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The Worship Service: Katie Wagenmaker on Ch. 11 of Brown’s Called to Serve

24 May, 2008

Katie W.

Called to Serve, Chapter 11: What Our Service Should Look Like

This chapter by Michael Horton is an excerpt from his book A Better Way, which I would highly recommend. In that book, Horton analyzes every element of worship from a biblical and theological perspective. In Called to Serve, Mike Brown uses Horton’s chapter dealing with the RPW (Regulative Principle of Worship) to help us better understand the elements and circumstances of a worship service.

Horton begins by explaining what goes into a worship service and why things are done a certain way. Our culture today is ego-centric, and worship tends to be about what a person can get out of an hour of church on Sunday. Yet, that is not how our Holy God is worshiped. As we saw with Nadab and Abihu, God takes his worship seriously, and if we do not do what he has commanded in his Word by worshiping the way he has told us to, we are not pleasing him. Only in obeying his commands on worship can we have true worship. Horton lets us know through a historical overview that this view of the worship of God does not begin in the last century, but was written down as early as 1552 in the Book of Common Prayer. With the knowledge that God desires to be worshiped the way he commanded, Horton describes those ways, or elements, of a worship service.

I was enriched by this portion of Horton’s chapter dealing with the elements of a worship service. So often I am unclear as to what the biblical elements are and what may have been added because of tradition. Horton explains, with biblical proof, why he believes certain elements are elements and not circumstances, as well as why certain elements need to be in a worship service. The necessary elements he includes are:

  • The Invocation
  • God’s Greeting
  • Reading of the Law
  • Confession and Absolution
  • Pastoral Prayer
  • Preached Word
  • the Lord’s Supper
  • Thanksgiving and offerings, and
  • The Benediction

As in Godfrey’s essay on Calvin’s view of the Lord’s Supper (Called to Serve, ch. 9), Horton reasserts that the excitement of a church service does not come in the lights or emotion of a consumer-driven worship, but in

the genuine ‘signs and wonders’ ministry that God performs each week when the Word is rightly preached and the sacraments are rightly administered.

If churches today would realize the Word and sacraments are central, and that God desires to be worshiped the way he commanded us to worship him, perhaps members would no longer be feeling “unfilled” after a Sunday morning worship service. Instead, the communion of the saints through the ages would be experienced, and a freedom that comes with worshiping God the way he commands would also be felt.


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