The centerpiece of the Christian life is worship. We are most “practicing” as Christians when we are worshipping God. We were created to worship, and while all of life is to be done to the glory of God, all of life is not worship.
Worship happens when the saints gather together as a group and spend time specifically hearing God’s word, singing praises to Him, praying to Him, and receiving gifts from Him, such as the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. This is where God dispenses grace to His people, speaks to them His words of law and gospel, and reminds them of His love for them.
While “worship-like” experiences can happen in a variety of contexts, the one which the New Testament speaks of is the gathered worship of the church under the oversight of elders which He has called and a minister which has been set apart to be the mouthpiece of God to His people.
Rather than giving the minister and elders free reign over what happens in the worship service, there are specific parameters to what a worship service must include, the chief of which is the preaching of the word of God. The minister is not to speak his own words, but is to make plain the words which God has written in His word. This is the pattern and practice of the New Testament church, and it is what we strive to emulate.
To that end, these are several aspects of our worship.
WEEKLY. The New Testament (sometimes called Apostolic) church gathered for worship weekly on Sundays. There is no hint that this regular meeting was ever skipped or substituted for something else. We wouldn’t skip eating for a day and expect our stomachs to be filled, or substitute food for some other good thing like bird-watching and expect to be nourished. So, we wouldn’t skip worship for a week and expect God to bless us and feed us spiritually.
SACRAMENTALLY. We participate in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper each week. We believe that one of the ways God feeds His people is by feeding us with the body and blood of Christ. While we do not believe that the wine and bread turn into the flesh and blood of Jesus, we do believe that we receive these things spiritually. Just as food is assimilated into the body, so Christ, by His Holy Spirit, gives us Himself each week in the sacrament. This serves to make us more like Jesus, who is the beginning of the New Creation.
LITURGICALLY. This one is a little tricky, as every church has a liturgy. A liturgy is basically a plan for what you do in worship. Pretty much every church has a plan for how worship will go, what songs will be sung, etc. Our church is a little more structured than some churches. We worship in the tradition of the Reformation churches of the 16th and 17th centuries. This means that our service will include several moments where the minister and congregation will “talk back” to one another. This is to emphasize that worship is a dialogue between God and His people. The minister speaks for God and the people respond.
This method has been used since the early days of the church. In fact, the Psalms employ this method frequently (Ps 118, 136). In our service you will find words directly from Scripture, from the 3rd century, the Book of Common Prayer of the 16th century, and other Reformation liturgies of the 16th and 17th centuries. While this may seem overly formal to some, to others it is a welcome guide. The words of the liturgy are like scaffolding, used to build up the people of God. These beautiful words of our forefathers and Scriptures teach us how to think about and talk to God.
JOYFULLY. One thing I hope you’ll see is that we are all glad to be in worship. We enjoy God. While our worship is reverent and respectful, it also demonstrates gladness for the great things God has done. Our music spans the range from lament and confession to gratitude and praise. We have gifted, professional musicians who skillfully support the voices of God’s people as we celebrate our great salvation. We pray with hearts full of care, but expectant of God’s tender mercies. We hear God’s word, convicted of our sin, but convinced of His word of forgiveness. We partake of the sacrament, sorrowful for the need of the cross but thankful for it as well.