If you visit with us, you will be joining with us in the most important of all human activities: the worship of the living God. We sincerely hope and pray that you find your worship experience to be encouraging, challenging, and invigorating, renewing you in the knowledge of God and the wonderful hope that we have through the Gospel of Christ. Most of all, though, we hope that God will be glorified by the worship we render to him.
Worship at CPC is…
- God Centered. All too often worship is man-centered; that is, it is overly preoccupied with our needs, our feelings, our aspirations. But since the primary purpose of worship is to give glory and honor to God, the most important thing that we could say about our worship is that it is God-centered. There is a time and a place to focus on people, to celebrate their character and accomplishments – a birthday party would be a good example. But what should be front and center in Christian worship is the radiant and glorious character of the Triune God and the greatness of his redemptive work on behalf of sinners.
- Dialogical. We see worship as a marvelous dialogue between God and his people. As we move throughout the service, you will find it helpful to think of our alternating between God’s speaking to us and our speaking to God.
- Covenantal. One of the basic ways to describe God’s relationship with his people is that it is a covenant, a reciprocal relationship of love and faithfulness. Another example of a covenant is marriage. Just as husband and wife may grow distant from one another and stand in need of a romantic evening in which they renew their love and affection for one another, so in worship God reaffirms his lordship and love and calls upon us to renew our allegiance to him. That’s why we entitle our worship “A Covenant Renewal Service.” Worship is, quite literally, a meeting with God in which we commune with him and draw near to him, and he to us.
- Objective. A common mistake is to evaluate worship purely in terms of our subjective impressions and feelings. Thus, for many people, worship is good only insofar as it makes them feel good. While not wishing to discount the importance of our subjective response – indeed it is our hope that we will be subjectively engaged in worship – we would suggest that worship is first and foremost an activity, not a feeling. “What are we doing?” is thus a more important question than “How do we feel?”
- Formal and Reverent. Worship that is very informal and “loose,” while certainly making people feel at ease, has the distinct disadvantage of encouraging a light, even irreverent view of God. The Holy One of Israel, the Sovereign God is not our buddy, he is not a chum. He is majestic and glorious, and we are to rejoice with trembling in his presence. We believe that such a view of God is best encouraged by a service characterized by form, reverence, and solemn joy. While we thus run the risk of not being “upbeat” enough for some people’s tastes, we believe that we are, week in and week out, promoting a view of God which is consistent with the magnificence of his character revealed in Scripture.
- Corporate and Participatory. To put it bluntly, worship is not a spectator sport, it is not entertainment. Rather, it is an activity in which God’s people actively participate together for the glory of God. Some people seem to think that worship is a stage performance with God as the prompter, the minister as the performer, and the congregation as the audience, assembled to give their nods of approval or disapproval. We would suggest the same analogy with a reversal of roles: the minister is the prompter, the congregation are the performers, and God is the audience, present to approve or disapprove. To this end, we are called as co-participants – not spectators – in the “drama” of the worship of God.
- Historic and Reformed. While our ultimate-authority in worship is the Word of God, we gladly stand in the tradition of the historic Christian Church and the Protestant This link with the past bears witness to our having fellowship, with the great multitude of God’s people who have gone before us and enables us to take advantage of the rich history of Christian worship.
Brief Thoughts on Specific Elements
- The Singing of Praise. One of the great privileges we have is to sing the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. But what to sing and how to sing are often matters of disagreement among believers. Our approach is fairly simple: we believe that a rich legacy is to be found among the Psalms (which are worship songs given by divine inspiration) and the great hymns of the historic Christian Church. We seek to emphasize and take-full advantage of this legacy in our singing. What makes a hymn great? A conspicuous focus on the character of God and the redemptive work of Christ. This means that we are not as likely to utilize material arising out of periods of church history which are not noted for their production of rich, profound, and thoughtful lyrics. Chief in this category are nineteenth century Revivalism and twentieth century American Evangelicalism. While we employ some songs and hymns from such periods, the emphasis does not lie there. As the New Covenant is characterized by the “priesthood of all believers,” in which all of God’s people offer up an acceptable sacrifice of praise, we believe that singing in public worship is most appropriately characterized by the singing of the entire congregation. We are open, of course, in dimensions of church life other than worship, to there being opportunities for non-congregational singing.
- Prayer. We believe in the value of both corporate, unison prayers and extemporaneous prayers. With corporate prayers, we are able to join our voices together with wording that is well thought through and rich in biblical content. With extemporaneous prayer (in which one person leads), there is opportunity for greater freedom and responding to the immediate prayer needs of God’s people.
- The Ministry of the Word. Central to our worship is reading and preaching of the Word of God. Scripture is read at a number of places in the service; it permeates all that we do. Prior to the sermon, a portion of Scripture is read that is the basis for the sermon. The sermon itself seeks to be a faithful explanation and application of that portion of Scripture in light of all of God’s Word. For the most part, our pastor adopts an expository approach, preaching through entire books of the Bible. In this way, we are exposed to the whole counsel of God.
- The Lord’s Supper. In many respects, the Lord’s Supper is the high point of our service; it is where everything “comes together.” While this sacrament is at least a commemoration of the death and resurrection of Christ, it is also much more. It is a time of being spiritually nourished by the grace of Christ. It is also a time of solemn celebration, as we once again are confronted by and meditate upon the profound realities of the Gospel. For this and many other reasons, we celebrate the Lord’s Supper every Lord’s Day.
- The Collection. As a response to the Lord’s mercy to us, and as a means of supporting and participating in the work of the Kingdom, we gladly give a portion of the financial resources with which God has blessed us. While we do not want you as a visitor to feel under any pressure to give, we do think it’s important for you to know why we believe in making great sacrifices, financial and otherwise, for the sake of Christ. It is because he and his Kingdom are worthy. It is with glad and grateful hearts that we give…and it is with glad and grateful hearts that we offer all of our worship to the Lord.
Explanation of a Covenant Renewal Service
God has made a three-part covenant declaration to His people throughout Biblical history: “I will be your God, you shall be my people, and I will dwell among you.”
When the assembled people of God hear this word regarding themselves, God is assuring them that they belong to Him, and that He is indeed their God, and that He will dwell in their midst. God is renewing His covenant with His people as we assemble for corporate worship.
The prelude is a time to settle the hurried and anxious soul as we prepare for worship. It is a time to draw away from the world and turn our thoughts Heavenward in anticipation of worship.
God calls us
Trinitarian Confession and Salutation
A traditional measure to remind us that our worship is trinitarian. We worship the triune God, but even our worship is done in reliance upon, and with the guidance of, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Call to Worship
Always taken from a call to worship recorded in the Bible, this is God Himself seeking His redeemed people and calling us to worship, to glorify His holy name. As in all aspects of grace, it is God taking the initiative.
Psalm or Hymn of Praise and Adoration
We respond to God’s call with a song of praise and adoration.
Prayer of Petition and Adoration
God has called us to worship, and we have praised Him; now we petition that we can respond Biblically and appropriately.
However, knowing that God is Holy, and we are sinful creatures, we must confess that we are unworthy of entering into the presence of God without His cleansing.
God cleanses us
Call to Confession of Sin, Corporate Confession of Sin, and Supplication for Mercy
We recognize our sinfulness and what God has done for us, by His grace, through the work of Christ. This is a time of corporate confession of sin as the people of God; we should, of course, be confessing our personal sins at all times and in all places in our walk with God. By confessing our sins to God, we demonstrate a heart that seeks to become more obedient to God’s Word, and less inclined to follow the desires of our flesh and the sinful allurements of our sensationalistic culture.
We enter this portion of worship on our knees (if physically able) as a sign or respect and awe before God.
Declaration of Forgiveness
The assurance of pardon is an affirmation of our confidence that we are indeed forgiven, through the infinite love of God received through faith in Christ. The pardoning of our sins allows us to worship; it allows us to enter into the presence of God.
God has called us, received us, and cleansed us, so we respond with a traditional trinitarian song of praise.
God consecrates us
Prayer of Illumination
In this prayer we seek God’s gracious presence to prepare us to hear His Word, to open ears, to enlighten minds, and to apply His covenant Word to our hearts.
Reading of Scripture
We read a passage of Scripture that supports the themes and lessons of the sermon. God uses both the reading and the hearing of Scripture as a means of grace. When God’s Word is read, we not only affirm that God has spoken through the Prophets and the Apostles, but that He is speaking to us today through His written word.
Psalm or Hymn of Preparation
This is a song to assist us in preparing to hear God’s Word preached.
Our preaching is expository. It is God-centered, exegetical, and an authoritative exhortation or call to do or to be something. It will remind us that we, as sinful creatures, cannot do this on our own. We are also reminded that Christ fulfills the exhortation, and does it in our place. Finally, we are reminded that we can do or be what He calls us to do, or to be, through Christ.
Prayer of Intercession
Corporate prayer, led by the Pastor, to apply the sermon, and to lift up the needs of the world, the nation, the local community, the church, and other physical and spiritual needs.
Psalm or Hymn of Response
We sing in response, praising God for His word and His call to obedience in our lives.
God communes with us
Affirmation of Faith: Apostles’ Creed
A public statement before the church and the world of what we believe as Christians. The Apostles’ Creed is an ancient statement of the Christian faith, confessed by countless Christians over the centuries, often at the cost of their lives.
The Gloria Patri
A traditional trinitarian song of praise to the eternal, unchanging, triune God.
The Lord’s Supper
We take communion weekly. This sacrament is a sign and seal of God’s covenant promises, signifying and sealing to God’s elect the redemptive work of Christ. It engages our senses and props up our faltering faith, and leads us to fix our eyes on the perfect life, sacrificial death, and hell-conquering resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Prayer of Thanksgiving and Dedication
We give thanks for the shed blood of Jesus Christ through whom we have the forgiveness of sins. We also reaffirm the covenant and recommit ourselves to Christ.
God commissions and blesses us
The Collection of Alms and Tithes
Returning a portion of our material blessings to the God who provides is a good and natural response to worship. The generous, cheerful, and sacrificial giving of God’s people is one of the clearest evidences of their love for God and commitment to the extension of His Kingdom.
Psalm or Hymn
A closing song of praise to God.
Like the call to worship, the benediction comes straight from Scripture, thus giving our Heavenly Father the first and last word in the worship service. The word “benediction” comes from the Latin verb “to bless.” Thus, it is the authoritative pronouncement of God’s diving blessing upon His people before they are dismissed. It should be received by God’s people as a life-changing, comforting truth.
Christian worship must be fervently reverent, gloriously dignified, exceedingly joyful, thoroughly God-centered, and ardently focused upon the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Here are eight characteristics of authentic, Biblical worship:
- Christians are to do nothing in worship except that which has been prescribed, or commanded, in Scripture.
- Worship is God-centered, not man-centered. God, not man, is the seeker toward whom we are to be sensitive in worship. We do not change our worship to accommodate the shifting desires and fads of the unbelieving culture.
- Worship is a holy dialogue between God and His redeemed people. God speaks through His call to worship, assurance of pardon, reading of Scripture, preaching, sacraments, and benediction. His people respond with prayer, singing, confession of faith, and offerings.
- Worship is simple. The reading and preaching of God’s word, prayer and praise, and sacraments are central. We have no pomp and ceremony.
- Worship in all of life flows from biblically regulated worship on the Lord’s Day.
- Worship is to be reverent, and filled with awe.
- Worship is trinitarian; our worship is directed to the Father, through the mediation of the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Worship sets forth the person and redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
For further reading:
Payne, Jon D., In the Splendor of Holiness: Rediscovering the Beauty of Reformed Worship for the 21st Century (Tolle Lege Press, 2008)Ryken, Philip, Derek Thomas, and J. Ligon Duncan, Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship (P&R Publishing, 2003)