If you haven’t already read my brief definition of worship. I’d encourage you to start there and then read this.
I want to talk about how I plan a worship service. I have a patented – maybe, no, not actually patented – formula for when I plan a worship service. And it all starts with a question that I ask myself:
If all your church offered for a service was the music what would people know about God?
I didn’t come up with the question myself but I’m not 100% of it’s origin. I believe it originated from Bob Kauflin and I think from his book, Worship Matters, a must read for anybody who participates in worship at a church.
There’s one simple thing about God that I believe is at the heart of God’s complex character that all people need to hear. And I believe that’s the gospel.
If I were to generalize this would be the bullet points of the gospel:
- God is good, glorious, holy, righteous, magnificent.
- We are broken, in need of saving, unable to draw near to God on our own
- So God draws near to us and sent His son, Jesus Christ, to save us
- We are assured that because of Jesus Christ’s sinless life, his finished work on the cross, and his ressurection we’re able to draw near to God and we’re made whole
- The Spirit is forming us into Christ’s image and we’re being sent into the world
Okay, that’s a lot and at the same time not a fraction of a fraction of the beginning of the depth of the gospel. All things God is is the gospel. His sovereignty, holiness, loveliness, justice, kindness, wrath, anger, generosity, lordship, creativity, and the list goes on. All this and more is wrapped up in the gospel.
If all a person knew about God when they worship at New Song Inland Hills was the music I’d want them to know the gospel.
So how does that happen? Well… the order of the songs is in the order of what I believe the gospel is.
I don’t first think about music when planning a service. Just because a song is upbeat does not mean it’s appropriate for the start of a service. Many songs about the resurrection are upbeat and many songs about the cross are ballads. If we were singing based on music alone I would be tempted to sing songs in this order:
Planning according to music could have us singing about the resurrection (typicaly fast) and the benefits of the cross (typically midtempo) before we actually sing about the cross (typically slow). Or, starting a service singing about being sent out and ending about drawing near to God.
The starting place for panning a service is the order of the gospel. If you look at the below order of service I think you’ll see how our order of service lays out the gospel:
1. Song (Call to Worship; Glory)
Welcome and Greeting (God’s Hospitality; Incarnation)
2. Song (Scripture Reading; God’s Glory)
3. Song (Confession; Cross)
4. Song (Assurance; Resurrection; Return; Worship)
Prayer (Thank God for the Gospel)
5. Song (Sending Out; Response)
Every moment has purpose to communicate an aspect of the gospel, in this way the whole service communicates the gospel. This is why it’s important to not miss any part of service. Each part informs the next and you’re missing out if all you get is the worship, or prayer partners, or the sermon, or the fellowship after.
Check out some the worship reviews I’ve written to see if you’ll notice the pattern:
In the second part of this series I take a closer look at each element of service.