A Basic Explanation
In order to explain why we practice certain elements of our corporate worship as we do, it is best that we first explain our general understanding of corporate worship. We believe that as we gather on Sunday morning for corporate worship that it is something more than believers all having their “quiet time” in the same room; it is an opportunity for us to gather and respond to God corporately. Within this, we see our corporate worship as a dialogue between the Lord and his gathered people. Therefore, we begin our service with a call to worship from the Scripture, God’s very word, as he is calling us to worship him. From there our corporate worship is a continual dialogue as we hear God’s Word and respond to him.
Public Reading of Scripture
During our corporate worship we have as many as four public readings from God’s Word. As we hear the Scripture read, we stand in honor, recognizing that we are hearing the very words of God (e.g., Neh. 8:1-5). This practice is driven by our conviction that God’s Word is central to all that we do. The Bible is not only the foundation for what we do but the very content of our corporate worship. Thus, as we gather, we seek to read the Bible, pray the Bible, sing the Bible, preach the Bible, and respond to the Bible.
Though the public reading of Scripture in great quantity may be rare to our experience, it is a command of the Scripture. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 4:13, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, and to teaching.” In addition, it was a common element of corporate worship in the times in which the Scripture was written. We read, for example, in Joshua 8:34-35 that all the Law of Moses was read out to the people. Finally, numerous writings show that this continued to be a practice of the early church as there are records of the church gathering and reading as much from the Scripture as time would permit.
Taking Communion Weekly
There are mainly two reasons why we take communion every Sunday. The first is that Scripture shows this was a common practice in the early church. In Acts 2:42 we read that the early believers were devoting “themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers.” This is seen even more clearly in Acts 20:7 as Luke writes, “On the first day of the week when we were gathered together to break bread …” In this verse Luke lists communion as their purpose for gathering on the first day of the week. Also, when Paul writes to the Corinthians in order to give them instruction regarding communion in 1 Corinthians 11, he begins the section writing, “When you come together” (v. 20), showing that he anticipated them coming to the table every week as they gathered in worship.
The second reason we celebrate communion weekly is because it appears that the ordinances (i.e. baptism and communion) were given to the church in order that we might visibly proclaim that we have heard and received the Word of the Lord. In baptism, we do this in an unrepeatable event, showing that we have heard and received the Word of Christ. In communion, we have a repeatable ordinance that shows the same thing continually in the life of a believer. And because we hear the proclamation of God’s Word every Sunday and each believer is called to receive and obey that Word, we choose to proclaim our reception of the Word by that means given by the Lord himself – communion. In doing so, we welcome all believers who are in good standing with an evangelical church to join us.
Each week we pause in the midst of our gathering in order to focus on and pray for something or someone corporately. Often this time is set aside for us to pray for other churches, missionaries we support, those we have been privileged to send out for service, and those we are receiving into our membership.
Our motivation behind having this element of corporate prayer as a part of our service is derived from two things. The first is that Luke makes it clear in Acts 1:14 that this was a common element of the practice of the early church. He writes that the early believer “devoted themselves to prayer” as they were gathered together. The second reason why we pray corporately, encouraging the congregation to pray together concerning one item or person instead of encouraging each individual in the congregation to pray for whatever might be on his mind is from our appreciation yet again for the corporate nature of our gathering. Throughout the week we can all pray individually concerning a number of things, and we should. Only as we gather with the church corporately, however, do we have the privilege of praying together with the rest of our brothers and sisters in worship. As we pray, then, we celebrate both the gift of prayer and the privilege of joining together with our brothers and sisters in Christ in approaching the throne of God.
Though most would agree that singing is a basic command in the Scripture and fitting for corporate worship, agreement is not so easily reached when we ask what songs should be part of our corporate worship. Our conviction is that this question is not answered merely in terms of old songs vs. new songs or choruses vs. hymns. Rather, we sing songs that fit in each of these categories, but we aim to ensure that the songs that we sing meet certain standards which we believe are crucial.
We desire that the songs that we sing reflect the rich theological truths of Scripture. We desire that our affections are raised high, and we believe that the means through which our hearts are lifted is by our minds meditating on truth. Therefore, we sing songs that communicate the rich truths of Scripture to our minds so that our hearts might be kindled. This does not mean that we will not sing songs that are more simple in nature but that a majority of our songs will be those which best communicate the rich truths of Scripture.
In addition, believing that the corporate aspect of worship is crucial to our gathering on the Lord’s Day, we seek to sing those songs which are most appropriate for congregational singing. Thus, though we think many songs are good for singing individually or in a performance setting, our goal on Sunday morning is to sing those songs which are best suited for congregational singing. Therefore, we urge you to lend your voice in singing as we worship the Lord in song.
Each week the central element of our corporate worship is the preaching of God’s Word. Within this, there are certain convictions driving the manner in which we preach. First, we believe that the Bible is the holy, inspired, and inerrant Word of God. Therefore, we seek in our preaching simply to proclaim God’s Word after him. Thus, we preach expositionally, seeking to make the points, claims, or main statements of the sermon align themselves with those points, claims, and statements which we believe the author himself communicates in the text.
Second, we believe that the whole of Scripture must be preached even as Paul proclaimed to the Ephesian elders that he did not shrink back from declaring to them the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Therefore, we are committed to preaching through every book of the Bible. It is our practice, therefore, to preach through books of the Bible in hopes that one day we too might be able to proclaim that we have declared the whole counsel of God.
Finally, we strive to proclaim the gospel in all we do, knowing that it is the only hope for salvation for those who believe and is the means by which we continue to repent and believe.