Our order of service: what we do and why we do it

I mentioned yesterday about two new things we had introduced to our hybrid services. First, we had reinstated our communion now we had worked out a safe way to do it. Second, we attempted reverting back to our preferred meeting leader/separate preacher format. Both seemed to work fairly well.

Today, I wanted to mention a third thing that is (sort of) new for us is our order of service. Prior to the lock down, we had given some serious thought to changing around our entire liturgy. As good regulative principle sorts, we weren’t planning to change any of the elements, just shift them around.

I say this was ‘sort of’ new because, throughout lock down, we had effectively run with our new order of service (in some form) because it happened to work better when we have one person on their own to camera. But since we have been back in, we have largely stuck with our newer order of service. Naturally, we haven’t been able to do all of it – like communion earlier on and we’re yet to be allowed to sing – but we think the newer order works better for us.

Our format is now essentially this:

  • Welcome
  • Reading
  • Sermon
  • Open Prayer
  • Songs
  • Testimony
  • Communion
  • Notices
  • Benediction

The logic for this is straightforward enough. We wanted the Lord to speak first and so we brought the reading and preaching to the front end of the service. More than that, we wanted the Word to set the tone for everything that follows. So, all that happens after the preaching – rather than being more generically praise – is supposed to be a specific response to what we have heard from the Lord that morning. As a practical consideration, we also felt people might give their best attention to the sermon if it came early on.

Following the sermon, we go into our open prayer. Though we have always had open prayer, one change from what we have done in the past is that our suggestions for what people might want to pray about are specifically rooted in the applications of the sermon. We want to hear the Lord speak and then we want to specifically pray that he would help us put those things into practice or bring about the things that we have thought about.

Having preached the Word, then prayed the Word, we move into a time of singing the Word. Obviously, at the moment we can’t do this, so we have skipped this element in our services since meeting back. But we will be introducing it again as soon as we’re allowed. And again, the songs that are picked will (hopefully) be in line with what we have been hearing earlier from the Word. We want those truths to be heard from the Word directly, preached and applied to our lives, prayed through and then put to music so that they stay with us and help us to meditate on them.

From there, we go into a time of testimony. This is the opportunity for members of the church to share what the Lord has been doing in their lives this week. Again, whilst we have always had this element in our services ever since I’ve been at the church, the small tweak is the encouragement – have read, preached, prayed and sung the Word – is for people to share how the specific things we have been thinking about that morning have been at play in their lives. This takes us beyond merely thinking about those truths to applying those truths to ourselves and situations.

That leads us into our time of communion whereby we reaffirm our standing in Christ and our commitment to one another as members of his body. We want to close of service with a reminder of who we are in Christ and why our worship of him throughout the week coming is entirely right and proper. The reminder that in him we are unified as one body reminds us that we are to live the coming week out together as his people in community.

Following that reminder of who Christ is and who we are in him, we turn to our notices. They may often be seen as the mundane end to an otherwise Christ-centred service but we want there to be a different sense. Having read, preached, prayed, sung and applied the Word – then reminded ourselves of our unity together in the Word – our notices are a further set of application as to why we do all that. Here are the outworkings of those things that we have been looking at all morning. These things are only of value and worth being part of and doing because of all that has been said in the hour and a half up to this point.

Finally, when all that has been done, we give the Lord the final word in our service.

Anyway, that is the order of what we do and why we do it.