One of my first assignments in seminary was to create an annotated order of worship. The task was to design worship, and then give a narrative explanation of why each element was included, placed where it was and what is the theology behind that decision. What Dr. Cook-Moore was teaching us, is that worship design needs to be intentional, theologically reflective and explained to the congregation. In other words, why do we do and say the things we do? The answer is not because, “The pastor likes this song” or “the organist picked the hymns.” And especially not, “We have always done it this way.” Worship is a design with purpose and intentionality. Unfortunately, pastors and worship leaders don’t usually let the congregation in on what the purpose and intention is–so everyone else is left in the dark.
You may have noticed a change in the order of worship at MBBC. If you’d let me, I’d like to explain to you the purpose and intention of the design of worship.
There are three movements to the worship at MBBC: Gathering Near to God, Experiencing God & Our Response to God.
Gathering Near to God
The first part of worship is when we Gather Near to God. The purpose of this movement is gather as a body and proclaim, “We have made it through another week!”. In other words, God has sustained us, provided for and moved in our lives so that we survived another week in this broken world. It is meant to be an opening celebration! (Think of the opening ceremony at the Olympics.) We have lived our lives separately all week, and now we are coming together, as one body from many different places, to report and celebrate God’s movement and saving activity in our lives. It’s our Ebeneezer stone! We have reached this moment because “the Lord has helped us!” (1 Sam 7:12)
Gathering Near to God can consist of a scripture reading, hymns, testimonies or songs that exclaim the characteristics of God.
- Songs & Hymns: The intention of the music is to put to voice who God is, and how it is that He has saved us and delivered us this week. He is “Holy, Holy, Holy”. If we had a 1,000 tongues, it would be enough to give God the praise He deserves.
- Calls to Worship (aka “responsive readings”): The Calls are usually scripture readings or creeds that teach truths about God. The intention here is to teach truths and engage the congregation, allowing the whole body to participate in the proclamation.
- Testimonies: When we share what God has done in our lives, we witness to the world who He is and how He is redeeming humanity. The testimonies are intended to be a witness and encouragement about the activity of God.
This week, as you get ready for church or during the drive, think about how God has been active in your life this week. What do you have to celebrate? What are you thankful for? How has God been your help this week? Bring your reports of God to worship and proclaim them for all to know!