Good job, preacher. Good service, pastor. I enjoyed the sermon. You know the drill. The regular worship just ended. You are standing at the door greeting all the worshipers. One by one they ease by and most say something vaguely complimentary. Too soon we are lulled into believing these are worthy evaluations of worship. We are meeting the needs of the people. Never mind the dulled stares during worship. Time now to rush home for dinner and then get on to the real work of ministry.
Worship planning and worship leadership are the real work of ministry. In many churches, worship is the sole responsibility of the pastor. Some pastors guard the worship domain as their own. Rather like the television announcement, The content of this service represents the view of the minister.
To evaluate worship and to creatively and constructively prepare and lead worship is a daunting task. It should involve more than simply changing the hymns, scripture, and sermon title from last weeks bulletin. We may have to re-think worship. This begs the question, What is good worship? Or, what is worship?
Worship is by definition and function an offering we offer to God. We often ask the question, What can I give to the person who has everything? So for us the question is what can we offer to the God who has given us everything? The Creator of the heavens and the earth is far beyond our human striving or giving. Yet, the Biblical witness is that God calls us to worship. To worship God is to realize what has worth ship in life.
How often has someone left a service of worship and said, I just did not get anything from that service today. A more important question would be, What did God get from that service today? We often see worship as call and response. God calls us to worship and we respond to Gods call. God speaks to us through scripture, prayer, and proclaimed word and we respond through our prayers for others, through our giving of gifts, through our re-commitment to Jesus Christ, and through going forth into the world as changed and redeemed children of God. We live out our worship in the world.
Christian worship is foremost an encounter with the living God through the Risen Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. We claim and own Christs promise that for where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. God promised to meet the Hebrew children at the tent of meeting. God promises to us to come into our assembly. Perhaps the best reason to worship is to meet the living God.
Christian worship is celebration. We celebrate the mighty acts of God in creation and redemption. We celebrate Christ alive and present. Worship should be celebratory a mighty celebration of what God has done and is doing in our world. Worship should be upbeat, filled with joy.
There are some basic principles to Christian worship. Christian worship is Biblical. The Scriptures are our script for worship. They need to be opened, read, and proclaimed. It should be centered in the God who has acted to redeem Gods people. Be open to the power and leadership of the Holy Spirit. Let the scriptures and hymns speak to where we live and serve. Worship should be cognizant of what is going on in the world and in the life of the congregation.
Christian worship is participatory; that is, congregational participation is a must. All the people of God should be involved in planning and leading worship. One adage is, Never allow the choir to do anything the congregation can do. All the people of God should be participants and not spectators. Let the worship be inclusive and participatory. Work to include everyone in worship. Make opportunities for the whole congregation to respond. Make good use of men, women, youth, and even children in leadership roles.
Worship should be inclusive. It should engage all of our senses. It should include children, youth, and adults of all ages. It involves women and men. It should involve every racial, ethnic, and cultural heritage within the congregation.
Let spontaneity be expected and welcome. We worship God through the Living Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide in the planning and leadership of worship. No matter how much planning is done, dont be surprised when something is said or done that was not prepared. God can and will move through the Holy Spirit at times to do the unexpected.
Order should have a place. A basic pattern of structure and order allows people the comfort and the freedom to experience the Holy Spirit and worship.
Liturgy is the word that describes worship. The Greek term leitourgia refers to the performance of a public task imposed upon all who were citizens at Athens. It was simply fulfilling the responsibility of a citizen. It translates roughly to the work of the people. So liturgy worship is the work of the people of God.
Biblical worship is a combination of Word and Table: the Word of God, read and proclaimed, and the sacraments offered. A service based on worship in the New Testament would reflect the gathering of the people in the Lords name. This would include prayer, praise, and song. We open the Scriptures through reading, preaching, witnessing, music, and the arts. We respond to this proclamation of God's Word in prayer for the world, acts of commitment and faith, and in the offering of ourselves. The Lord s Table is prepared and the bread and wine shared. We are sent forth in ministry in and to the world.
Traditional worship or liturgical worship tries to achieve a healthy balance between stability and variety. For those who abhor the same liturgy or service week after week, traditional worship does not have to be the same thing over and over. Stability enables us to worship the same God in the same way over the course of time. Stability concerns the order of worship and certain items within the order. Variety is a delicate balance and may involve the use of different hymns, prayers, creeds, scripture, and arts.
The people come together 9in the Lords name. There may be greetings, music, and song, prayer and praise.
The Scriptures are opened to the people through readings, preaching, witnessing, music, or other arts and media. Interspersed may be Psalms, anthems, or hymns.
These include acts of commitment and faith, with offerings of concerns, prayers, gifts, and service for the world and for each other.
The actions of Jesus in the Upper Room are reenacted:
This includes the final blessing and benediction. The blessing/benediction is not a prayer. It is Gods blessing and sending forth of Gods people. It is addressed to the people. Face the congregation and invite them to look at you as you look at them and offer the blessing.
The basic pattern of worship is rooted in scripture. It expresses biblical, theological, and historical integrity. Worship is an encounter with the living Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide in the planning of worship and in the worship acts.
The Service of Worship might look something like this:
The people come together in the Lord's name. There may be greetings, music and song, prayer and praise.
This is a good time to welcome people and make announcements.
If you are going to use a new hymn or one the congregation may not know as well, this is a good time to introduce it. Sing through it a time or two; help the congregation appreciate its place in the service.
You may want to introduce any new parts of the liturgy: prayers, or special actions. Tell the people what to expect and it may reduce resistance.
Greeting: may be responsive or sung; it also serves to remind that we are gathered in the presence o the risen Christ.
Opening prayers, together with opening hymns, establish that our worship is communion with God as well as with one another. They include recognition of who we are before God by centering on the nature and gifts of God.
This hymn is most appropriately corporate praise to God, centering on attributes and deeds of God that call forth gratitude and praise. It should be familiar, upbeat, and affirming. (Hint: if the hymn has too many personal pronouns, it might not be a great hymn of praise.)
The Scriptures are opened to the people through the reading of lessons, preaching, witnessing, music, or other arts and media. Interspersed may be psalms, anthems, and hymns. Responses to God's Word include acts of commitment and faith with offerings of concerns, prayers, gifts, and service for the world and for one another.
A prayer asking God through the power of the Holy Spirit to bless the reading and hearing of Gods Word.
Use the Psalm as a response. This could be done responsively. But realize not all congregations do these responsive readings well. Dont be afraid to vary this. Have the choir lead and the congregation do the response. Have one side of the congregation do the lead and the other side do the response. You may want to use a hymn or chorus as the response.
You might develop this prayer time by calling the people to prayer. Then ask them to share names or people or events that need our prayers. You may want to encourage they call only the name. Too much information here may take away from the spirit of prayer. Allow the Holy Spirit to move through this time. When a name is called, have the congregation respond to each name perhaps with Lord, hear our prayer. This is the prayer and it makes it truly the prayer of the people. You might have the names called, then have the congregation sing, Jesus, Remember Me, or Cares Chorus. Then offer a pastoral prayer remembering the needs expressed.
Special music may be offered during this time.
In services with Communion, the actions of Jesus in the Upper Room are reenacted:
In services without Communion, thanks are given for God's mighty acts in Jesus Christ.
Here is a place for the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving. Holy Communion may be observed.
The placement of the invitation can be varied. You may want it directly after the sermon if the sermon has been a strong call to action.
The people are sent into ministry with the Lord's blessing.
Many of these acts of worship can and should change. Use variety. By changing the greetings, responses, affirmations, responses, you keep worship alive within some structure.
It will be my goal to offer resources for stability and variety.
Just another Sunday? Maybe you know the famous sermon, Its Friday, but Sundays coming! That is a great message of hope for Good Friday but a frightening prospect for busy pastors. Because of pastoral and administrative duties, worship planning may slip by the way side.
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