The Life of Worship




Alex Tang



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The Life of Worship

by Dr Alex Tang



1.  The Church Year



Purpose Theme

Season of Advent


4 weeks starting end of November. First Sunday of Advent to Fourth Sunday of Advent

Christ's first and second coming- thanksgiving and anticipation

Season of Christmas

Nativity of the Lord


First Sunday after Christmas

New Year's Day

Second Sunday after Christmas

Christmas day

25th December

Celebration of Christ's birth




The Incarnation

The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates Epiphany on January 6th rather than Christmas. Historically, the celebration of Christ's birth on December 25th started after the conversion of the Roman emperor Constantine at the beginning of the 4th century AD. During his reign, the traditional pagan festival which took place at the winter equinox in celebration of the sun god was replaced by the commemoration of the birth of Christ. Christmas is not a pagan festival but the Christian festival that replaced it. It is unlikely that December 25th accurately reflects the birth of Christ which is generally thought to be around springtime in the Western hemisphere (March-April). Practically it would be difficult to celebrate both Christ's birth and death at the same time.

Season of Epiphany (Ordinary Time)

Epiphany of the Lord


First Sunday after the Epiphany


Second Sunday after Epiphany to Ninth Sunday after the Epiphany


Last Sunday after the Epiphany





About 8 weeks, starting January 8th

God manifest in Christ


Baptism of the Lord


Signs and wonders


Transfiguration: The glory of the Lord revealed.


Season of Lent





Ash Wednesday


Passion Week


Palm Sunday


Maundy Thursday



Good Friday

40 weekdays (March/April)



First day of Lent


2 weeks before Easter


The Sunday before Easter



Thursday before Easter


Friday before Easter

Fasting- preparation for Easter. Jesus' wilderness experience, ministry and final journey.




The suffering of Christ


Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem


The Last Supper, Gethsemane, betrayal, arrest and trial


The Crucifixion-death of Christ


Season of Easter




Easter Virgil

Easter Day


Second Sunday of Easter to Sixth Sunday of Easter


Ascension Day


Seventh Sunday after Easter


Day of Pentecost


Seven weeks


Variable date March 23rd to April 25th





Sixth Sunday of Easter





Seven weeks after Easter

 Resurrection of the Lord








The ascension of Christ



 The coming of the Holy Spirit



Season after Pentecost (Ordinary Times)






Trinity Sunday



Second through twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost


Reign of Christ or Christ the King

About 25 weeks




First Sunday after Pentecost






Last Sunday after Pentecost

Celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit/Birth of the Church



Celebration of the Trinity






Celebrating Christ the King


Special Days

Presentation of the Lord

February 2

Annunciation of the Lord

March 25


Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth

May 31

Holy Cross

September 14

All Saints

November 1

Thanksgiving Day

4th Thursday of November in U.S. and 2nd Monday of October in Canada

The importance of the Church Year is that it provides a coherent way of telling the Christian story throughout the year in a way that reinforces what we believes and provides opportunity to proclaiming these truths to others.

2.         Scripture reading (Lectionary)

The word lectionary comes from a Latin word meaning reading. It refers to a systematic way of reading the Scriptures in worship. Normally four readings are suggested for each service and they are related to the Church Year. It gives the general theme for the worship service and the song leader and preacher will peach from this theme.

  • An Old Testament passage
  • A Psalm
  • A Gospel reading
  • A New Testament passage (apart form the Gospel)

In some churches, two readings are done, one form the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.

For example, Easter Sunday

  • Isaiah 65:1-25 (A new hope, a new future)
  • Psalm 118:1-2,14-24  (Victory-'I will not die but live')
  • John 20:1-18 (The empty tomb and appearance to Mary)
  • 1 Cor 15:19-26 (The centrality of the resurrection)

The readings have been selected to emphasis the various aspects of the Easter message: a radical new beginning; Christ's victory over death; the evidence of the empty tomb, His resurrection appearances; the centrality and significance of the resurrection in the Gospel proclamation.

To be the sort of people who will gladly fulfill our responsibility for witnessing and mentoring and nurturing care we need meaty worship - worship that engages us deeply in an encounter with God whose splendor is illimitably beyond our understanding, worship that shakes us out of our narcissisms and consumerism, worship that disciplines us and thereby equips us for the work of the kingdom in witness and vocation and suffering.

Marva Dawn

Theologian and author with Christian Equipped for Ministry

Vancouver, Canada

3. Dangers to Worship

  • Television/ movies/ Internet => media

Ø      Television consumption wastes too much time. " But I don't have enough time"

Ø      Watching television stifles the imagination.

Ø      Children who watch television extensively develops smaller brains.

Ø      Watching television makes us less motivated to think.

Ø      Effects of television on violence and immorality in our culture.

Ø      Creates a lack of intimacy and community.

Ø      Fosters greed.

Ø      Television creates a muddled perception of reality.

Ø      Its view of religion is often superficial and often prejudiced.

Ø      Fosters "Low Information-Action Ratio" = L.I.A.R. Television offers its views enormous amount of data about which they cannot do anything about; consequently, its trains them to receive and discard information without acting upon them. Marva Dawn wrote that "Television makes us L.I.A.R.s because we do not do what we could with the truth we learn. We watch news reports about poverty, but we don't lessen our consumption in order to give more away to feed the hungry and to build economic possibilities for others … Think what this L.I.A.R. training does to sermons and Christian education, as it turns us into L.I.A.R.s who know God's will but don't live according to his purposes, who knows the needs of the world but don't change our lifestyles to ameliorate them."

  • Culture of Consumerism
  • Antidote

Ø      Limit our media time

Ø      Immerse ourselves in worship, for the nature of God will change our spirit and expose us to truth.

Ø      Praying 'Thy will be done' commission us to action as agents for fulfillment of God's plan for redemption.

Ø      Hearing and internalizing the Word of God.

Ø      Singing together as a community of worshippers, supporting each other and finding strength in the whole of Church.

Ø      Simple lifestyle.

4. Will True Worship Kill Us?

Isaiah 6:5

5 Then I said, “My destruction is sealed, for I am a sinful man and a member of a sinful race. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord Almighty!”[1]

5. Reflection Questions

·        How would following the Church Year help you in your worship? As an individual?  What about your church?

·        How much time per week do you spend watching television/movies/Internet? What influence does this have on your worship?

·        How does a consumer-orientated society in which we live in affects your worship?

·        Reflect on what you have learned in this course. Keep silent and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Do not be a L.I.A.R. What steps will you take to enhance your worship? List them down and carry them out.

6. Reflective Reading


Andy Park,

Worship Minister and Musician, Vineyard Churches.

Here in our apartment in Sha Tin, Hong Kong, we are surrounded by the sounds of worship. Everyday, twice a day, ‘the brothers’, mostly ex-drug addicts who have come to Christ, join together to lift their voices in songs of thanks and adoration. Every morning and evening, the simple sounds of praise echo throughout this cluster of small apartment buildings.

There aren’t many educated folks or trained singers in the bunch, so it’s not like you’re listening to a men’s choir. In fact, some of the notes I hear make my hair stand on end. But I’m sure it’s all beautiful to God. He’s not nearly as picky as I am.

Being immersed in the songs of the “dai heng” is a great reminder about the essence of worship. Worship is about a cry of the heart, not a slick production. Worship is about me coming to God and pouring out my guts, it’s not about having the latest sound or a hot new song. Worship is about receiving forgiveness and healing when I confess my sin and weakness. Worship isn’t about sophistication, it’s about honesty – taking off our spiritual disguises and letting God get under our layers of self-protection. I find that the Holy Spirit doesn’t respond to the polished outer presentation, but the hungry heart.

I can’t help but think that the culture of worship here among the dai heng is similar is to the first century church. A bunch of people come together, stand in a circle, share the Lord’s supper and sing hymns to God. That’s about as complicated as it got in the earliest days of Christian worship. I believe it was Tertullian, an early church father who wrote in about 200 A.D., who encouraged Christians to gather in a circle and sing hymns. He said that anyone who had anything to share could step into the middle and sing a song. That pattern is still being used today. Any small group in the world can gather in a circle to sing, pray and share communion. Worship doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.

Contrast this picture to the contemporary Christian worship culture in the western world. We’re so into the musical side of things. We’re so into the latest sounds, writers, songs and recordings. But are we so impressed by the packaging that we lose sight of the gift of worship? Are we willing to settle for professional production and graphics or do we really hunger for God himself?

In this day of explosive technological advancements, it’s easy for us from the first world countries to get caught up in the glory of drum loops, MP3’s, digital recording and flash video presentations. If you’re not enough of a “techie” to get into that stuff, maybe you get bogged down with getting the right musicians to play the right sounds on the right instruments.

We’re always looking for something fresh to jolt our people out of their spiritual doldrums. It’s a constant challenge. Production skills and tools can be powerful in getting people to wake up and take another look at God. But if we depend on techno tricks, we won’t be able to dazzle people for very long before it gets old. Besides, do we want to create a church culture of spectators who come to be entertained? Or do we want to invite people into a simple adoration of their Creator and Redeemer?

If you are employing new styles of worship and it’s working, that’s wonderful. It’s all good, as long as the form of worship doesn’t become the focal point of worship. If people are more enamored with your cool arrangements, worship is on the decline.

There are no easy solutions to this tension for modern worship leaders. I personally really like high quality music, dance and visual presentations. God has given us the arts, and there are so many ways of employing the arts in worship. I think it’s great to pursue some of those options, even if they are ‘trendy’, as long as it doesn’t suck the life out of our worship. God uses the vernacular of the day as a mouthpiece for his Word and a vehicle for his presence. But the coolest musical and artsy trends can’t replace life in the Spirit, and a heart of worship.

Maybe you get discouraged because your band can’t do it like they do on the CD. Or maybe you’re among the thousands who would give anything to gather a band, but you can’t find the players. That’s a tough one, but it sure points you back to the essence of worship. When we’re depressed because we can’t have the sound we really want, maybe God is telling us to shift our focus a bit.

When you’re surrounded by recovering drug addicts who need more of God’s love, power and healing, you don’t think so much about how good the P.A. sounds, what kinds of musical arrangements you’re using. The priorities are shifted to the stuff of the heart, the things of the Spirit of God. There are time when I feel annoyed by the lack of musicality around me here in the new boy houses, but the lovely presence of the Holy Spirit more than compensates for the unlovely musical notes.

Worship is all about loving God and making melody in our hearts to Him. It’s about giving a love-language to a group of people so they can worship God with us. Let’s not forget the simple essentials.

God, give us a heart of worship. Renew in us a simple love for you, a thirst and hunger to know you and to walk in holiness and righteousness. We want to see you and touch you. Come and change our hearts again.

Sources cited and recommended reading

Bareman, Herbert W.III, Authentic Worship: Hearing Scripture's Voice, Applying Its Truth (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2002).  This is a collection of papers presented at the 46th Annual Midwest Regional Theological Society on "The Worshipping Church: The Theology and Expressions of Worship for the Twenty-First Century Christians" held on March 23-24, 2001 at Grace Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Indiana. This is the best book I have    read on worship. The different writers are well balanced in their approach.            Definitely a must read. Highly recommended.

Burfield, David R., Living Worship: A Guide to Leading Worship. 2nd ed. (Selangor,            Malaysia: Pustaka SUFES, 1992, 2003). David is a lecturer at Sabah Theological College. This is a good, easy to read book about worship and  worship leading. He is sometimes very personal in his sharing. A must read  for all worship leaders and those intending to be worship leaders.

Dawn, Marva J., Reaching Out without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for the Turn-of-the-Century Culture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995). A hard hitting book in which Marva critique the influence of contemporary culture on      the worship in the church. There are some insightful comments on worship. You may not agree with everything she wrote but take the time to understand  what she is saying. Not an easy book to read but well worth the struggle.

________, A Royal "Waste of Time": The Splendor of Worshipping God and Being Church for the World (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999). A followup to her previous book. In this book, she continues where she left off and her emphasis   here is the role of church, as a community of God is worship. I like the way she titled her books and her chapters.

Weaver, J.Dubley Jr., Presbyterian Worship: A Guide for Clergy (Louisville, KN: Geneva Press, 2002). An interesting book about Presbyterian workship. An    eye-opener for me. I did not realise that that Presbyterian have such a rich  heritage of worship. A must read for Presbyterian church leaders.

White, James F., Introduction to Christian Worship. 3rd ed. (Nashville, TN: Abington Press,1980,1990,2000). James White is regarded as the best know liturgical scholar in the United States. He was formerly Professor of Liturgy at the University of Notre Dame. The book is a textbook on liturgy or worship. It is  brimful of information about worship and the different ways it is performed  among the different Christian traditions. This is okay reading for people who enjoy reading textbooks.

________, A Brief History of Christian Worship (Nashville, TN: Abington Press,1993)

            Another textbook on the development of different liturgy in the different traditions of the Church.

White, Susan, The Spirit of Worship: The liturgical Tradition (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis,1999). Susan is Professor of Worship and Spirituality at Brite Divinty School, Texas Christian University. In this book, she presents the rich diversity of      liturgy in the many Christian traditions and how these can be models of     prayers for us. Interesting but a bit dry at times.


                                                                                                            Soli Deo Gloria


[1]Holy Bible, New Living Translation, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1996.


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