Nurturing/ Teaching Courses
The Components of Worship
by Dr Alex Tang
1. The Worship Service
· Components of worship
1. Entering God's presence
2. Enjoying God's presence
3. Listening to God
4. Responding to God and the community of faith
5. God's empowering
· Order of Service
Generally there must be certain components in a worship service on Sunday irrespective of what church or denomination we belong to. Certain churches may pay more emphasis on one component over the others. It is better if all components are present in the service. An example of a general order of service with five components are as follows:
Entering God's presence
Assurance of Forgiveness
Enjoying God's presence
Intercession (Pastoral Prayer)
Listening to God
Responding to God and one another
Response to the Word
We do not meet to worship (i.e. to experience worship); we aim to worship God. "Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only": there is the heart of the matter. In this area, as in so many others, one must not confuse what is central with by-products. If you seek peace, you will not find it; if you seek Christ, you will find peace. If you seek joy, you will not find it; if you seek Christ you will find joy. If you seek holiness, you will not find it; if you seek Christ you will find holiness. If you seek the experience of worship, you will not find them: if you worship the living God, you will experience something of what is reflected in the Psalms. Worship is a transitive verb, and the most important thing about it is the direct object (which is God )
Professor of New Testament
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
2. Music and Symbols in Worship
Music has not always been present in Christian worship. Opposition to the use of worship is attributed to Abbot Pambo, an Egyptian monk of the 4th century and Zwingli, the Swiss reformer also opposed the use of music in worship. In London, Horsley Down Church began with a single hymn after the Lord's Supper in 1673. It was about twenty years later that the church accepted regular hymn singing after which a number of members left the church. Nowadays music is so much part of worship that some of us cannot imagine worship without music.
(a) Music and doxology: ministry to God
Doxology is a 'word of glory' or a 'word of praise'. Worship is doxological as it is primary concerned with giving praise to God. Doxology is clearly what Paul has in mind when he instructed the Colossian and Ephesian Christians to employ 'psalms, hymns and spiritual songs' in the congregation (Eph.5:19; Col. 3:16). The book of Revelation informs that the doxological ministry to God will be our eternal occupation (Rev.5:13).
(b) Music and edification: ministry to the church
Music has an influence on the musicians, the singers and the listeners. There is an element of edification in music in worship. Passages like 1 Corinthians 14; Ephesians 5:19 and Colossian 3:16 indicate that music can be the medium in which the congregation be taught the truth of the Christian faith. The great hymns of the past are all instructions in theological living. One example is the Wesley hymn, Hark the Herald Angels Sing which contains in a few verses: the doctrinal statement of Christ: His deity, humanity, wonder of incarnation; summary of God's plan of salvation: reconciliation of sinners, new life, healing and resurrection.
(c) Music and proclamation: ministry to the world
Music can also be the medium to proclaim the gospel. The association between God's glory and proclamation is seen in psalm 96:1-3
PS 96:1 Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.
PS 96:2 Sing to the LORD, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
PS 96:3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
(1) The Bible
(2) The Eucharist
Ø Lord's Supper as interpreted by Paul remembers Jesus' death and anticipates his Second Coming. 'For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes'.(1 Cor. 11:26)
Ø Breaking of Bread as experienced by the two disciples on the road to Emmaus as described in Luke 24 showed a spiritual experience that an encounter with a living and resurrected Christ leads people beyond their level of nominalism to a higher level of spirituality.
Ø Communion or participation (koinonia) in 1 Cor. 10:16 'Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation (koinonia) in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?'
Ø Eucharist is the focus on what God has done through Jesus Christ. Our responsibility is to be thankful. 'If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say "Amen" to your thanksgiving (Eucharist), since he does not know what you are saying? You may be giving thanks (Eucharist) well enough, but the other man is not edified'. (1 Cor. 14:16,17)
Table worship has to do with the very center of the gospel message and of our response to it. Table worship says and enacts the metanarrative of the Christian faith. It sweeps from Creation to the Fall, to God's involvement in history through the story of Israel and the story of Jesus in whom God was incarnate to save the world, and ends with the consummation of all things in the new heavens and the new earth.
Robert E. Webber
Director of the Institute for Worship Studies &
Myers Professor of Ministry
Northern Baptism Seminary
Ø Baptism is a sign and means of repentance (Acts 2:38)
Ø Baptism demonstrates that salvation is all of grace (Titus 3:4-5)
Ø Baptism is a participation in the death and resurrection of Christ (Rom.6:4; Col.2:12)
Ø Baptism is our entry into the church (2 Cor.12:13)
Ø Baptism is orientated toward the eschaton (Titus 3:5-7)
(4) Sacred Spaces
(4) Ritual, Art and Drama
· Worship Style
The debate nowadays is not about music in worship which is accepted in most Christian communities except perhaps the Amish and the Quakers. The debate is about musical style: traditional, contemporary, progressive, African, Afro-American, Hispanic etc. To consider music style, we need to consider two principles:
(1) The Doctrine of Creation
God created the world and call it good (Gen.1:31). The world and all that is in it is to give glory to God (Ps.148). Hence man is to use everything to give glory to God. That will include his music. That will cover using of 'secular' music and sanctify it to 'Christian' music to give God glory. Old Testament scholars all agree that Israeli psalmists adapt Egyptian and Mesopotamian hymns to declare Yahweh's superiority over creation (Ps. 29; 104). In 1907, New England Presbyterian pastor Henry van Dyke composed the following poem and set it to the last movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's 1824 Symphony No.9, "Ode to Joy".
Joyful, joyful we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,
Opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness,
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day.
Not only we have to recognise that beauty of all music but we also have to recognise the diversity of the many musical styles that are created by man. And man is created in His own image.
(2) The Doctrine of the Church.
The church as a community of the Holy Spirit should exhibit unity with diversity. In Acts 2, the work of the Holy Spirit drew diverse people into the church, each from different backgrounds, cultures and styles (Acts 2:45). These diverse people are found worshipping God together. Similarly Paul in 1 Corinthians has the same theme.
(a) The church should be the one place in the world where ethnic, sociological, class and generational diversity occurs in unity.
(b) The rationale for using different musical style should not be limited to musical tastes but in celebration of diversity of God's good creation and the diversity of people that the Holy Spirit birthed into the church.
3. The Worship Wars
· Liturgical worship
· Traditional Worship Service
· Contemporary Worship Service
· Progressive Worship Service
· Blended Worship Service
There once was a church upon a hill
Where everything was fine until
Some of the family wanted something new;
Which made other Holy siblings mumble and stew.
The pastor called a business meeting
And after the church's traditional seating
The deacons cried, "Come one, come all…
What style of worship should fill this hall?"
Traditional, blended or contemporary.
Each was determined and contrary.
One lady said about the hymns, "They're so pretty.
Good enough for Saint Peter, good enough for me."
Little James he was called although he was quite old
Said, "Aren't the hymnals getting too hard to hold?
I visited a church within this past year.
They projected their words on a screen in the air."
Yet another had visited a newer church plant.
And this was his view on what was their slant.
"They had a band and a neat little keyboard
That when it was played, boy did it roar.
The performances were slick.
The routines they were polished.
The drama brought the point home.
And the bulletin was abolished."
"I'll not hear the organ. I won't see the cross,
With this I am not happy." stated Miss Ross.
From that point on their voices grew stronger
Each emotional plea became longer and longer.
Then a voice of strong and stern love
Silenced the meeting as He spoke form above.
"You come to church weekly to meet Me here
But instead of pleasing Me, you are pleasing your peers.
The music, the robes, the organ, the patter
These things, to Me, just really don't matter.
I am Who I am, and I made you like Me.
'Remember your Maker' is My worship decree.
I sacrificed My Son, I turned from Myself
So what does it matter what's on the shelf?
On Me set your mind. To Me please draw near.
Then the blessings of heaven around you'll appear.
You give many renditions of church as a game
But you fail to give water in My Holy Name.
You pray using eloquent Thee's and Thou's
And yet you forget the here's and the now's.
Your worship is not tied to a style or a post.
Heart to heart meeting is what I love most.
You struggle to have many think well of you.
In doing so you forget to keep the Vertical view.
"The Vertical View" adapted from Matt Tullos
Thomas F. Atchison
Fox Valley Church, West Dundee, Illinois
4. The Mind of Christ in Worship
· Jesus was Self-Denying
Jesus was not self-absorbed but self-denying. Paul wrote that," Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,"(Phil. 2:6). We can create an atmosphere for diverse musical expressions of worship by following Jesus' example. Jesus did not take advantage of his godhood but deny himself. Our hanging onto a certain style of musical styles reveal two things about us. One is our culturally self-absorbed shallowness. 'There is only one correct way to do this, my way'. The other is our lack of openness to learn and enjoy the diversity of God's creation via different musical styles.
· Jesus was Self-Giving
The atmosphere for expressing worship through a variety of musical styles can be actualized by following Jesus' example of self-giving. Phil. 2:7 continues "but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness." Jesus gave up his Godhood. Could we not give up our musical preferences and accommodate others with their difference musical preferences?
· Jesus was Self-Sacrificing
Phil.2:8 shows the self-sacrificing nature of Christ - "And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross!" Worshipping involves obedience and sacrifice. Could not the example of our Lord helps us to be obedient and self-sacrificing in choosing a musical style or styles that is acceptable to all.
5. Reflection Questions
· What are the components of worship? Summaries it in one sentence.
· What role does music and symbols play in your own worship? In the worship of your church.
· What is the difference between worship and evangelism? Does your choosing of a musical style more to do with worship or evangelism?
· Reflect on the poem "The Vertical View" which was adapted from Matt Tullos. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom. Does it speak to your own struggle with the worship service in your church?
· How does having the mind of Christ help us to be church- unity in diversity?
6. Reflective Reading
A Battle for Harmony
Timothy D. Sprankle, Authentic Worship (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2002)
This skit is intended to be done as a Reader's Theater piece, however, it can easily be modified The nature of the skit deals with the problem of finding a balanced musical selection in Sunday church worship when dealing with three different generations of Christian worshipers, Taken to its satirical extreme this skit uncovers impure motives of worship leaders and the leaders' concurrent acts of sabotage to become the predominate style of worship for the church.
PASTOR: I am one confused pastor. I memorized the King James Bible. I
study the New Arnerican Standard (NASB). And I teach from the NIV. There are so many
choices. And I don't know whether to preach exegetically, topically, or do different character
sketches from the Bible. There are too many choices. And choices are the very things that are
becoming the bane of evangelical worship. Our church is no different. Each week our
members are given the choice between three services to attend: Traditional, Contemporary,
and Progressive. The only difference, though, is the style of music that is played and what
people wear. The service is really only named by its worship style and dress, because I've
been preaching the same sermon in every service. The question isn't what will I preach,
but what will, I wear when I preach it, and what style of musical worship will lead into the
message? And in our church these battle lines are dearly drawn.
TRADITIONAL: Hymns are the original language of worship. If the lyrics aren't
theologically rich, they sound worshipfully poor to God.
CONTEMPORARY: We need to be in the world but not of it. Our music is simple and
catchy, so you don't get caught up on the verbiage, but you can
actually hear yourself over the instruments.
PROGRESSIVE: Worship is a time to experience God with excitement and joy.
You need a worship band to give passion to the people.
PASTOR: I fear these lines. Instead of creating diversity within our church, they've created Three
different churches. Basically, old, young, and middle aged. We used to have one service, and
we'd ask a series of questions: Do we dust off the hymnals and crank up the organ? Do we
light up the projector and hit the keys for some choruses? Or do we pound the drums and
shout to the Lord? Now we just save the varieties for their respective services.
Three choices. Three churches. One body. It's a mathematical paradox, our church's own
little Trinity, only it's not a holy union. Anyway, I decided to call the three worship leaders
together to discuss the problem.
PROGRESSIVE: So, Pastor, why exactly have you called us here? Did we do something wrong?
CONTEMPORARY: No, this probably concerns the Easter cantata. You wanted to stick with the arrangement that I composed last year?
PASTOR: That is for a different discussion. I actually was wondering what you thought of worship last week.
[At first they respond to Pastor.]
TRADITIONAL: The organ seemed a little clogged, but we still sang some classics. We had about two hundred at the service.
CONTEMPORARY: There were 248 in attendance, and…
PROGRESSIVE: 322. 322 at our service. We even played an extra song because
people were so into it. Sorry if we cut into your time, Pastor.
PASTOR: Well, you are all awfully excited about the numbers, but I was
wondering about worship. How do you think worship helps the unity of our church?
ALL: Everyone gets what they need.
TRADITIONAL: We have the words.
PROGRESSIVE: We have the energy.
CONTEMPORARY: We have simplicity.
ALL: And what we have is the best.
PASTOR: I hadn't known what to expect, but I quickly found that worship was not about God. It was
about what style was truer, purer, or louder, and who could have the greatest attendance
while doing it. So I bluntly asked: Do you worship in spirit and truth?
TRADITIONAL: Do you think that our worship has gone sour? Hymns are timelessly true and spiritual.
PROGRESSIVE: What are you talking about? I've never felt anything more spiritual or true than our worship. Just take last week. I don't think I've ever heard it that loud in our auditorium. The claps. The drums. Man that was an awesome experience.
CONTEMPORARY: Pastor, you make it sound like we have a large problem. Our songs were spiritual and true a couple years ago. Why should we modify our selection now? The key is our worship isn't complicated. 'That's why every week we sing "Majesty" and "As the Deer." No one gets confused.
PASTOR: Then the battle began.
[Now they respond to each other.]
PROGRESSIVE: Yeah, but no one gets excited about your worship, either. The same songs, every week, every month, every year in the post decade-the songs get drained of their meaning.
TRADITIONAL: As though you can speak of meaning. You may play different songs each week, but how many times are you going to repeat the same line within one song? Are you trying to prove it when you say that you could sing of his love forever?
PROGRESSIVE: The only proof I have is that, when I lead worship, people are up, out of their seats, clapping their hands, and singing with some energy. When you lead worship though, people are busy staring at a hymnal and trying to sing loud enough to drone out the organ. [Make whining noises.]
TRADITIONAL: Well, I think you are just as close to droning out the Holy Spirit with that devil music of yours. The pounding drum. The electric guitar. It's the devil's symphony.
CONTEMPORARY: You two are both so extreme. The key is that we are all
getting people involved.
TRADITIONAL: We all know how he does. He just puts more people on
stage. You have more people on stage and less in the pews
and thus you think your worship is better.
PROGRESSIVE: Wrong. We just try to create an environment where people
feel alive. No offense, but putting one older man,
constrained by his three piece suit, with only his finger
[mocks a conductor] to excite the audience, you don't have
a very good show. And anyway, isn't pointing wrong? I
mean, it's rude to point, isn't it? Because when you just
stand up there waving your finger at the whole
congregation [mimics Hymnal] I can't help but feel singled
out. [Waving finger and using an old British accent]
"Thou shalt sing louder!"
CONTEMPORARY: Com'on now. Don't you think that you take things to a
different extreme? Maybe James looks a bit like a
dictator up there, doing the solo show, but you and
your band don't quite balance the scales either. You
have twelve different instruments, each with their own
solos, and six different singers hitting every harmony.
What is there left for the congregation to do? That's
why everyone claps. It's like we're at a concert, not a
PASTOR: Worship was a great problem in our church. It was not
just that we had too many choices, it was that in the
midst of the choices, of the various styles, worship
had become a battleground of competition. Who
could sing louder? Who could sound better? Who has
the best words? And just when I thought the
discussion couldn't get any worse, it did.
PROGRESSIVE: [Nodding] "The glory of the youth is his strength." That's
what the Proverbs state. You two are afraid of my youth, my
strength, aren't you? The drums are of the devil, you always
say. That's not because you have problem with the drums.
You have a problem with change.
TRADITIONAL: And you have a problem with tradition. With things that are
tried and true. Well, I'll have you know that I do not
doubt‑you are the one who glued all the hymnbooks shut a
few weeks ago.
CONTEMPORARY' That was you?
PROGRESSIVE: Like you can play innocent. You were the one who recently
changed all our slides on PowerPoint during last week's
service. I know it wasn't James. I don't even think he knows
how to use the computer. That was real cute, by the way,
putting pictures of-------‑ ‑ ‑ [i.e., President Clinton] on all
the slides, instead of words. That'll really get the
congregation turned against us
TRADITIONAL: I know how to use a computer . . .
PROGRESSIVE: The organ is not a computer and neither is your hearing aid. I
don't doubt you do know how to use a saw, though. That's how
the number of drumsticks magically doubled while the size of
each split in half. We'd have an easier
time playing with our thumbs.
CONTEMPORARY: Now, Matt, let me ask you did you really think that my
transparencies was pagans?
PROGRESSIVE: Pagans? What are you talking about?
CONTEMPORARY: Pagans‑apparently you must have felt the need to purify them,
because I found them in the baptismal.
TRADITIONAL: No offense, Sue, but it's not like we really needed the
overheads. We sing those songs every week. I think we know
the words by now.
CONTEMPORARY: So you put it in there?
TRADITIONAL: Well, it was a test.
CONTEMP0RARY: A test?
TRADITIONAL: To see if we would still sing the song anyway ... and we did.
PROGRESSIVE: Surprise. Not really.
CONTEMPORARY: What's wrong with repetition?
PROGRESSIVE: What's wrong with repetition?
TRADITIONAL: What's wrong with repetition?
CONTEMPORARY: OK. I get the point.
PASTOR: No, you haven't. None of you have.
ALL: [POINTING TO THE OTHERS. FREEZE.] The point is they do worship
PASTOR: As the shepherd of the church, I felt sad, sick, sorry, and
frustrated all at the same time. Corporate worship had grown to
mean louder noise and higher attendance, Spirit and truth had
grown to mean experiential and theological. And my worship
leaders had submitted themselves to competition and sabotage. I
felt like Israel, bringing her sacrifice before the Lord
focused on the form but forgetting the heart. And I knew this
problem couldn't be quickly resolved, but I had nothing to say to
them. So I figured I would just let them stand there, pointing,
looking foolish. I would just let them stand there until they realize
they're pointing in the wrong direction. Worship is about God.
[The skit was prepared and performed for the Midwest Region ETS Conference (23 24 March 2001), hosted by Grace Theological Seminary. Remnant, a student led and directed drama group of Grace College, performed the skit.]
A diagnostic tool for evaluating your service
Part of this reluctance comes from the (correct) belief that worship is a spiritual activity and that God's role in it ultimately is a mystery. Who can say, after all, whether people "really worshiped," whether God was really encountered, or whether God was truly glorified?
Yet if we've been given the ability to plan worship, we can evaluate at some level what we've done. The following tool, prepared by Leadership's editors and advisers, can help. It does not cover all the bases (for example, sermon evaluation is left out), and not all questions fit every congregation. Feel free to customize it for your congregation.
Preparation and prayer
Praise and song
Readers, presenters, and pray-ers
The Spiritual Aspect
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