Congregational worship is a divine conversation in which our hearts are formed by God’s Word. The goal isn’t only that we would glorify God, but that we would be formed to be whole disciples of Jesus. Here’s how you can be discipled by the elements of our Sunday liturgy and implement them throughout the week.
Call to Worship:
We start with the beckoning voice of the Triune God. He calls us to fix our gaze upon Him, to praise Him for who He is (not just what He gives). “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name” (Psalm 29:1).
Consider starting your day with a call to worship. It doesn’t have to be long or complicated. Consider praying a short Psalm, or even just a portion of a Psalm. “This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psa.118:24). “From the rising of the sun to it’s setting, may the name of the Lord be praised” (Psa.113:3). Or consider a liturgical element, like the Gloria Patri – “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.”
Whatever you may choose to say, start your day off right by giving glory to the God who sustained you through the night and has given you a new day with new mercies and new opportunities to give Him glory and increase your joy in Him!
Christians sing! Why? Because truth and beauty belong together. Theology (our knowledge of God) should be paired with doxology (our joyful response to God). And so we sing songs of praise and adoration, confession and lament. We sing songs that teach us sound doctrine and songs that express our devotion. Consider finding ways to weave singing and music throughout your day as a way to remind yourself that God’s truth is beautiful! At the dinner table, don’t just pray a prayer of thanksgiving, but sing it! If you have kids, they will love it. How about the Doxology – “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!”
The divine conversation of worship involves prayer. We respond to God’s Word in prayer; we pray God’s Word back to Him; we pray for the things He calls us to pray about. Christians are called to pray continually (not just on Sunday). In fact, God tells us to “pray continually” (1 Thess. 5:17). Consider the ancient practice of fixed-hour prayer. You might not be able to stop and pray every hour, but perhaps morning, noon, and night. Give yourself to biblical forms of prayer. Do not simply use prayer as a way of asking God for things, but spend time adoring Him, confessing sin, declaring weakness, and thank Him for His forgiveness and sustaining grace. Another consideration is context. Some people have a prayer closet. Some do better taking a drive. Some might enjoy praying while walking and beholding God’s glory in nature. Switch it up, and enjoy the gift of praying in different ways and different places. Also, give yourself to praying with other people. We should enjoy prayer when alone, but also in community. We pray “Our Father who art in heaven” not just “my” Father.
The offering plate is a liturgical artifact. Every week as we put in our gift, we are being reminded that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). This pushes us outward in our focus. Worship isn’t just about me and God, but about me and my neighbor. It forms us to be kingdom citizens who live out the values of the kingdom on the ground in practical ways. Daily we should ask ourselves “Where can I be brought outside myself today?” How can you give of yourself to the stranger, the neighbor, the fellow church member, the colleague, the family member? Consider a steady rhythm of service, volunteering to help the needy. Look for opportunities to give and serve.
Hearing and Doing God’s Word:
A sermon is not an info session. It’s not a stale teaching lecture. A biblical sermon is a proclamation. It teaches, but it also challenges. It helps us not simply know God’s Word, but know how to apply God’s Word. As we listen, we might realize that God is calling us to work on a particular attitude or thought pattern. We may see how He’s calling us to do something good or cease to do something bad. We may see how God is calling us to imitate a particular example, or commit ourselves to a particular practice. We must be ready to put the Word to work in our daily lives. Invite accountability and prayer as you share where God is calling you to obedience and joy in Him.
At the Lord’s Table, we are refreshed in the gospel as we commune with Christ and His people. It’s here that we find our relationship with God expressed in a horizontal direction. We accept one another, just as God has accepted us in Christ (Rom.15:7). It’s at this Sunday Table that we are trained to be people of hospitality toward others. Our dinner tables are sacred altars meant to extend the fellowship and warmth of God to others. Out of 21 meals in a week, we should think creatively how we can extend kindness to others. Not every moment of hospitality requires a dinner table with fancy silver ware. A cup of coffee or a slice of pizza can be a holy moment of grace for another! Look for opportunities to slow down and extend yourself to others.
Reflection and Benediction:
We close our Sunday service with a time of silent reflection as we consider all that we’ve heard and we pray for God’s help. We then send and bless one another with the words of our benediction that “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all” (2 Cor. 13:14). One can close out the day in the same kind of way. The practice of the examen invites us to quiet ourselves and prayerfully think about the joys and sorrows of our day. Where did you see God’s goodness to you today? Give Him thanks. Where did you miss Him or feel His absence? Tell Him about it and pray that you would see Him more clearly tomorrow. And then close your time of prayer with a simple benediction that helps you rest in His love and grace.
This is a rough sketch of what the elements of congregational worship might look like on any given day or week. It will obviously vary from person to person. Ask yourself what elements might be absent from your life. Perhaps you can craft a plan to form a habit that causes that element to be more present. Why? We are called to be whole disciples of Jesus (Col. 1:28). May we walk with Him in joyful fellowship throughout our days, from the rising of the sun to its going down.