In our worship program (bulletin, Order of Service, Missional Framework for Gospel Centered Communal Experience... or whatever you like to call it) we not only include the complete liturgy, but also a section titled, "Why Do We Do That?" This is a couple paragraphs explaining a different aspect of our worship each week. With people coming from different Christian traditions, or no Christian background at all, we believe it's important to explain why we do what we do on the Lord's Day. We are still writing them, but here are the ones we use so far.
Why This Liturgy?
Every church uses a “liturgy” in their corporate worship. The liturgy is the form, traditions, and arrangements used in the worship service. At Redeemer our liturgy is structured by 8 sections.
“Revelation” is where we focus on the person and work of God. This tells us who he is. “Adoration” is our response of praise to God for all that he is. “Confession” focuses on our admission of sin and guilt before God, expresses repentant hearts, and trust in Jesus as the One who cleanses us from sin. “Expiation” focuses on the removal and pardon of our sins through the cross of Jesus. “Proclamation” is the preaching of God’s word. In “Supplication” we are led in a pastoral prayer. “Dedication” is the committing of ourselves to God and his way. The “Commission” is the sending of the church out into the world.
What is Adoration?
“Adoration” is not only one part of our liturgy, but is woven throughout the worship gathering, and should even be an ever-present reality in our ongoing lives. Adoration is the expression of our love, honor, and joy in God as Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. We adore God by praying, singing, speaking, and thinking in ways that make much of his greatness. This means one can adore God in loud song and celebration, or in the hushed silence of awe and wonder.
As a component of our liturgy it is naturally our response to “Revelation,” the reading of Scripture where God is shown to be glorious in his person and work.
People sing about the things that capture their hearts; things that give them joy, or allow them to express sorrow. People sing of heroes, victory, longing, and hope. As Christians we have every reason to sing, and are even commanded to do so. As sinners who have been forgiven, as slaves who have been set free, as the spiritually blind who have received sight, as spiritual cripples who have been healed—all by the gospel—we have real reasons to be known as a people of song!
It is one thing to tell the world of God’s redemption, it is another to sing of it. It’s easy to parrot truth, but to sing of it, from the soul, reveals how we feel. Song is the natural and appropriate response to the gospel, because it is one of the highest expressions of joy.
Why Do We Sing These Songs?
Scripture commands the church to sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Col. 3:16) together as one of our acts of worship. These different kinds of music reflect songs that come directly from Scripture (Psalms), as well as new songs written by the church that reflect the truth of God and the gospel as revealed in Scripture. At Redeemer we sing ancient hymns that connect us to the generations of God’s people who have gone before us, we sing modern songs in an attempt to be faithful to God who calls us to “sing a new song” (Psalm 33:3), and we also sing new arrangements of classic hymns. What is most important is that in singing together we are proclaiming Christ’s excellencies as his people.
What is Confession?
In each of our worship gatherings one portion of the liturgy is called “Confession.” This is a time when we are honest about our own sin before our holy God. As we hear Scripture and sing songs that reflect the beauty of our Creator we are confronted with the stark contrast of our own unrighteousness. This moves us to “confess” our brokenness to God and repent of sin. This is variously expressed in song, a pastoral prayer, or a reading from The Valley of Vision prayer book. As we come to the time of Confession today, consider your own sin and then look to the grace of God in Jesus Christ who takes away the guilt of all who believe in him.
What is Expiation?
In Systematic Theology “expiation” is part of what Jesus accomplished through his death on the cross. Jesus died as a sacrifice for our sins which cleanses us of our unrighteousness and secures our forgiveness before God. This idea of substitutionary sacrifice was given by God to his people in the Old Testament, and was fully realized in the death of Jesus. In our liturgy “Expiation” is the point at which we focus our attention on and marvel at all that Jesus did for us on the cross. There our redemption was accomplished. (Jn. 1:29, 36; Heb. 9:13, 14; 1 Jn 1:7; Rev. 5:9)
What is Communion?
Communion, or “The Lord’s Supper,” is a tradition given to the church by Jesus Christ which calls us to remember his death on the cross for us who believe. It is a unique and beautiful way of preaching the gospel as the broken bread symbolizes his broken body, and the cup symbolizes his shed blood. We do this together as a church, and in doing so we are preaching the gospel to ourselves and one another.
As a gift to the entire church, believers are welcome to come to the table during this time of our gathering as we believe the gospel, repent of sin, and rejoice in our great God and Savior. (Luke 22:7-23; 1 Cor.11:17-34)
Why Do We Read Prayers?
We sometimes use read prayers as a part of our worship gatherings. While some people believe that unless a prayer is spontaneous it lacks authenticity, we find value in well thought out and historic prayers. Like the classic hymns we sing as a congregation, a read prayer is no less meaningful because someone else is the author. These prayers can instruct us, as well as reflect our own hearts when offered in faith.
A great collection of Puritan prayers can be found in the book, The Valley of Vision. Pastor Joe has developed a method for praying through that book in 13 weeks. You can download a PDF version of his prayer guide at joethorn.net/valley.
What is a Benediction?
The benediction is a blessing spoken as the final word by a minister at the end of a worship gathering. It expresses our hope and confidence in God’s grace to his people that enables us to walk with Him through whatever we face in this life.
The benedictions we use come from Scripture (e.g.. Num. 6:24-26) or are based on Scripture, and are not only a way of closing our services, but are a final word of prayer offered for the church.
Following the example of Jesus (Lk. 24:50) the pastor will raise his hand during the benediction, and we encourage you to raise your hand, palm extended, in response. Our raised hands symbolize the laying on of hands, and the mutual prayer for one another in this blessing.