Order of Service: New Old Thoughts
Featuring Tom Kraeuter Posted on June 4, 2008
“I’ll take ‘Church Stuff’ for one hundred dollars, Alex.”
“The answer is, ‘That’s the way we’ve always done it.’”
“Hmmm. How about, ‘Why do most churches do things the way they do?’”
The majority of churches today have the same general order or format for their services. Some of the elements may change periodically, or from church to church, but, overall, the corporate gatherings are very similar. Everything in the services leads to the climax: the sermon. Certainly, there may be other segments of the service that occur after the sermon—an altar call, communion, benediction, announcements, etc.—but the high point is the sermon.
Usually, in such services, the praise and worship time immediately precedes the sermon. Part of the idea behind this is that focusing on God will open the hearts of the people to receive the Word. I have heard an analogy used where the worship leader is the plowman, plowing up the soil of the hearts, and the preacher is the sower, planting the seed of God’s Word in those prepared furrows. Actually, I don’t really find much fault with this analogy. I have seen this scenario happen many times. People come to the church service in various states of mind, not all good. Some are tired. Others are frustrated. Still others may even be despondent. But as they begin to focus on the Source of strength, they are changed. Consequently, they have become prepared to receive the truth of God’s Word. However, as practical as the plowman/sower analogy may be, I would like to offer some thoughts that might just stretch your thinking about the “appropriate” order of service.
First, let me offer some basic thoughts on worship. In the Scriptures, when people encounter the Lord, it causes them to worship. Pick practically any story where the people of God end up on their faces worshiping, and you’ll see a God-encounter that precedes it. Some of the most memorable include: Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Jesus walking on the water. Moses at the burning bush. The creatures and multitudes around the throne in Revelation. How many times throughout the pages of God’s Word is the scenario repeated? The Lord reveals a bit of Himself and it causes people to worship. Truly encountering God will cause people to worship Him.
Consequently, at our church, we usually reverse the “normal” order of service. We most often have the main time of praise and worship immediately after the sermon. Why? Because if people truly encounter Christ in the sermon, it will cause them to worship Him.
Additionally, we see worship, not the sermon, as the main event. This is quite odd for most churches today, so let me explain our reasoning. From the perspective of all of history—not just what has already gone past, but all that will eventually be the history of God’s creation—the climax will not be a fine teaching. When we get glimpses of heaven in the Bible, never once are we offered a picture of a sermon. We do, however, see all creation involved in the worship of Almighty God. The high point—the big event of all of human history—will be the worship of the Lamb. Similarly, we endeavor to reflect this pattern in our services.
I am not suggesting that we relegate the sermon to some small, dust-filled corner where it will stay out of the way of the important stuff, the worship. Never! We reverence the Word. We acknowledge that it is powerful. We know that without its light we will wander around in darkness. We need God’s Word for guidance, direction, training in godliness, knowing His heart, displaying His character, shining His truth and a myriad of other reasons. Without it, we’re helpless and hopelessly lost. However, we never want to replace the true destination with only the description.
Suppose I have a beautiful, full-length color photograph of my wife. Each day I look at the photo and admire her beauty. I use a magnifying glass to endeavor to see every little detail about her. I have memorized her smile and her eyes from the photo. I admire her posture and her hair style. I am captivated by each and every detail. One small problem. My wife is standing behind me and I completely ignore her, day after day, while staring at her photo.
When all is said and done, it is relationship that God is after. The Bible is a signpost, a vivid portrait, clear and accurate directions. His Word is all of these and so much more. But unless those things point us to true interaction with the Lord, we’re missing the point.
So at our church, we have chosen to normally have the majority of the praise and worship after the sermon. This allows us to “see” the Lord in His Word, and then worship Him as a result of hearing the Word proclaimed.
My goal in sharing this is not so much to get you to change what you do. Rather, my intent is to cause you to examine why you do what you do. Don’t just keep doing the same thing over and over because, “This is the way we’ve always done it.” Prayerfully consider all you do in your services. Maybe you are fine right where you are. Or perhaps the Lord will nudge you in a little different direction (maybe even a bit out of your comfort zone!) than where you have been in the past.
When it comes to the topic of worship, Tom Kraeuter is one of the most respected teachers in the body of Christ today. His Worship Seminars are held all across North America. For more information on any of Tom’s books or seminars, contact Training Resources, 8929 Old LeMay Ferry Road, Hillsboro, MO 63050, 636-789-4522, firstname.lastname@example.org, or www.WorshipSeminar.com.
Tag: Worship Planning