New Life Continues Its Brand of Worship
Since its inception as an Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) mission work over twenty years ago, New Life Presbyterian Church has been noted for several things: discipleship groups ("D-groups"), diaconal ministry to the "down and outs," and a style and practice of worship far from traditional Presbyterian. Founded by the late C. John Miller, New Life Church in its early days met in a variety of places, including the YMCA gym in Jenkintown, PA, before settling into its own building in Glenside--not far from Westminster Theological Seminary, where Pastor Miller was a professor.
The impact of this congregation on the seminary has been significant. Through the years, many Westminster students opted for the church's somewhat informal worship services rather than more traditional services. Many of those students have taken the ideas of New Life Church with them to their own pastorates throughout the country and around the world. Moreover, numerous churches seeking to emulate the style of New Life have taken the same name for themselves, including several congregations which the parent church has spun off in the Philadelphia area. Although many New Life churches started in the OPC, many of them, including the one in Glenside, are now in the PCA.
According to the current pastor, New Life's philosophy of ministry is encapsulated by three words: celebrate, communicate, and cultivate the whole counsel of God. Pastor John Yenchko says that the church tells its members to "celebrate, communicate, and cultivate the gospel." In doing so, they reflect an upward, an outward, and an inward thrust. With respect to worship, "we have all three components," Mr. Yenchko said. He added, "Our people are always eager, excited, and reverent in the public assembly."
Mr. Yenchko believes that there has been no change in the basic philosophy of ministry over the years, although there have been some changes in the applications of those principles. He feels that there are parallels between the worship offered at New Life and more traditional forms. However, New Life's worship would be "different from public assemblies that could be caricatured as austere and minimalist." Among the differences would be the inclusion of "public testimonies" during the public worship.
Pastor Yenchko stated that New Life's distinctiveness regarding worship is "more stylistic": "we are distinctive in the ways we do things." He mentioned the style of contemporary Christian music as characterizing New Life. Also, there is a "focus on the doctrines of justification by faith alone, a call to repentance, and our responsibility to reach the lost. Our services often do touch the emotions."
In keeping with a self-conscious idea of male leadership, the leading of public worship is "heavily weighted toward men." However, women also lead in prayer, in song, and in the reading of Scripture. "Women may do whatever non-ordained people may do," according to Yenchko.
Pastor Yenchko finds "a lot in John Frame's books helpful." He stated, "I do believe that we should worship God the way He wants to be worshipped." He also noted that there is not an explicit directory for worship in the New Testament.