A generation or two ago in the Reformed Church in America, the restrictions were clear. One could participate in communion only if you had made confession of faith before the elders as a teen (or older). People from Reformed churches in other towns could only take communion in my church if they assured the elders they were in good standing in their home church. While women could teach children's Sunday School, no women were allowed to teach adults. Nor were women allowed in any way to speak in a church service except, perhaps, to make an announcement about a women's event. Certainly no women were allowed on the ruling board, the consistory. We were never encouraged to have a personal relationship with God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit outside of the church. I know. I was there.
How times have changed. Nonetheless, Bayly desires the church return to those customs of years ago. The Church is our Mother, birthing us, in a sense, and we should love her. Citing authors and confessions from hundreds of year ago, Bayly writes, “Outside the church there is ordinarily no hope of salvation.” (15) Outside of the church, there is no protection from spiritual attack. “Alone, every man is picked off by Satan and devoured.” (17) To have the protection of the Shepherd, we must be in the Church. (17) And you can be in the Church only if you have been baptized. (23) And not baptized by just anybody but by an official of the Church. (24) No one can participate in communion without being in the household of faith and that entry is granted by the elders of the Church. (23,25)
While I know Bayly's views have been those of theologians in generations past, I wonder whether the view of the Church Bayly presents is truly biblical. He names the “Church” as the Bride of Christ, referencing Rev. 19:7;21:9 (even though “Church” (ekklesia) does not appear in those passages). He is convinced that individual believers are not the Bride of Christ, but only the Church as a whole. (14) “We are not the Body of Christ individually. No one of us is the Church.” (17) This, after encouraging us to remember that “Church” is only the English translation of ekklesia, “called out ones.” (13)
What about when Jesus said if two or three were gathered in His name, He was there? (Matt. 18:20) So can the “Church” be two people? And what about Paul saying Christ did not send him to baptize but to preach the gospel? (1 Cor. 1:17) If baptism by a Church official is necessary for entrance into the “Church” and the Body of Christ (as Bayly writes), then Paul really missed that truth. Bayly admonishes us to love our Mother, the Church. He seems to mean the organization rather than as I have taken the "love one another" command to mean, individuals.
That being said, there is much I like in the book. I like his emphasis on the solemnity of the Lord's Supper. It is much more than a mere memorial and we do not hear that so much any more. I like his desire to see more church discipline. We hardly see that at all any more either.
Potential readers who have studied Calvin or covenant theology will find familiar material here. Preaching is the center of worship. (44) Church discipline is to be exercised. (77) A particular order of worship (from the Reformers) should be used. (99) The authority of the Church should be recognized. (131 ff)
Potential readers who are not familiar with the teachings of the Reformers may be surprised at some Bayly writes. For example, Bayly says that the real test of a pastor's devotion to the teaching of the apostles “is whether we use the pulpit to call the women of the congregation to submit to their husbands.” (51)
Young pastors would do well to read this book to get an idea of how the Church functioned in generations past.
You can find out more about the book at https://warhornmedia.com/2019/07/08/church-reformed/
My rating: 3/5 stars.
Tim Bayly has a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wisconsin and a Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He was ordained in 1983 by John Knox Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA). After years of pastoring, he transferred to the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) in 1991. He is currently pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (previously Clearnote Church) in Bloomington, Indiana. He writes regularly at Warhorn Media and is the author or co-author of two previous books. He and his wife have been married over 40 years. They are the parents of five children and more than 20 grandchildren.
Warhorn Media, 183 pages.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through The Barnabas Agency. My comments are an independent and honest review.