Maybe you have been coming to Sovereign King Church for a while and have noticed that our order of worship is a little different then some other churches you have been to in the past. You were used to singing several songs, taking up an offering, and a sermon but at Sovereign King Church there is an order to worship used each week that includes a few more things. Maybe you have enjoyed the time of worship at Sovereign King Church, but you have wondered why we do certain things. Or perhaps your children have been asking why we do what we do. I thought it would be helpful to walk you through a typical service and explain what each part of our service means.
Introduction to our Liturgy
Believe it or not, there has been a lot of thought in church history to what worship should look like. Some churches have argued that Christians are free to include in their worship anything that is not strictly forbidden by God in the Bible. This view is the view of the Roman Catholic church, the Lutheran and Anglican Church, and many modern evangelical and Baptist churches.
During the reformation, the reformed church saw abuses going on the Roman churches such as bowing to statues, prayers to saints and Mary, and many other inventions of man, and therefore sought a change. The reformers saw in scripture a principle which is that God determines how he is to be worshipped. He gives us what we are to do in worship and thus if God has not told us to do something in worship, we should not do it. Within the reformed church there has been some debate on some of the application of this principle but there is general agreement upon the principle.
We at Sovereign King Church seek to honor this reformation commitment in how we order our worship. We have sought to pattern our liturgy (a word often used to mean order of worship) from the word of God. The Bible does not have a chapter with an order of worship printed on it, but it does give us principles, patterns, examples, and commands that we are to follow. We have done our best to follow this in establishing our order of worship. We do not believe that one must follow our exact liturgy to be a church, but we do believe it is a better way than many have tasted in our day. This is because, rather than seeking to be trendy or culturally driven, we see worship as transcending time and space. God has always glorified Himself. There is a sanctuary in heaven upon which all Christian worship is patterned. This transcendent worship is culture-changing, and therefore always relevant to any age or time.
We do not recite scripture, confess sin, and sing simply out of tradition. We do it because God has told us this is how he wants us to approach him. We seek to include the simple few acts that the first Christians in Acts 2:42 followed as put into a logical and orderly progression. We approach God on his terms, not our own. Yet we must do so not only in truth but in Spirit. It is each individual’s responsibility to come before God out of love rather than duty. As you meditate and as you follow together the liturgy, think about the words you say and sing and do not say or sing them unless you believe and delight in Christ and his blessed salvation.
Walk through the Liturgy
With this in mind, lets walk through our order of worship. We begin each Sunday with a short scripture salutation, and we end each week with a benediction or blessing from scripture. Scripture is the very word of God and therefore we want the first and last words we hear to be God’s. In the salutation, the pastor as God’s representative greets us in the triune name of God with the word of God. After this greeting, we often have announcements and are encouraged to be mindful of what we have gathered to do, which is to worship God. We then prepare our hearts in silence just as scripture says “Be still and know that I am the Lord.” Then we pray asking God to inhabit the praises of his people.
Call to Worship
Up until this point, we have only been in preparation for worship because no one walks into the throne room of a king without first being invited. And no one may come before God without his invitation. We do not get to come into his presence on our own volition. Worship thankfully is a command of God and a gift from God. Therefore, the time of worship formally begins with a Call to Worship from scripture. God calls his people before him and we respond to that call. This is why most weeks the call to worship includes the congregation speaking together. This reminds us that we have been called to worship together with the church. Public worship is not you as an individual coming before God but rather you as a part of God’s people coming before him. This is why we often have times when we speak prayers together or say scriptural phrases together like when the pastor says, “lift up your heart” and we respond together “we lift up our hearts to the Lord.” These words come from Ps. 25:1; 86:4; 143:8; and Lam. 3:41. As we speak together, we are reminded that the Lord calls us and we through Christ are drawn up together in worship to the heavenlies. That is when we worship with God’s people in Christ Jesus, we are spiritually brought into the throne room of heaven and are spiritually united with the worship that continues eternally there. In public worship therefore, we are called out of the world and into the presence of God. We gather with God’s people in a building on Sunday and yet are spiritually united with the saints all throughout history and the world. Though you can’t see them there are angels in the architecture.
The Response to the Call
In scripture, there are several responses that happen when one is drawn near to God. When Isaiah was drawn near to God and given a vision of the throne room, he was moved by what he saw to trembling. Isaiah 6 describes this vision. There are angels and creatures singing “Holy Holy Holy.” Adoration and falling on your face are the right response to God. Thus, after we have the call of worship, we immediately sing a song of Adoration or praise. The scriptures command us to sing and they assume we will. Music is the right response to God because music can convey truth, emotion, and beauty at one time. When you come to worship, you should come with melody in your heart and music in your lungs. The call of the Lord should overwhelm us and move us to sing. If you come to worship with the church and you do not join in the song, why? Are you thinking about yourself or are you reflecting on God? God commands us to sing, and we should be so moved by the joy and glory of God that singing should just be natural. Isn’t it great that God commands us to do what we should just naturally do anyway? Fathers sing loud and your family will follow along. And even if you are not sure of the song, maybe it is a new one, you can pick it up quickly if you try. Don’t be those who come and stand awkwardly when its time to sing, give yourself to it.
Reading from the Law and Prayer of Repentance.
The ultimate response of Isaiah was to recognize his unworthiness. As we enter into the presence of the Lord, we are overwhelmed with his glory music will come forth but also, we will be overwhelmed with his glory in another way. His greatness, majesty, and glory immediately make us aware of our smallness, our sinfulness, and our unworthiness. Furthermore, when the Lord speaks, his word convicts us of our sin. Therefore, having just sung a song we hear from his law and are called to repentance.
Each week, we read through some portion of the law of God. The Book of Proverbs is in some ways an extended commentary on the ten commandments therefore we often read and hear an exhortation from it. Because God’s law reminds us of our sin and because the response to coming before God is to acknowledge our unworthiness, we pray on our knees together, asking God to forgive us.
Assurance of God’s Pardon.
Then immediately following the prayer of repentance comes a very sweet time in our corporate worship. We are reminded that our God is a merciful God. He has forgiven our sins by the blood of Jesus and therefore he has made us clean. The elder having just prayed reads to us a passage of scripture which reassures us of the promises of God found in the gospel. He announces to us the truth that our sins are forgiven in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The triune God has worked for our salvation. The Father sent the Son, the Son obeyed the Father, and the Holy Ghost has applied the work of the Son into our lives. Because of this good news we respond with joy. Singing again is the appropriate response.
Professing the Faith
Having then been called into the throne room of God, having been convicted of our sins and yet assured of the promises of God, the church together responds to this message by professing its faith together. Each week we publicly confess that Jesus is Lord having believed in our hearts that God has raised him from the dead. In unity with the church throughout history, we recite together the apostles’ or Nicene creed which is a summary of our faith. God has commanded us to speak his truths to each other and this is one way we do so.
Teaching the Faith
Speaking of teaching the faith, we acknowledge that God has called in his church some to be teachers and preachers which means that teaching and preaching are an important part of the public worship. During this time of our worship, we teach the faith through the reading of scripture. Each week we read a chapter of the bible together. The church has long understood the importance of reading God’s word. In fact, for the first years of the church when there was no printing press and many people could not read, the only time they heard the bible was at church. The books of the Bible were written with the intention of being read aloud. At Sovereign King Church, we carry on this important work by reading a chapter of scripture each week.
Another thing we see in scripture especially in the New Testament letters was that the Apostles’ addressed both the adults and the children in their letters. Children have always been an important part of the worship. When one reads throughout the bible and sees times of public worship, these times were meant to include all of God’s people including the children. At Sovereign King Church, we take the time to teach the faith to the children through catechism and scriptural memorization. This is not a time for the kids to show off or for the congregation to be focused on the cuteness of kids but rather this is part of the corporate teaching of the church.
The Lord Jesus said that his house was to be a house of prayer. In one sense the entire time of worship is meant to be a prayer. This is why we pray often throughout the service. This is why when we read scripture, we respond to it with a brief prayer of thanksgiving “This is the word of the Lord-Thanks be to God.” Worship is time with God and prayer is the vehicle of communication. The Apostles in their letters remind us of the importance of prayer and that we are to pray upon behalf of all people. We are called a nation of priests by the Apostle Peter. This reminds us what we go before God in prayer for all people. Each week at Sovereign King Church, we intentionally pray for churches and their pastors, those serving in various ministries, and those in authority. We also follow the model prayer of our Lord Jesus which teaches us the kingdom focus of our prayer.
Tithes and Offerings
The Apostle Paul spoke of Sundays as days to gather resources for the work of ministry. It was on the first day of the week, that early Christians pooled their finances so that they could support the work of the gospel. In doing this, they were following the Old Testament pattern of giving instituted by God. At Sovereign King Church, we worship the Lord with our hearts, our minds, and our strength (Deuteronomy 6). The word for strength in Deuteronomy 6 included one’s belongings. We come to worship bringing all of who we are, therefore, we give of our finances to the work of the Lord. The Lord loves a cheerful giver, and we ought to be willing to at least give what was required under the law, ten percent, and do so cheerfully. We give to the Lord because He first gave it to us. It is all his to begin with because He is the one from whom all blessings flow. He deserves all of us and therefore as we give, we also sing, and we also raise our hands to him. He gets all of us because He gives us all.
Proclamation of the Word
God has determined to use the preaching of His word to convict sinners, stir up faith in his children, and to teach us how to live. God ordains men to proclaim his message. To the world this may seem foolish, but it is the wisdom and power of God. The sermon is not something meant for our entertainment but is ordained by God to grow us as his children. We must listen to the preaching attentively and apply the truths of scripture to our lives. Receiving with faith the week in and week out preaching of God’s word is lifechanging. It is through preaching that God is pleased to work in worship. In public worship, preaching is the speaking of God to those gathered, therefore it is central to worship.
Visible Sign of the Word.
Having heard the word proclaimed with our ears, the Lord Jesus has also established that we may see, touch, and taste the word proclaimed. He does this through what is called sacraments. The two sacraments instituted by Jesus are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Baptism is a one-time sacrament given to believers and their children as a sign of his covenant and initiation into the church. It is a visible picture of the promise of the gospel that God will be our God. It is a picture of the promises of God that through Jesus he will wash away our sins and give us new life. Anytime at Sovereign King Church when someone is baptized, all those in attendance who have been baptized before are again reminded of the promises of God which were visibly shown to them when they were first baptized.
Baptisms do not happen every week, but the second sacrament does. The Lord’s Supper is a visible proclamation of the gospel. In the Lord’s supper we see, touch, and taste a sign of the promises of Jesus, that his body was broken for us and his blood spilt for us. We are reminded of his death and are given a picture of what we will experience one day in heaven when we see Jesus’ face to face and share in a meal with him and all the saints. In the Lord’s supper, when we receive it by faith and with a clean conscience, we get to spiritually enjoy a meal with the Lord. His presence is with us as we eat together with the church. Therefore, the Lord’s supper is a visible, physical proclamation of the word about Jesus. Those who receive it in a worthy manner enjoy its benefits while the rest are warned of the judgements of God against unrepentant sinners and those who would bring division into the church.
Commission and Benediction
Having been called into worship, having confessed our sins, been assured of the grace of God, professed our faith, been taught from the word, heard the proclamation of the word in both preaching the sacraments, and having enjoyed fellowship with God and his people, the Church is now sent out on mission. God calls us to him so that he may send us out. And therefore, we end our time of worship by being sent out with a song and a benediction (blessing.) We go forth with the praise of God on our tongues and the blessing of God upon our bodies.
I hope you have found this walk through of our liturgy helpful. There is more that could be said about each element of worship. We want our worship to follow the biblical pattern of worship, and to be obedient to the commands of God for worship. We want to honor our unity with the history of the church without devolving into the inventions of man and idolatry. We want to worship God with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. We do not want to come into his presence out of rote tradition with our hearts far from him. Rather we want to enter into his gates with thanksgiving and joy. Now that you know the flow of our worship, you can teach your children about it on the way to and from church. You can help them understand why we do what we do.