Worship Series II
Reinhold Niebuhr, quoted by Franklin M. Segler, explains that one reason for the weakness of common worship in American Protestantism is the fact that the free churches have grown up in an atmosphere of protest against preoccupation with theology, liturgy, and polity. Their spirit of protest, following the usual patterns of revolt, has led them to extremes which have resulted in certain weaknesses like, formalism without liturgy; freedom without participation; performance without power; conversion without cultivation; and feeling without substance. Naga Christians are from this stream of tradition. And perhaps, many of us have not even realized our weaknesses. Now, the whole thing boils down to our ignorance.
Worship and theology are inseparably bound together. Men and women worship according to what they believe. This explains why different churches vary in their forms and ceremonies. Worship must be an intelligible experience. The forms/parts of worship given below are the most common ones among the Baptists circle that need to be done with understanding.
Call to Worship: Why should the leader of worship call the worshippers to worship when they have all come to worship? Call to Worship is neither reading of the leader’s favorite scripture passage nor the text of the sermon. It is a call for the worshippers into the attitude and mood of worship. It is to bring back the worshippers to the worshipping spirit from their wandering minds. The purpose of the call to worship is: (1) to direct the minds of the congregation toward God (2) to remove distractions from the attention of the congregation (3) to call for participation of the congregation in all that transpires (4) to call for a unity of all the people assembled (5) and to create the proper attitude or atmosphere for worship. For example, “Let us worship God” is a call to worship. Calls to worship could also be obtained from the worship resources or Hymn Books such as Christian Worship Hymnal and others. Or the following scriptures passages may be read: Habakkuk 2:20; Genesis 28:7; Psalms 95: 1—2, 6—7; 100:1—2; 100:4—5; 118:24; 122: 1—4; 145:2; Isaiah 55:6—7; Matthew 11:28; 18:19—20; John 4:23—24, etc.
The Call to Repentance/Prayer of Confession: The barrier to fellowship between God and mankind is mankind’s’ sin. And the biggest hindrance to true worship is unconfessed sin. The solution to this problem is repentance on the part of the worshippers and forgiveness on the part of God (1 John 1:9; Jer. 31:34b). One can never truly worship the righteous God with a load of sin in the heart, because worship is matter of the heart.
Invocation: This prayer is often confused with thanksgiving, confession, and intercession. Invocation is to invoke God’s presence in the worship. Term invocation is rather misleading. In fact God is present everywhere; He doesn’t come only when He is invoked, but failing to acknowledge God’s presence in worship becomes a mere gathering. This prayer, literally, is acknowledging God’s presence amidst the worshippers.
Congregational Hymn: This hymn is called “Opening Hymn” which is a wrong phrase. This hymn is sung not as a formality, or simply to begin a worship service. This is an opportunity where all the worshippers can participate in worship affirming their loyalty and devotion to God. Hymns of thanksgiving, adoration, and praise are appropriate ones. Or appropriate hymn related to the theme or sermon should be chosen.
Pastoral or Intercessory Prayer: Pastoral prayer may be understood as a prayer by the pastor for his congregation, or a spiritual/church leader’s prayer for the sake of the members of a congregation. This prayer is also intercessory in nature. Intercessory prayer may be said by a person or group for the sake of others. This prayer may, also, be said by the pastor or an elderly believer, or by congregation led by a leader. But, it must be planned. In general, prayer includes Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication – ACTS.
Message in song: Message in song is not meant to entertain the people but to praise and glorify God. It is not performance or demonstration, but proclamation. Message in songs must always be related to the theme of worship – related to the sermon and other forms of worship. (note: “Special song” and “special number” are wrong terms. No part is more special than the other in worship – all parts of worship are equally special and important. Perhaps, the origin of these terms is the adoption of someone’s poor creativity which matured in to traditional cliché).
Testimony: Testimony is not an autobiography. (It doesn’t start with “I was born and brought up in a Christian family, and end with please pray for me). It’s not one’s life history, but testifying God’s love in one’s daily life and works. It doesn’t have to start from one’s birth till date. Testimony is a powerful means of spreading the love of God.
Responsive Readings: This reading testifies to the scriptural foundation of our faith and worship. On the other hand, the worshippers come to church not only to listen, but to participate. This is an opportunity for all the worshippers to participate in worship.
Offertory: The offering is perhaps one of the most misunderstood part of the worship service. To many people it is simply a way of raising money. To some it’s being “collected” for church fund. Offertory has very important symbolic meaning in the worship service. It is a part of the act of consecration. When we offer our material possessions to God, we demonstrate our desire to offer our entire life to Him. Above all, offering is not collected, but offered and received. We only collect tax, tithes and offerings are offered to God. Therefore, it’s not proper for the worship leader to say, “Now, we shall collect our tithes and offering.” The worship leader should say, “We shall receive our tithes and offerings.”
Reading of the Word: Scripture reading must always precede the sermon, because it is the reading of the sermon text. This is an announcement of the scriptural text for the meditation in the worship service. It’s not proper for the Scripture reader to sermonize the text before or after the reading. That’s the responsibility of the preacher.
Sermon: Sermon is often considered as the most important part of worship. But, all the parts of worship are equally important though the sermon is an indispensable part of worship. The sermon should not be confused either with a general address or a personal testimony. The sermon should always be the exposition of the word of God as revealed to us in the Scripture. It should be meant for the salvation of the sinners and the edification of the believers.
The Invitation: The invitation or alter call is given only during the so called “revival camps” and youth camps among our churches, not on Sunday worship services. The time of invitation is designed to encourage people to respond actively to God’s Word which has been proclaimed. Therefore, it is proper to create an opportunity for people to respond, openly or privately, for the renewal of their faith as a result of hearing the Word of God.
Consecration hymn: This hymn is commonly known as closing hymn. This is a hymn not only to close the service, but to consecrate oneself to God, having heard His word. Hymn of acceptance, submission, assurance, etc. are appropriate ones.
Benediction: Benediction is often confused with closing prayer. Benediction is addressed to the congregation rather than to God. It is an affirmation of God’s blessing upon the worshippers as they go out from the sanctuary. Hence, benediction is not a prayer. Benedictions may also be obtained from worship resources or hymn books. Or the following scripture passages may be recited or read out: Numbers 6:24—26; Psalms 67:1—2; Corinthians 13:14; Ephesians 3:20—21; Philippians 4:7; Hebrews 13: 20—21; 1 Timothy 1:17; Jude 1:24—25, etc. Benedictions can also be composed, or paraphrased from the Scripture verses. See sample below:
1. The Lord bless you and keep you: may the promise of the Lord, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” be a reality to you as you go in and out: the Lord make his face shine upon you when darkness of the world surrounds you, and be gracious unto you: the Lord lift you up when you are down, and give you peace. Amen.
2. May the God of peace who have called you out of darkness into his marvelous light to be his ambassadors equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight now and forever. Amen.
3. Now may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you, and remain in you now and forevermore. Amen.
Amen: Amen is not a mere concluding word in prayer. Amen literally means “so be it” or “let it be done.” The Hebrew “Amen” has the force of strong affirmation or assent usually to something spoken by another (See Deut. 27:14-26; 1 Chr.16:36; Ps. 106:48).
• All these parts of the worship service must be centered around a single theme.
•• Announcement is not a part of worship. Never make an announcement in the middle of the service. Maintain Sunday bulletin.