At the heart of our life as a Church is our gathered worship on Sunday. But why do we do what we do? Here is a short explanation of each part of our Sunday service which has a carefully ordered structure based on the movement of the gospel.
In the first movement, we gather together as a Church each Sunday to worship our triune God: Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Yes, all of life is worship but there is something unique about corporate worship (1 Cor. 14:25). Of course, fellowship with each other is an important reason for meeting together so we can spur each other on in our walk with Christ. But first, and foremost, we meet together to worship God: to listen to Him God through the reading and preaching of His word, to respond in praise, liturgy and prayer, confessing our sins and bringing all our needs to Him.
In Colossians 3:16, we read: Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Therefore, music and singing play a major role in our Sunday services. Part of the reason God has given us lungs is to sing to Him. You don’t have to be musical. You might be tone deaf. But God loves to hear us singing our praise to Him in a way that fits with how He was made us.
The children also stay with us for as much of the service as possible as they are equal members in the body of Christ and only go out of the service for their own age-appropriate teaching. At the 11am service, we have an all-age song and all-age talk. To that end we are all called, adult and child, to worship God in this opening part of the service.
Having begun by praising God for an aspect of his flawless character, we are reminded how far we all fall short of His perfect holiness. And so it is right that we confess our sin to Him. The confession which we use has an honest evaluation of human nature reminding us that there is nothing we can do in our strength to save ourselves and that simply trying harder will not work. We need a Saviour. And we have one in the person of Jesus, who forgives us our sin and empowers by His Spirit to live in newness of life.
Something we need to hear over and over again is the assurance that God loves us despite our sin. That no matter how far we fall, God’s grace runs deeper still. That we are saved. That sin is paid for once for all. That there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And so, after the confession, we hear words of assurance from the Bible.
Reassured of our right standing before God, who is our Father who loves to hear our prayers and is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, we move into our intercessory prayers when we bring all our needs and the needs of others to Him. We move outwards from ourselves, to our community, our nation and our world.
In movement 3, we come to the heart of the service as God addresses us through the reading and preaching of God’s Word - the Bible. God speaks to us personally, intimately and relevantly about what we need for the week ahead. Faith comes through hearing the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17) and faith is strengthened through the word of Christ (1 Peter 2:2) which is why the word of God is the basis of all we do throughout the Sunday service.
We respond to what God has said to us by affirming our faith in our triune God with the words of the Apostles’ Creed and then we prepare for the Lord’s Supper by celebrating the peace we have with another through Christ as we come as one church family to the Lord’s table.
We finish this third movement with the Lord’s Supper as we enjoy fellowship with God, remembering Christ’s death for us which enables that fellowship, and so have our faith strengthened as we feed on Christ in our hearts by faith. This is the most liturgical heavy part of our service; the word liturgy literally means ‘work for the people’. In other words we want our Sunday services to be as participatory as possible. The Sunday Service is not a show. It is not about what the leader is doing up front. We are all involved. We are all responding together to what God is saying to us.
Last but not least is the movement back out into the world. As the Father sends the Son; and Father and Son send the Spirit, so we are sent into the world to live for Christ in every area of our lives and share the message of Jesus with others. We gather and scatter every Sunday. We don’t exist for ourselves but for others in our neighbourhoods, workplaces and wherever the Lord places us. To that end, we have a ‘What’s Coming up?; which informs us of what is going on in the life of the Church over the next week or so. Then we finish with the words of the Sending out to “Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.”