William Willimon is one of most insightful and provocative writers around today, especially on issues of worship and sacraments. He is also a Methodist. That means he has bought hook, line and sinker women’s ordination and other faults of the Methodist church. Despite this, his books are worth reading because he forces you to examine your presuppositions. Also his writing is lively, which makes him fun to read. In his book, A Guide to Preaching and Leading Worship, he lists some of the common weaknesses in worship. I am going to take each weakness Willimon mentions and discuss how my church attempts to correct that weakness.
The first weakness Willimon mentions is that many services lack focus and coherence in the acts of worship. “The service moves in several different directions at once. ” In other words the service is just a mishmash of songs, prayers and a sermon with little plan or direction. How does it all fit together? Willimon mentions the use of a lectionary and the church year as solutions to this problem of lack of coherence. We use the church year. However, our lectionary is tied to the word preached and I preach through books of the Bible. So we do not use a lectionary that skips from book to book.
While I am not opposed to either of these, the best way for coherence and direction in worship is to have the service move in a Gospel centered direction. The Gospel is what we preach and our services should have this as their mold. In my circles this is known as covenant renewal worship, but is done by other groups that do not use that name.
Here is how it works. Our service has a specific direction and movement. Each piece of the service leads to the next piece. The service begins with sinners being brought into the presence of a holy God. Those sinners then confess they are sinners and plead the shed blood of Christ. They are then forgiven and sanctified by God’s Word. They eat a meal of peace with God (the Lord’s Supper) and then are sent out to be salt and light in the world. This is how we experience the Gospel in our lives and therefore this forms how we do worship. The pattern is the same every week because the Gospel never changes. Luther was once asked, “Why do you preach the Gospel every week?” He said, “Because you forget every week.” That is why for us at Christ Church, we have the same pattern of worship every week. Below is a short look at our service. If you would like a more extensive look you can go to our church website and look at the “Our Worship” tab for a full liturgy.
Called to Worship by God
Confession of Our Sins
Consecration by God’s Word
Communion with Christ and His Body
Commissioned to Go Out and Preach Christ to the World