What kind of order is your church following when you gather for worship? Have you given any thought to the structure of Christian worship? Is it man-centered or God-centered? Historically, Christians believe worship is to be dialogical. Our response flows from what he has declared in his written Word. We are called to separate these as two distinct aspects of worship. Notice the dialogical principle demonstrated below in a classic Protestant liturgy (what we do in worship):
1. God speaks in calling us to worship, we respond with prayer.
2. God speaks in greeting us with a word of blessing, we respond with song.
3. God speaks by instructing us in his will for us, we respond in confession and repentance.
4. God speaks by assuring us of forgiveness, we respond in prayer and by giving our offerings.
5. God speaks to us in Word and Sacrament, we respond with gratitude in song.
6. God speaks by sending us out, not with a mere dismissal, but with his benediction sent back into the world.
Through and through, there is dialogue with God’s word as central to every element of worship. Our responses are only appropriate to what the LORD has said to us in his Word, through his pastor. This is why the Lord constantly instructed his prophets to speak, “only what the Lord has commanded” (Ex. 7:2), as worship begins and ends with Word of God.
Now consider a modern worship service that I recently witnessed in our day:
This model (still Saddleback) claims to have a real worship experience in which we actually meet God. Does the above order of worship demonstrate this? Who is central in the liturgy? Preaching itself, the most evident element of God’s living voice to his church, is often manipulated by the pastor as he imposes his topic on the text.
Notice too that the wrong assumption evidenced that real uplifting worship elevates us first to God through music, instead of God’s call and revelation to us in his all powerful Word. Music is often used to false elevate (and manipulate) people’s emotions. (Just ask how often you’ve ever heard a modern service begin with a psalm of lament?) Music is a response to the grace God that comes through God’s Word.
Two important questions: Who is your worship really about every Sunday? Is God included?