An inspiring integrated service

[notice]Hugh Wetmore is a songwriter and student of worship trends. He invites you to join the worship conversation by commenting on his monthly column.[/notice]

Let me tell you about the inspiring Morning Service at a church I visited last Sunday. I will describe it, and then highlight some positives that are well worth emulating in other churches. Your church. I asked Gregg to send me his leader-notes …

“Good morning and welcome to Waterkloof Baptist Church. Soon we will celebrate Christmas. A time of Hope, and how we need Hope in this hopeless world! Please stand as we

Sing a song of Hope … God sent His Son, they call Him Jesus. Because He lives we can face tomorrow.

Be seated … Notices … Pastor Mike welcomes (a person) into membership …

Receive the offering, as we sing I worship You, Almighty God.

Leader: When I saw that we were doing communion today, and the fact that we are so close to Christmas, it gave me an idea for our worship this morning. I thought we have an opportunity today to kind of look at the whole Gospel, the whole story of Jesus. Because today we are going to gather around the Lord’s Table to remember how His body was broken for us, how His blood was shed for us. We’re going to remember the main reason for why He came to earth, so that He could die for our sins in order for us to have salvation. But, in two weeks from now we’re going to celebrate His birth. So in 2 weeks, at Christmas, we’re going to go back to where this end to His life (point to table) all started, at His birth.

So our songs this morning will tell the story of the Gospel, and highlight some of the key events of His life.

Please stand [BIRTH (Title Slide)]
Leader: The first of the key events in the life of Christ is the humble beginning in a stable, when God came to be with us Isaiah 7:14 (NIV) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 9:6 (NIV) For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Sing Silent Night

[BAPTISM (Title Slide)]
Leader: The first act of His public ministry. He consented to it in order to identify Himself with sinners. 2 Corinthians 5:21 English Standard Version (ESV) For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Sing Jesus Messiah (He became sin who knew no sin)

[TEACHER (Title Slide)]
Leader: Of the 90 times Jesus was addressed directly in the gospels, 60 times He was called Teacher. This was the word the multitudes used. This was how the disciples referred to Him. Jesus Himself used the term when He said, You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am (John 13:13). Matthew 5:1-2 (NIV) Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

Sing some of His teachings: Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God

[CRUCIFIXION (Title Slide)]
Leader: It is the reason He was born as a man — to die for the sins of the world
John 3:16 (NIV) For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Leader: So as we prepare now to gather around the Lord’s Table, if those serving would come up during this song.

Broken and Beautiful (First line: As we break this bread, as we drink this cup, Lord we remember)

Sermon {Pastor preached on Isaiah 9:6. His theme was the hope that Jesus brought to us in our need. He expounded the four titles given to the Jesus-child ‘given to us’: ‘Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’. Each title meets a human need, and brings hope.}

[ASCENSION (Title Slide)]
Leader: Jesus’ final act on earth was His ascension into heaven in the presence of the disciples.
Link sermon – Hope that we have in Jesus. Story of Mom — her peace because she knew she had this hope. Jesus said, I go to prepare a place for you. What better hope is there than this?

Please stand as we proclaim His glory in the song All heaven declares.


Inspiring features
As I participated in this service, I was blessed, encouraged and inspired by these features:

  1. The leader consciously designed the service around the “Life of Jesus on earth”, which began at His birth (He was relevant: Christmas is a prominent context throughout December).
  2. The flow of the service was enhanced by the leader’s continuity remarks which linked each element, scriptures, songs and sermon, to one another. Our congregational minds were harmonised and carried forward together in a sequential flow. Too often worship leaders simply string the songs together without connecting them. (And sometimes there IS no connection between the songs, even if one looked for it.) This service had strong cohesion — it illustrates the value of designing an “integrated service”, a value that should mark every service throughout the year.
  3. The songs were supported by short scripture readings. It is important that the congregation should realise how the lyrics we sing are derived from the bible.
  4. The leader connected the whole service with the pastor’s sermon, picking up on the theme of hope.
  5. The leader connected his order of service with the act of communion. It is not easy to link Christmas with communion — Birth and death don’t readily connect. But he did so effectively in his continuity remarks. Such continuity-linking is a skill worth learning.

Find meaning through worship
When Gregg sent me his order of worship script, his covering note included this sentence: “I am there to serve the Lord and use the talents He has given me, and if only one person is touched and finds meaning through the worship, then all glory to Jesus, because it’s all about Him and His glory. As discussed, my worship notes are attached.” The phrase “find meaning through the worship” grabbed my attention.

In my view some worship leaders focus on  “feeling” at the expense of “meaning”. But Gregg had God’s angle on worship, that it should be “Word-based with all wisdom” and meaning (Colossians 3:16). And it was!

Yet the focus on meaning did bring feeling for me. At one point I was so overcome with emotion that I couldn’t sing. The meaning of the lyrics had generated feeling, and that’s how God intends it to be.

The congregational singing was full-throated and strong, aided by superb piano-playing (the drums on the platform stood silent — were the musicians already on vacation? ). But I did note that the volume of two of the songs was somewhat muted. I asked myself why? The only answer I came up with was that, unlike the others, the tunes of these two songs were not as ‘singable’ as the rest. (On enquiry afterwards, I was told that these two songs were often sung here. So the reason was not unfamiliarity.)

The service would have been improved by including public prayers in the programme.

Thank you, Gregg! You’ve helped us end this year of worship columns with a positive model worth emulating! Yes, let’s aim for integrated worship that pleases God in the church services of 2017! You will have a Blessed New Year!

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