The Gospel-Centered Flow of Worship
"True worship, then, will be odd and perhaps even weird to the watching world…Christian worship is, in fact, a bold political act. It subverts the world’s values by assigning glory and praise to the one whom the world despises. And as weak as the church at worship might appear to the watching world, the truth is that the powers of this world are no match for the power of God who is present among his people when they gather to sing praise, pray, and hear his Word. Moreover the church must reject the claim that worship is old-fashioned, irrelevant, and isolated from the ‘real world.’ For believers, the church at worship is the real world.” —D.G. Hart & John Muether, With Reverence and Awe
I have a few favorite quotes from With Reverence and Awe. The one above highlights the “otherness” of worship as we enter the presence of the Almighty God. The uniqueness of worship supports the gospel-centered, gospel-renewing blessing and reminder of God’s grace to His people. The structure of the weekly worship service serves to instruct and root us in the Gospel.
We begin the service with the Call to Worship—God calling His people out of the world into His presence. There is an intentional covenantal element to this act of being called forth and set apart. The following hymns/songs of praise reflect the nature and character of who God is and what He has done. The result is that we are convicted of our sin—He is God and we are not and we have fallen far short of His standard of holiness.
As we enter a time of Confession and Assurance of Pardon, we ask the Lord to search our hearts and make known our sin. Through confession, repentance and restoration, we are washed clean and are then able to hear the Word of God preached with a renewed mind and heart. God then provides a sign of His faithfulness as He feeds us at the table of Communion.
Having met with God, been cleansed from sin, been instructed in His Word, and fed with bread and wine as the reminder of His sacrifice that also seals the promise of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, we are then equipped to be sent out missionally to portray, convey, and spread the Gospel through all of life.
This worship flow consisting of God separating and calling His people, revealing Himself, convicting us of sin, granting pardon, instructing us, equipping us, and sending us out into the world mirrors the gift of salvation. Each week we walk through a sustaining reminder of God’s work in our hearts and lives—God’s effectual call that has brought us from death unto life, from darkness into life. We should leave worship rejoicing as well as renewed.
Much like the Israelites, I am stupid and forgetful. Part of working out my salvation with fear and trembling is the weekly practice of remembering what it is that God has done as well as who He is. Too often I am slow of heart, but God is His great mercy graciously renews my heart week after week, month by month, and year after year in the keeping of the Lord’s Day and in the service to Him. The “otherness” of worship in its Gospel flow becomes a sanctifying gift.
Gregory Wilbur is Chief Musician at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Franklin, TN where he also serves as a Ruling Elder. In addition to his work at the church, Greg serves as Dean and Senior Fellow of New College Franklin—a Christian liberal arts college that he helped to start. Greg has released two CDs of his compositions of congregational psalms, hymns and service music. He also writes for choir, orchestra, film and chamber ensembles including the soundtrack for the recently released documentary on Dr. Marytn Lloyd-Jones, Logic on Fire.
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