One of our Summit Worship plumb lines is: "The depth of your theology affects the height of your worship.” A less wordy version is, “Knowing things helps you appreciate things.” This may sound like some of your Grandpa’s advice, but I think it’s true. When I go to a hockey game with Candace, I’m constantly explaining the rules. Why? Her enjoyment of the game is dependent upon her knowledge of the game.  

A few years ago (2011), Bryan Chapell preached a message entitled “Gathering to Rehearse” at a WorshipGod Conference in Maryland. In essence, Chapell’s message was a condensed version of his book “Christ-Centered Worship,” which was published in 2009. One of the most helpful parts of the book (and the message) was Chapell’s treatment of liturgy for gathered worship. In fact, you can find a quick summary and review of the book here. 

Chapell says that the shape of our service and patterns of worship communicate a message. I think he’s right.  Structure sends a message. So, is there a shape to a worship service that serves the message? That’s the question. Again, Chapell is helpful because he gives biblical categories. He suggests that the “message shapes the container.” What he means is that the content itself determines the order of delivery. Chapell suggests the following “liturgical categories,”: 

  • Adoration
  • Confession
  • Assurance of Pardon
  • Thanksgiving
  • Petition
  • Instruction
  • Charge and Blessing

I won’t expand all of the categories in this post, but want to draw your attention to the shape. These categories are the shape of Isaiah 6:1-9, Exodus 3, Ephesians 2. A sight of the Glory of God leads to a confession of sin. Confession and repentance bring the assurance of pardon in Christ. A heart that knows full forgiveness bears the fruit of thankful lips, and on the liturgy goes. 

This order is powerful because it is a rehearsal of the gospel message. It is your testimony. To be a Christian, every one of us saw the glory of God, and saw God as overwhelmingly beautiful. In view of his holiness, we said with Isaiah, “Woe is me, for I am ruined.” In our confession of sin came the promise of forgiveness (2 Cor. 5:21, Rom. 10:10-13). Assured of God’s promise to save us and seal us for redemption, our hearts respond in thanksgiving. And so the “liturgy” moves. This is our story. 

In sharing this brief overview, my aim is to invite you to rehearse the gospel story when we gather together. As we rehearse the gospel story together, take joy in the God who showed you his glory in the face of Christ (2 Cor 4:6), heard your prayer of repentance, gave Christ as a gift of grace, takes delight in your worship, speaks through his very Word, blesses and sends us out with his very presence. 

This is our story and song.