of silence. Money is collected. A lecture on one topic or another is heard. Hands are shaken or even raised in devotion. Tears are shed. Sometimes there is a meal (if you can call it that) of a little piece of bread and a swallow of juice celebrating a gruesome death. Why are these elements a part of what we do together?

Why don’t we just hang out in small groups and sip coffee? Why don’t we just sit back and watch an hour long video on being better people? Why is there a sermon, singing, silence, prayer, readings, greetings, announcements, listening, or even a closing benediction where I don’t know if I should raise my hands or not?

All of these elements are a part of our worship because we believe they show honor to God in the way he wants to be honored. These aren’t just made up elements. They are pieces in a story that is told each Sunday, with each piece either commanded or exemplified in scripture. God has determined the way in which we should approach Him. As a church we try to be faithful to what God has revealed and to how the church has interpreted that revelation for millennia.

As the quote above states, “We cannot simply determine for ourselves what is honoring to him.” Or perhaps a better quote from God himself, “By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored.” (Leviticus 10:3) God is very particular about how he is to be worshipped, so we in turn are very particular about how we worship him.

One of the first things we do at church is greet one another. This happens when you see a friend in the parking lot, wave at someone across the sanctuary, or say “How are you?” to whomever you pass by. We even have a formal time of greeting at the beginning of our worship service, usually paired with several announcements. Why do we do this? Why don’t we just jump into singing or start with a scripture reading?

When we greet one another we follow in a tradition which began back in the early church. In many of the Apostle Paul’s letters he begins with a greeting to those in the church (Rom.1:71Cor.1:3Gal.1:3Eph.1:2Phil.1:2; etc.). Sometimes he would even bring greetings from another church. This was a way of connecting the body within itself.

Greeting each other establishes that we are all on equal footing before the throne of God by welcoming fellow believers into a time of worship. A ruler or higher ranking individual may receive a formal introduction, but wouldn’t typically greet his underlings with familiarity and honor. We, however, as those redeemed by Christ, bring greetings to each other as equals. This acknowledges the truth from Galatians 3:28, that in the church there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.

Our time of greeting and announcement also informs us of many things God is doing in our midst and how we can further connect with Him, each other, and the community around us. From the very beginning of the service we realize that we are a part of something greater than our own individual lives. There is work to be done and we are the ones called to do it. We are a part of the extended Kingdom of God, ministering as strangers and aliens in this world, for the great purpose of proclaiming the glory of Christ wherever God places us.

So, when you are greeted, remember the family that you are being welcomed into and rejoice at the work God has enabled you to do. Let that truth feed your soul and bring joy to your heart as you begin your time of corporate worship before Him.

We are called to do a lot of things. We’re called in for dinner, called for a quick question, or even “called out on the carpet” for a mistake. In each of these instances the call shifts our focus from one thing to another. It’s easy to get caught up in our own little worlds and a call, though not always welcome, is one way to get our attention where it needs to be.

When we are called to worship, either through a song or a scripture passage, we are encouraged to shift our gaze from ourselves towards our Creator. One day in seven we are commanded to rest from our regular labors and focus on the Lord. He is our audience on Sunday as we gather. He is the One we serve. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that, and this is why we are called to come and worship. Typically the texts that are used in this part of the service remind us of why the Lord is deserving of worship and what our response should be. One such passage that comes to mind is Psalm 100:

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name
For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.”

Notice how the first part calls us to worship while the rest reminds us of the attributes and works of God which are deserving of that worship. The Psalms of Ascents (Psalms 120-134) are also great examples of this. These Psalms were written to call Israel to worship as they ascended Mount Zion on their way to the temple. Sometimes we’ll accompany this part of the service with an appropriate song like Come Thou Fount or Be Still My Soul. These songs are prayers which call us to come before the Lord with humility, joy, and praise.

Our time of worship is not ultimately about us. We receive blessing, comfort, peace, and instruction during the service, but we must remember that this is called a service because we are here to serve God. The call to worship synchronizes the hearts of all who have gathered towards that end and begins our time of corporate service, to the praise of His glorious Name.

An essential element in our worship is realizing that God is God and we are not. As we recognize His deity and absolute holiness we begin to see the depths of our own sin. Perhaps, compared to others, we might find ourselves measuring up with the standards of our culture. Yet, when we measure our obedience to the perfect standards of God, we immediately see the truth of Romans 3:23– we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

This is why confession is so necessary as a part of our worship. We are an unclean people, coming to God with unclean lips and hearts (Is. 6:5). Psalm 66:18 tells us the Lord won’t even hear our prayer if we cherish sin in our hearts. When we come to worship the Lord we must first be cleansed from sin and guilt. This restores the communication between the worshipper and the One being worshipped. Psalm 51 repeats this idea when it tells us that the sacrifices God desires are a broken spirit and a contrite heart. Here again the Lord tells us to come before Him with repentance and contrition.

In our time of worship we have a corporate prayer of confession as well as a time of silence for each individual to repent of their sin. God has granted this ability to each believer. We don’t need to go through a human priest or a ritualistic ceremony. We don’t rely on works that we do in order to make up for a particularly sinful week. We simply come to God, praying the words of the prayer He taught us, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Many other religions require the priest, the sacrificial ceremony, and the works of righteousness to atone for sin. Truthfully, Christianity is no different, with one key distinction. We believe in One High Priest, one final sacrifice, and one Person’s work of righteousness. Jesus Christ accomplished all that was needed to pay for every sin that would ever be confessed by His children. This is why we can be truly comforted by the words of 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

We serve a holy, perfect, righteous God. When we are confronted with these attributes it is only natural for us to confess our deficiency in all of these areas. We are not separated from our sin, we are not perfect, and we certainly aren’t righteous on our own. As we confess these things to God two important things occur, one on our end and the other on His.

From our perspective, all we can do is confess our sin to God. We can show repentance, turning away from sinful behavior and towards our gracious Father, trusting in the sacrificial and saving work of the Son, perfected in our hearts and in our lives by the Spirit. On our best day we can do nothing beyond this- hoping that God will hear our prayer and perhaps forgive our sin. If this was where the process of confession ended we would be in a sorry state. But this isn’t where it ends. Our hope lies on God’s side of things.

When God hears the prayer of a repentant sinner, forgiveness always happens (1 Jn. 1:9). Our confession, rooted in the Biblical promises of God’s grace, always ends with the assurance that our sins have been pardoned. We celebrate this reality each week in our service during the “assurance of pardon”.

After our corporate prayer of confession we typically receive an assurance of pardon, either from the pulpit or in the songs we sing following this prayer. It is so easy to lose faith and think our prayers go unheard and unanswered. This portion of our liturgy assures us that God does hear our confession, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and we can stand before Him as clean children of the Kingdom. Psalm 130 is just one example of this confession and pardon:

Confession- Psalm 130:1-6

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.”

Assurance of Pardon- Psalm 130:7-8

“O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”

The New Testament has many examples of this pardoning work as well (Acts 2:38Eph. 1:7Col. 1:141 Jn. 1:9). An assurance of pardon frees us to worship before His throne, unstained by sin, clothed in Christ’s righteousness. In this condition we can worship unhindered and rejoice in our awesome God who pardons all our iniquities and cleanses all our sins (Ps. 103:3).

Singing is an integral part of our worship service. It has almost become synonymous with the word “worship” even though worship is much more than this. There are very few arenas where large groups sing together for any reason. Perhaps at a concert or a sporting event you might get carried away with the crowd and the familiar notes of a favorite tune, but rarely do we see large groups break out into song, despite what many musicals and TV shows may lead us to believe. Some say that congregational singing is on the decline because less and less people choose to participate. These would rather sit back and enjoy listening to the music during the service and sing when they feel like it. But singing is more than just an optional way to participate in the worship of our God. It is commanded in scripture, beneficial to the church, and pleasing to the ear of the Lord.

The Bible has hundreds of references to singing. The Psalms alone refer to this single word 74 times with many more references to praise, music, and various instruments (Ps. 9:1121:1330:433:347:661:868:4, etc.). These calls to sing praise to the Lord are more than suggestions. They are exhortations to give to the Lord the praise due His name because of His wondrous works. As we reflect on what God has done our hearts should want to burst with praise to God, and God has given each one of us a way to do that. He has given each of us a voice to be used in singing His praises.

Thankfully, singing is more than just obedience to the command of God. There are two passages in the New Testament that specifically call us to sing as a part of our corporate worship with the idea of benefitting one another through song.

Ephesians 5:18-19 “… be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…

Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

As we sing we “address one another” or “teach and admonish one another in all wisdom”. Singing isn’t meant to be done solely in our car on our morning commute or while having fun with our families, nor is it strictly something between us and God. One of singing’s great benefits is that it helps us to teach and encourage one another towards godliness. Certain songs we sing are specifically directed to the Lord (i.e. How Great Thou Art, You Are God Alone, or Be Thou My Vision). , but others are very intentionally directed at one another to encourage us in our sanctification (i.e. Before the Throne of God Above, In Christ Alone, or Amazing Grace). Some songs are directed at both the singers and God as we switch from verse to chorus (i.e. Behold Our God or ).

When we sing during the service we hear the voices of those around us, we participate in worshipping our great God, and we offer the sacrifice of praise He has asked us to give (Heb. 13:15), all of which makes our singing pleasing to the ear of the Lord. If we desire to please God and worship Him in the way He wants to be worshipped, we must sing. It isn’t an option, nor are we required to make beautiful sounds with our voices. Psalm 98 and 100 both tell us to “Make a joyful noise to the Lord”. Notice he doesn’t say a perfect or beautifully melodic song. He tells us to make a joyful noise. I think all of us should find encouragement in that. Each of us has a noise maker, and we should use it joyfully, singing to our God, praising Him for all He has done.

There are thousands upon thousands of songs classified as “Christian” available on iTunes, YouTube, Pandora, the radio in the car, CDs lying around the house, and those old cassette tapes that gather dust. With more music being written and released than ever before, how do we discern what is good and what is not? More importantly, how do we decide what songs to use in our corporate time of worship? This is a question each church needs to carefully answer. With thousands, perhaps millions, of songs to choose from on any given Sunday, why do we sing these particular songs?

We believe that scripture allows us to sing a variety of songs from all times and seasons in church history. “…psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19) covers singing straight scripture, songs about scripture, ancient hymns of the faith, modern hymns, praise choruses, and a host of other categories that could be also be called “spiritual songs.” In our church we practice a blended style with a mix of ancient and modern hymns as well as some contemporary songs. As we sing songs from the history of the church we connect with our past. As we sing songs from the present day we connect with churches around us who worship the same God.

There are several filters we use to determine what songs are appropriate for our time of singing on Sunday. These are the same filters that underlie all we do in the worship ministry and are helpful in determining which songs would be a good fit for our congregation. You could summarize them with three important questions: Is the song God-centered, are the lyrics Biblical, and is the tune intergenerational?

When we ask, “Is the song God-centered?” we are asking about the focus of the song. Does it glorify God or man (Ps. 148:13)? Does it lift up and exalt the deeds of the Creator or of His creation? This doesn’t mean every song is addressed to God, but it does mean that each song is centered on who God is, what He has done, or what He has called us to do as His church. He is the focus and He must receive the honor in our worship.

When we ask, “Are the lyrics Biblical?” we are asking if the words align with scripture and are plainly Christian (2 Cor. 4:2). The lyrics certainly shouldn’t contradict scripture in any way, but they should also affirm what scripture teaches in a way that is clearly about the God of the Bible, not just a vague deity. A Muslim, Hindu, or Jewish person should feel uncomfortable singing in our service because of the explicit way our singing points to our Triune God.

When we ask, “Is the tune intergenerational?” we are asking if the style of the music is one that can cross generational lines and help the message of the song reach the hearts of all who sing. The style of Worship must be one that is inviting, not offensive. Worship is a time to draw people near to God (1 Cor. 14:26). Therefore, extremes of any style of music are inappropriate in a Worship setting. People from diverse backgrounds and age groups are brought together at church, and the style should be reflective of that diversity. As we sing we show preference to one another (Rom. 12:10) as we praise God with a familiar tune, or perhaps sing songs that may not be as familiar, knowing that God is the audience and we are there to honor Him.

In the end, we sing the songs we sing because we believe they help us worship God in a way that honors Him and enables us to encourage one another (Col. 3:16). Thankfully, God has given the church hundreds of gifted artists to supply us with the offerings we can give to God in worship.

In the Old Testament, Sabbath worship was a huge event, bustling with activity. There were cleansing rituals, animal sacrifices, songs sung in specific ways, certain clothing that had to be worn, and specific scriptures that needed to be read. Thankfully, many of these rituals found their fulfillment in Jesus Christ, but that doesn’t mean New Testament worship isn’t any less active. We still sing songs, read scripture, pray, preach, greet, announce, stand, sit, and benedict. There is a lot to do. But sometimes, the most important thing we can do in worship is to be still before God and simply engage our hearts and minds. This doesn’t mean we do nothing. On the contrary, some of the hardest work we do during the service happens when we appear to be doing nothing. The sermon is a great example of this.

Our pastor stands and speaks while we sit still and appear to be doing nothing besides taking a few notes here and there. However, on the inside, we actively listen and engage our minds. We put aside distractions and focus on a single voice. Active listening is becoming a lost art in a culture where we are constantly called to do something, press a button, surf the web, check your messages, like a post, etc. In our times of worship it is essential to actively listen in order to hear what God may be saying to us in Spirit and truth (John 4:24).

There are times when we do this during the music portions of the service as well. When the choir sings an anthem, the pianist plays a moving arrangement, or a singer makes melody with their voice, we listen, engaging our hearts and minds in worship. We sit in stillness and know our God better (Ps. 46:10) as we worship through the gifts of another. During times of listening we are simply the recipients of the rich word of Christ as another shares their gift through music (Col. 3:16). This is why we have specific times during the service where we listen and reflect on who God is, what He has done, and how we can be more like Him.

Reading scripture goes back to the earliest days of worshiping the Lord. Moses read the scriptures, newly written, to God’s people to instruct them in worship and in how to relate to their God (Ex. 24:7). Joshua continued the practice (Josh. 8:34) as did the righteous kings of Israel (2 Kings 23:2). This pattern continues into the New Testament as we see Jesus Himself reading scripture in the synagogue as a part of Sabbath worship (Luke 4:17ff). Clearly reading scripture is an important part of the worship service, but why?

We believe that “All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable…” (2 Tim. 3:16) The Scriptures are the very words of God. When they are read God speaks directly to us. Reading scripture shows our submission to His words and our willingness to sit under God as the One who “gives wisdom, from [whose] mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Prov. 2:6) God also commands us to do this regularly as a part our worship. In 2 Timothy 4:13 the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy, the pastor of the church in Ephesus, to “…devote yourself to the public reading of scripture”. Whenever we hear scripture read or participate in a corporate reading we worship in obedience and receive from God that which is “living and active” (Heb. 4:12) and which always accomplishes the purposes of the Lord (Is. 55:10).

All of this is affirmed by our statement of faith found in the Westminster Confession of Faith. In chapter 11, section five, we read that

“The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear, the sound preaching and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith and reverence… are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God.”

We believe what we believe because we believe the Bible teaches it. That is why we study the Word, preach the Word, pray the Word, and read the Word together.

Is Jesus really the same as God or just the highest created being? Does true authority lie with the church or in scripture alone? How does the Trinity work together? Are we saved by grace alone or grace plus my belief? What is the purpose of man? These questions and more have been dealt with by the church over the centuries.

Often a controversial idea would begin to gain traction in some corner of the kingdom and over time more and more Christians would begin to adopt these ideas. In order to keep unity in the church, the church fathers would gather together in council, much like they did at the council of Nicaea in 325 or at the Westminster Assembly in 1646. After discussion, debate, prayer, and study, the council would declare its findings. Sometimes this came in the form of a confession or catechism. We trace our statement of faith back to the Westminster Confession and the Catechisms which came out of the Westminster Assembly. In other instances, a creed would be published, affirming what the church truly believed. Two very familiar examples of these would be the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed.

When we read creeds, confessions, and catechisms in our corporate time of worship we honor those who have preserved the doctrine of the church throughout the centuries. We also affirm our continued belief in the cornerstones of our faith. When we recite these things together we show our unity around these doctrines which clearly distinguish our faith from all other religions. The brevity of a catechism question or creed also gives us an easy way to remember the essentials of what we believe.

Theologian Kim Riddlebarger sums this up well at the end of his article on the Apostles’ Creed. He says that many churches still recite the creed because “there is great need to summarize the teaching of Scripture and to identify with the faithful who have gone before…” In a culture where beliefs seems to change as frequently as the weather, it is important for us to have ways to remind ourselves of what we believe and to remember that we do not stand alone, but rather stand together with the whole people of God upon the same beliefs which the church was founded upon 2,000 years ago.

Worship, in its very definition, leads our minds to the idea of service, of giving of ourselves to someone or something else. One of the practical ways we do this is by giving of our money to the Lord. The “tithes” are the first fruits from what we have earned that are returned back to the Lord for His service. The “offerings” are those gifts that go above and beyond the initial tithe to support the work of the church. As we give we show our submission to God as the true owner of all things and obey His command to give (2 Cor. 9:7). We also embrace the truth of the gospel which reminds to give generously as Christ gave (2 Cor. 8:7-9), knowing that our true treasure is in heaven (Mt. 6:21).

Here’s what Pastor Robert wrote regarding giving:

“The gospel allures our hearts to support the work of the gospel. In 2 Corinthians 8-9, Paul teaches that a giving heart is created and sustained only by God’s undeserved giving of Christ to sinners as proclaimed in the gospel. Paul depicts financial giving as an act of grace. He urges believers to excel in acts of grace (2 Cor. 8:7) in order to advance the work of the gospel. Sacrificial, joyful, generous giving is a chief implication of the gospel being the gospel (2 Cor. 8:22 Cor. 9:7). Generous giving is the overflow of a heart allured and won by grace. It is not forced by guilt, fear or selfish desire for reward (2 Cor. 8:8-102 Cor. 9:7). Only the gospel causes a heart to overflow in a wealth of eager, cheerful generosity towards others (2 Cor. 8:2-5).

Like Paul to the Corinthians, we invite you to support the ministry of HPC in order to advance the gospel (2 Cor. 9:10-15). Our collection is an integral part of the ministry of the gospel. Your generosity will not only supply the needs of the saints but also overflow in many thanksgivings to the glory of God (2 Cor. 9:12-13)!”

Throughout all of scripture the people of God are called to support His work by giving His money back to Him (Lev. 27:30Deut. 12:62 Cor. 8). He doesn’t need our money to accomplish His work, but then again, neither do we. All that we need God generously supplies in the way He ordains. So, as we give we must remember that we are only stewards of the things in our care, not owners, and it is only right to give some of those things back to the One who is the Creator and Sustainer of all things (Col. 1:17).

Each Sunday, during the offertory, we pass the Friendship Folder. We do this to help the church know who is coming and to aid our elders in knowing who to follow up with if someone has been absent over several weeks. Passing the folder also allows us to know who is visiting and how to get in touch with them.  Finally, passing the folder back down the row provides an opportunity for to know who’s sitting nearby. This enables connection with fellow worshipers and helps build relationships within the body of HPC.  It is very helpful to the leadership of the church when everyone takes a moment to sign their name on Sunday morning.

Prayer is not only a conversation with God, but it is also the most direct way that we seek Him and His power in our lives. It is crucial that our times of gathered worship be saturated by the prayers of God’s people as we reach out to Him in love, worship and need. There are at least three reasons why we include a Pastoral Prayer or Prayer of Intercession in our worship services. First, it is an opportunity for a pastor to pray for those whom God has entrusted to his care as a Shepherd. When we are gathered as a family, it is a very appropriate moment for a shepherd to bring God’s people to the throne of grace and plead for them. Second, it is a chance for a pastor to lead God’s people in prayer, to pray for them in the sense of praying prayers they would or should be praying. In these moments, the pastor represents the congregation in prayer before God. And finally, these corporate times of prayer are opportunities for God’s people to learn to pray. Done appropriately, they should model not only the kinds of things we should be pray about, but the spirit and attitude of prayer itself.

Let’s start with two biblical quotes like two rails for the train to run on. First, Paul says, “how are they to hear without someone preaching?…faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Rom. 10:14 & 17). In another place, Paul says, “you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13). We preach because God has determined to use the proclamation of His Word as the means to bring faith and life to his people. Because the Bible is preeminently His Word, it comes with His power and authority. Therefore, the preaching of Word of God is the Word of God (Bullinger). The one who preaches stands as the mouthpiece of Christ to speak His Word to His people. Calvin said, “When a man has climbed up into the pulpit… it is [so] that God may speak to us by the mouth of a man.” This is also why we choose expositional preaching. The message of His Word must be the message of the sermon, such that, as God’s Word is faithfully proclaimed, it is God’s Word. And by His grace, it comes with the power of His Spirit to accomplish His Will in the souls of His people.

Communion, or “The Lord’s Supper,” is a sacrament given to the church by Jesus Christ which calls us to remember his death on the cross for we who believe. It is a unique and beautiful way of preaching the gospel as the broken bread symbolizes his broken body, and the cup symbolizes his shed blood. We do this together as a church, and in doing so we are preaching the gospel to ourselves and one another as we await His return. At HPC we celebrate communion each month to regularly remind ourselves of Christ’s sacrifice. This is a meal that has continued in the church for two thousand years, and it is a foretaste of the meal that will be eaten one day in the New Jerusalem at the wedding feast of the Lamb. (Luke 22:7-201 Cor.11:17-34)

Baptism is the sign God commanded us to place on those who are part of the covenant community. God commanded Abram to place the sign of circumcision on himself and all within his house (Gen. 17), and Paul tells us that circumcision was the sign and seal of the righteousness Abram had by faith (Rom. 4:11). So we believe this sign of the promise of God’s righteousness by faith is for those of us who have professed faith in Christ and for their children (Acts 2:38-39). Having the sign of baptism doesn’t mean we are saved. We trust in the saving work of Christ alone by grace alone to bring to pass what this symbol represents. In baptism we see the great work of Christ symbolized and the sign of circumcision expressed (Col. 2:11-14) as he died for sin, was buried, and now enables us through His new life to cast off our sin and live in him, “with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22).

At the conclusion of our morning worship the pastor typically has everyone rise to receive the benediction. Some people raise their hands. Some close their eyes. The pastor says a few words, then everyone begins to leave. Why do we end our service like this? What is a benediction and why do we always include it?

Benedictions have been around for a long time. The Apostle Paul typically ends his letters with a final “Grace and peace to you” signifying the end of his writing. However, our traditional benediction goes all the way back to the establishment of the nation of Israel under Moses. In Number 6:23 the Lord tells Moses to have Aaron and his sons bless Israel in a certain way. This is where the word “benediction” comes from. It roughly means to speak a blessing, just as Aaron was to do when he said,

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

When our pastor pronounces the benediction he is speaking the blessing of the Lord into our hearts. Often people symbolize receiving that blessing by extending their hands as you would to receive a gift. This is a picture of the blessings we receive from the Lord and it reminds us of His faithful care as we leave to worship and serve in our daily lives.

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We gather to lift our voices in praise to the LORD.

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