Guest article by AJ Harbison
August 10, 2017 | by: AJ Harbison | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
Pastor Dale is on vacation this week, and he asked me to write a Touchpoint article regarding some of the "what"s and the "why"s of worship at Oak Hills. He and I have been reading a book together, Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice by Bryan Chapell, former president of Covenant Theological Seminary. In the book, Chapell lays out a number of ways that the story of redemption impacts and shapes the way we structure our worship services, and our worship at Oak Hills follows many of these principles.
- The gospel "shapes its container".
Chapell begins his book by taking a look at five historical liturgies: those of the Roman Catholic Church (prior to 1570), Martin Luther (ca. 1526), John Calvin (ca. 1542), the Westminster Assembly (ca. 1645), and Dr. Robert Rayburn (ca. 1980). While there are of course many differences between these worship services, more striking are the similarities that tie them all together. Each liturgy follows the same basic pattern:
- Adoration (praising God for who He is)
- Confession (confessing to God who we are)
- Assurance (receiving God's forgiveness)
- Thanksgiving (responding to God's grace through praise)
- Petition and Intercession (asking God for aid in living for Him)
- Instruction (hearing from God what He requires)
- Benediction (God's blessing on us)
The biblical examples we have of Old and New Testament worship follow this pattern as well (see, for example, 2 Chronicles 5-7). Chapell explains these similarities by stating that "the gospel shapes its container"; that is, worship services that seek to be faithful to Scripture will follow this general outline because it is the outline of the gospel itself and how it unfolds in our lives. The Lord's Supper communicates the gospel through its symbols; the liturgy communicates the gospel through its structure.
- The gospel inspires a dialogical approach to liturgy.
This is simply a way of saying that our worship takes the form of a dialogue between God and ourselves — again, because this is the progression of the gospel in our lives. God initiates; we respond. God calls us to worship through His Word; we respond in adoration and praise. He reminds us of our sin, in contrast to His holiness; we respond by confessing our sins to Him and to each other. He assures us of His mercy and grace; we respond with thanksgiving and ask for His aid in living for Him. He teaches us from His Word and provides the sacrament of communion to strengthen us; we respond by partaking of it and renewing our commitment to Him. Finally, He sends us out into the world with His blessing.
- The gospel invites us to renew our relationship with God.
Chapell refers to worship as a "re-presentation" of the gospel — every week, through the structure of our worship service, we are retelling the gospel story. Just as the liturgy is laid out in a way that mirrors the progress of the gospel in our lives, the retelling of the gospel every week inspires us to remember God's grace in our own lives and renew our relationship with Him. We sometimes call our worship a "covenant renewal" service for this reason: God reminds us of His faithfulness in keeping His covenant with us, and we recommit ourselves to following Him.
The gospel shapes not only the prayers we pray and the songs we sing, but the entire worship service. It's my privilege and pleasure to worship with you all as we retell the gospel story every Sunday!