Monday, February 13, 2006

Im' here

nothing to say - haven't read all the blogs yet, but letting you know... i'm watching you.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Order of Corporate Worship - Kendall

Order of Corporate Worship

Exaltation of His Worth

Call to Worship – a moment of quieting our hearts and recognizing the reality that we are about to engage in a very focused way in the one great purpose for which we were made—the worship of God. This may include a brief prayer, scripture reading, or other exhortation.

Songs of Praise – typically three songs that, simply put, “ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name.” These may convey His majesty, power, and holiness. They may celebrate Christ as the Savior of God’s people and the Lord and King of all the creation. There may be various themes, but the tone that is set during this time should challenge us that God is infinitely bigger than any of the other things that in our daily lives gain so much of our attention.

Approaching God – a prayer from the front or silent meditation that responds to the truth we have just proclaimed. The idea is that we need time and prompting to ask, “Do I really see God like this? Am I really worshipping Him or just going through the motions?

Renewal in His Promise

Call to Renewal – a starting point for this next section of the service, which focuses specifically on our ongoing need of a Savior. The leader may highlight the holiness of God previously expressed in the time of praise, or use a fitting Scripture passage to show that we all truly fall short of the glory of God.

Confession – The congregation may read a corporate prayer of confession, sing a song that expresses grief over sins, or simply confess sins in silent prayer. There may also be some combination of these elements.

Assurance of Pardon – Scripture read by the leader stating God’s promise of forgiveness (for example, 1 John 1:9)

Song(s) of Response – one or two songs that focus on Christ’s atonement or express thankfulness and joy in God’s grace.

Growth in His Ways

Community Life – a time to highlight various aspects of the life of our church. Important announcements may be made here. This would fix the problem of people missing important information when it is relayed at the beginning of the service. It does not so much “break the flow” of the worship service if the opportunities and events mentioned are presented as the outworking of “life as worship.” Other elements that may comprise the Community Life segment are salvation testimonies, testimonies about involvement in some ministry of our church, recognition of new members, and (perhaps, if a new building allows) baptisms.

Pastoral Prayer – intercession for the needs of our church and the world around us. This prayer may be led by a pastor, elder, or other lay leader and should express dependence on God’s grace and provision for the work of our church and a longing for His kingdom to be our main priority. The prayer may include a focus on certain aspects of our community life—a particular ministry, an upcoming outreach event, or a topic we have been studying in Scripture, for example.

Affirmation of Faith – corporate reading of one of the historic creeds of the faith. This communicates our church’s link to the faithful Church of previous generations and our commitment to an orthodox framework for understanding and teaching the Scriptures today.

Reading of God’s Word – giving a prominent place to the words of Scripture, God’s words, as the basis for all faithful teaching. The Scripture passage may be read by the teaching pastor, one of the other pastors or elders, or another lay leader.


Response – time for reflection on the message preached. This may include a time of silent prayer leading into a congregational song of commitment. It may sometimes include a solo-performed or ensemble-performed song that allows the congregation to meditate on a particular aspect of the message. If we are celebrating the Lord’s Supper during the service, a time of reflection before the receiving of the elements follows the sermon.

Benediction – The teaching pastor or music leader closes the service commending the congregation to continue their worship of God by His strength and through His grace as they are sent out into the world.

Structure: I’ve followed Calvin’s (and Redeemer Presbyterian Church’s) model of structuring the worship service in cycles because I see the value of not just having one climax in the service (the sermon, with everything else just a prelude or a preparation for the message). If corporate praise to God and corporate renewal of our dependence on the gospel are values equal to that of the teaching of God’s Word, then it makes sense to give weight to these goals in the order of worship.

Emphases: The biggest practical difference between our church’s current corporate worship practice and that proposed here has to do with emphasizing in a corporate setting certain aspects of our relationship with God that have traditionally found their place in other contexts. Confession of sin has been something that we expect happens in individuals’ private devotions rather than in a worship service, with the exception of a time of self-examination as a part of our monthly communion service. Similarly, since we have monthly churchwide prayer, an ongoing prayer list, and times of prayer within our small groups, we have not felt the need to include a pastoral prayer in the worship service for the purpose of making supplication for specific needs of our church and community. Other elements such as the reading of Scripture (besides the sermon text) and the affirmation of core doctrines of our faith are exercises that we have been content to include in other areas of church life (i.e., personal quiet times, Sunday school classes, etc.).
One potential problem I see with not giving these experiences a place in the corporate worship service is that they may not be effectively modeled and passed on to all members of our congregation. People often do not attend prayer services because they have rarely heard others pray in public, and they are not really sure how to do it. What better way to teach them how to pray than by having elders or other church leaders regularly offer prayers during corporate worship? Many who have not been accustomed to reading the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed in corporate worship are not readily familiar with the truths that Jesus is “true God from true God,” and that “through Him all things were made.”
In addition, the truth about God’s character that is proclaimed in the songs we sing is made all the more real to us when we actually have opportunities to experience those realities within the worship service. We are able to sing with more thankfulness for God’s mercy when we have just recognized his forgiveness of a particular sin that has recently been an obstacle to our fellowship with him. The singing of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” is more of an encouragement of my belief in God’s provision when it occurs in close proximity to a prayer for the tangible needs of our church and its ministries. A simple string of worship songs—even good, substantial worship songs—does not engage the heart and strengthen faith to the fullest extent possible when time is not given for more concrete interaction with, and experience of, God’s manifest attributes. As an extreme illustration, it’s great to sing “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” but it would be a shame to sing it for an hour and not actually pray.


Proposed structure for worship service - Kendall

Guys, I’ve put together a proposed structure for our worship service at Legacy (see blog post called Order of Worship), and I’d love to get any feedback you might be able to offer. A lot of the elements described in this order of worship are ones that we are already utilizing in our services, but as we’ve made efforts to embrace more traditional elements from our church heritage, I’ve felt like we were just picking and choosing without much rhyme or reason. I’ve felt the need to provide a little more structure for the use of non-musical worship elements like creeds, other readings, corporate prayers, etc.

One of the helpful insights from Tim Keller that I got from Carson’s Worship by the Book was the explanation that Calvin in his liturgy made use of “cycles of gospel reenactment.” Keller points out an “Isaianic” cycle (referring to the prophet’s encounter with God in Isaiah 6) consisting of the reading of God’s Word and repentance/confession/pardon in response of God’s holiness. Then in the “Mosaic” cycle, the people seek God’s revealing of Himself through His Word read and preached. Offerings and prayers are responses to God’s revelation. Lastly, Jesus becomes known to us in the “Emmaus” cycle centered on the breaking of bread. Keller further explains his church’s approach of utilizing cycles of hearing and offering to structure their corporate worship service.

I’ve basically adapted Redeemer Presbyterian’s liturgy, with slight modifications of elements and wording, to present to our leadership as one possibility of what our worship service might look like if we were to take a similar approach.

Any and all of your thoughts would be a great help to me.


Monday, January 30, 2006

D.A. Carson interview

Here's an interview with D.A. Carson that addresses some of the things we're talking about. What do you guys think?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Theology of Corporate Worship - pt. 3

DISCLAMER: Before I write, I gotta tell you guys that I feel like the “little brother” in these e-conversations we’re having… meaning I have tremendous respect for both of you guys and don’t really feel that I have much to contribute in the way of insight…
Important to know: I make that statement not to fish for compliments (you guys already compliment me by including me)… I do make that statement so that you’ll give me more grace than normal when you read what I have to say (not necessarily in this post, but in general)… cause I don’t know much.

My Thoughts:
I have held to the idea (for a long time) that what we do on Sunday (or Tuesday night) as a body (corporately) is something special in the eyes of God. When we acutely (devote an entire 1.5 hours to) worship TOGETHER, it is something DIFFERENT then our own individual times of life apart from each others affirmation and edification towards loving Christ. So then I think part of OUR (leader) duty is to tell our people to enjoy that ‘special’ time together as a relief or delight from a world that hates our Christ and his people…

The idea that I’m seeing in my head is one I got from a mini-series that I got on DVD… Band of Brothers… it’s worth watching.
The idea is this: life for a Christian is warfare… battling sin, mourning for the lost, longing to go home… but there are small times of peace that we can enjoy TOGETHER when we’re TOGETHER to see and rejoice in who is still alive, who has overcome a great struggle, who has been mighty for the Lord, who is sick, who’s wounded, who needs food and water, who needs encouragement or rest…

So if we really see life this way, then we (leaders) have to ONLY use art that is useful to this need… useful to the reality of life in Christ while we’re still on earth. It’s our duty to not spend time on things that either don’t aid this life, or are actually counter productive to the Christian’s life.

However if your people AREN’T living life in warfare… then they really won’t understand why in the world you’d wanna sing “Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul”… they might even get mad that “all you ever do is these wordy old hymns that I’ve never heard of…”

As I right this I’m getting Sunday night music ready… and I’m struggling whether or not to do songs that I know are kinda week sauce, but I feel that I have to do them because my people won’t be able to handle absorbing all of the other GREAT songs (that you guys have taught me) without some ‘trite’ songs in between… though that’s kinda harsh, they’re not trite… but they’re just not as good as the others… not like the kind that meet the above criteria.

That’s all I got… did I miss the point… I may have.



Theology of Corporate Worship - pt. 2

I think this is a great question to ask, and honestly one that I feel I have neglected. I’ve often wondered what we are doing on Sunday mornings that helps people worship in the broad sense. I think there are some more obvious things we think of. For example, any sermon that calls for application of truth is a call for worship in all of life. Also, we endeavor to lead songs and hymns that point people toward a God worth living for, and a God who is a treasure to us not just as we sing comfortably in a worship service but also when we are tested or called to consecrate our lives more to His purposes. I think this is the beginning of it. But it seems that the question you’re posing, Wes, is “What do we do, or can we do, beyond that to help people make the connection?”

I confess that I don’t think I’ve done much. In leading a prayer during the worship service I will sometimes say something along the lines of, “God, You are worthy of whatever comfort/convenience we may have sacrificed this week or struggle/persecution we may have faced in order to seek You.” I’ve occasionally asked the congregation to spend a moment in silent prayer to consider any of those kinds of sacrifices that they may have made during the week, and to recognize before God that He is worth it. It occurs to me that maybe that kind of thing is something we could do regularly right at the beginning of the worship service. It seems to me that it would be helpful to think in terms of our bringing our spiritual sacrifices to corporate worship, the same way the Jews would bring their physical sacrifices to the temple in Jerusalem.

Anxious to hear you guys’ thoughts-

Theology of Corporate Worship - pt. 1

Here’s something I’d be interested in getting your input on. In discussing a theology of corporate worship, the point is often made and emphasized (rightly, in my opinion, and I assume also in yours) that worship is not just what we do when we gather on Sunday mornings (or whenever we gather), but that all of life is in fact worship. However, that point is seldom meaningfully applied. In other words, what does that mean practically for us in the church in our times of corporate worship—or, how does that point specifically apply to our practice in corporate worship?

Does the question make sense? I’m trying to push that idea as much into the practical realm as possible, so that it’s not just words that we nod at enthusiastically, but also a major shaper of our practice. Has this big, important idea led to any specific practical applications for you in your planning for and leading corporate worship? Can you think of any that you hadn’t considered before?

As before, I have some ideas, but I’ll wait and share them after I get some replies so that this doesn’t end up being a little devotional email that you read and forget about. Feel free to bring anyone into the discussion that you’d like to.

Wes Crawford