Our worship gathering at Brookland Baptist is unique, in that it is set apart from the world. It’s a gathering where the people of God come together in the power of the Spirit of God to encourage one another to continue in the mission of God! We are not bound by a particular way of doing things, instead we do things in accordance with Scripture. You may have noticed that in the last several months we have had a few more elements added to our gatherings. You may have also noticed that we are being more intentional with the lyrics in our music.
If you’ll look at the headings of each page of our worship guide, you will notice some intentional steps that we are taking to honor God with our time and to proclaim the gospel in what we do. Since the gospel transforms our worship, our worship gatherings should be a rehearsal of the gospel.
Our Pattern for Worship in a Nutshell
Call to Worship - The God of the universe invites us to worship and praise Him!
Proclaiming God’s Glory - God is worthy to be praised.
Confession of Sin - We humans are not God and our sin makes us unworthy of His grace.
Assurance of Pardon - Christians receive full salvation from God even though we are unworthy.
Offering - Christians offer our time, resources, and entire lives to Him out of thanksgiving for His mercy, not in order to gain merit for His favor.
God Speaks with Us - The Bible is God’s revealed will written to man. Understanding what God has written requires illumination from the Holy Spirit, context, and interpretation consistently from an elder.
Our Response - Every moment of every day is a time to respond to the truths of God. Response isn’t just coming to the altar, it is pursuing righteousness by any biblical means available.
The Pattern Explained
First, you notice a call to worship. This is meant to do just that, but from God’s perspective. Here, we read Scriptures that have in them God’s glory magnified, or an invitation from him for his people to come and worship him. The God of the universe invites us to worship and praise him! This call to worship focuses us on the purpose for our gathering: we have come to worship God, not to worship worshipping or anything else.
Secondly, we follow this up with a song proclaiming God’s glory because he alone is worthy to be praised. This song is meant to highlight God’s attributes, namely his holiness, but not forsaking the entirety of his character. He is praised as the one who is set apart and deserving of our worship. You’ll hear songs such as “How Great is our God,” “Holy is the Lord,” and “To God be the Glory,” to name a few. Listen for lyrics praising God who is high above the earth, different from all creation, who is sovereign over all things. As we routinely sing songs exalting God’s glory and who he is, people will begin thinking about God as the Bible reveals him instead of how we like to think of him.
Third, we have a welcome and mutual greeting. God has welcomed us to worship him, we now want to welcome each other and “pass the peace.” In our welcome, we explain who we are, why we are gathered, and our hope for each person. First, by the welcomer introducing themselves, then by highlighting Brookland Baptist’s vision as a church. Next, there is a mixture of Scripture reading, prayer, and greeting, but not necessarily in that order. We want to welcome one another in the sense that we are all equal in this place and it is God who we’ve come to worship. We also want to read Scripture that highlights either the sermon text or a current event in our community, church, or world. Typically, there will be a pastoral prayer here, if not before the sermon, where we pray for a particularly burdensome issue, or just pray over our people for God to work in their lives.
The fourth aspect of our order of worship has been the most difficult. The idea of confession and lament is not very common in modern-day churches. God longs for us to be open and honest about our need for him. After all, we humans are not God and our sin makes us unworthy of his grace. For most in the congregation, this is a time where we not only remember our state before Christ, but where we also have a time of repentance. Usually, this section consists of a song, but we occasionally read Scripture or have responsive readings, also. It is crucial for our walk with God to understand that confession and repentance are a normal part of our daily walk with Christ and that the gospel frees us to bring our anxieties and afflictions before God and confess we need him. Look for many new songs in this category.
Fifth, and quite possibly the most exciting part of our music service is where we sing of our assurance of pardon. After all, this is why we gather! We are God’s people, the redeemed, coming together to sing about and to our Redeemer and his offer of redemption! Christians receive full salvation from God even though we are unworthy. These songs may overlap with confession and offering, but for the most part they drive home the truth that our hope is in Christ alone. For he alone satisfies the wrath of God towards us, sinners. Up to this point, we have acknowledged God’s holiness and majesty, welcomed one another as equals, acknowledged our failure to live up to God’s standards for our life, and now we sing of God’s atoning sacrifice, he has made the way! This is entirely celebratory. We come to this point acknowledging the “Gospel is all I Have.”
Sixth, the offering section of our worship gathering is also necessary. Not only do we take up monetary gifts and offerings, and the tithe, but we also confess the realization that everything we have belongs to God and we can trust him with everything he has given us. We accomplish through songs and written prayers that speak to our rational service of worship (Romans 12:1-2). We not only offer to God our finances, but also our entire lives. We sing songs like, “Here I am to Worship,” “I Love you Lord,” and “You are My King (Amazing Love),” to name a few.
Seventh, we arrive at the sermon. God speaking to us, through his Word. At Brookland, we strive towards expositional preaching. Simply put, that means that the point of the biblical text is the point of the sermon. There are lots of opinions out there today about preaching and how it should be done. We believe the best appetite for Christians is to hear God’s authoritative Word spoken into their lives on a weekly basis. To really understand God, who he is and what he requires of us, we need the Bible. Topical sermons, unfortunately, are typically guided by what the preacher “thinks” the people need to hear, which then leads him to cherry pick verses to prove his point, thus, ironically, the people have the final say over what is preached instead of God. Expository sermons allow the Word of God to press into our lives, on an array of topics, challenging us to repent and believe, thus, God has the final say over what is preached. Topical sermons are not entirely bad. However, if that is all one receives they are likely missing the full counsel of God’s Word. The same is true in topical singing, for instance, many times we skip over the songs of confession or lament, wanting more upbeat, feel good songs, which ultimately leads to a misunderstanding of who God is and what the gospel is. In preaching, and singing, we want the Bible to speak for itself, and we rely on its power. There is a great book to read, not just if you are a preacher, that highlights the centrality of preaching. It is “Preaching,” by Timothy Keller.
Finally, we come to our response. Traditionally, with the rise of revivalism and the pursuit of converts, we think of this as the invitation. Sadly, this narrow focus has undermined what it truly means to respond to God’s gracious acts towards us, namely his Son, revealed in the Bible. When we narrow the response time down to an invitational hymn and altar call, we teach people (ourselves) that unless you need to get saved or have some serious issue that requires you to walk the aisle, you need not respond to God’s Word. Unfortunately, the modern-day invitation has excused the majority of Christians from responding to the gospel!
We, therefore, desire to call people to come to Christ, not an altar. We choose to end our service with a song that once again highlights the gospel, and in some degree is celebratory of the freedom we have in Christ. We are not neglecting the invitation as much as we are allowing the invitation to be a part of the overall response time to God’s message to us. My theology leads me to believe that if one wants to respond to the gospel in saving faith, an altar call, or lack thereof, is not going to stop them. In addition, if we as a church are connecting our lives to others in the way I feel we should, when someone is under the conviction of the Holy Spirit they will have at least one person they can approach with questions about following Christ.
All of these elements, to which a few more may be added in time, take about 75 minutes to complete on Sunday morning. While it takes over an hour on Sunday, anyone can go through this cycle of liturgy in under a minute on their own - and that is exactly what we want! (maybe not always under a minute).
Our prayer is that people’s relationship with God would be based upon the constant cycle of saying (in essence) - God you are Holy, I have sinned and now repent, I know you forgive me because when you look at me you see Christ and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, use my life for your purposes today and may all that I do bring glory to your name, read the Bible or quote a verse from memory, and then how you respond can take a variety of forms depending on how God chooses to speak back to you: Perhaps you’ll entrust your day to Christ, commit to helping a friend in need, pray for the lost, ask a brother for help, research a particular doctrine, seek counsel from a friend, or simply thank God for who He is.