“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
In recent years, this verse has been a powerful source of direction and purpose for our ministry. The ‘word’ of Christ here is referring to the gospel. When we unpack this, we find a truly biblical model for corporate worship—a congregation striving to let the gospel of Christ dwell richly in their hearts by teaching and admonishing one another through song and scripture. So, to help the ‘word’ of Christ dwell in us richly, and to make our gathered worship more intentional, more formative, more participatory, more gospel-centered, more life-giving to our people, we have organized a new order of service that is shaped by the story of the gospel. Together we will rehearse the core themes of the gospel—the glory of God, the gravity of sin, and the grandeur of grace. We will use these themes as section headings as we move though our service.
As we researched and prepared for this change we had the privilege of talking with Art Azurdia, a prominent preacher and author based in Portland, Oregon. His church also follows a gospel-shaped worship model. This is what he had to say:
“As evangelical bible churches ... it’s easy to start assuming the gospel. If an orthodox Jew goes to our church and has an amazing, fulfilling experience, there’s something wrong. If we spend a whole sermon talking about the nuances of eldership, and never reach the gospel, there’s something wrong. When we start to assume the gospel, we are one generation away from abandoning it.”
Whether we like it or not, every church service is a representation of Christianity to the world. The full gospel must be represented for every unsaved person that walks in our doors. Beyond that, the gospel isn’t just for the unsaved, its for all of us, every week and every day. We, unfortunately, live our lives as amnesiacs to the gospel. We hear and know the gospel, but we go and live our lives like we’ve forgotten it. This anchor of the gospel is necessary for our ongoing spiritual formation.
Why do we need the gospel to shape our worship and shape our lives? Paul explains in Ephesians 4:14-16
“so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
Here is a picture of how this story will be told from week to week:
Glory of God
In the opening portion of our service, we will hear a “Call to Worship” from scripture, where we see God’s commands for us to worship Him as a community with our hearts and voices. The “Call to Worship” is meant to draw us in from our daily lives, from the world of sin and brokenness that we all experience, and remind us of who we are—worshipers of the triune God. Then we will sing about the glory of God, His transcendence and holiness. It is here that we all come together to say, “This is the God we worship. He alone is worthy of our praise.”
Gravity of Sin
As we see the transcendence of God, we become aware of how we fall short of His glory, and we approach Him as broken sinners in need of grace. In this section of our service we are reminded that we live in a fallen world, and we ask God to deliver us. We confess our sin, often in the form of a corporate prayer, and response in song.
Grandeur of Grace
After we confront our sin, we must never let ourselves grovel in it. Instead, we will rejoice in the assurance of grace we have been given through the pardoning work of Jesus. Here we see the climax of the gospel story—the glorious grace of Christ. We will sing about and celebrate this grace, and we will hear the good news of the gospel through the reading of scripture.
This portion of our service will hold a number of important things that help cultivate healthy church life. We will start with a time of greeting where we will be encouraged to share the peace we have found in Christ with one another through our fellowship. Then we will hear announcements followed by an offertory prayer. During our time of giving, different sorts of special material will take place from week to week. This will include baptism, special music, ministry highlights, outreach updates and more.
The high point of our service is when we gather around the opening of the scriptures. We come to hear God speak to us through his word. He is our God, we are His people. The word will be read and preached, as we pray that the spirit attunes our minds to hear the word.
The Lord’s Supper
Beginning in a couple months, we plan to transition from monthly to weekly communion. There are many reasons for this, but the core of it is this: we want the Lord’s supper to become a more central and valued part of our gathering. Following God’s commands, we remember Him through the bread and the cup—His body broken for us, and His blood spilt for us. Here we are reminded that Christ’s sacrifice and victory over sin should be a reality that continually shapes who we are.
Response & Sending
We will take the elements of the Lord’s supper during songs of response. These songs will be focused on the theme of the message, giving us language and emotional context for the truth of scripture that we just heard. At times we will also end our services with songs about heaven, the second coming of Christ, and the great commission. Our service will be concluded by the church being sent out into the world with a benediction, instilling in us an awareness that God is for us and God is with us.
In on order to give us a full picture of God and scripture, we are determined to keep revitalizing and diversifying how we approach each element of our service. We are excited to see what God has in store for us as we gather to lift up the name of Jesus, and feast on the truths of the gospel from week to week.