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Worship

Philosophy of Corporate Worship
Hope International Church of Brussels

For a printable PDF version of Hope's Philosophy of Corporate Worship, click here

God created us to worship (Isa 43:1). God saved us to worship him with his people (Exod 7:16; Ps 68:26). God desires our worship (John 4:23). God commands our worship (Deut 6:13). For these reasons, we want to think carefully about worship.

 

Worship is ascribing worth to God. The highest priority in worship must be to please God. We do this by worshipping God in accordance with his Word. This perspective falls in line with the historical protestant worship tradition. This document presents the principles that underlie the worship at Hope. It shows the logic of our worship services. It lists the elements of our worship services. It offers an example of an order of worship. Finally, it describes the principles we use to choose our songs.

Principles

Summary: We worship for the glory of God, according to the regulative principle, in a gospel-shaped dialogue between God and his people, with joy, reverence, awe, and in an orderly manner.

The goal of worship: We do all things for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31), so we must worship in a way that pleases God rather than Man.

Regulative Principle: We worship God on his terms in the ways he wants us to worship him (Lev 10:1; Isa 29:13). This means that we worship God in accordance with Scripture. We have a biblical warrant for every element in the worship service (see “Elements” below). We want to read the Bible, pray the Bible, sing the Bible, preach the Bible, and see the Bible.i

Gospel-Shaped: The gospel is the good news that God saves sinners from the punishment of hell. Through the accomplished work of Christ on the cross, Christ gives eternal life to all those who trust in him. The gospel speaks to the problem of sin, the character of God, our need to repent, the love of God, the transformation of sinners, the work of the Holy Spirit, and a life of obedience. We want the elements in the worship service to communicate the Good News. We also want the worship service as a whole to be a gospel presentation.

Dialogue: A worship service is an interaction between the Triune God and his people. God has the first word and the last word. God’s people respond corporately to what God reveals about Himself. Our response will be heartfelt, sincere, and meaningful. Worship is a response to God’s revelation and not the pursuit of an experience, yet worship can be quite moving.

Tone of worship: Scripture teaches that worship is to be joyful (Ps 100:2), done with gratitude, reverence, and awe (Heb 12:28), and with order (1 Cor 14:40).

Logic of a worship service

When the saints gather for worship on the Lord’s Day, we approach God as unworthy sinners. We hear God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit convicts, comforts, instructs, guides, and gives us hope. We respond with awe, praise, confession, and thankfulness. We renew our commitment to living grace-based lives. We want to be quick to repent and quick to forgive. We want to rely on the Holy Spirit to live for God.

There are different ways to think through the logic of a worship service biblically. Here, we look at Isaiah 6. Kevin DeYoung identifies the following four movements in Isaiah 6, “praise, renewal, proclamation, response.” Isaiah has a vision of God. He sees a creature praising God (Praise). In response to God’s holiness, Isaiah confesses his sin and seeks renewal (Renewal). God speaks his word to Isaiah (Proclamation). Isaiah responds by committing himself to serve the Lord (Response). This liturgy reflects the gospel pattern. We approach God in awe, we see our sin, we hear the good news, and we respond in faith and obedience.

The Isaiah 6 paiern gives our worship a gospel shape. The worship service points to the goodness of God; the depth of our sin; our need for a savior. It presents the kindness of God in Christ and the way of salvation for all who repent and believe. It promises God’s presence in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. It empowers Christians to live lives that please God and offers the hope of eternal life. Each worship service presents the gospel for the salvation of unbelievers. The gospel feeds and strengthens Christians in faith, knowledge, love, and holiness. Gospel-shaped worship glorifies God.

Elements of Worship

God wants us to worship him by responding to the way he reveals himself. God blesses his people in every place he causes his name to be remembered (Exod 20:24). We call “Ordinary Means of Grace,” the ways God appoints to bless us. They are the reading and preaching of God's word (Tim 4:13; 2 Tim 4:2), as well as the sacraments. The sacraments are baptism (Mai 28:19; Acts 2:38-39) and the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:23-26). The sacraments are signs and seals of his new covenant promises.ii  Other elements include praying (1 Tim 2:8), singing hymns (Eph 5:19, Col 3:16), giving sacrificially (2 Cor 8-9; Rom 12:1-2), confessing what is true (1 Cor 15:3-4), confessing our sins (1 John 1:9), and committing ourselves to rely on the Spirit to live for God (Rom 8:5-6, 11-14).

 

An Order of Worship

There are many ways to order a worship service reflecting everything above. There is flexibility in worship. This is one of many ways of ordering a worship service:

Preparation for Worship

  • (Eccl 5:1-2) Time before the worship service to sit quietly, pray, prepare our hearts, and clear our minds from distractions. This time of preparation can include prelude music.

  • Gospel-shaped welcome (Rom 15:7)

Praise

  • Call to worship (God)

    • God initiates the worship service with his invitation to worship Him (e.g., read a Psalm like Ps 66:1-4, it can be responsive reading).

  • Response in Praise (the People) 

    • The congregation responds to God’s call with a hymn that focuses on the Person and Work of God.

  • Response in Prayer (the People)

    • Prayer of Invocation – This prayer acknowledges the presence of God and asks for God’s guidance and blessing throughout the service.

  • Confession of our faith with the Apostles Creed (the People)

    • The congregation confesses the common, catholic (i.e., universal) faith of the church.

 

Renewal

  • Confession of Sin (God, the People)

    • The worship of God reminds us of our unworthiness (Luke 5:8). As we marvel at God, we also confess our sins (Responsive reading, private prayer, or hymn)

  • The Assurance of Pardon (God)

    • God responds to all who confess and repent from their sin with the assurance of pardon. This is the Gospel!

  • Thanksgiving Song (the People)

    • After hearing the gospel, the people respond with thanksgiving. At this stage, the singing focuses on the forgiveness of sins, the accomplished worof Christ on the cross, and our assurance of pardon.

  • Offering (God, the People)

    • The congregation responds to the hearing of the forgiveness of sins with joy, gratitude, and commitment to give freely to gospel ministries and others.

Proclamation

  • Reading(God)

    • Both the Old and New Testaments will be read.

  • Pastoral Prayer and Prayer of Illumination (the People)

    • Pastoral prayer is a longer prayer in which an elder prays for the service, the church, the city, and the world. He asks that God would bless this worship service, that it would glorify him, and that God would edify his people.

    • The prayer of illumination is a prayer for God’s Word that is preached to have its full effect among the people.

  • Sermon (God)

    • A sermon explains and applies God’s word to God’s New Covenant people in their context. The gospel must be proclaimed for it to be a Christian sermon.

 

Response

  • A Hymn that focuses on the theme of the sermon

  • Communion (God, the People)

    • The Lord’s Supper displays the promises of the gospel. The bread and wine symbolize Christ’s body and blood. Feeding on them teaches us that we are the benefactors of Christ’s death. Our sins are forgiven, and the life we now live, we live in communion with Christ. Christ was raised from the dead, so he now empowers us through the Spirit for Christian ministry.

  • Hymn of response (the People)

    • We respond to the sermon with a song that focuses on our commitment to love God and our neighbor, the Great Commission, faith, and good works.

  • Benediction (God)

    • We are sent out into the world with the task to be ambassadors of Christ and his gospel. The final word of the service is one of blessing. God reminds us through his word that he is with us, and we are under His divine favor.

Song choice

For our music style and song choice, we are considerate of our church values, our worship strategy, lyrics, and melody.

Music style: We welcome different musical styles and the use of various instruments. Our highest priority is to enhance congregational singing. As we worship in song, the voice of the redeemed is the most important sound. The music must be appropriate for a multi-generational international community.

Song themes: We order our songs based on their themes to fit in the gospel shape of our worship service.

Repertoire: We desire to have a defined set of songs to help the congregation build familiarity and appreciation for what we sing. We will add new songs provided they do not become a distraction.

Catholicity/Universality: We celebrate our rich Christian heritage by singing songs the church has sung for decades and centuries! We find that this will also favor the transient nature of Brussels. Newcomers are more likely to know traditional hymns than newer worship songs that come and go so quickly. We welcome new hymns if we expect them to be sung for generations to come. We also want to sing hymns written in our congregation.

Theologically Rich: We desire to sing about a broad range of core biblical topics. These topics include the Word of God, the attributes of God, His work of creation and salvation, the new creation, humanity, sin, repentance, the incarnation, the works of Christ, the person of Christ, his death, burial, resurrection, the order of salvation, the Holy Spirit, the Church, Christian character, the fruit of the Spirit, and the end times. We desire to sing hymns that articulate the gospel clearly.

Emotionally Engaging: Human beings feel a vast array of emotions. Emotionally engaging worship songs voice the emotions we feel. They teach us how God meets us in our despair, lament, sadness, grief, doubt, confusion, and anxiety. They stir up joy, hope, and peace.

Accessible melody: The tunes must be simple so that most can sing them. They need to be in a good musical key, and the range of the song should not be too large. We prefer tunes with a predictive melody.

 

 

i The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are, to use Augustine’s phrase, “visible words.” In baptism and the Lord’s Supper we see, smell, touch, and taste the Word. Christian churches should celebrate baptism and the Lord’s Supper during their gathered public services (1 Cor. 11:17-34). What does the New Testament say that churches should do when they gather?: 9Marks; Ligon Duncan, “Foundations for Biblically Directed Worship” in Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship, ed. Philip Graham Ryken, Derek W.H. Thomas, and J. Ligon Duncan, III [Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing Co., 2003], p. 65-68.

ii “Signs and seals” expression comes from Rom 4:11 in reference to circumcision. As signs baptism and the Lord’s Supper present the gospel visible with the washing with water, death burial, resurrection with Christ, the broken body, and the shed blood of Christ that nourishes us spiritually. As seals, baptism and the Lord’s Supper confirm and guarantee what God promises through those signs to all who receive them in faith.

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