Cross Posted on Grace Notes
We’ve spent the last seven posts looking at worship, so today will serve as our final devotional on this (at least as part of this ongoing series). We’ve looked at a lot of different ideas – from what worship is to how we worship to how we lead in worship. I’d like to close this series with looking at a worship service from my church, how it is organized, and what that means for us, in short – putting this all together.
We begin the service with a Call to Worship. The CTW (as I call it) serves a couple of functions. First, liturgically speaking, the CTW serves to call worshipers together and stand as a boundary between the rest of the week (what has just happened) and the opening of a worship service (what happens next). Second, it directs our attention toward Christ (ultimately), often (though not always) by introducing the particular theme for focus for the service. Finally, it is meant to build anticipation and energy as we move into the service.
At LBC the choir performs this service for the congregation. The song we sing marks the beginning of the worship service, it focuses us on Christ and the theme for the week, and (because we very rarely sing the entire song), builds anticipation and energy into the rest of the service.
After the CTW we then enter a time of congregational singing. Songs are selected for a variety of reasons, but are arranged in a particular order for very specific reasons. Let’s look at this morning’s service one model of how songs are selected.
We began with Praise My Soul the King of Heaven, which served as a “rally cry” to ourselves and others around us to sing praises to God and honor him as the Lord of our lives and Savior of our souls. We then transitioned into Shout to the Lord, a song of clear and purposeful praise and worship towards Christ.
After that we had the offering – a time of response to God for the blessings he has given us (this also connects the service with what happens the rest of the week – since we are giving a monetary substance as a result of our weekly work). At this moment in the service we present our praise and worship as a physical offering and not a song – it is a time for prayer, confession, surrender, and trust.
Following that we entered a new time of congregational singing. We began with We Are Called to Be God’s People, a reminder to ourselves and a pledge to God and each other that salvation is more than something to be received but also something to be lived (again, connecting worship on Sunday with our Monday-Saturday lives). Christ commanded us to “Go forth and make disciples.” This song serves to remind us that we are now God’s hands and feet in the world. This song lead to Let it Be Said of Us, a declaration of commitment to Christ and, in particular, the cross – reminding us that without the cross there would be no hope for forgiveness or glory. We prayed, “Let the cross be our glory and the Lord be our song, till the likeness of Jesus be through us made known.” This prayer can not be answered on a Sunday morning but must work itself out in Monday-Saturday living.
Finally, since we had just sung a prayer, we finished with a song of worship regarding the cross (Wonderful Cross). This song takes the text of When I Survey the Wondrous Cross and inserts a new chorus – one which directs us to thank God for what Christ has done on the cross and what it represents: “Oh, the wonderful cross, oh, the wonderful cross bids me come and die, and find that I may truly live. Oh, the wonderful cross, oh, the wonderful cross; all who gather here by grace draw near, and bless Your name.”
On most weeks we would follow this congregational singing up with a choir anthem to serves as the climactic musical moment of the service, but this week we omitted the anthem. Did you notice how this selection of song and verse served as a leading of hearts directly to the cross (the place of salvation)? We started with a call for everyone to join together, and then we ended by taking them and dropping them off at the cross (the place where they need to make a decision in regards to the grace God offers through Christ).
As a worship leader, the choir models this journey to the congregation both musically and emotionally – as they see the look on your faces and as your faces reflect the spirit of your hearts. It is vital that you view yourselves as worship leaders – because that is what you are. The congregation will follow you where you lead them – and this morning (if you had been leading) there was only one place they needed to go: the cross – the place where salvation and grace are offered – and received – which leads to a transformed life.
In contrast to that journey, if you stand in front of them and fail to worship yourself, then you lead them down the dark path where worship is only an outward motion but has no inward connection. Jesus warned of this in Matthew 15:7-9: “Frauds! Isaiah’s prophecy of you hit the bull’s-eye: These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their heart isn’t in it. They act like they’re worshiping me, but they don’t mean it. They just use me as a cover for teaching whatever suits their fancy.” (taken from The Message)
We lead every week; the question is: to where?
“Let the cross be our glory, and the Lord be our song, ‘till the likeness of Jesus be through us made known. Let the cross be our glory and the Lord be our song.”