I received an e-mail from a friend yesterday who serves as a chief of police in Tennessee. He was writing to tell me that he has been struck by how little the average church member knows about God’s Word. As I read his message and listened to his heart, I couldn’t help but think about what has caused this through the years. We have consistently dumbed down worship which should be designed for sheep in order to attract goats. The local church is a true anomaly when you consider the fact that college football teams are never satisfied with lowering standards for their team goals. In like manner, businesses are never satisfied with lowering business goals for their corporation, but local churches adopt an attitude that expects pastors to lower standards of what’s expected for membership, decrease the seriousness of worship, and make worship fast, easy, and comfortable. This approach has radically changed the way in which we worship.
Over the past two years, I have been working through our order of worship and revisiting the need for change based on convictions and the need for a more healthy worship service. Recently, the elders discussed this issue and we continue to work through some of the needed alterations as we prepare for 2019. It is our desire to arrange our worship in such a way that will honor God with the most healthy worship service as possible. That requires intentional design that arranges worship based on knowledge rather than feeling.
Far too often, worship services are arranged to meet the felt needs of a congregation or to attract the seeker who might be in attendance. The seeker sensitive model of church growth plagued evangelicalism with light duty worship services that were superficial, short, shallow, and non-offensive to unbelievers. In many cases this approach has left us with large megachurches filled with unbelievers who gather for reasons that do not square with the purpose of the Lord’s Day and worship services across evangelicalism that are based on feelings rather than knowledge.
All through the Bible we see an emphasis placed on what we know to be true about God. In 1 Peter 1:18, the apostle uses the word “knowing” to encourage the discouraged believer and help them to base their worship of God on the firm foundation of what they know to be true about God. As we approach 2019, we are preparing to make necessary changes to the worship order within our local church so that our weekly worship will become more healthy.
Healthy Variety of Scripture Reading
Many Protestant churches have very little Scripture read in their weekly worship compared to the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. When you consider the fact that once upon a time people were being burned at the stake for possessing the Bible in English—you would think that we would have a healthy dose of public Scripture readings, but that simply isn’t the case across the board.
We begin each service with a call to worship from God’s Word. Throughout 2018, we read through the Gospel of Matthew as we took a portion of Matthew’s Gospel in both the morning and evening worship services. As we prepare for a new order of worship, we will be incorporating several Scripture passages in each service as follows:
- Reading from the Psalms
- Reading from the Law
- Reading from the Gospel
- Reading from the Sermon Passage
It is our desire to have both the Old and New Testament read in each service. We desire to show the importance of all Scripture and to show how Christ stands at the center of all of God’s Word. This approach will enable us to be very intentional in connecting how we pray with what the Bible actually says since our prayers will be arranged near Scripture readings.
In a typical worship service, prayers are often generic in approach and sadly is the case that they are used as transitions between different stages of the worship service. It’s not uncommon to have a prayer in a specific place merely to allow musicians to get into place for the next song. The prayer is offered by the pastor and is typically a transition and has no intentional design to it whatsoever.
As we rearrange our order of worship, we will arrange intentional prayer times that will enable the church to be specific in how we pray each time we enter into a time of prayer. We will arrange internal prayers such as:
- Prayer of Adoration
- Prayer of Confession
- Pastoral Prayer
- Prayer for Missions
We believe this will enable us to focus on God in a vertical prayer at the beginning of the service which will set the focus for our gathering. We are not gathering for entertainment or for selfish reasons. We are gathering to meet with our God. Following in the worship service will be a time of internal personal introspection and evaluation. We will be ver intentional about praying and confessing to God our known sin and pleading for forgiveness. The pastoral prayer will be focused on the needs of the congregation—and much of it will be based on the need to know God and to allow our knowledge of God to drive our worship of God. Finally, we will end with a time praying for missions around the world and focusing in on the commission to our local community. Each prayer will have a specific intentional design.
One of the joys of my life has been to watch our church embrace the biblical model of shared pastoral leadership. The plurality of elders leading a local church is a beautiful thing. I have the privilege of serving with a Godly group of men who love the Lord and have a passion to serve our local church.
As we continue to grow as elders, it is my desire to see more shared leadership in the weekly worship. As we incorporate these intentional public Scripture readings and prayers into our weekly worship—we will have the privilege of sitting under the shared leadership of our elders on a weekly basis. This will not only provide opportunities for the elders to serve and lead, but it will enable the church to see the elders serving and leading each week. This approach is intentional and for the good of our whole church.
When was the last time you paused and evaluated how you worship each week? Do you believe that your worship service is healthy and robust or lacking in substance and depth? If you’re a pastor, you can work to change this pattern if you feel that your worship service is unhealthy. If you’re a church member, you can always talk with your pastors about this problem and pray that they will make the necessary changes for the glory of God.