Pastoral Letter

Dear Jim:

I read your last letter with a great deal of interest You’re becoming involved in quite a few things, aren’t you? Remember (you knew this was coming), your first responsibility is to your studies.

Yesterday I was reading Calvin’s Institutes. In Book IV, Chapter 1, I came upon something in which you should be interested. Calvin is writing about the fact that “the preaching of the heavenly doctrine is assigned to pastors.”

He goes on to state:

Let us not therefore, on our parts, be reluctant to receive and obey the doctrine of salvation proposed to us at his expressed command; for though the power of God is not confined to external means, yet he has confined us to the ordinary manner of teaching, the fanatical rejecters of which necessarily involve themselves in many fatal snares. Many are urged by pride, or disdain, or envy, to persuade themselves that they can profit sufficiently by reading and meditating in private, and so to despise public assemblies, and consider preaching unnecessary. But since they do all in their power to dissolve and break asunder the bond of unity , which ought to be preserved inviolable, not one of them escapes the just punishment of this impious breach, but they all involve themselves in pestilent errors and pernicious reveries. Wherefore, in order that the pure simplicity of faith may flourish among us, let us not be reluctant to use this exercise of piety, which the Divine institution has shown to be necessary, and which God so repeatedly commends to us.

I wanted to share these statements with you because of the invitation you received to attend an “Underground Church” service. I’m not sure what is meant by an “Underground Church.” But, because I’m skeptical about anything which goes underground and can’t stand the light of day, I want to warn you about becoming involved in this kind of activity.

Please don’t misunderstand. I agree with you when you say that , in the past , we’ve made a mistake by limiting our Christian fellowship to the public worship services on Sunday. Therefore, I think it’s great that you and your friends want to get together to read and discuss the Bible, pray, and sing. (By the way , I don’t have a big “hang up” about guitars either). It seems to me that the “day by day” fellowship described in Acts 2 is an encouraging example for this kind of spiritual gathering.

However, and this is the point that Calvin makes, such “get-togethers” may never be promoted as a substitute for or in opposition to public worship and the official preaching of the Word. And this is precisely what I fear in the “Underground Church” movement, Jim. It seems to have so little appreciation for the instituted church, its offices, usually very negatively critical of the church as an institution. Now I would be the last to deny that the instituted church has faults and that, in many respects, it needs reformation. But, instead of ignoring or opposing what Christ has instituted and ordained, as concerned Christians—both young and old—we must unite in seeking that reformation through proper channels and according to the demands of Scripture.

By the way, did you know that the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church has mandated its Liturgical Committee to study this whole matter of worship. The committee reported to the Synod of 1968 and are presently receiving reactions from the churches relative to the recommendations which they made. I mention this because it indicates that the denomination to which you belong is concerned to make worship meaningful for its membership.

Well, friend, you get back to your studies and I think I’ll spend a little more time with the Institutes. Let’s both stay close to the Word.


Rev. Hulst