Always Changing? – William W. Goligher

Always Changing? by William W. Goligher | Reformed Theology Articles at

Nov 2014 TTAs I finished the final articles in the November Tabletalk yesterday, I realized there was another good article on the theme that I wanted to reference here today, even though it is now December and time to break open the new issue.

That is the above-linked article by Dr.William Goligher, senior pastor at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. In his piece under the rubric “Pastor’s Perspective”, he applies the motto semper reformanda especially to the realm of worship, an area where he is (properly) critical of those who wish to see the church change her style and content to adapt to every whim of society’s so-called “seekers.”

What he has to say is a fitting follow-up to our Re-formed worship on the Lord’s day, so we post a section of his article here. To read the full article, use the Ligonier link above.

We have seen this notion gain traction in the last few decades. Church leaders and members agitate for “change” as a sign of “integrity” or an essential element in being “relevant” in today’s generation. There are pleas for new forms, methods, and structures for the church. Most calls for innovation are driven by the godless culture around us and by our rebellious hearts within us. We want to modify the message to appeal to society; we want to make church more “user friendly” for the outsider, rather than see it as the solemn assembly of God’s covenant people.

This has also affected the use of the word worship. In some circles, it is applied only to music—whether of the classical or contemporary variety—and it has created with it a new role in the church—“worship leader.” Others want to drop the word worship altogether, arguing that worship applies to “all of life” and not to the assemblies of God’s people. So the Lord’s Day is like any other day; liturgy is replaced by “user-friendly events”; sermons become “Bible talks”; and the focus of Sunday “meetings” becomes fellowship or evangelism rather than a covenant assembly and corporate worship.

These innovations run counter to the example of the Reformers, who denied that they were change-mongers who were interested in change for change’s sake. In the strict sense, they were pushing for a return to the radix, the “root” of biblical Christianity. They were accused of fostering change by their opponents, but their defense was that, in fact, they wanted to drive the church back to the Word of God. They envisioned reformation not as our doing the changes (active) but as our being changed (passive). In other words, when we talk about reformation, we think of the Lord who reforms us and the Scripture that is His means of reformation.

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