If this is your first (or second) visit to Redeemer, chances are you probably have some questions about our worship. For some visitors our worship pattern is “different”, very “regimented”, and “high churchy like”. Pretty much not akin to most of the churches in our area (or to the churches many of us were raised in). Or it may be that you’ve actually worshipped with us for quite some time and you have forgotten why we do what we do. Either way, God wants you to worship with understanding. And so we have assembled some answers to questions you might be asking.
Why do We Worship the Way We do?
Whether openly stated or not, every church has an “order of worship” or a “liturgy”. In many modern churches this order does not necessarily seem to be self-consciously thought through. But something as important as a meeting with the living God should merit some reflection. As we have studied the subject of the flow of worship, it seemed fitting to follow that suggested by the order of sacrifices in Temple worship.
“When more than one kind of offering was presented (as in Num. 6:16, 17), the procedure was usually as follows: (1) sin offering or guilt offering, (2) burnt offering, (3) fellowship offering and grain offering (along with a drink offering). This sequence furnishes part of the spiritual significance of the sacrificial system. First, sin had to be dealt with (sin offering or guilt offering). Second, the worshipper committed himself completely to God (burnt offering and grain offering). Third, fellowship or communion between the Lord, the priest, and the worshipper (the fellowship offering) was established. To state it another way, there were sacrifices of expiation, consecration, and communion.”
This quotation comes from an unlikely but broadly evangelical source— the NIV Study Bible (p. 150). It makes sense that when we worship the Holy One we first deal with our sin (confession), then we dedicate ourselves completely to Him (consecration), and finally God seals his covenant promises to us through communion.
You may have also noticed that the sacrificial system and our order of worship follow the order of salvation. First we are justified (sin offering; confession); then we are sanctified (burnt
offering; consecration); and finally, we are glorified and have intimate table fellowship with God (peace offering; communion). Add a call to worship to begin, and a commissioning to send the saints out with, and you have our order of worship: Call to worship, Confession, Consecration, Communion, and Commissioning. This is often referred to as “Covenant Renewal Worship” because through this worship, God renews his covenantal promises to us, and we pledge our continuing love and loyalty to Him.
Is Worship the Same every week?
Yes and no. We follow the same pattern every week: a covenant renewal pattern that we believe God set out as early as Adam and Eve and built upon right through to the Book of Revelation. This pattern not only follows God’s design, but it also allows our children to follow and participate in the worship of God. We think you’ll see that knowing the pattern helps us really focus on just how different worship is every week – different songs, different scripture readings, different teachings. All in the same pattern, same faith & same body.
Why no children’s church?
We believe that God meets with his people, even the small ones, on the Lord’s Day. As a matter of fact, the Bible gives great stress to the presence of all the children in worship. They learn to sit still, they learn to work at adult thoughts and responses, and they learn that God wants them to be great for him. Parents have opportunities for encouragement and training, and all of the adults have a chance to show patience and care for families and their children, learning to value the presence of the children as God does.
Why do we recite the Apostles’ Creed?
This is done in response to God assuring us of salvation. As his claimed and cleansed people we say to God, “this is what we understand You are telling us to believe.” More than intellectual assent, the creeds are our declaration of Whom we trust. We believe (trust!) the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: The Triune God.
What’s up with the word catholic (in the creed)?
This is the original wording. Also note that the ‘c’ is a lower case ‘c’ as in the original meaning of the word. This denotes the church united throughout the world and through history. We are confessing that God will purify and unify His one church, and we are agreeing with Jesus’ prayer in yearning for this (see John 17:20-23).
Why do we kneel at confession?
Why do we lift our Hands while singing the Doxology?
God made us with bodies, and he wants us to use them in worship. Kneeling and lifting up the hands are biblical expressions of worship (Ps. 95:6;1 Kings 8:54). Kneeling—like prostration—is a posture associated with humility, reverence, and penitence. It is a posture appropriate for subjects before their King. Kneeling at confession expresses, with our bodies, our sorrow and submission to our Lord. Lifting hands is a posture of supplication and entreaty—think of your child lifting up hands to be held. At the end of our service we lift our hands up together as an expression of praise.
It all Seems so Formal. My God isn’t Cold and Aloof.
Amen! Our relationship with God is unlike that which we have with any other. He is at the same time our Father and the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe; our Lord and Judge, as well as our Friend. But this Friend isn’t like any other friend we have. That is why the psalmist calls us to “Worship the Lord with reverence, and rejoice with trembling” (Ps. 2:11). Also, God calls us to do all things “properly and in an orderly manner” (1 Cor. 14:40)—and the context of this passage is corporate worship. In obedience to this, well-planned worship is our way of honoring and loving God. So our worship is somewhat formal, yes, but this enhances and does not inhibit our intimacy with Him.
Why don’t you sing modern stuff?
Your observation is correct, we don’t sing choruses, but focus rather on psalms and hymns. This comes from both theological and musical convictions. Theologically, many choruses are wanting in accuracy and depth. Even those that are accurate (like those which are simply singing Scripture) when taken as a whole body of work tend only to emphasize attributes of God with which our culture is comfortable (his mercy, love, and grace, for instance). While these attributes are glorious, no doubt, and we love them too, God is also majestic, transcendent, just, unchanging, etc. Older hymns, and especially psalm-singing, emphasize all the perfections of God. They also emphasize something we just don’t see in modern worship music: antithesis. You are either with God or against Him. There is no neutrality. We see this in the psalms. There is the usual section churches sing about the faithfulness of God to bless His people. But then also in the psalms are verses speaking of the fate of those who refuse to love the Lord. These parts the modern church has edited out of its hymns. We sing whole psalms because we want God’s inspired Word to shape our whole minds. So we sing not only the blessings, but the curses as well.
There are also musical reasons for our preferences. The hymns and psalms are more excellent and beautiful. They have rich harmonies and rhythms we just don’t find in most choruses. Generally speaking, Christians have not demonstrated as much skill in composition today as we did a few hundred years ago. And so we have found psalms and hymns to be the more appropriate medium to convey the rich perfection of God. While this is hard work, God calls us to sing skillfully to Him (Ps. 47:7). So though we aren’t there yet, we certainly are seeking to grow in skill and faithfulness.
Is our love of older music just a fad?
Do we love old psalms and hymns merely by virtue of their age? Of course not. Beauty, not age, is the issue here. And surely the church has some beautiful new music to look forward to that has yet to be composed. It just so happens that we are finding beauty in old music, and having a harder time finding it in contemporary compositions.
I find it hard to Worship when the songs are difficult to sing. It’s true that many of these songs are difficult to sing. And some of the Genevan ones sound funny on the ear at first. But difficulty should not keep us from excellence. In fact, the preface to the Genevan Bible says, “All things are difficult which are excellent and fair.” Expressing God’s glory is surely excellent and fair, and so it shouldn’t surprise us that it is difficult. Worship is something to prepare for during the week—practicing the music so we can sing our best for our King.
We have found when the saints really apply themselves to learn this music that they are blessed. Their former notions of what constitutes glorious worship have been challenged and transformed, and they can never go back.
After the prayer of confession, the pastor declares our sins to be forgiven. Isn’t that more than a little presumptuous?
That’s a good question, and gives us an opportunity to address the difference between faith and presumption. Presumption is assuming privileges you do not have. Faith, on the other hand, is grounded on real promises. We only claim that which God says is ours for the asking.
Applying this to confession of sin, our Father promises us repeatedly that if we confess and forsake our sins, he will forgive and heal us (1 Jn. 1:9; Prov. 28:13; Rom. 5:1 etc.). The minister is simply to say what God says. So after we confess our sins, it actually would be arrogant for the minister not to declare our sins forgiven when God makes that declaration.
Why do you have communion weekly? Doesn’t that diminish it?
That depends how you view the Lord’s Supper. If it is merely a memorial, an opportunity to remember the sacrifice of Christ, then perhaps it should be celebrated less frequently. But even
this seems flimsy reasoning. Should we then have communion only once a year? Then it would be really special. We think a more biblical way to look at the Supper is that it is not only a memorial, but a means of grace. Through the Lord’s Supper we commune with Christ, are given Christ as bread from heaven, and somehow (mysteriously) we are strengthened spiritually. So we liken the Lord’s Supper more to the importance of eating three square meals, and less to paging through a photo album of past events.
I love the Lord, but haven’t been baptized. Why can’t I partake of the Lord’s Supper?
Think of it like getting married. You may love your intended before the wedding day, but you cannot go on the honeymoon until you say your vows. The wedding is a covenantal ceremony that changes your status from outsider to insider. Once inside the marriage, you have the privileges of marriage—but not before then. Baptism is a covenantal rite that formally acknowledges you as a child of God and grants you access to the privileges of the family of God. Just as you are born once, so you are baptized once. But that child gets dinner every time the family eats. So baptism is a sacrament of initiation, and the Lord’s Supper a sacrament of continuation. Baptism is an individual sacrament, and the Lord’s Supper is a community sacrament. So if you love the Lord, please talk to us about baptism, and then come to the Table.
Why do you worship at a Christian School?
We are still a small congregation. So rather than rent space in a strip mall (we did that for a time) and rather than rent space from a public school (like many others do) we opted to rent space from a private Christian School (Providence Classical School). That way our rent money goes directly to supporting a Christian ministry.
With special thanks to Valley Covenant Church for their list of worship answers – we liked them so much and they resonated so much with our worship – we adapted them for our use.