Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Who Are Puritans

I receive emails and questions all the time asking, "Who are Puritans and what do they believe?"  This also includes the false idea that Puritans are consigned to history and are no longer a Christian denomination.  This is untrue as I am a Puritan elder minister, a bishop if you will.

Puritans today are the inheritors of a Christian tradition that goes back to 1535 and the formal split of the Church of England (Anglican) from the Roman Catholic Church by King Henry VIII.  Puritans were discontent that the Anglican Church had not reformed from the Roman Catholic Church enough and was for all intent and purpose just an English speaking Catholic Church that simply translated everything from Latin to English and felt that was enough reform.

Puritans felt a full purification of the Church was needed.  The Mass needed to be completely reformed.  The altar needed to be disposed of because Christ performed the sole sacrifice on Calvary.  There was the sole sacrifice that once Christ resurrected had cleansed sin for those who repent, turn from sin, and take faith in the Lord Jesus as Savior.  The pulpit needed to be moved front and center as the preaching was the basis of the service.  Ministers were members of the community not a holy man above others.  Their job was to instruct their church on how to live the godly life through preaching.  Choirs were done away with and now the whole church sang.  Organs and pianos were tossed out as they were distractions to worship.  

The churches were simple with a plain table for the communion which now is a memorial NOT a sacrifice.  The pulpit is the center where the minister preaches.  No statues or paintings of "saints", we are all saints who are saved.  No stained glass windows depicting long archaic Greek symbols, snakes, dragons, or pagan elements.  Pews lost the kneelers as there is no kneeling to a piece of bread.  Hymnals were replaced by a simple reprint of the 150 psalms, these are the songs and sung in plain song melody easy to remember.

This is what Puritans did - purify the church so God became the focal pint of worship.  This purification is to come in all of life so that everything is done for the greater glory of God.

God became the center of worship not a piece of bread that sacrilegiously is referred to as the "body of Christ".  Transubstantiation is a heresy of the faith since the one sacrifice of Christ is already made and effective.  Any other sacrifice is pagan and not Christian.  This is true for us to this day, we as Puritans still hold to these practices.

A typical Puritan service (fellowship meeting) begins with a call to worship, a line of scripture such as: Lord open our lips and our mouth shall declare Thy praise.  The minister will usually walk from the front of the church to the pulpit as an expression of "coming form the community".   If there is to be communion: Christ our passover is sacrificed therefore let us keep the feast is usually the call to worship.  Then there is the Psalm which is either read right side to left side of the Psalm paragraphs or sung plain song depending on the particular congregation.  Then a reading form the Old Testament then a reading form a New Testament Epistle (Acts through Jude) then a reading from a Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John).  The Book of Revelation is usually preached on as a sole reading over the course of many months.  Then the sermon, and after the benediction.  If there is communion it is celebrated between the sermon and benediction.  Then a final Psalm and depart.

There are no seasons of a church calendar.  There is no Advent, Lent, or Ordinary Time.  Each Sunday is equally the sabbath so there are no special feasts like Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, or Trinity Sunday.  With the resurrection of Christ all time has been consecrated to Him.  

We worship on Sundays because at the very beginning, the church in Jerusalem met every day in the temple and in private homes (Acts 2:46). Since the first believers were all Jewish, it seems safe to assume that they continued to participate in Jewish synagogue and temple worship for some time.  In time the Apostles stopped observing the Jewish sabbath, but began worship instead on Sunday, a distinctively Christian holy day. 

The records that remain in the New Testament show that the first day of the week soon became a day of worship. When Paul wanted to collect an offering from the church at Corinth, he asked them to gather the money on the "first day of the week" (1 Cor. 16:2). And when he wanted to meet with the believers at Troas, the gathering took place "on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread" (Acts 20:7). 

As Puritans we hold to a strict scripture based doctrine and preach the living Christ who calls all to repentance and salvation.  Our two sacraments are the Biblical sacraments of Communion and  Baptism.  While they are symbols of our salvation they in themselves impart no salvation. 

We were the original free church.  We asked government for no permission to form and applied for no incorporation.  Our freedom as a church is in the fact Christ is head of the church and no king, tax agency, or government official.  Our churches rise, grow, and close on the will of the congregation and their needs.

Today the typical Puritan church meets in the pastor's home, or perhaps in the home of a congregant who wishes to sponsor a fellowship meeting.  There are special church buildings but more than likely the fellowship will be home based.  I grew up in a Puritan church in Farmers Branch, Texas after my family and I moved from Illinois.  It was the home of Rev. Bailey.

Rev. Bailey's home was Valley View Puritan Fellowship from 1971 to 1988

As you can see it was a home large enough to hold a good fellowship size.  We had at the peak of the congregation in 1986, 50 members and fellowship comfortably was held in the living and dining rooms. 

We later moved into a church building that was in the pastor's name.  The congregation supported the building and operation of the church from 1988 to 2013.  The congregation simply had dwindled away as Farmers Branch lost its residential base to a more commercial base.  The mega church craze also holds some of the reason for the closure of the fellowship.  I was honored to pastor this church from 1996 to 1998.  I then pastored an expansion of the church opened a mile away.  The old church building is now a Univeral Unitarian church.

Valley View Puritan Fellowship 1988 to 2013

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