Worship at Christ Church
What a great privilege it is to worship the true and living God! 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. It is our sincere hope and prayer that you will 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 Jesus Christ. Most of all, though, we hope that God will be glorified by the worship we render to him. Drawing upon the rich traditions of the historic Christian Church, worship at CPC is characterized by reverence and joy, majesty and intimacy, the greatness and grandeur of God and the mercy and compassion of God.
Worship at CPC is…
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.
Our worship is directed to the Father, through the mediation of the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
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. For example, God speaks to us through the reading and preaching of the Word and in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and we respond to him in prayer and praise.
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. And 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 Service of Celebration and Covenant Renewal.” Worship is, quite literally, a meeting with God in which we commune with him and draw near to him, and he to us.
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 of heaven, 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 Reformation. 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 it enables us to take advantage of the rich history of Christian worship.
Committed to Church-Centered Families
We seek to include all ages in the entire life of the church. That means we have our children in worship with us (we do have a cry/nursing room available), and we seek to teach families how to worship together.
Brief Thoughts on Specific Elements
Singing of Praise
One of the great privileges we have is to sing the praises of him who has 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 to 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 outside of worship to there being opportunities for non-congregational singing.
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.
Ministry of the Word
Central to our worship is the 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 forms 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.
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 Jesus 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.
For further information concerning our worship, refer to A Guide to Covenant Renewal Worship at Christ Church.
- Jon D. Payne, In the Splendor of Holiness: Rediscovering the Beauty of Reformed Worship for the 21st Century (Tolle Lege Press, 2008)
- Philip Ryken, Derek Thomas and J. Ligon Duncan, Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship (P&R Publishing, 2003)