Lecture 19: Structure of the Worship Service
Lecture: Structure of the Worship Service
The structure of the worship service is centered around gathering, the service of the Word, the service of the Table and dismissal.
VII. Structure of the Worship Service
Where can we turn for guidance for an overall structure of worship? Webber’s four-fold structure was the gathering, the Word, the Table, and Dismissal. Those churches who celebrate the Lord’s Supper once a month; for the other three weeks, they can have a thanksgiving service. I sort of get the idea, like Marva Dawn, he can’t find anything that really is satisfactory. This is an accommodation that he has to make but he would rather not. He would rather have the Lord’s Supper celebrated every week. I am actually of that mind myself. Would there be any other paradigm or structure that you would think would be better? I think that this may be one model that we might consult for understanding a good flow of Scripture.
B. The Word
From Isaiah 6, we have the whole revelation and response pattern. It starts with the revelation of God’s holiness, God’s greatness and a response of confession. There is the revelation of God’s acts of mercy and the response of a humble reception of that. There is the revelation of God’s will and the response of our willingness and availability. This would be a potential model. There is a balance here between attributes of his character balanced with our worship in the acts of mercy. Particularly, some kind of retelling of the Gospel. Another place to turn is the tabernacle structure. Some look at this as another possible design for our worship. It would include the coming together in the outer court and then the inner court into the holy place and holy of holies. This would include a movement from our world into this holy place; it is a gradual movement that magnified ultimately being ushered into the presence of God.
C. Service of the Table
There would be a combination of intimate praise and the preaching of the Word and perhaps also the celebration of the Lord’s table. The best place to go in order to probe this more, would be his multi-volume set on basically, the history and practice of Christian worship. It is really nicely done. So, he calls this an ancient model. Aside from whether you can justify something biblically; generally speaking, it makes sense. Some kind of gathering and then focus on the Word of God. We have an experience with the presence of the Lord through the Word with the Lord’s Supper and then some act of dismissal.
The one place that I would like to give some attention to as I don’t think that it is attended to in our churches; is the whole idea of dismissal. He mentions a benediction. I talked about the distinction between a benediction and a doxology and how they are sometimes muddled together. The benediction is a word of blessing to the people. You don’t have to get very creative here because the Scriptures have many of these benedictions. Some of my favorites include the Aaronic blessing from Numbers 6:24-26. I also love the one from Hebrews 13:20-21. Sometimes I will choose my benediction with my sermon in mind. This one encourages people to go out to do the will of God. ‘May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant that brought back from the death our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything that is good in doing his will. May he work in us what is pleasing to him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen. This is one of my favorites. There is also 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, ‘May God himself, the God of peace sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Amen. The more standard Pauline benediction is in 2nd Corinthians 13:14, ‘May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
So, he mentions the use of the benediction of some sort and then a song of commissioning and a Word of commission. I think an either/or could also be appropriate here. Some kind of word, either spoken or sung that suggests that as we go, we continue to worship the Lord. I had written a little hymn and used part of that in the last church I was at as a word of dismissal. Go now and walk in the light of the Word; do and declare what you have heard. Empowered by God’s Spirit; live as you have received and so freely give. We could probably think of lots of wonderful and appropriate portions from praise songs that we know. Can you think of any dismissal praise songs or a hymn? We should send people out with an expectation that they will continue in worship and service of God. The corporate gathering has ideally been a time of enhancing our understanding of God.