Directory of Worship
Basic Resources For Corporate Worship
The resources used by those designing worship are to be tested for suitability by the purpose and intent of worship itself. Historically the resources used by the church are as follows:
1. Scripture. Scripture is the written word of God and has a preeminent place in all aspects of the lives of Christians and the life of the church.
The reading of one or more passages of scripture should be a part of every corporate worship experience.
Those responsible for reading scripture in worship are expected to be very familiar with the selected passages and read them in such a manner that they are readily heard by the other worshipers. Scripture readings should be selected so that over a period of time the entire witness of scripture is read as a part of worship.
In addition to the reading of the Bible in worship, scripture is also the fundamental resource for the opening sentences or call to worship, the invitation to celebrate the sacraments, the assurance of pardon, the blessing, prayer, and proclamation. Indeed, scripture itself proclaims God's word.
2. Prayers. Prayer is inseparable from the Christian life. To be a Christian is to pray and to join others in prayer. Prayer therefore is an essential aspect of all Christian worship.
Christians pray not primarily to "receive" something from God, but as an expression of their creaturehood and their dependence upon God as their creator. The primary purposes of prayer are: (1) to enter into the presence of God to experience anew God's judgment, grace and power; (2) to praise God, and (3) to invite God into our world and into our lives.
All prayer in corporate worship is informed by the Lord's Prayer. Its customary use as a vital part of worship is encouraged, and the nature and character of that prayer should serve as a guide for all prayer.
Christians also have the prayers that have been handed down through the church's history to use in corporate worship and to use as a guide for all prayers prayed in worship. The prayers of the "great cloud of witnesses" which surround us are our prayers, too, and enable all the saints, living and dead to participate in corporate worship.
It is in order to formulate new prayers for worship which are based upon and added to this prayer tradition. But whether new prayers are formulated or ancient prayers prayed anew, the matter of first importance is that they be in accord with the prayer tradition of the church.
Whether prayers are written or not is of no prime importance. What is important is that ordinarily the prayers be prepared and that they be prayed so that all present may participate in the prayers.
Prayer involves, among other emphases, the following: adoration or praise of God, confession of sin, offering of thanksgiving, interceding on behalf of others, supplication and surrender, offering of ourselves and our gifts.
3. Music. The earliest records of the Christian community make clear that music was an integral part of the worship of believers. Singing their praise and prayers was customary and meaningful.
Music enables worshipers to offer their worship in a more complete way. It is imperative therefore that music provide the occasion for people to focus upon God and God's will, to experience the presence of God and to worship God in spirit and truth.
Selection of music is to be done with utmost care, giving thought to the quality of the music, and its appropriateness for Christian worship and for the particular worshipers.
4. Hymns, Spirituals and Gospel Songs. Throughout the ages Christians have sung their faith as a part of their worship. Hymns, spirituals and gospel songs vary in content and focus and may be used as a part of the many different acts of worship: praise, confession of sin, proclamation, commitment, affirmation of faith.
From these resources for worship, care should be taken to ensure that the text expresses some aspect of biblical truth, and that the tune reflects music quality and is suitable for the people who are to sing it.
5. Sermon. In corporate worship the sermon is central to proclamation. Its purpose is to present some aspect of the gospel in a manner which will enable all present to be engaged once more by God's good news, have their lives claimed anew by God and invite a response of obedience to God's call.
Sermons are based upon scripture and shaped by scripture. In preparing sermons it is necessary to be guided by all of scripture in order that all aspects of the gospel will be proclaimed. Orderly selection of scripture passages upon which those preaching base their sermons, such as some form of lectionary, is encouraged.
Sermons should be preached in a manner which reflects informed communication skills.
6. Creeds. Creeds are one form of expressing what the community of faith believes. The Bible contains numerous creedal statements which summarize the faith of various worshiping groups. Scripture passages such as Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Deuteronomy 26:5-9,
I Corinthians 15:3-7, Philippians 2:6-11 represent creedal statements likely used in corporate worship.
The ancient creeds known as the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed still serve worshipers well. In addition, other creeds have been produced which may be used in worship as a means of expressing personal and corporate faith. It is appropriate for Christians to write new creeds for worship, so long as they are in accord with the biblical witness.
Persons designing and participating in corporate worship are to take thought for those acts which Christians historically have found to be valid and necessary expressions of their worship. These acts help us to remember and to understand what we are to do and what we are to say as we meet to worship God.
1. Praise of God. Worshiping God involves praising God. Christians praise God for who God is and for what God has done, is doing and has promised to do. We praise God because God is the Sovereign Lord over all of life.
2. Confession of Sin. While Christians are redeemed and worship as a part of the redeemed community, sin is still a part of their lives. Corporate worship has traditionally provided an occasion when Christians acknowledge their sinfulness and confess their sins to God.
3. Proclamation. Whenever Christians worship, the gospel is to be proclaimed. The gospel means good news and is centered in what God has revealed to humankind throughout history, especially God's ultimate revelation in Jesus Christ. In worship Christians both announce and hear that good news of God's love, grace, judgment, reconciliation, forgiveness, mercy, and God's gracious call to service.
4. Affirmation of Faith. Stating what the community of faith believes is an ordinary part of Christian worship. That faith both shapes the life of the worshipers and gives expression to the hope and expectancy which is a part of the Christian life.
5. Offering. The worship of the people of God is incomplete without the act of giving. Surely it is well to be reminded that in worship God gives himself anew to the worshipers. Also, in worship those present offer themselves to God, to be shaped, empowered, directed, changed by God; and they offer their gifts to God to be blessed and used by God.
6. Commitment and Commissioning. Corporate worship never loses contact with the world. In corporate worship the worshipers give thought for all the world, and are enabled to move into the world to serve God and participate with God in the ongoing redemption of the world. In corporate worship persons may respond in acts of repentance and faith and commit themselves to serve God and to serve other human beings in the name of Jesus Christ. It is fitting that acts of commitment and commissioning be included in worship.
7. Celebrating the Sacraments. The sacraments of the Lord's Supper and baptism are sign-acts of God's self-giving which are means by which God's grace is made available to us. The sacraments give a peculiar shape to the worship of Christians and are the primary signs of the covenant of grace.
While it is appropriate to include all these acts in any occasion of corporate worship, it is not necessary to incorporate all acts in order to express valid worship. Over a period of time, however, all of the acts mentioned above should be expressed, and thought should be given by those responsible for designing corporate worship to ensure that such is so.