Saturday, February 4, 2012

Scripture-Centered Worship

When you leave worship (with your local church) on Sunday afternoon or evening what is most memorable to you? What do unbelievers find most memorable when they visit? My challenge is to make certain God's Word is most memorable. This requires we do certain things and avoid certain things. First of all, why do I want to make God's Word most memorable? God's Word makes God's people-- it alone can break through the hardness of man's sinful heart, it alone can call men to faith, it alone can transform a person and restore him to the image-bearer God created, and it alone reveals the God for whom we were created to glorify and enjoy forever (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12).

So when people leave worship they ought to have been given a heavy dose of Scripture. We must read the Word, preach the Word, sing the Word (using doctrinally rich songs), see the Word (through the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper), and pray the Word (the Scripture must inform how we pray and what we pray for). This is the goal that informs my planning of our worship service. We are simple. We want people to get well nourished on the Word and have periods of pause to reflect on the truths being lifted up. Here's a basic order of worship for us:
  • After welcome and announcements we take a few moments to quietly prepare our hearts.
  • Then we sing-- it might be a new song or a classic hymn but we want it lyrically to exalt Biblical truth (and stylistically to match its content). In planning I usually pick 3-4 lengthier songs rather than snippets of 6-7 songs. Life is busy enough without blurring through Scripturally-rich songs.
  • In between the songs we'll read from a passage of Scripture that I select from the opposite Testament I'm preaching from but has some connection with the sermon text.
  • Then we get to the sermon. I preach expositionally. This guard me from soap-box preaching or just being trendy (it also forces me to let the Holy Spirit and the Word dictate the direction of issues we need to address).
  • After the sermon we'll take more time to pause for quiet reflection. Again, life is so fast-paced there is value in slowing down and letting our minds marinate on the proclamation of God's Word.
  • We'll then collect offerings and at least once a month we'll be taking the Lord's Supper before dismissing for fellowship.
I know this isn't the "coolest" approach but really worship is for God- we get the afterglow- so as long as He's pleased I'm not too worried about cool points. It might seem right to say do whatever it takes to make unbelievers feel welcome so they are not turned off from the gospel of Jesus Christ. The "do whatever" pragmatism is dangerous. You can end up compromising or competing against the very gospel you claim to treasure. Furthermore, do you believe the Word of God is sufficient or not? That's the bottom-line. If you argue that Scripture alone cannot arrest a soul and shape it to God's glory without "seeker sensitive" techniques, emotional manipulation, or appealing to man's desire to be flattered and entertained then you do not believe it is sufficient.

To be sure when an unbeliever or any guest visits a church service they ought to be greeted with the utmost hospitality and extended friendship. Let not bad behavior be most memorable. Our behavior ought to adorn the Word of God and reflect its transforming work in our lives. If you want to be sensitive to unbelievers present among you (and you should) then give them God's Word and trust that it will do the work (Isaiah 55:11).

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