LESSON 4: WORSHIPING TOGETHER – THE CORPORATE WORSHIP SERVICE
MAIN IDEA: Four key parts of the worship service and one special element of worship can help us to express our worship.
As we have seen, music is a crucial part of the corporate worship service. Much more than a longstanding tradition, music fulfills a specific, God-ordained purpose in worship: it proclaims God’s power, presence, and Word — preparing the hearts of His people to receive Him. Music is a vital element in many parts of the worship service, yet there is much more to the service.
Dr. Robert Webber, one of the most highly regarded teachers on worship of our day, breaks the worship service into four major or distinct parts:
• The Coming In
• The Proclamation of the Word
• The Table of the Lord
• The Going Out
The Coming In
As we come into the sanctuary, we are literally and figuratively setting ourselves apart from the world. If you’ve ever tried to get a family of toddlers or teenagers to church on time, you understand how “worldly” Sunday mornings can be!
We have been out in the world all week long, so to speak. Now, we are coming into the house of God to encounter the King of kings. We sing at the beginning of the worship service because music and musicians were created to precede the power, presence, and Word of God. We sing as we separate ourselves from the world in order to prepare our hearts to encounter His presence.
What happens to you personally — mentally, physically, and spiritually — as you begin to worship through singing in a church service?
In addition to singing, we also pray and read Scripture during this part of the worship service. The Coming In is our opportunity to fully turn our attention to the Lord — not something to get out of the way so that we can get on to the sermon! Once the coming in — the separating from the world — has occurred, we are ready to proceed with the worship service.
The Proclamation of the Word
The second part of the worship service is the proclamation of the Word of God. Have you ever noticed that a service of praise music without some proclamation of the Word just seems incomplete? That’s because it is incomplete. Music was created to precede the Word, not to replace it. When we gather in God’s name without the reading or the preaching of the Word, the worship service is incomplete.
Jesus will always be the cornerstone of our worship; He is the Living Word of God:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. John 1:1-3
Our understanding of who Jesus is and what He has done is determined by teaching and preaching from the written Word of God. As we grasp the depth of His sacrifice and His promises to those who believe, our worship expression will increase in consistency and freedom — and our lives will continue to be changed forever.
The Table of the Lord
The table of the Lord is given as a visible reminder of God’s eternal sacrifice in Christ Jesus. The Lord’s table must never become a ritual or just a tradition. It is a vital and crucial worship expression. The shed blood and broken body of our Lord will never lose its power.
Whether we call it the Lord’s table, the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, the Lord’s table continues to unite us. Whether we observe it weekly, monthly, or every now and then, remembering the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ is crucial to our worship. Jesus is the full revelation of God, and He initiates our response of worship. Jesus has been the center point of worship for the church throughout the centuries for good reason, and the table of the Lord brings our entire focus back to Him — inspiring further worship and proclamation of His gospel!
The Table of the Lord is observed at different times during the worship service and with different frequency throughout the Body of Christ. Whenever it occurs in the service, remembering the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ is indeed crucial to our worship.
The Going Out
The worship service concludes with the going out. This is a crucial part of the worship service during which we now precede the Word of God out into the world in which we live.
We have separated ourselves for a time to receive the Word and the table. Now it is time for us to take that Word back into our homes, schools, offices, and neighborhoods. We often sing as we go. We also pray as we go. We have been reminded of the great blessing and favor God has brought in our lives, and now it’s time take His presence everywhere we go. We are the body of Christ and the light unto the world:
“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
During these four key parts of the worship service, we experience many biblical elements of worship — prayer, praise, thanksgiving, charity/giving, confession, preaching and teaching, and Scripture reading, to name a few. All of these are appropriate and necessary elements of the worship service which you most likely experience on a regular basis. But there is one other central expression of worship that, although it may not be a regular part of the weekly worship service, can never be overlooked: baptism!
Baptism: A Central Expression of Worship
No other worship expression of the church captures the essence of our Christian journey quite like baptism. It is indeed the visible demonstration of the grace gift of salvation and the Great Exchange — our total immersion into the life of Jesus that He has given in exchange for our life of sin. Baptism should be a time of great joy, celebration, and worship.
Not long ago, my coauthor Stan told me about one of the most amazing worship services I’ve ever heard of, and baptism was the focus. Stan and his wife, Sue, stood for over five hours one Sunday morning worshiping, watching, and rejoicing as over 400 people entered the waters of baptism! The room was simply electric with the presence of the Lord, as you can imagine.
Individuals, couples, and entire families made a public declaration that day — their lives had been immersed with Christ, and all things were new! I grew up with somber baptism services, and Stan’s description helped to reinforce the reality that baptism is an act of exuberant and joy-filled worship. “Listen in” as he describes the experience:
The singers and musicians surrounded the pool. They sang, they cheered, and they led us all in worship as we witnessed this unique worship expression of so many people. Those who entered the water that day came with great expectation and joy! They symbolically left their old sin patterns, addictions, and failures “dead” in the pool that day. They believed that God is indeed faithful, and they arose from the waters as new creations.
Words could never describe the effects of our collision of faith and expectation with the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the sanctuary that day. Those 400 dear saints had a revelation of who God is and what He had done — and nothing could stop them from expressing their deep gratitude to God as they experienced baptism. And as they honored God with their lives, we were all changed.
After reading this amazing account of the baptism service, don’t you want to stop and worship God for the gift of your own salvation? I know I do! Think of a recent baptism service at your church. What made it memorable for you? Did you consider it an act of worship at the time?
You see, there really is a Redeemer. He is holy and just, faithful and true. He has given us everything we need for life and godliness, and it cost Him life itself. He has given us the freedom to respond to His great grace by exchanging our flawed and failed lives for His life of liberty and victory over sin and death! We are the redeemed, and God’s love and sacrifice for us know no limits. Once we truly understand this, there should be no limit to our expression of worship. He alone is worthy!
Read More About
John the Baptist baptizes in the wilderness: Luke 3:1-6
Jesus is baptized: Matt. 3:13-17
Buried and raised with Christ: Rom. 6:1-4; Col. 2:11-1
LESSON 4 REVIEW
• What statement or Scripture you read in this lesson was most meaningful?
• Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response.
• What does God want you to do in response to this lesson?