Several days ago, a friend sent out a request on Facebook for people to send in the order of worship from their churches. His church is in the midst of changing their worship service and he was looking for ideas.
Here are two of the responses:
Ours is a regular service – a praise song before greeting and then 2 hymns or praise songs, then offering, then the choir does 2 songs – mostly Southern Gospel – message, and invitation… for your youth services – which are the 5th Sundays – We sing contemporary praise and worship songs – big ones first and slow down to worship preparation – then the message and then invitation.
Well we usually have an opening hymn and after we sing the first and last verse, we have the musicians play through a verse and chorus or just a verse while everyone shakes hands and greets, then we sing the last chorus. Then it’s announcements followed by two more hymns. Then we have offering. then the choir will sing one or two songs (depends on how long they are). Then we sing amazing grace (that’s every sunday at this time), sermon, then invitation.
The first one is introduced with, “Ours is a regular service.” Is it? I know I’m in my own world, but is it? Now these are not liturgical churches, so I’m not going to say anything about the absence of Communion (oops! I just did). But why is there no confession of sin? Why no Assurance of Pardon/Declaration of Forgiveness? Regardless of denominational bent (and these churches are admittedly of a different one from mine), I think all believers need to acknowledge in worship that sin disrupts our relationship with God and needs to be acknowledged and, more importantly, that we all need very much to hear, from Scripture, the promise that our sins have been forgiven through Jesus Christ. Without the cycle of confession/assurance of pardon, the entire concept that we are approaching a holy God in worship is lost.
On an even more basic level, however, are these two questions:
1) WHAT ABOUT PRAYER? Don’t Christians pray anymore? Didn’t Jesus say something about his house being “a house of prayer for the nations”?
2) WHAT ABOUT SCRIPTURE? Both mention a sermon or message, but nothing about the public witness of Scripture. Our tradition (and the tradition of most liturgical churches) is to have a Hebrew Bible (aka Old Testament) reading, a Psalm (either read in unison, responsively, or antiphonally), an Epistle lesson, and a Gospel lesson each Sunday. The sermon will only be on one of these selections–usually the Gospel–but we believe the public reading of Scripture is as important a part of worship as the sermon, if not more so. It certainly isn’t something we would consider optional or dispensable.
So, those of you in more broadly evangelical churches, more “contemporary” churches, etc., do the above really describe a “regular service”? If so, how do you account for no prayer and no public reading of Scripture? Call me a stick in the mud, but I consider those two things to be non-negotiable.