The Elements of Corporate Worship and the Logic of Their Order - Part 2

Having declared our praise to God through song and prayer at the beginning of our worship service we next affirm our commitment to him through a Confession of Faith. Confessions of Faith can be taken directly from Scripture or from one of the great creeds which summarize aspects of what we believe concerning God and his Word. It is somewhat like the exchanging of vows in a wedding service. It involves a reaffirmation of our loyalty and love to God (or a reaffirmation of our trust in him). In the previous section of worship, marked mainly by praise, we are bragging on him in his presence, whereas in this portion of the service we are expressing to him our dedication and consecration to belong supremely to him alone. When we are impressed with him, and tell him so, we next want to express our allegiance because he is so trustworthy.

However, when we do this, we are reminded of how far we fall short of this commitment and trust. Indeed, our commitment to him is as our SAVIOR. But only SINNERS need a Savior. So we bring our sinner-hood to him in confession of sin so that we might enjoy afresh his Savior-hood in pardon. This is the reason for the Corporate Confession of Sin at this point followed by the Reception of Pardoning Grace. Hymns, songs or Psalms can be woven into or actually be the Confession of Faith or the Confession of Sin. Again, music must be carefully selected to introduce, prepare for, undergird or actually express these various elements. We seek to plan worship that is timeless, therefore we will use some music that is very ancient and some that is very modern as long as the text and music is Biblically sound and musically of good quality.

Some folks question the use of written responses and prayers. They find them distracting or cumbersome or insincere or a host of other negative descriptions. However, it is interesting that in the history of Christian worship, from a variety of quarters all through the centuries, both written and recited scripture and confessions of faith and sin and other forms of recited prayers have been used in corporate worship services. This is also true in the history of Presbyterian and Reformed worship. When such elements are not included in corporate worship the congregation’s “voice” in the service becomes almost exclusively confined to
singing songs or hymns. The other elements of reading scripture, prayer, repentance, declarations of doctrine and reaffirmations of commitment are then voiced by a pastor and worship leader in behalf of the congregation. The Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament word used for the work of the priests in the temple is leitourgia (from which we get our word liturgy). It literally means “the work of the people” and therefore accentuates the fact that with the coming of Christ all believers became priests under the priesthood of Christ and all are now called to do the “work” of worship. Worship is an action verb. It is something we DO. It is not primarily something to which we listen or passively watch. This is why we design services that engage the hearts, minds and voices of the people in as many and varied ways as possible. True Biblical worship therefore requires the people to expend mental, emotional and verbal “effort” and to be as actively engaged in as many aspects of worship as possible. In the process the congregation is also taught how to pray by praying corporately and by using Scripture and hymns to expand the depth and breadth of their prayer. Next time we will look more deeply at the reception of pardon, intercessory prayer and the giving of tithes and offerings.