Friday, 31 January 2014

Helps for Worship

One of the chief concerns for Reformed churches in our age is the maintenance, or indeed the reintroduction, of biblical worship.  Do our people understand our worship and why we do what we do?
The OPC has produced an excellent simple introduction to the elements of worship. Written by William Shisko it covers in 39 pages and 33 short articles everything we do in worship and provides biblical underpinning for our practices.
Not only is it available at a printed booklet, ($1.50), but it can be downloaded in a printer friendly version from the OPC website, both as PDF and by coping and pasting from the webpage as a Word document.
Each chapter fills the inside of a fold-over A4 bulletin. In our congregation we have been running it as a series in the inside of our weekly bulletin.  As a Free Church of Scotland congregation we have done some slight editing to reflect our own particular practices.  I also edited the discussion questions, more by addition than deletion.
The booklet is available for purchase at: 

The downloadable version in epub, mobi (for Kindle) and doc formats is found at:

I append an example of a chapter I formatted and edited for the bulletin.  If anyone is interested I could make the individual formatted for Scottish use version available.
Here is an example from our bulletin. As formatted if fits in an A4 landscape page:

"... Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." (Eph. 5:19)
Some students of liturgics (that is, the study of the proper manner of worship) question whether responsive readings are to be used in worship. What is the biblical basis for them? What is their purpose?
Our pattern is to use responsive (or unison) readings (usually from the book of Psalms) as we prepare ourselves for the prayer of confession of sin, which follows. The biblical basis for this practice is that the Scriptures themselves tell us that the congregation should use appropriate words in its ministry to one another (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). We usually think of our congregational singing in this regard, but the Scriptures command us to "speak" to one another as well as to sing to one another and to the Lord.
In the Old Testament, there is an example of this kind of congregational speaking in Deuteronomy 27. The tribes of Israel were divided between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. The blessings and the curses of the covenant were read aloud, and the people responded with their "Amen!" In doing so, they committed themselves to the very things God had told them in his covenant word. We do something similar as we take God's words on our lips and recommit ourselves to them in corporate worship.
In a real sense, this time of congregational speaking is an extension of our corporate confession of faith. Because the Psalms have their ultimate fulfilment in the person and work of Christ (Luke 24:44), we are continuing our confession of him. We are also reminding one another of the multifaceted truths in a believer's experience (the Psalms are given, in part, for that purpose). Those very reminders should make us desire to come before God in repentance and confession.
What a privilege it is to take the Word of God on our own lips as we worship the God who is to be worshiped according to that Word!
For Reflection
  1. How does the responsive reading when used reflect your own experience, and how does it call you to confess your sins?
  2. “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the Lord!”  Do we heartily respond with the Amen at close of prayers and worship?
© 2008 The Committee on Christian Education  of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

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